PSALM 58 TALK: ORIGINAL SIN

PSALM 58 TALK: ORIGINAL SIN

(An answer to the question if there is a God why is there so much evil in this world)

(The Psalm answers why there is so much wickedness in this world and what God has done and will do about it)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide”.

INTRODUCTION

I am so glad I have chosen to work my way through the Psalms as it has forced me to look at things I would be tempted to avoid. I first thought of this when I was forced to look at “Money” in Psalm 49 and now it is “Sin” in this Psalm. Money is a difficult topic for me because I live it such a rich country and I often feel guilty at being so comfortable when so many people still suffer from poverty. Sin, because it is a very unpopular and negative thing to speak about today.

However “Sin” and an understanding of what God in his word has to say about this is crucial to the message of the bible and particularly the Good News it offers this world. In my study for Psalm 53 I looked extensively at what atheists have to say and the question of why there is so much evil in the world often came up. In a article on the internet called, Philosophy of Religion and in a section entitled “Problem of Evil” I read this,

“The problem of evil (or argument from evil) is the problem of reconciling the existence of the evil in the world with the existence of an omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful) and perfectly good God. The argument from evil is the atheistic argument that the existence of such evil cannot be reconciled with, and so disproves, the existence of such a God”.

Psalm 58 and the teaching in the bible it relates to will give us an answer to this all-important question.

Psalm 58 is the second Psalm that David wrote which the title directs it to be sung to the tune of, “Do Not Destroy” (Psalm 57 is the first). The next Psalm, Psalm 59 has this instruction as well. We have a later Psalm written by Asaph, Psalm 75 that also has the instruction to be sung by this tune. As I stated in the last Psalm talk on Psalm 57 these words remind us of David’s words when he chose not to kill his enemy King Saul in 1 Samuel 26: 9,

“But David said to Abishai, “Don’t destroy him! Who can lay a hand on the Lord’s anointed and be guiltless”.

Even though in this Psalm David is directing a prayer towards the destruction of men like King Saul and his followers David did not see that his role was to bring about this destruction but rather judgment belonged to God and God alone.

Even though one single incident cannot be determined to be behind the writing of this Psalm it is clear that the first verse refers to “rulers” or “Judges” then the way King Saul acted and often spoke of David’s supposed treachery to his fellow rulers or judges lies behind the writing of this Psalm.

An interesting example of what Saul was saying to his fellow rulers or judges and how those “rulers” or “judges” were reacting to this comes up in a incident soon after David escaped from the cave of Adullam a possible context of the previous Psalm, Psalm 57. This incident occurs in 1 Samuel 22: 6 – 8 and its reads like this,

“Now Saul heard that David and his men had been discovered. And Saul, spear in hand, was seated under the tamarisk tree on the hill at Gibeah, with all his officials standing around him. Saul said to them, “Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.”

This gathering is said to be typical of an ancient King holding court in the field and his fellow rulers or judges surround King Saul. Here Saul’s mad claims of treason and conspiracy to treason of David are clearly stated. Saul’s fellow rulers are compliant by their silence and in the next verse the evil Edomite, Doeg, is guilty of compliance to Saul’s treachery by his actions in telling Saul of David’s visit to Ahimelech in Nod and his subsequent slaughter of Ahimelech and his fellow priest’s of Nod and their families at the request of King Saul.

This evil treachery, which led Saul to a mad and murderous campaign to kill his innocent and faithful servant David, is what lies behind the words of David in this Psalm. Saul’s wickedness owing to his sin which was his rebellion to God’s rule in his life forms the basis of my layout of this Psalm, which is:

  1. SINS OF THE LEADERS (1 – 2)
  1. SINS OF ALL OF US (3 – 5)
  1. SINS CONSEQUENCES (6 – 9)
  1. SIN AND THE PEOPLE OF FAITH (10 – 11)

I must also mention that this Psalm presents to bible scholars a lot of problem’s and difficulties in translation as the Hebrew word’s available to translate are either not clear in what they actually mean or some of the text has suffered distortion from the way it has been copied in the past. However these problems do not take away from the obvious truths this Psalm presents.

  1. SINS OF THE LEADERS (1 – 2)

In the first two verses David speaks directly to the sin’s of Saul and his advises or fellow rulers. I have broken these two verses down to:

  1. What the sins of the leaders actually were (vs. 1)
  2. Why theses leaders committed these sins (vs. 2)
  1. What the sins of the leaders actually were (vs.1)

The first of these translation problems comes up in the first verse and the original Hebrew word the experts generally translate as, “rulers”. The RSV translates rulers as “God’s” but even though the Hebrew word here can mean, “God’s” it also used in other places like Ezekiel 17: 13, for “rulers”

So the first verse read’s in the NIV translation,

“Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge uprightly among men?”

The “rulers” then are King Saul and his men in leadership and advisory positions that surrounded him at the time of David’s eight to nine year battles with King Saul. David rightly feels unjustly treated, as he has been labelled a traitor to his king and nation when he has showed nothing but loyalty and faithful service to King Saul and Israel.

It would have been very difficult for Saul’s advisers and rulers to speak against their mad Kings accusations against David as you can see from Saul’s reaction to his number one son, Jonathon. At the beginning of David’s flight from Saul’s jealous madness Jonathon spoke up for David and in 1 Samuel 20: 30 – 33, we then read of the violent reaction of King Saul,

“Saul’s anger flared up at Jonathan and he said to him, “You son of a perverse and rebellious woman! Don’t I know that you have sided with the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of the mother who bore you? As long as the son of Jesse lives on this earth, neither you nor your kingdom will be established. Now send someone to bring him to me, for he must die!”

“Why should he be put to death? What has he done?” Jonathan asked his father. But Saul hurled his spear at him to kill him. Then Jonathan knew that his father intended to kill David”.

So Saul’s advisers either kept quiet or joined in condemnation of David and of course both reactions are wrong. When a leader remains silent when he sees obvious injustice he is as good as condoning it.

Jesus faced similar reactions to his false accusations of wrong doing by the religious leaders of his day and only two religious leaders, in the end turned to Jesus. These two men are mentioned in Johns Gospel in John 19: 38 and 39 and are Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who went to Pilot to retrieve the body of Christ after his crucifixion.

What were the sins of Saul and his leaders and indeed the religious leaders of Jesus day?

In Matthew 23 Jesus spells out seven woes against the teachers of the law and the Pharisees and woe number 7, I think gives a good answer to this question, Matthew 23: 27 – 28,

 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness”.

The concept of something being wrong with these leaders on the inside will be looked at in more depth in the next verse and in the second section of this Psalm.

The answer to David’s question in verse 1,

Do you judge uprightly among men?

Is answered at the start of verse 1 and it is of course, No. David was innocent of the crimes he was charged with yet without any court or opportunity to defend himself he was tried and convicted on little or no evidence.

Many Christians have been treated this way and still are today. I have heard of Christians being taken from their homes or churches and without any charges being laid against them have been either imprisoned or killed. The leaders who either organise this or turn a blind eye to this unjust actions are just lie Saul and his rulers and stand under the judgment of God as we will see in the third section of this Psalm.

  1. Why theses leaders committed these sins (vs. 2)

David pin- points why these leaders committed these sins, in these words,

“No, in your heart you devise injustice, and your hands mete out violence on the earth”

David says simply the problem that the unjust leaders had come from their hearts. An Internet site called “Bible Study Tools” says that heart (lebab) in the Old Testament,

“Denotes a person’s centre for both physical and emotional-intellectual-moral activities”

Jesus says this about the human heart in Matthew 15: 18 – 19,

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander”.

So the cause of the rulers injustice was their hearts, which had become corrupted by sin, and the next verse will state that not just Saul and his fellow leaders had this problem but so does everyone.

When a man kills another man we cannot blame God we must blame the man who let hate or revenge grow in his heart and that caused him to murder. Some atheists argue, but you say God made us so then he is to blame for making a man able to murder another. However we have not been made as robots that simply do what its maker programs the robot to do. No we were made as free thinking living souls but as we will see from the next section our freedom led us to choose to disobey God.

People think it would be better if God made us only to choose good but what kind of relationship would we have with God if we did not have the ability to choose good. If I made someone love me by putting some kind of love spell on them would you say that is real love?

No, only as we choose to place our love on someone else and they choose to accept that love and then love us in return do we say real love exists.

Of course there was no love for David by Saul and his fellow rulers for as David says,

“Your hands mete out violence on the earth”

We see this today, “hands of mankind metering out violence on the earth” and in some cases this violence on earth comes from the hands of men and women who say they are acting in the name of their God.

Today even children suffer violence and death at the hands of men and women, some in the name of God but Jesus has this to say about this in Matthew 18: 6 – 7,

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”

I am convinced that anyone who meters out violence on another person in the name of God is not led by God but is being led by their hearts corrupted by their sins. The other inspirer of evil deeds is the evil one called the devil. As the apostle John made it clear in 1 John 3: 8 – 10,

“He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother”.

  1. SINS OF ALL OF US (3 – 5)

David then moves from Saul and his fellow rulers to all men and women. He speaks of “the wicked” but even he was wicked or sinful as we saw from other Psalms. Particularly we saw this in Psalm 51 verse 5:

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me”.

So David will now state yet again the bibles teaching on what is called, “Original Sin”.

We will now look at two issues David raises in the second section of this Psalm:

  1. Original Sin made clear (vs. 3)
  2. Original Sin and it’s consequences explained (4 – 5)
  1. Original Sin made clear (vs. 3)

The only difference between the wicked man or the man who continues to do wickedness and people like David is both the degree of their wickedness and as we will see in the last section of this Psalm if they have found the gift of God’s righteousness or not.

So David says this about us all in verse 3,

“Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies”

This is the doctrine of “Original Sin” which first appears in Genesis 8: 21,

“The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood”.

The smell God is finding pleasing is from the sacrifice offered by Noah after he was saved from the flood. But even the righteous man of faith Noah had the sin problem, which began long before, by Adam and Eve in the garden when they chose to disobey God and go their own way and not God’s way in their lives.

Paul speaks of the sin bias we all have in his explanation of the Gospel to the Roman church of his day. He writes in Romans 3: 9 – 18,

“What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” “Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit.” “The poison of vipers is on their lips.” “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.” “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know.” “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

I am shocked to hear and see on the nightly TV news evil acts of men and women but I am not surprised as I know what the bible says about the human heart and how it is in rebellion to God which leads to all kinds of evil deeds.

David saw the evil of mankind in the person of King Saul and his supporters. He later saw it in his very own Son, Absalom. He saw it in the Nations round about him who hated the God of Israel and its anointed King. Which reminds us yet again of a theme that runs right through the first and second books of Psalms and which we first read about in Psalm 2: 2,

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One”.

When we see evil wicked acts of men and women we cannot blame God because those evil acts did not come from his hands but we must blame the men and women who do them who are driven by rebellion to God that comes from the centre of their existence, their hearts.

  1. Original Sin and its consequences explained (4 – 5)

As I said in the previous section the only difference between God’s people like David and Saul and his advisers and supporters was the degree of their sinning and their faith in the saving mercy of God, which we will look at in the last section of this Psalm.

Men and women who refuse to turn in repentance and faith to the true God of the bible become more and more controlled and depraved by sin. Saul started his reign as king seemingly trusting in God but he began to become impatient with having to wait on God and the power he had as king quickly went to his head and he became proud and stubborn. This led to him getting more and more effected by sin and the jealousy of David’s popularity and the subsequent false accusations of treason against David lead to Saul seeking to kill David. This revealed how far he had fallen from the grace of God.

By the time David is on the run Saul is so affected by his sin he has ordered the death of the priests of Nod and eventually he falls so far from trusting God he consults a foreign witch for guidance before his final battle with the Philistines where he took his own life.

David describes this kind of consequences of sin in graphic poetic terms in verses 4 and 5,

“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 skilful the enchanter may be.

 This graphic picture of the consequences of being hell bent on rebelling the rule of God in your life presents the picture of a venomous snake. These people are dangerous, as David knew from Saul and his supporters and fellow rulers. They were like snakes you handle with care.

In Australia we have the largest numbers of venomous snakes in the world and from an early age we are taught to give snakes we come across in the wild a wide birth. The people who get bitten by snakes are either people who accidentally step on them or worse people who do not recognise the obvious danger of venomous snakes and tease or play with them.

