MDB 87: Psalms 58-59

Mark Johnston Articles

Two things seem to dominate the headlines of our times: corruption and conspiracy. Bad men end up in positions of power and good men (and women) are all too often undermined and sidelined in their influence. Things haven't changed since the time of David and before!

We may wring our hands and vent our feelings about such things over our daily fix at Starbucks, but in these two psalms David takes them all to God in prayer and does so in the attitude of praise to the God who is Judge of all the Earth. That in itself is instructive in terms of how we handle these deep-seated frustrations in life; but today's psalms have much more to say.

Psalm 58 begins with David questioning the integrity of those who rule in his day and then goes on to answer his own rhetorical question. He addresses these people directly and leaves them in no doubt as to what they are like: snakes! (It's interesting that John the Baptist uses similar language of the religious rulers of his day.) David then proceeds to call down God's curse on these leaders, but does so only that God himself will be vindicated (58.11). 

It's not hard to see why the early church linked this psalm to the trials of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod, but there is of course one salient difference: Jesus did not call down God's curse, he bore it. The Righteous One suffered under the worst injustices of men in order that he might satisfy the perfect justice of God and bring the greatest of all possible blessings into the world: the salvation of guilty sinners. David's prayer that God would vindicate himself was answered in ways he never could have imagined.

But what about those conspirators who make life such a misery - especially when they squirm out of the woodwork in the church? Well David brings them to God in prayer as well in the next psalm. Here too we find words of imprecation on David's part; but interestingly we also find repeated requests for strength to endure. Again we can't help but be drawn to the words of Jesus in all this. He himself had an amazing knack of letting those who conspired against him 'wander about' and be 'brought down' without his having to do anything. But more significantly, he demonstrated as well as taught how God gives strength to endure. In the Upper Room especially he forewarned the disciples of the opposition the church would always face in the world; but he assured them of his presence to sustain. 

It's better to look up, not down, in the face of all the ugliness of the world and even of the church, as God alone is the One who will bring vindication because he has already done so for his Son.