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“This psalm seems to belong to the time of the Captivity, or the return of the captives. It was probably made in reference to Sanballat, and the other enemies of the Jews. There is a great similarity between this and the 12th, the 14th, the 35th, and the 53d. In these, as Calmet remarks, we find the same complaints, the same sentiments, and almost the same expressions.”—Dr. A. Clarke.
I. The problem.
“Why standest Thou afar off, O Lord?” &c., i.e., “like an idle, passive spectator, unconcerned at the misery which he sees, but refuses to relieve.”—Perowne. “The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor.” “Through the proud dealings of the wicked, their victims are placed in the fire or furnace of affliction.”—Perowne. “Through the pride of the wicked the afflicted man burns.”—Moll. The soul is sorely puzzled with this painful problem, and asks earnestly, Why is it thus? Let it be observed, this is not—
(1.) A presumptuous question. “The meaning is not that of searching for the reason.”—Moll. There is no disposition to know the secret things which belong unto the Lord.
(2.) Not a murmuring question. “In the anguish of external trouble and internal affliction, the pious may, with propriety, urge God to hasten to their relief; but although the voice of their lamentation may resound, yet it must not contain a complaint against God, as if He improperly delayed, or as if He left the afflicted in continual danger without reason, or as if He had purposely shut His eyes and ears against their need and prayers. In the realisation of their weakness, they must give themselves and their cause entirely into the hands of God.”—Moll. Neither is it,
(3.) A despairing question. “The good soul knows that God waiteth to be gracious; and as He seldom cometh at our time, so at His own (which is ever the best) time, He never faileth.”—Trapp. It is a lover’s question; it is the cry of a righteous man, impatient that justice should be done; but it is a question nevertheless which bespeaks the deep sorrow and perplexity of the religious soul. A little child cried in the night, and the parent came to correct it; said the little thing, “Whip me, but don’t leave me.” Thus, the bitterest trial of the saints is the consciousness of God’s absence.
II. The solution.
The explanation of the problem may be found:
1. Partly in regard to our personal discipline.
(1.) It rebukes our faults In these hours of sorrow, we remember our faults.
(2.) It reminds us of our personal helplessness. We never know the preciousness of our friends until we have lost them; and it seems necessary that our greatest Friend should withdraw His presence sometimes, so that we may realise His preciousness more fully, and know how helpless we are without Him.
(3.) It drives us nearer to God.
2. Partly in respect to the salvation of the wicked. God delays to do justice that the wicked may have space for repentance. It may be that the wicked abuse these delays, put upon them a wrong interpretation, but God grants the longer delay, that the sinner may turn and live. Thus, if the righteous suffer because Heaven delays its judgments, let them not complain. Let them regard their sufferings on this account as vicarious suffering, as identifying them with their thorn-crowned Master, who was bruised for our iniquities, and by whose stripes we are healed. God is sublimely patient, bearing with sinners, and suffering whilst He bears; let us imitate His long-suffering, and not complain at the delays of justice, because such delays are in the interests of mercy and salvation.
3. Certainly, in regard to the glory of God. God will not dishonour Himself by hiding Himself; when all things are seen clearly, the Divine attributes will shine all the brighter for these obscurations. Each explained mystery will be a crown on God’s head; not one of them a blot on God’s throne. The throne at last will be “A great white throne” (Revelation 15:3-4).
We have here a full-length portrait of the practical atheist. The Psalmist is not speaking of the theoretical atheist, not of the man who ignores God with his lips, but who ignores Him in his life.
Let us mark:
I. The nature of this atheism.
1. The atheism here spoken of ignores God in actual life (Psalms 10:4). “God is not in all his thoughts.” “THERE IS NO GOD: not that he is literally an atheist, but that the whole of his conduct, all his purposes and schemes, are carried on as if there were no God—in a practical denial of His existence.”—Perowne. “David does not speak of the words, but of the innermost thoughts, of the wicked—their practical, it may be half-conscious atheism.”—Speaker’s Com. How much of this secret atheism there is in the world! How often in the bed-chamber of the heart do men curse the King! How continually do men acknowledge God, and yet in their conduct deny Him! The Chinese acknowledge no God in their creed, and yet their houses and shops and streets are full of idols. The reverse of this is seen in Christendom; our creed is full of God, and then we shut Him out from our shops, homes, hearts.
2. The atheism here spoken of excludes God from systems of thought. “No God, is the whole of his philosophy” (Psalms 10:4).—Horsley. Such are intended as those who
(1.) Acknowledge that God is, but that He cannot be known, putting God at a vast and inaccessible distance;
(2.) Those who contend that we cannot affirm or deny God’s existence,
(3.) Those who deny a personal God. “To deny the existence of a living, acting, all-punishing (in one word, a personal) God, is equivalent to denying the existence of any real and true God whatever.”—Ewald. Psalms 10:11. “The thought of a personal God would disturb the ungodly in his doings, he therefore prefers to deny His existence, and thinks there is only fate, and fate is blind, only an absolute, and it has no eyes, only a notion, and that cannot interfere in the affairs of men.”—Delitzsch.