We read of the beheading of foreigners in places like Syria and Iraq by extreme Muslim terrorists and usually they are people who have ignored the warnings of the danger of these fanatics and who consequently get captured by them and after torture they are publicly killed in a most evil barbarous way.

I read of an American Christian who went to North Korea and openly handed out Christian tracts and was not surprisingly arrested and after much diplomatic efforts was released. This man was not brave he was just plain stupid and he learnt a hard lesson from his stupidity.

Jesus gives us good advice when he tells his disciples in Matthew 10: 16,

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves”.

The second poetic image David employs in these verses is of a snake, usually a cobra that will not listen to the snake charmer and therefore fails to do the dance these snakes usually perform.

As David writes,

“Like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears, that will not heed the tune of the charmer, however skilful the enchanter may be”.

The fact is that snakes are deaf and it is the movement of the charmer’s pipe that usually mesmerises the snake to dance. However the image is how sin blocks a person’s ears to the word of God and they fail to live the way that God wants them to live.

We see all around us today the evidence of the sorts of lives people live when they fail to acknowledge God’s rule in their lives. Paul presents a graphic picture of the kinds of lives sin produces in Romans 1: 29 – 32,

“ They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”.

David’s poetic image presents the idea that the root cause of all this is that these people have stopped their ears to God and his word and in doing so they fail to heed that word pictured in verse 5 as,

“The tune of the charmer”

No matter how good and right the word of God can be it makes no difference to these dangerous and disobedient people because they will not listen to God.

  1. SINS CONSEQUENCES (6 – 9)

We come then to the verses in the Psalm which have suffered from poor copying over the many centuries before the coming of Christ and which have made clear translation of these verses difficult. I have studied the wise research of many experts and will give you now the results of my own understanding of this research.

What is clear even with the difficulties of the text is that David wants to denounce his Godless enemies and point out the dire consequences of their sins. He does this with a short imprecatory prayer (a prayer asking for God’s judgment to come to one’s enemies). I note again even though David prayed a lot of these prayers he never actually acted as God’s agent of judgment on his enemy King Saul, rather he left the judgment to come from God himself. When people of any faith kill other people in the name of judgment and vengeance of their God they are actually putting themselves under the judgment of God for their evil actions. As it says in Deuteronomy 32: 35,

“It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”

Paul takes up this text in an even clearer instruction for Christians not to act as tools of God’s judgment and vengeance in Romans 12: 19 – 21,

“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. 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.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.

The consequences of these peoples sins is seen in four poetic images:

  1. Made harmless like lions who’s teeth are removed (vs. 6)
  2. Vanish like water flowing away or like grass been trodden underfoot (vs. 7)
  3. Amount to nothing like a dead snail or a still -born child (vs. 8)
  4. Swept away in Judgment like pot of water not yet come to the boil (vs. 9)
  1. Made harmless like lions who’s teeth are removed (vs. 6)

David used the image of lions to depict his enemies in the previous, Psalm 57: 4. An anonymous Internet article called “Lions in the bible” makes these interesting observations about lions and the bible,

“The Bible refers to lions about 150 times. Lions existed in Europe until about 100 CE and in Palestine until about 1400 CE”.

Here in verse 6 of this Psalm David prays,

“Break the teeth bin their mouths, O God; tear out, O Lord, the fangs of the lions!”

David is praying that God will stop his enemy’s powerful attack on him and his faithful followers. He wants them to become like toothless lions that offer no threat with their gummy mouths. Of course this is what will happen to the to powerful Godless evil people of this world in the coming judgment of God.

The book of Revelation has some very powerful pictures of the fate of the powerful evil people of this world being made powerless as they are overthrown. A good example of this is in Revelation 19: 19 – 21,

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur  The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh”

Even without trying to unpick the poetic language of this passage the image is clear of how the mighty forces of evil in this world, people who have rejected the rule of God in their lives and are deep in sinful actions will be made powerless in the face of meeting the God of heaven and earth in Judgment.

  1. Vanish like water flowing away or like grass been trodden underfoot (vs. 7)

In this verse the original Hebrew text gets messy and there are two possible images suggested here but both say the same thing namely David wants his enemies to vanish or go away.

The text is usually translated like we see in the NIV translation as,

“Let them vanish like water that flows away; when they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted”.

