Living for the Last Headline: Psalm 58

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Psalm 58 (NIV)

Do you rulers indeed speak justly?
    Do you judge people with equity?
No, in your heart you devise injustice,
    and your hands mete out violence on the earth.

Even from birth the wicked go astray;
    from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
    like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,
that will not heed the tune of the charmer,
    however skillful the enchanter may be.

Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;
    Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!
Let them vanish like water that flows away;
    when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.
May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,
    like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.

Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns—
    whether they be green or dry—the wicked will be swept away.
10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,
    when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Then people will say,
    “Surely the righteous still are rewarded;
    surely there is a God who judges the earth.”

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

This psalm, like Psalm 82, demonstrates the ­connection between God as Judge of the world and those who administer justice in our world. When we render false judgments, betray those who count on us, or turn our back on God’s Word, then we are misrepresenting God in the world. Rulers and judges are especially commissioned to act as representatives of justice, and God’s very character is maligned when they act falsely. As the final Judge, God will reward the righteous, but sweep away into judgment all those who did not act with integrity and justice. The images that this psalm uses are graphic and purposely devised to shock us. The wicked will be like a lion with his fangs torn out, or like water that evaporates, or like a slug that melts away, or even like a stillborn child.

These images are all meant to communicate the final end of wickedness and the futility of resisting God’s righteous purposes. Sometimes the coming of final judgment seems so far removed and distant from our experience that it can fade into the vague, gray mists of some future time disconnected from us. The vivid images of this psalm are meant to awaken to us the reality of God’s judgment and the present urgency to turn and live righteously before the living God. Indeed, in the Bible in general, and the Psalms in particular, the calling for judgment on the wicked is actually a means of grace for the unbeliever. Today’s warning may spur on repentance and thereby serve to forestall the terrible certainty of God’s final verdict of judgment. For despite a thousand headlines in newspapers across the world, with hundreds of conflicting messages, the last, final, and definitive headline for the entire world might actually be the last line of this psalm: “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth” (v. 11).

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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