Reflections of the Psalms – Psalms 58

Posted on: May 20th, 2018

Psalms 58

One of the “rights” that most Americans seem to think that God has given them is the right to complain about everyone and everything. One of the targets of such discontent is the judicial system. “The court system favors the criminal!”, “All lawyers are just out for the money!”, or “All judges are crooked!” Such statements are all too common; and, unfortunately, have some basis in what actually happens.

However, compared with the judicial systems within many parts of the world, the effectiveness and honesty of the American system is to be envied. Judges and other “officers of the court” can be held accountable for their actions. Attorneys and judges have been found guilty and have been imprisoned.

In the Old and New Testament scriptures, judges and rulers were shown to be incompetent, dishonest, and even evil. Throughout the centuries, up to the present day, there has been injustice and good people have suffered in the hands of evil, men and women. In many countries today, the common person has no power or rights, and the rule is injustice in the place of justice. Bribes are common, and a person’s status or power determines the outcome even before a complaint is made. Because of the testimony of history, and the evidence of human suffering, the question is asked, “Will justice ever triumph?”
That question is answered in psalm 58. The situation that caused the writing of Psalm 58 is not clear, but what is clear is that the psalmist was writing during a time when many of the judges were not fulfilling their offices in an honorable way. In fact, honor and integrity may have been the exception rather than the rule.

Verses 1-2 describe the kind of person being addressed. “Do you indeed speak righteousness, O gods? Do you judge uprightly, O sons of men? No, in heart you work unrighteousness; on earth you weigh out the violence of your hands.” Other translations more correctly refer to “gods” as “mighty leaders” or “judges”. Of course, people in positions of power have been carried away in arrogance and have acted like they were “gods”, and the psalmist may have deliberately intended that meaning.

In addition, this is not a judge that has “made a mistake”, or is really not “qualified”. No, this is a person that plotted and worked to achieve his position in order to use it for his own gain. In verse 3, the psalmist wrote, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.” Some have tried to use that the reference to the womb to support the idea of original sin, but this is an obvious exaggeration to further demonstrate the wickedness of these men. “He has been bad all of his life”, or “He was born bad” would be a similar sayings today.

Some other religious teachings teach that there is a “balance” in the universe. Yet, even a cursory review to history shows the fallacy of that belief. Others question if real evil exists. People act evil because of their raising, their lack of education, or their lack of opportunities for self-improvement. But evil does exist. Every unrighteous and corrupt person in a position of authority or power made personal, moral, and ethical decisions. There was no reluctance. No, they embraced the life they chose.

People do cry out in anguish and pain when evil seems to prevail. It can lead to horrible misery and death in this life. Add to that the clear instructions in the New Testament that Christians must obey the laws and respect those that have authority over them. When evil, corrupt people ARE the people in authority, where is justice? Where is the “balancing of the scales”?

Verses 6-9 of Psalm 58 describe the eventual fate of the wicked. The descriptions are harsh and vivid. The intensity of the judgment, that the Psalmist called down upon those judges, may seem hash to today’s “civilized” values. However, the point is very clear, and many other passages in the Bible also support the principle that privilege is always tied with responsibility. A man, or woman, who holds the office of judge, holds a great responsibility before the Lord. All people who have abused their offices will face the judgment of God and the cries of the righteous and innocent will be heard by the Lord.

Yes, Psalm 58 could be the rallying call of all seeking for justice from God; but that call can also be tied with the blessed hope that rests in Jesus Christ. In Him, the promise has been sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Nothing in this world can destroy that relationship. The only thing that can break it is the rejection of that bond by a Christian.

The Psalmist cried for justice, and he knew that his cry would be met by the great Judge of the universe – the Living God. But today, through the teaching of the New Testament, Christians know that God, the Father, has already answered that prayer for His children. In Christ, all have been rewarded, and now they are waiting for that day when the Lord will turn the promise to reality. They wait for the day when faith becomes sight. They wait for the day, as witnessed by John, when he said, “Amen! Come Lord Jesus!”

Jim Shelburn