We’ve read some very colorful words and imagery as we have worked our way through the psalms. Needless to say, this is yet another, although it has a different tone to it. One could say it might be an angry psalm. At the very least, I don’t think Chris Tomlin will be writing a song based on Psalm 58! This isn’t one of those feel good, uplifting, rejoice in the Lord kind of psalms, is it? In fact, some folks might even wish this psalm wasn’t included in the bible at all.
This psalm is a prayer that was written when David and Saul were at odds with each other. There are multiple opinions as to what exactly it referred to, but we know David wrote it around that time. The judges of the land at the time were corrupt as they had brought charges against David unrighteously and David was speaking out against them to God, knowing He has the final word. Many times when we feel persecuted or even when we witness the unjust treatment of others, we might feel exactly as David felt in this time. We could even say that it is justified and I could even come up with many other bible verses to consider this “righteous anger,” in that the persecuted or justice seeker would be without sin in feeling this way or praying this prayer. But let us remember one simple phrase: be careful what you ask for.
In the context of the psalm, we know who the prayer is directed towards, who it is coming from, and why. But let us remove those elements for a moment. 1) it will help us to apply it to our own context but 2) it will reveal something that is very important to remember in our anger. I have two other passages we need to “look through” or use as our lens as we read this psalm.
Ephesians 4 says:
26 BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.
James 1 reminds us:
19 This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
It isn’t a sin to be angry, even God gets angry and is righteous in exercising His wrath upon sinfulness. We read the story of David and consider him justified in how he feels as he flees for his life. We can even read this psalm and consider the righteous wrath of God and wish it upon others, knowing we are in the right and they are in the wrong. Yet, let us not twist the last two verses when it talks about vengeance.
While God is righteous in His wrath and vengeance upon the wicked, we must trust Him in His process, His timing, and know that His righteousness is ultimate. Many times we don’t feel like waiting on the Lord’s timing for justice. We must also remember that whatever “they” deserve, “we” deserve too! But by His grace, mercy, and love we are redeemed and saved from it. As we recognize the depth of His great love for us, despite our anger, shouldn’t we wish that grace, love, and mercy upon our enemies as well? We know Jesus said to love our enemies…this is why. It’s up to God to decide what happens to each person on earth. It’s up to us to extend to them the same grace that has been given to us! Let us close by reading what Paul wrote in Romans 12:
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.