II. The history of this atheism.
This atheism is here shown to spring from the pride and corruption of the heart.
1. In the second verse the atheist is shown to be personally corrupt.
2. Next, he glories in his corruption. “For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire” (Psalms 10:3). “He giveth praise to his heart’s desire.”—Perowne. “To his soul’s lust.”—Kay. “He blesses and idolises himself; he sings hallelujahs to himself, and forgets God.”—Wordsworth. “This seems to be a description of the last stage of corruption, in which men openly defend or applaud their own vices.”—Alexander.
3. The wicked man not only glories in his own shame, but has pleasure in those who do such things. “He blesseth the covetous.”
Out of this rampant wickedness comes—
(1.) The hatred of God. “He abhorreth the Lord.” When we have wronged any one, the next thing is we hate them.
(2.) The ignoring of God (Psalms 10:4). “He is so wrapped up in his rapacious propensities that he forsakes and altogether despises God.”—Phillips. Here we have the devil’s chain. Each several link is manifest of that awful fetter with which the devil binds his victims ere he casts them into hell. Many of our sceptics give atheism a very proud lineage; its ancestors are thought, logic, love, and righteousness; God’s Word declares atheism to be the monstrous child of corruption. Yes; atheism springs not from a clear head, but a disordered heart; it is not the characteristic of a pure and simple age, but of a civilisation debauched with luxuries, and mad with pride.
III. The characteristics of it.
1. Pride (Psalms 10:4). “Through the pride of his countenance.” “The wicked in the height of his scorn.”—Speaker’s Com. Psalms 10:5. “His ways are always victorious.”—Ewald. Job 12:6. His ways always prosper, and he is full of pride. “They judgments,’ &c. God’s judgments, His punishments for sin, are so far out of the sight of the wicked that he acts as if they could never reach him.”—Perowne. “As for all his enemies,” &c. He cares as little for man as he does for God.
2. Presumption (Psalms 10:6). “In his unbounded carnal security he lets his wicked tongue have free course.”—Delitzsch. “The idea of the wicked is that they and their families would continue to be prosperous, that a permanent foundation was laid for honour and success, and for transmitting accumulated wealth and honours down to far-distant times.”—Barnes. For ever and ever they shall flourish.
3. Practical and outrageous wickedness. Blasphemy, falsehood, injustice, cruelty, murder. When you have ignored God, and denied His intervention in the affairs of men, you have opened the flood-gates of iniquity.
IV. The doom of it.
Psalms 10:12, &c. God marks and punishes this atheism, and what springs out of it. In the 11th verse the wicked say: “God hath forgotten,” &c. But, says the Psalmist in the 14th verse: “Thou hast seen it, to requite it.” “There is a time coming, he feels assured, when all this disorder will be set right. God is not the passive spectator of human affairs which these men deem Him. He ‘considers’ (i.e., regards with interest and sympathy) what is going on. The helpless, therefore, may leave all to God.”—Perowne. And woe unto the godless (Psalms 10:15-16). “Let the wicked and his wickedness disappear, so that even when sought for it cannot be found.”—Perowne.
A missionary who recently returned from Polynesia brought home with him a curious object called a soul-trap. This consisted simply of a series of rings twisted in cocoa-nut fibre. If a native should commit a great offence, or have the misfortune to offend a sorcerer, the latter immediately proceeds to make a new ring in his chain, so as to form a trap to catch the poor man’s spirit. Soon a bird or butterfly alights on the ring, and the sorcerer asserts that the soul of the culprit assuming this form has passed into the trap. It is immediately known throughout the tribe that a certain man has lost his soul. As a matter of fact, it invariably happens that the soulless man shortly afterwards dies, of course through sheer mental distress at having had his soul thus entrapped. We smile at such traps, but we are all familiar with soul-traps of a far more subtle and dangerous character. In the verses before us the Psalmist vividly pictures the crafty schemes of the wicked in order to entrap their victims. They seek by most subtle arts to entangle and destroy.
I. It is thus that selfish men set traps for the young and inexperienced.
With lies and enticements the covetous seek to entrap and destroy the young. Soul-traps for the young! How numerous they are! How cleverly contrived! The utmost artifice and plausibility. How successful they are (Psalms 10:10). “Crouching down as low as possible, he lies on the watch, and the feeble and defenceless fall into his strong ones, i.e., claws.”—Delitzsch. How many thus fall! Our cities are full of fallen young men and women. We have thousands of heartless men in society answering to the vile robber pictured in these verses. For the sake of gain and lust, they set traps in which the health, honour, happiness, and hope of the youthful perish. The whole civilised world was shocked the other day by the discovery that, by means of an infernal machine, a villain sent ships and their crews to the bottom of the sea for the sake of the insurance money; but thousands of atheistical, covetous men, for the sake of gain, are ingeniously seeking to sink the souls of the people in the gulf of hell. May God save our young people from their cruel schemes!
