That The Man Of The Earth May Oppress No More: A Commentary On Psalm 10

Continuing my series on the biblical hostility to the evil man [1], I would like to comment on Psalm 10, one of the most passionate and eloquent defenses of the poor and helpless against the class warfare of those who believe that greed is good. Psalm 10 is an obscure psalm, but its ferocious attacks on those who make war on the helpless and poor make it a very important one for those who, like myself, hold biblical social views as opposed to worldly ones. Psalm 10 makes it clear that God does not endorse those who would make war or exploit and oppress the poor of the world. But rather than speak for it, let us hear what the anonymous psalmist of Psalm 10 has to say for himself.

Why Do You Stand Afar Off, O Lord?

Psalm 10 is divided into three parts. In the first part, the psalmist calls attention to the need for God to judge the deeds of the wicked and the apparent lack of protection God has for the common people of the world who suffer oppression without the ability to defend themselves from abusers and tyrants. Psalm 10:1-4 reads as follows: “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do you hide in times of trouble? The wicked in his pride persecutes the poor; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of his heart’s desire; he blesses the greedy and renounces the Lord. The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts.”

The picture that the psalmist paints is an unsavory one, of a person who does not think of God but only of self-interest. The evil person portrayed here calls greed good, and persecutes the poor. This person probably is a fan of Ayn Rand, probably curses charity or bums, and engages in a particularly common form of warfare of the strong seeking to oppress the weak and then blaming the victim. The wicked person is proud not to be weak or poor, and his arrogance brings upon him the judgment of God, whose concern for defending the defenseless is not of concern to him. It is indeed possible that such a wicked man might be outwardly religious, for social prestige reasons, for networking, but God is in none of his thoughts and he has no concern for justice. This particular portrait ought to give us pause when it comes to the political relevance of the Bible.

I Shall Never Be In Adversity

The second part of Psalm 10 provides a very ugly picture of this wicked man, a type of wicked man we see often in our present society, and may even mistakenly see as a godly man, but who the Bible harshly condemns in the bluntest language. Psalm 10:5-11 further elaborates the character and wickedness of the greedy man: “His ways are always prospering; your judgments are far above, out of his sight; as for all his enemies, he sneers at them. He has said in his heart, “I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity.” His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is trouble and iniquity. He sits in the lurking places of the village, in the secret places he murders the innocent; his eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless. He lies in wait secretly, as a lion in his den; he lies in wait to catch the poor; he catches the poor when he draws him into his net. So he crouches, he lies low, that the helpless may fall by his strength. He has said in his heart, “God has forgotten; He hides His face; He will never see.”

This particular psalm gives one of the most direct comments the Bible makes against Propserity Theology, a popular but heretical belief that the wealthy are righteous, the sort of morality of Job’s friends wherein those who have been blessed by God with goods ascribe their blessings to their own righteousness, and ascribe the poverty of the poor to some sort of loathsome sin. It is this sort of view that James speaks against in James 2:1-7 when he condemns partiality and shows that the righteous poor in this life will be richly blessed in the Kingdom of Heaven to come.

The wicked person in this particular passage, though, is portrayed like a 19th century industry baron who oppresses immigrant laborers in his factories, pays them starvation wages, and sends the National Guard or Pinkerton detectives out to kill labor leaders who seek for fair wages. This person is portrayed as actually making war on the poor and presumptuously claiming that God will not hold him accountable for his sins. He probably listens to talk radio, may have a picture of Grover Cleveland in his parlor, and is compared to Satan as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8), though he is probably unaware that his predatory attacks on the helpless and defenseless are themselves in the image and likeness of Satan. His arrogance and belief that his wealth and power and his team of lawyers will protect him from adversity is a direct challenge to the justice of God, as he makes mockery of the view that God is just and fair in his dealings with the world. Such a challenge will not forever go unanswered.

To Do Justice To The Fatherless And The Oppressed

It is the third part of Psalm 10, though, that provides the confidence that God will enforce His righteous standards of justice on the oppressors and abusers of society. Psalm 10:12-18 reads: “Arise, O Lord! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the humble. Why do the wicked renounce God? He has said in his heart, “You will not require an account.” But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief, to repay it by Your hand. To helpless commits himself to You; You are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and the evil man; seek out his wickedness until you find none. The Lord is King forever and ever; the nations have perished out of His land. Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will prepare their heart; You will cause Your ear to hear, to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may oppress no more.”

This ultimately millennial vision of justice makes it very plain that God will vindicate the cause of those who have been oppressed. While the wicked oppressors may be on top for now, their time of judgment will come and their judgment will be eternal. This verse contains an easy-to-miss but very solemn warning that God will destroy the oppressors from the land, putting them under the ban [2] and treating them like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and Jericho, under curse for absolute destruction, because the wicked have presumptuously claimed that God will not hold them accountable for their sins, and that God has not seen how they have oppressed and exploited others. God firmly proclaims that He does see grief and trouble and He will, eventually, make it right. In the Kingdom of God, there will be no oppression or wickedness tolerated, and the oppressed of the world will find relief from their woes, while the wicked oppressors will find judgment. Let us speedily hope for that Kingdom to come.

The Relevance of Psalm 10 to the Biblical Way of War

Psalm 10 provides some context to the issue of the biblical way of war by pointing out that the wicked often try to make war with God by attacking the powerless and poor. This chapter provides an example that social issues are of great importance to God and that oppression of people is a declaration of war upon God. God does not endorse socialism, and this psalm is most definitely not a call for social warfare pitting the wealthy against the poor. What it is is a sign that the social warfare of the wealthy exploiting the poor for their own selfish gain is itself a presumptuous sin that will be judged by God with extreme severity. Psalm 10 condemns the wicked wealthy and proclaims God’s justice by stating firmly and fiercely that the wicked will be held to account and their wealth will not save them from God’s judgment. The Bible, after all, is concerned with ethics in all walks of life, not in judging people by appearances—for all that we possess, including wealth, is a gift from God and not earned by our own merit.

Let us remember, therefore, that the war talked about in Psalm 10 is not the war of the poor to dispossess the wealthy of their wealthy, but the warfare of God against the wicked who would follow after Satan and seek to oppress and exploit those who cannot defend themselves, something that is lamentably common around the world. God is not on the side of oppressors or abusers, but is on the side of justice, and He will judge by His righteous standard those who have abused and exploited other people. Social justice is but one front in the multifaceted and complicated warfare between good and evil that wages in all walks of life and in all spheres of human behavior. Let us not forget that God rules supreme in this standard, and that he will hold those accountable who take advantage of the blessings God has given them to oppress others, for God will defend those who cannot defend themselves.



About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical Art of War, Biblical History, Christianity, Church of God, History, Military History, Musings, Psalms and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to That The Man Of The Earth May Oppress No More: A Commentary On Psalm 10

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Every Waking Moment | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: An Introduction To The Psalms Commentary Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

  3. Pingback: Psalms 14 and 53: The Fool Has Said In His Heart | Edge Induced Cohesion

  4. Pingback: They Are Who We Thought They Were | Edge Induced Cohesion

  5. Pingback: Book Review: Everyman’s Bible Commentary: Volume 1: Psalms 1-21 | Edge Induced Cohesion

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