Derek Kidner points us to the RSV translation, which changes the second, half of the verse to read:

“Like grass let them be trodden down and wither”.

The RSV translation seems to be a better piece of parallelism (rhyming thought) and reinforces David’s first thought of asking God to get rid of his enemies who are acting in sinful rebellion to God when they seek to destroy him. Calvin puts this image into its true perspective in David’s time with these words,

The expression indicates the greatness of his faith. His enemies were before his eyes in all the array of their numbers and resources; he saw that their power was deeply rooted and firmly established; the whole nation was against him, and seemed to rise up before him like a hopeless and formidable barrier of Rocky Mountains. To pray that this solid prodigious opposition should melt down and disappear, evidenced no small degree of courage, and the event could only appear credible to one who had learnt to exalt the power of God above all intervening obstacles”.

The second way of reading the second half of this verse reads,

“When they draw the bow, let their arrows be blunted”.

Is speaking more about the power of his enemies weapons becoming ineffective which would make this enemies power over David vanish as well.

As Christians we might feel small and ineffective in the place we seek to live and witness. We too like David might feel the powerful effects of the sinful Godless people that seem to surround us. However we must never let ourselves become discouraged as Jesus promises to always be with us. As he said to the disciples recorded at the end of Matthew’s gospel, Matthew 28: 18 – 20,

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Paul gives us all his own powerful and instructive words of living and ministering for God in this fallen world when he writes in Ephesians 6: 10 – 18,

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people”.

  1. Amount to nothing like a dead snail or a still -born child (vs. 8)

The slightly confused text continues in verse 8 but like the previous verse the point David is making is not lost in the variety of translations offered. Here are two different ways of translating this verse.

First we have the NIV,

“May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along, like a stillborn child that never sees the sun”.

 Then we have the Holman Christian Standard Bible,

“Like a slug that moves along in slime, like a woman’s miscarried child, they will not see the sun”.

 The idea is that the consequences of sin or what David prayed would be his enemies consequences for their sins which is futility in the end. The images are of a slug either melting in the sun or simply a slug moving along in its slime and a still born child or a miscarried baby that is a life that never sees the light of day.

Whatever the image is exactly the sense of them is simply futility. Futility is a consequence of our sins if we do not have the gift of forgiveness offered in the death and resurrection of Christ, God’s Son then we have no hope in the coming judgment of God.

If we accept the free gift of God’s forgiveness offered through the death and resurrection of Christ then we have a sure and certain hope. This present and future hope is the theme of Paul’s great eighth chapter of his letter to the Roman Church of his time. Here are just to extracts from that incredible chapter:

Romans 8: 1 – 4,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”.

And, Romans 8: 22 – 25,

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to son ship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”.

  1. Swept away in Judgment like pot of water not yet come to the boil (vs. 9)

The most difficult verse to untangle from the original Hebrew text is this verse. Calvin gives an excellent summary, reasons for problems and interpretation in his commentary and writes,

“Some obscurity attaches to this verse, arising partly from the perplexed construction, and partly from the words being susceptible of a double meaning. Thus the Hebrew word, “sioth”, signifies either a pot or a thorn. If we adopt the first signification, we must read, “Before your pots feel the fire which had been kindled by thorns”; if the second, “before your thorns grow to a bush”, that is, reach their full height and thickness. What, following the former sense, we have translated “flesh yet raw”, must be rendered, provided we adopt the other, “tender, or not yet grown”.

Two different translations then are NIV,

“Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns– whether they be green or dry–the wicked will be swept away”.

International Standard version,

“Before your clay pots are placed on a fire of burning thorns— whether green or ablaze— wrath will sweep them away like a storm”.

And, Dauary Rhelms Bible,

“Before your thorns could know the brier; he swalloweth them up, as alive, in his wrath”.

The last version translates the Hebrew word, “sioth” to thorn and not pot and has no mention of a cooking pot.

Whatever you choose as the translation the same meaning is clear that the consequences of sin is that the wicked will face sure and swift judgment. David prays for this sure and swift judgment to come on his enemy, King Saul but we know it took eight years or so for this prayer to be answered.

