Rise Up, God of Vengeance (1-7)
The psalm begins with a description of God, not as a God of love or mercy, but as a God of vengeance. It is a call for God to rise up and act by bringing justice. Particular, the psalmist is calling for judgment against the proud, that they receive what they deserve. Again, we see that there is not a problem with asking God to administer justice. There is not a problem with asking God to give evil people what is due to them. God is a God of justice, which is vengeance. This term “vengeance” should not cause us any trouble or concern.
The question is then brought in prayer: how long will the wicked and the proud be allowed to gloat in their evil? How long will they be allowed to maintain their arrogance? How long will evil people continue to boast? The psalmist goes on to describe their evil actions. They are crushing God’s people. They hurt the righteous. Some evildoers even kill widows and orphans.
Consider the thought process of the evildoers. They think that God does not notice. They think that God is not looking. They think that God does not care what they are doing. This is the typical thinking when we sin. We think that God does not notice. We think that God does not really care. Listen to the answer to such thinking.
God Knows (8-11)
You who think that God does not care and God does not notice, think again! Is the one who made our ears not hearing the things we say? Is the one who made our eyes not seeing the things we do? Do we think that the God who punishes the nations will not also punish us for our actions? God knows everything. Why would we think that God does not know what we are doing? Consider verse 11: God even knows our thoughts! He knows that our thoughts are worthless and simply a vapor. Anyone who thinks they are getting away with anything just because judgment is not immediate is a senseless fool. Only a fool thinks that the all-seeing God does not see or that the judge of all the earth will not bring justice at the proper time. God not only knows our thoughts, he knows that our thoughts are futile. Leupold properly said, “There has, perhaps, never been a more devastating demonstration of the foolish thinking which men occasionally become guilty of when they imagine that the Lord is not aware of what they are doing.”
The Blessing of God’s Discipline (12-15)
The psalmist now points out the need for the righteous to find the blessings in life’s difficulties. Hard times help us learn the way of the Lord. We become more reliant upon God and hopefully are more diligent to follow God’s instructions. When we read about this discipline, we should not think of it as being punished for wrongdoing. Rather, discipline is merely God’s training tool. We are being trained when we go through hard times. This is why the psalmist links discipline with learning from God’s instructions. The writer of Hebrews also discusses the value of hard times and calls it discipline:
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. 4 In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly, or faint when you are reproved by Him; 6 for the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives. 7 Endure it as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there whom a father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline—which all receive —then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. 11 No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it. 12 Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but healed instead. (Hebrews 12:3-13; HCSB)
We must take the times of oppression and suffering and learn from those circumstances, as hard as it is to endure. There are benefits when we choose to learn from our ordeals. Next, the psalmist describes four promises that God gives to his people.
- Relief from troubled times (vs. 13). God does provide relief. We are never crushed beyond hope. God will make sure to give us a breather, and get our feet back under us before the next challenge comes.
- Eventual punishment of the wicked (vs. 13). A time will come with the pit will be dug for the wicked and they will be ensnared for their sins. Justice will eventually come.
- God’s faithfulness (vs. 14). God will not reject his people. He will not abandon his special possession. Deliverance may be delayed, and time may be difficult, but God does not leave his people.
- The triumph of righteousness (vs. 15). Ultimately, righteousness and justice will triumph. But right now, justice and righteousness are delayed. Immediate judgment rarely occurs. We are not to be shaken by this fact. Rather, we are to know that the righteous will triumph and we must continue to pursue righteousness.
God, Our Rescuer (16-19)
Verse 16 contains great rhetorical questions. Who is going to protect us from the wicked? Who is going stand up for us against evildoers? The answer is resounding: no one. There is no one to deliver except God. God is the only deliverer to rely upon. Unless the Lord helps, we would be nothing. God gives us comfort. God is there with his unfailing love. It is his unfailing love that can support us through the difficulties and ordeals of life. In Jesus’ hour of crisis, all of the disciples deserted him. Recall Paul in prison and writing that all had abandoned him. No one came to his defense and no one stood by his side.
At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. (2 Timothy 4:16-17; ESV)
But God the Father was with Jesus on the cross. God the Father was with Paul in prison. When our minds fill with doubt, as they certainly do, turn to God.
The Lord Is My Fortress (20-23)
The final stanza of the psalm brings us back to the beginning. Unjust leaders can claim that God is on their side, but it is not true because their actions do not reflect the character of God. Those in charge can act in wicked ways, but we will put our trust in the Lord. He is our refuge and he is our rock. We will rely upon him because of the promises we have studied in this lesson. Justice will eventually come and God will give us relief from our sorrows. God will turn their sins back upon themselves. This leads us back to the original cry of the psalm: how long will the wicked be allowed to gloat and speak with arrogance? The answer is that God will repay them for their sins. They will be destroyed for their actions. We have confidence in this truth.
- Though painful, suffering is to be used as God’s training tool.
- God knows the thoughts and actions of all. Everyone will be repaid.
- No one gets away with anything. The wicked will be judged and the righteous will be vindicated.