II. It is thus that the world contrives traps for the godly.
The world does not like the godly, and in various subtle methods it seeks to worst them. It has traps for their reputation. “His mouth is full of perjury and deceit.” He sets a net of cunningly-devised speech, that he may be able to bring their good name into discredit. It has traps for their fortune. It will “privily seek” to damage their circumstances. It will adroitly circulate reports, frame laws, to bring them into financial trouble. It has traps for their character. They know the natural weaknesses of a Christian, and they bait their hook, set their net, accordingly. He is short-tempered, and they contrive to put in his way occasions of anger; he is given to levity, and they provoke his mirth; he has strong appetites, and they put drink to his lips; he is feeble in faith, and they press him with scepticisms. The world hates the righteous, and when it cannot injure them openly, it will secretly. The devil is a wily destroyer, and his children imitate his tactics, and seek “to murder the innocent.”
III. It is thus that Satan sets traps for us all.
He is the great bandit pictured in the text; he is the great sorcerer whose soul-traps beset us at every turn. What a clever fowler is he! what a politic huntsman! what a subtle angler! The devil hides himself, he disguises his movements, and in an evil hour men are drawn “into the net.” Here he betrays by pleasure. Bates tells us of a spider in South America which looks like a blossom, and insects alighting on it for sweetness find death. So the great foe, under the aspect of pleasure, betrays thousands. Here he betrays by honour. One of the Roman Emperors used to fish with a net of purple and gold; the devil has used this net largely, and taken great prey. And by many other devices does he destroy the unwary. Beware! That was a clumsy soul-trap in Polynesia, but the sorcerer of hell has traps of strange power—of damning efficacy. Beware of those soul-traps made of flowers called pleasure; of those purple-lined ones called greatness; of those gay-painted ones called fashion; of those scientific ones called philosophy; of those jewelled ones called honour; of those golden ones called wealth. “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” The devil will lie, fawn, flatter, and do this patiently for years to ruin us.
1. Let the innocent put their trust in God. “The afflicted committeth himself unto Thee; Thou art the helper of the fatherless” (Psalms 10:14). Alas! for us if we attempt to stand in our own strength, and take our defence into our own hands. “He that takes himself out of God’s hands into his own, by and by will not know what to do with himself.”—Whichcote. And in our darkest hours of temptation and trial, we may have the fullest assurance that God has not forgotten us. The wicked say: “God will never see it” (Psalms 10:11). But the Psalmist replies: “Thou hast seen it; for Thou beholdeth mischief and spite to requite it with Thy hand” (Psalms 10:14). “The Psalmist means to say, so far from the assertion of the wicked man being true, that God is forgetful of the poor; He is, on the contrary, observant of their trouble and vexation; and in order not to forget their calamities, He places a memorial of them on His hands (see Isaiah 49:26). I have engraven thee on the palms of My hands; which would be done for the purpose of assisting the memory.”—Phillips. God has not forgotten His tried ones who look to Him; He will not forget them. “The Lord preserveth the simple.”
“As far from danger as from fear,
Whilst Love, Almighty Love, is near.”
2. Let the innocent walk circumspectly. “Lurking places,” “secret places,” “eyes privily set,” “lieth in wait secretly.” “He croucheth.” “The image is that of a beast of prey, a fox or a wolf, lying upon the watch about the farm-yard in the evening.”—Horsley. This great enemy is ever on the watch for us in the world. Ambushed often where least expected. And in the Church. The wolf prowls about Christ’s fold. Let us
(1.) Live in the spirit of watchfulness.
(2.) Let us be specially on our guard against what promises unusual gain, or liberty, or pleasure. The angler makes his artificial fly as big, and fat, and dazzling as he can, and the devil acts thus with the bait which he dangles before human souls.
(3.) Let us keep as far from danger as we possibly can. They try sometimes how near they can swim to the Niagara falls without going over—it is not wise. God will keep us, if we strive thus to keep ourselves.
3. Let any who are in the snare of the devil look up to the Deliverer. It is best to keep out of Satan’s claws, but Christ can deliver us from the paw of the lion and the mouth of the bear. In the devil’s trap, held by the iron teeth of evil, stained with blood and tears, look up, and Mercy’s hand shall liberate you, and you shall sing: “My soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and I have escaped.”
4. Let the wicked be assured that God’s eye is upon them, and that justice must overtake them (Psalms 10:15). “Because the Lord continues to spare them, therefore they go on to provoke Him. As He adds to their lives, so they add to their lusts. Because justice seems to wink, men suppose her blind; because she delays punishment, they imagine she denies to punish them; because she does not always reprove them for their sins, they suppose she always approves of their sins. But let such know that the silent arrow can destroy as well as the roaring cannon. Though the patience of God be lasting, yet it is not everlasting.”—Spurgeon.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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