Again, David could have made the destruction of Saul come sooner but he chose not to execute God’s Judgment from his own hands but let God bring it about in his own time.

Once a person dies or Jesus returns then they are still alive to conduct the final judgment then judgment will come to that person sure and swift. This is what I believe Jesus is speaking about in Matthew 24: 40,

“Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left”.

 I do not believe this is speaking about a secret rapture but about the sure and swift taking of believers into heaven and those who are left behind to face the final judgment. This interpretation is supported by the context, which refers the coming of Christ and what will happen to be like the days of Noah and the flood (Matthew 24: 36 – 39).

  1. SIN AND THE PEOPLE OF FAITH (10 – 11)

In the last two verses of this Psalm, which has majored on the topic of sin and particularly original sin David now turns to the people he calls “The Righteous” and what, will happen to them. I will deal with three key issues in these verses:

  1. Who is David referring to when he speaks of “The righteous”?
  2. God’s people will be avenged (vs. 10)
  3. God’s people will be rewarded (vs. 11)
  1. Who is David referring to when he speaks of “The righteous”?

David has made it clear in this Psalm in verse 3 and from Psalm 51 verse 5, which speaks about himself that all men are sinful from the day of their birth and therefore he could not believe that he or anyone had righteousness in themselves.

However David constantly refers to God as a God of mercy and love and therefore he believed that God’s forgiveness and therefore God’s righteousness is a gift from God. As he asks in Psalm 51: 1 and 2,

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin”.

So David saw that “The Righteous” are the true people of faith, people God taught what “righteousness” living involved and through who he made a covenant of love with. God promises to guide and protect his people if they seek to obey his law and remain faithful to him and him alone. . This is very clear in David’s words in Psalm 25: 4 – 14,

“Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Saviour  and my hope is in you all day long. Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good. Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. They will spend their days in prosperity, and their descendants will inherit the land. The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them”.

 In this excellent passage David pin- points four characteristics of the true people of God David also refers to as “The Righteous”.

Those four characteristics are:

  1. They are sinners who seek God’s forgiveness.
  2. They are people who are humble before God
  3. They seek to keep the demands of God’s covenant (obviously not perfectly)
  4. They fear God.

The New Testament and the particularly the coming of Christ makes it clear how we can be righteous before God and therefore can also be called, “The Righteous”. Here are two passages that make that clear.

  1. 2 Corinthians 5: 16 – 21,

“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”.

And,

  1. Romans 3: 21 – 26,

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus”.

 So David and indeed any people of faith cannot boast in themselves but can only boast of God and what he has done for us. As the famous bumper stickers reads,

“Christians aren’t perfect they are just forgiven”.

 This amazing message, some call, “The Good News” was lost for centuries even in the Christian church and it was men like Martin Luther in the 16th century that re-discovered it and started the reformation. This reformation swept through Europe and the then the world and led to the formation of many protestant churches and many of these still proclaim this “Good News” which helps many people to become God’s faithful people who have received the gift of God’s forgiveness and who can be called “The Righteous”.

  1. God’s people will be avenged (vs. 10)

The context of David speaking about sin and its consequences is his unjust and evil treatment by his enemies led by King Saul. David refers to this injustice and his desire for God to vindicate him in many of his Psalms and this Psalm is a good example of this.

Verse 10 is in fact David stating by faith that his day of vindication will come when God’s day of judgment on his enemies comes. He says this in the first part of the verse,

“The righteous will be glad when they are avenged”

 These words relate to general sin that we all have and are all effected by and is the driving force behind King Saul’s unjust treatment of David and it is how Saul showed his rebellion to God. It amazes me how far non- believers will go to deny the existence of God which proves to me they are in rebellion to God and the best way of not coming to terms with a God and how he might want them to live is to simply deny he exists.

As “The Righteous” or as the previous section set down people who have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness we stand as a constant testimony to the reality of God and therefore are sometimes persecuted by those who want to reject our God’s claims upon their lives.

However if those who reject God do not themselves turn back to God and accept his gift of God’s forgiveness than they too like King Saul will be avenged or judged.

The words in this verse, “Be glad” could be translated “Rejoice” and this does not mean we will enjoy the coming of God’s judgment on our enemies but rather as Joseph Benson writes,

“The vengeance of God upon the enemies of his church. That is, he shall rejoice when he sees the blessed effects of it; the vindication of God’s honour, and the deliverance of himself, and all good men”.

 The book of Revelation written at a time of intense persecution of the Church of God by the Roman’s speaks a lot about the deliverance of the church and the judgment on those who persecute it, as we see in Revelation 6: 9 – 11,

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.

They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been”.

 And Revelation 20: 4,

“I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years”.

The second half of verse 10 is a little more harder to understand because it uses a strange poetic image to give us the message David wants to convey, it reads,

“When they bathe their feet in the blood of the wicked”.

 Spurgeon explains this expression with these words,

“He shall triumph over them, they shall be so utterly vanquished that their overthrow shall be final, and his deliverance complete and crowning”.

 Maybe David’s picture here is that of an ancient battlefield where a victorious soldier could walk over the bloody area where the battle took place and realise that their great and powerful enemies were no more.

The joy of the final judgment of God over all evil and particularly the evil done against his faithful people is captured well in Revelation 19: 1 – 4,

“After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute
 who corrupted the earth by her adulteries. He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” And again they shouted: “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up for ever and ever.” The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”

  1. God’s people will be rewarded (vs. 11)

The final verse ends this Psalm on a very positive note as it speaks of the rewards for those who have accepted God’s gift of forgiveness who David calls, “The Righteous”.

“Then men will say, “Surely the righteous still are rewarded; surely there is a God who judges the earth”.

Paul made it clear in Romans 6: 23 what sin brings to all of us,

“For the wages of sin is death”

But he goes on to say,

“But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

We have this gift of eternal life by faith in this life but at the end this gift which is God’s great reward for our faith in his son will be clear to everyone, including those who have rejected God’s gift of forgiveness. As we read in the book of revelation, like Revelation 1: 7,

“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pieced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen”

And, Revelation 19: 6 – 9,

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, 
and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.) Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

Those who sinned or rebelled against God and sought to avoid coming to terms with him by simply denying his existence will be overcome with awe and reverence for the God they refused to believe in when Jesus returns. As Paul writes in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

I close this last section with the wise words of C.H Spurgeon when he writes,

“Two things will come out clearly after all – there is a God and there is a reward for the righteous. Time will remove doubts, solve difficulties, and reveal secrets; meanwhile faith’s foreseeing eye discerns the truth even now, and is glad thereat”.

I close as I usually do with a poem and a prayer:

 

FAITHS REWARD

Sin did enter into man

When first he looked away

And now its true of every one

That sin now holds the sway.

Our Rulers rule with sinful hearts

Our world is filled with hate

Our lives are lived in a fallen world

And God’s judgment is our fate.

 

Chorus:

Turn to Christ who rules on high

For he has given us

The gift of forgiveness

When he died upon the cross.

He saved us!

 

Sin is deep within our souls

We sin from when we’re born

It poisons all the things we do

It leaves our world so torn.

We don’t seem to heed God’s call

We go our way each day.

We’ll face the lord on Judgment day

And for our sins we’ll pay.

 

Chorus:

Turn to Christ who rules on high

For he has given us

The gift of forgiveness

When he died upon the cross.

He saved us!

 

Sin causes God to act

In judgment he will come.

God will shut the mouths of those

Who stand against his Son.

They’ll vanish like a river flow

They’ll simply fall away

They’ll wish that they were not born

On God’s great judgment day.

 

Chorus:

Turn to Christ who rules on high

For he has given us

The gift of forgiveness

When he died upon the cross.

He saved us!

 

Sin will lead to God’s judgment

When Christ comes again

But those who turn to him will rise

And see God’s judgment then.

The pain of those who suffered much

For following the Lord

Will turn to joy when Jesus comes

For- filling all his word.

 

Chorus:

Turn to Christ who rules on high

For he has given us

The gift of forgiveness

When he died upon the cross.

He saved us!

 

By: Jim Wenman

PRAYER:

Dear Father in heaven I thank you for your gift of forgiveness for my many sins. I thank you for the sending of your Son from heaven to die for my sins on the cross. I pray that those who do not know you will have the opportunity to hear your saving Gospel message so that they can turn to you in repentance and faith and escape your coming judgment. In Jesus name I pray Amen.