In this 21st Century we are painfully aware that we live in a secular world. The word secular stems from a Latin Root that means simply “of this age”. Our world is consumed with this age. This time. This moment. The unseen God, the spiritual soul and the destiny of eternity is little considered. We should not for one moment think that we are alone. In the 10th Psalm was writer was grappling with the very same problem.
THE GODLY MAN IN AN UNGODLY SOCIETY
1: The Ungodly Society Defined
James Montgomery Boice called his exposition of this Psalm “Practical Atheism.” In other Psalms dogmatic or theoretical atheism is set forth with the atheist being called a fool because he says “No God” (Psalm 14 and 53). This Psalm deals with the person who may verbally acknowledge that there is a God while at the same time he lives as if God does not exist. The practical atheist may have respect for the spiritual, he may attend a Church and assent to a creed. He may even make a profession of faith. Yet – his thinking are secular and his decisions are driven material and even in sensual desires. This kind of individual is summed by David in v4:
“God is not in all his thoughts”
The ungodly society is one that has forgotten God. Our nation does not acknowledge God nor does it pursue after Christian virtue. The characteristics of such a society are devastatingly set forth in this Psalm as Martin Luther recognised:
“There is not, in my judgment, a Psalm which describes the mind, the manners, the words, the feelings and the fate of the ungodly with so much propriety, fullness and light as this Psalm.”
“The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined. For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” (v2-4)
“He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it.” (v11)
“Pride consists in an unduly exalted opinion of one’s self. It is therefore impatient of a rival hates a superior, and cannot endure a master. In proportion as it prevails in the heart it makes us wish to see nothing above us, to acknowledge no law but our own wills, to follow no rule but our own inclinations” (Edward Payson).
“He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.” (v6)
“A carnal settled security will let in a whole array of lusts into the soul” (Thomas Brooks)
“His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.” (v7)
“Cursing men are cursed men.” (John Trapp)
“He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net. He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones.” (v8-11)
Lack of justice is a theme which runs through the Psalms because it is a problem for every society in every age, especially where God is forgotten. When Man forgets God and acts according to his own selfish desires the needs of the weakest and the poorest are forgotten. The clamour for abortion and euthanasia are modern examples of this selfishness in a action in the most brutal of ways.
2: The Godly Man’s Response
At the beginning of the Psalm the writer reveals his inner struggle as he faced the unrighteous world in his he lived:
“ Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?”
Where are you Lord? Why are you permitting this? Why do you not prevent the wicked in your progress? This is an encouragement because we are taught that we can legitimately ask God “Why” in a non rebellious manner. We may not receive the answer but God will listen to our cry. It is an encouragement to know that the Lord listens to us in all our distresses as we ponder the imponderables and try to comprehend the incomprehensible.
The the Psalm outlines and defines the characteristics of the ungodly psalm before coming to his own response. The response of the godly man to an ungodly society is summed up in two words:
In v12 the prayer is simple and passionate:
“Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.”
While the wicked were behaving in a proud arrogant fashion the one who has truly learned to prayer practices humility at the feet of omniscience.
“Fearlessly the Lord is stirred up to arise and lift up his hand, yet timidly is he begged not to forget the humble…This verse is the incessant cry of the Church, and she will never refrain there-from until her Lord shall come in his glory to avenge her of all her adversaries” (C.H. Spurgeon)
As the Psalm draws to a conclusion, however, it is evident that the writer was offering the prayer of faith. While the wicked did not consider God and while he considered that God neither saw nor cared this man of God declared:
“Thou hast seen it…” (v14)
This is our greatest encouragement to pray for our nation and to seek God for justice. He sees. He takes notice of the ungodly. He is concerned about these matters and he knows what he will do. His justice will prevail.
On this account the Psalmist had faith that God would exercise his arm of justice:
“The Lord is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of the land” (v16)