As with so many of the psalms, this psalm shows one of God’s saints in great turmoil over the condition of the fat and sassy attitude of those who rebel against heaven. “Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble? . . .” (Ps. 10:1-18).
In a world where sin is a horrible reality, God’s people are to learn how to pray against it. This prayer is just such an example of how we are to pray. We see first the virtues of holy complaint: from the vantage point of the saints, it sometimes looks as though God is standing off somewhere else. And so this sanctified complaint drives the prayer (v. 1).
In the second verse, we come to a statement of the problem—the wicked in their conceit are assaulting the poor—along with the pious wish that the wicked would be caught in their own snares (v. 2).
We see then how the wicked think. The actions of the wicked are the fruit of their heart condition—this is how they think in their hearts. God hates the covetous, but the wicked bless the covetous (v. 3), as well as boasting in their own lusts and desires. The wicked resist God on the outside of their heads and on the inside. God is excluded through pride of countenance, and God is not in their thoughts (v. 4). The wicked man’s thoughts are earthbound (v. 5), and he puffs at his enemies. In all things, he is bulletproof (v. 6).
We then return to what the wicked do. The wicked are malicious, sneaking thieves (v. 7), with vain talk under the tongue. Such a man lurks in order to waylay the innocent and defenseless (vv. 8-9). He abuses his own dignity in order to destroy the poor (v. 10).
We come back again to how the wicked think. They deceive themselves and believe that God does not see this (v. 11).
And so this is the holy complaint and prayer. The psalmist beseeches God to arise and do something. The wicked say God has forgotten, and the godly beg Him not to forget (v. 12). They do not share a common premise here (that God can forget the humble). Rather, the division between them is ethical. Listen to what the wicked say!—they say that God does not judge sin (v. 13). But the psalmist knows that God has in fact seen it, and that He will requite it (v. 14). God the Father is the God of the fatherless. And the fatherless may cry out to Him and ask Him to come down and break the arms of the wicked (v. 15).
The psalm concludes with deliverance. God is king forever; the heathen are dead (v. 16). God has heard the prayers of the humble (v. 17). He prepares the heart of the humble to pray, and He causes His own ear to hear (v. 17).
What are some basic applications for us? This psalm is by no means a devotional fossil. It is as relevant today as the day it was first written.
Arise O Lord: in the first and twelfth verses, the psalmist begs God to do something. If our Reformed theology keeps us from praying this way, then our Reformed theology needs some adjusting.
God does not see: a heretical movement today within the larger evangelical world wants to say that God does not know everything, and that everything is in process and flux. But whenever a sinner maintains that God does not know all things it is because he does not want God to know everything. That is, there is something to hide and that something is always sin. This is what we see in verse 11.
God prepares for reformation: notice how God hears the desire of the humble (v. 17). He prepares their heart, and also He causes His own ear to hear. This means, for example, that our prayers for the reformation of the church are prayers which God has given to us in the first place. He has placed this desire within us, and we can be confident that He is also causing His ear to hear us. God does not create the thirst without creating the water.
We learn here the importance of breaking some arms. Are there no arms today which need breaking? Is there no insolence in our halls of justice? Are there no enthroned criminals who make life wretched for the humble of the earth? And is it not true that our authorities refuse to heed what God has told them to do?
So the great application is to start praying this way. Come down, our Lord and God, and break their evil arms. We may pray that God would start with the Supreme Court, and then move on to the various circuit courts. Then on to Congress! To refuse to pray in this way is not so much to deny the evil as it is in some fashion to join it.