Light and shade – Psalm 10

Psalms of David

Psalms in Book 1 (Psalms 1 to 41) are mostly personal songs, so I will be looking at how they apply to us personally. Social and communal aspects of life and work do not come in until the later books of psalms.

Psalms 9 and 10 belong together, which is why I am dealing with this along with the psalms of David despite this psalm not being attributed. These two psalms are linked together in the Septuagint, a translation of the Scriptures and some other documents into Greek, and therefore in the Latin Vulgate translation and in the Roman Catholic Bible which is based on the Vulgate. Protestants use the order used by the Jews in the Hebrew scriptures because the Psalms are Jewish documents.

A girl in a classroom holds up the sign saying, "I'm not friends with bullies."
Photo by RODNAE Productions on

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
    let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
    and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.
In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him;
    all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
His ways prosper at all times;
    your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
    as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
    throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
    under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He sits in ambush in the villages;
    in hiding places he murders the innocent.
His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
    he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
he lurks that he may seize the poor;
    he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
10 The helpless are crushed, sink down,
    and fall by his might.
11 He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
    he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

12 Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
    forget not the afflicted.
13 Why does the wicked renounce God
    and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14 But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
    that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
    you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
    call his wickedness to account till you find none.

16 The Lord is king forever and ever;
    the nations perish from his land.
17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Psalm 10 ESV

Psalm 9 ends with a Selah, an instruction to pause and think, but also at the end of a psalm that the theme continues in the next song, There are other connections Psalm 9 is an acrostic, with each line starting with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Psalm 9 used half the alphabet and Psalm 10 the other half.

Psalm 9:2-9 corresponds to Psalm 10:6-15:

  1. the heart 9:2 and 10:11
  2. the face (presence) 9:3 and 10:12
  3. the throne 9:4 and 10:13
  4. the wicked 9:5 and 10:14
  5. eternity. 9:6 and 10:15

But apart from these similarities, the two songs are otherwise very different. Psalm 9 has a happy confident tone in praising God, and it deals with the nations, Gentile countries that reject God. Psalm 10 is darker in tone, is written as a lament and deals with individuals.

The ideas in Psalms 9 and 10 also come in the opposite of the expected order (note: always allow the Bible to surprise you). We expect the lament to come first and the praise to arise when God answers, but the praise for the God who overthrows empires comes before the lament that God is silent and people are getting away with dishonesty and oppression. Psalm 10 is the song of a man who knows the God who overthrows empires, the God who works in the world on a massive scale, and yet is suffering at the hands of individuals who oppress others and every time they succeed in their oppression they get the confidence to do something worse. In other words bullies, this is how bullying works, this is the intellect of the school playground; bullies are not people of mighty intellect, bullies are childish.

The questions the psalmist is asking here is does the mighty God of the universe see the small things and does God care on a personal level? The answer at the end of this song is an emphatic YES! God sees both the big picture of international politics and the details on a personal level. Oppressive regimes will not succeed and neither will those who oppress on a personal level.

To both these groups, to borrow a phrase from the New Testament, God says, “I know your acts.”

I started this post with a girl in a classroom holding up a sign saying, “I’m not friends with bullies.” The message of Psalms 9 and 10 is that God is saying, “I’m not friends with bullies,” whether that in nations throwing their weight around, people using their position in politics, the playground and even in the church, to keep others down or cover up what has happened. God is not their friend.

< Psalm 9 | Psalm 10 | Psalm 11 >

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