A Meditation on Psalm 10

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.

The helpless are crushed, sink down,

    and fall by his might.

He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,

    he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”

Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;

    forget not the afflicted.

Why does the wicked renounce God

    and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

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.

Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;

    call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The Lord is king forever and ever;

    the nations perish from his land.

O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;

    you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear

to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,

    so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.


      The first part of the tenth psalm is a lament that God seemingly allows wicked men to cheat, steal, and murder with impunity. In recounting the wicked man’s heinous crimes, the psalmist invites us inside the criminal’s blasphemous worldview. We see the situation from his point of view: “His ways prosper at all times; your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his foes, he puffs at them.” It is not that the psalmist thinks that God is too lofty to touch the criminal; the criminal himself thinks so. Four times we must wade through the muck in the infidel’s heart: “There is no God,” he thinks. “I am immovable. God will never see me. He will do nothing.”

      See what cruelty and cowardice breed in the unbelieving heart! The infidel is craven, only attacking those who cannot possibly resist him. He lays snares for the powerless and the oppressed. He ambushes the poor. He lies in wait to rob unsuspecting victims of their lives. And when he has finished his misdeeds, he smiles inwardly. May we never fall into such unbelief! One should rather die than become such a wretch.

      The situation looks hopeless. What are the poor, the fatherless, the widow, and the foreigner to do against this force of evil? They are truly helpless, and the infidel thinks that no one will intervene on their behalf. Yet the psalmist reveals his own thoughts at the end of the psalm. Verses 14-18 are a confession of God’s goodness, power, and mercy.

      The psalmist confesses that God does see the plight of the victim, just as He saw the plight of Israel when they were slaves in Egypt. He is help for the helpless, as He promises in His Law: “If you mistreat them [the widow or the orphan], and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry” (Exo 22.23). God will not stand by forever; He will “break the arm of the wicked and evildoer,” as the psalmist writes.

      All of these confessions rest on this one: “The Lord is king forever and ever.” The psalmist knows it, so he knows that justice will prevail. The infidel rejects it, so he thinks that no one will find him out and stop him.

      What do you believe?