Like our heavenly Father, our hearts rage at injustice. In Psalm 58, David prays against those rulers and judges who abuse their power and take advantage of people. Verse 1 can be a little confusing—who is David writing about? Without getting too technical, it is those in authority who, by their authority, act unjustly.
Before we dig into this passage, I would caution any of you who have a boss or leader who acts unjustly. This does not offer permission to rebel or start offering prayers of condemnation on those people (see Romans 13). Likewise, for those of you who are bosses and leaders, take this passage as a warning that you not be like the one’s described in the following verses.
David decries the wickedness of these leaders. He vividly paints a picture of them with the vivid imagery—“estranged from the womb” (3) these men are so unkind it is as if they never experienced a mother’s love; “a deaf cobra that stops up its ear” (4), these men intentionally bring destruction and do not listen to rebuke or cries of pain (i.e. they cannot be controlled).
In verses 6–9, things get intense. David makes a plea to God for the destruction of these men. David’s prayers again use vivid imagery that requires some consideration. Like the teeth of lions that tear flesh, David prays that God breaks out their teeth (6). Verses 7–9 deal with the swift sweeping away of the wicked—like swift water, a headless arrow (ineffectual), a denigrating snail in a drought, a stillborn child, and like brush that burns so quickly it never even heats up its container. All of these items should cause you to cringe, especially when we consider this is the destruction that David is praying against the wicked.
So, what do we make of this passage. We can safely say that God will punish the wicked. In this life or the next, those who bring destruction in this world will receive their due. However, it is not ours to give. It is important to consider that as king, David was charged with keeping the peace of a physical kingdom. In that context, these prayers make some sense. We, on the other hand, are not kings, nor is ours a physical kingdom. Christ is the King of a current spiritual and future physical kingdom and he has already won the victory. As it says in 1 Peter 2, “[We] are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Thus, it is not our place to take such prayers to our heavenly Father. Instead, we are to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1–2) and even our enemies (Matthew 5:44).
All of us have some authority. Do not be like the one’s from this passage who use their authority to exploit and take advantage. Instead, consider how you might use your influence to glorify God today.
In the comments, tell us what areas of influence you have and how you might use that influence to be salt and light.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate