By demystifying evil, Psalm 10 enables us process trauma. Why? Because understanding the evildoer’s psychodynamics empowers us to pray for justice and find peace at the cross.
This Psalm demystifies evil. It lays bare the thoughts and the motives of the evildoer.
The central dilemma of dealing with trauma is this: how do you speak about the unspeakable? Psychologist and trauma expert Diane Langberg says that the push-pull between the need to forget and the need to speak is the central dialectic of trauma. For the only way to process trauma is to talk about it, yet talking about it is the one thing you don’t wanna do. That’s why it’s important for us to be able to talk about it. And it’s what God does for us in the book of Psalms.
How To Pray In The Midst of Evil: Timestamps
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Text: Psalm 10
Date preached: 8 September 2019
Location: Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town, South Africa
1 Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
3 He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
4 In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
5 His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
6 He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
7 His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
8 He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
9 like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
10 His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
11 He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”
12 Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
13 Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
14 But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
15 Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.
16 The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
17 You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
18 defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.
Heavenly father thank you so much that you are such a compassionate God. Thank you that suffering doesn’t end here. Thank you that you listen and you hear our cries. And thank you Lord that one day we will spend eternity with you where there is no pain and no suffering. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.
We Need To Talk About Trauma
The central dilemma of dealing with trauma: how do you speak about the unspeakable? Psychologist and trauma expert Diane Langberg says that the push-pull between the need to forget and the need to speak is the central dialectic of trauma. The only way to process trauma is to talk about it. And yet talking about it is the one thing you don’t wanna do. And that’s why it’s important for us to be able to talk about it. And it’s what God does for us in the book of Psalms.
How do you speak about the unspeakable?
One of the things the psalmist does, which is incredible, is confront reality in all of its gruesome detail, and yet it confronts reality within relationship with God. It gets you out of denial but it turns you to God at the same time. And Psalm 10 does that.
Understanding How Evil Works Is Important
More than any other Psalm, Psalm 10 helps us to understand how evil works and how to pray in the midst of it. And it does that by giving us three things that we’re gonna look at this morning. It gives us the psychodynamics of sin; it gives us the certainty of justice and it points us to the sufficiency of Jesus.
8 Psychodynamics of Sin
So, let me begin with the psychodynamics of sin. What do I mean by that? Psychodynamics refer to the mental and emotional processes that are underneath your behaviour. They refer to your thoughts, your motives, your emotions, your desires and your beliefs. And they are the things that are going on underneath your visible behaviour. And Psalm 10, more than any other psalm, does a psychological profile of the evildoer. It gives us a description of the motives, the thoughts, the actions and the emotions of those who hurt other people.
This Psalm helps us to understand how evil works and how to pray in the midst of it.
Why does it do that? Because it helps to know what you’re dealing with. It helps to know what you’re up against. If you don’t know why it happened, if you don’t know what’s going on, you tend to blame yourself. What Psalm 10 does for us is it demystifies evil. It lays bare the thoughts and the motives of the evildoer. It shows us the psychodynamics of sin.
So, what are those? Well, take a look with me at Psalm 10:2-5. Verse 2, “In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak”. Verse 3, “He boasts about the cravings of his heart”. Verse 4, “In his pride”. Verse 5, “He sneers at all his enemies”.
The first and fundamental dynamic of sin is pride. The evildoer does what he does because that’s how he lives. His desires are the most important, what he thinks goes. He does what he does because he wants to do what he wants to do. He seeks his own desires, he delights in his own desires, he glories in what he wants, he pursues his own selfish ends. He thinks, “I can do it my way. I’m the boss. I’m in charge”. At the heart of evil is this proud fundamental desire to do what I want. I just want to do what I want and I don’t care. I don’t care what God thinks, I don’t care what other people think. I just wanna do what I wanna do.
At the heart of evil is a proud fundamental desire to do what I want.
2. Dark Passion
And notice that in their pride there’s this intense passion. In Psalm 10:2, you can’t see it in the NIV because it’s a difficult sentence. But in the ESV you’ll see that the wicked hotly pursue those they attack. And there’s a verb in verse 2 that has to do with heat. And the idea is that the wicked person burns in their desire to hunt down the weak. The wicked person is animated by a dark passion, they are consumed with hostility. They’re energised by their anger as they seek the harm of the other people. They hunt them down intensely.
3. Deliberate Planning
There is a fundamental pride, animated by a dark passion, that lies at the root of why the evildoer does what he does. In addition to a fundamental pride there is a deliberate planning. Take a look again at Psalm 10:2: “In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises”. The wicked man has schemes. Schemes that he devises, that he develops. Carefully laid out plans that he has thought about in order to catch and hurt others.
People are not basically good and then fall into heinous acts of evil by accident.
This highlights the fact that evil acts are not committed randomly or by mistake. This is where our culture is incredibly naïve about the human condition. People are not basically good and then fall into heinous acts of evil by accident. People are sinful. Fuelled by pride and selfish desires. And they do evil because they plan to do evil. It is premeditated. It is deliberate. It is designed to catch the vulnerable.
Now of course people are made in the image of God. There is inherent dignity, and value and worth. And we retain an element of the dignity of God even in our fallen condition. But it would be naïve for us to think that evil just happens. Evil happens, evil acts happen, because people plan to do them. They deliberate on how to execute these evil schemes. They are premeditated.
Take a look at Psalm 10:8: “He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent. His eyes watch in secret for his victims; like a lion in cover, he lies in wait. He lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength”.
Evildoers lurk. They plan on wait to hide so they can ambush their victims. Like a lion that is searching out its prey they creep low to the ground. They blend in with their surroundings so that you don’t see them or notice the threat that they pose to you. Have you not seen that again this week? People that blend in to their surroundings. But like a lion in cover, they are waiting to ambush, crush and capture their victims.
We’re meant to read Psalm 10 and we’re meant to say, “This is outrageous! This is unfair! This is unjust!” And we’re meant to recognise the horror and strength of evil. It is like a lion. A lion that carefully plans its attack.
It is naïve to think that people are basically good. It is wrong. People are sinful.
As Christians we have the intellectual resources to understand the human condition in all of its complexity. People of course have value and dignity because they are made in the image of God. But it is naïve to think that people are basically good. That is erroneous. It is wrong. People are sinful. They have selfish desires and they will seek to fulfil those desires regardless of what God thinks. And they will blend in to their surroundings in order to catch their victims.
5. Temporary Prosperity & Intellectual Complacency
So, sin is rooted in pride. It is aided by deliberate planning. Furthermore, the evildoer is temporarily prosperous and intellectually complacent. Take a look at Psalm 10:5, “His ways are always prosperous; your laws are rejected by him; he sneers at all his enemies”. In this life often the evildoer gets away with it. They commit evil for years, and years, and years. They murder, and murder and they die at the ripe old age of 95 surrounded by wealth. And you can think, “Man, they got away with it”. Right?
There is temporary prosperity. They seem to get away with rejecting God. And as a result, verse 6, they are intellectually complacent: “He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.” He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.” For the evildoer the judgement of God is remote, it is distant, it is non-existent, he thinks. “Who cares about the judgement of God? I don’t care about it. I’ll do what I want”.
The judgement of God seems irrelevant to the evildoer.
The judgement of God seems irrelevant to the evildoer. And it’s hard for us in this life when we see that happening right? That’s why we ask the questions in verse 1, Lord, what is going on? Why do you stand far off? Psalm 10:1 is a cry of faith that struggles to reconcile the horror of reality with the goodness of God. How can those both be true? But notice, he does it in relationship with God. He goes to God with that problem.
6. Verbal Abuse
So, the wicked are proud, they are deliberate in their scheming. They are prosperous and complacent. And Psalm 10:7 they are verbally abusive: “Their mouths are full of lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue”. Listen to how they talk. They lie, they deceive, they oppress, they manipulate, they mislead, they overwhelm. And all of this is just waiting under the tongue – waiting to spring at a moment’s notice or at the slightest provocation.
So, the victims think, “Was it something I did? Did I provoke them? Did I elicit that response of verbal abuse?” No. It was waiting there right under the tongue. And of course, the poison that comes out of the mouth is the poison that was already in the heart.
The poison that comes out of the mouth is the poison that was already in the heart.
That’s what the Bible says that the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. And we see that more and more. Right? Not just maybe in private abusive relationships but more and more in public, online. We see celebrities, politicians, all sorts of vitriol coming out of people’s mouths. And of course, the Bible says, “Hey, that comes from the heart”. The mouth is simply the overflow of the heart. And the poison that comes out of the mouth has its genesis in the heart.
7. Spiritual Rebellion
The evildoer is verbally abusive and fundamentally the evildoer is spiritually rebellious. Take a look again at Psalm 10:3: “He boasts about the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. In his pride the wicked man does not seek the Lord; In all his thoughts there is no room for God”.
Take a look again at Psalm 10:13: “Why does the wicked man revile God?” You see it’s helpful for the victim to know the problem of the abuser. The problem the abuser has is not with me, it’s ultimately with the Lord. They are doing this to me because they are reviling God. They are treating me this way because they are spurning the Lord.
The problem the abuser has is not with me, it’s ultimately with the Lord.
Users and abusers of others are rebels against God. They turn from God towards their greed, towards their selfish desires, towards their own goals. David, who wrote this Psalm – David the victim – understands that the abusers have a problem with God. The abuser has no room for God in his mind. God is just not part of his equation. When he thinks about why he’s gonna do what he does it’s because God isn’t there. And even worse than that there is a delusion at play, particularly devoid of the idea that God is a judge. They really think they will get away with it.
Take a look at Psalm 10:11. “He says to himself, “God will never notice; he covers his face and never sees.” Verse 13, “… he says to himself, “God won’t call me to account”. There is a spiritual rebellion and delusion in the heart of the evildoer. There is a belief that God doesn’t see this and God won’t hold me accountable. “I can sin with impunity; I’ll get away with it. God doesn’t see it”.
So, these are the psychodynamics of sin. This is the way evil works in the heart. These are the thoughts, the motives, the desires, the beliefs of the evildoer. This is what evil looks like in the human soul. And it’s a Psalm written by a victim. It’s not written in an air-conditioned office. It’s written by a victim on the run. And it is written for people who are victimised by others.
Demystifying Evil Helps Us Pray
We’re given this assessment of evil to demystify evil. Because one of the big applications is this: the reason abuse is happening is not because of anything I’ve done wrong, it’s because of this person and what’s going on in their heart, right? If you’ve been a victim, it wasn’t your fault. It was the fault of the abuser. It was because in their pride and their spiritual rebellion they pursued what they wanted, and spurned God, and sought their own desires.
This helps us face reality. It gets us out of denial. And it helps us see evil for what it is. And it helps us to understand that when it comes to violence and abuse and evil, the fault lies not with the victim but with the perpetrator. They did what they did because they wanted to do it. Because they rejected the Lord.
So, when we pray, we can pray with that insight, we can pray with that kind of insight into the way evil works – pray understanding the psychodynamics of sin. Secondly, pray for justice.
Know That Justice Is Certain
The second thing the Psalm teaches us is the certainty of justice. God actually will see. And he will notice and he will act in judgement. He is powerful. He will arise. And he will lift us his hand. You see, the evildoer may think that God is non-existent, or that God isn’t there, or that God doesn’t see it, or God will forget about it, or that God doesn’t care. But the truth is that God does see it, and God will take it in his hand, and he will exact justice.
Vengeance is mine says the Lord. I will repay.
“Vengeance is mine says the Lord. I will repay” (Romans 12:19). And that means one of the things we pray for is Psalm 10:15: “Break the arm of the wicked man; call the evildoer to account for his wickedness that would not otherwise be found out.”
The arm that grabbed the victim is the arm that the Lord will snap in two. It is a prayer for justice. “Lord, see what’s going on and act. And expose hidden evil”, right? Psalm 10:15, calls the evildoer to account – to account for wickedness that would not otherwise be found out, to expose evil wherever it might be found. We pray for that: we pray for God’s justice!
We Must Pray For Justice Now
Of course, we know that God’s final justice will come on that great day of justice that the Bible calls judgement day. But we pray for justice now as well. We pray for justice now and we pray that evil will be exposed. So we do what we can to participate with God in exposing evil and injustice. We pray that God will bring evildoers to account: that his will would be done on earth as it is in heaven.
We Can Commit Ourselves To God
The second thing we do in light of the certainty of justice is we commit ourselves to God. Take a look at Psalm 10:14: “But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.”
It’s very human for evil to corrupt us when we’ve experienced it. To become evil in return; to take revenge.
You see, as victims we entrust ourselves to the one who judges justly. The doctrine of judgement means that we don’t get corrupted by the evil. We don’t be… we are not overcome by the evil. It is very human for evil to corrupt us when we have experienced it. To become evil in return, to take revenge, to take matters into our own hands. But the Psalmist believes that God takes it in-hand and therefore he doesn’t need to.
I Don’t Need To Take Revenge
Now this is not saying you don’t pursue justice, right? We’ve just said we pray for that. What this is saying is, “I don’t need to take revenge”. Faith trusts that God will bring full and final judgement. And this is actually how the doctrine of judgement works in the Bible. The doctrine of judgement gives hope to believers. Do you trust in God’s wrath? Are you confident that God’s judgement will punish every act of evil? We need to trust in the judgement of God. He sees all evil and he says again and again, “I will repay people to their face”.
What that means for us is that we don’t need to take revenge. We entrust ourselves to the one who judges justly. We cry out for justice and we entrust ourselves to the judge. It’s very hard to do that especially when the wicked prosper. So, we live in this tension where we pray for justice, and we pursue justice and we seek justice, and we do everything we can but we don’t take revenge. We wait for the judgment of God. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” And in the meantime, verse 17, God hears the desires of the afflicted, he encourages them. He listens to their cry. God strengthens us. God consoles us. God comforts us. And so, we pray.
We Can Pray to Jesus
We pray with an awareness of why evil people do what they do. We pray for justice. And lastly, we pray to Jesus.
Pray To Jesus The King
The New Testament does three things with Psalm 10 that are worth thinking about. The first thing the New Testament does with Psalm 10 is connect the kingship of God to the kingship of Jesus.
Take a look at verse 16, “The LORD is King for ever and ever”. We’ve been working our way through Mark’s gospel and we’ve seen again and again in Mark’s gospel that Jesus is God’s king. Jesus is God’s appointed king, heaven’s king, who has all authority in heaven and on earth and will judge in perfect righteousness. So when you pray for justice, pray to Jesus the king. Because he is coming back to judge. And in his resurrection, and in the prophesied destruction of the temple in AD 70 we have historical proofs of the future certainty of his judgement.
When you pray for justice, pray to Jesus the king. Because he is coming back to judge
He will come again to judge the living and the dead. And when you pray for justice pray to Jesus the king who promises to bring justice to is people. He is sufficient as a king. But secondly, Jesus isn’t just a powerful king, he is an innocent victim.
Pray To Jesus The Victim
The second thing the New Testament does with Psalm 10 is show us that the Psalms of David are actually the Psalms of Jesus. And that the experience David was talking about was actually fulfilled in the life of Jesus. And so go back to Psalm 10 and read it. And you’ll get a window into the soul of Jesus.
The Psalms of David are actually the Psalms of Jesus: the experience David was talking about was fulfilled in the life of Jesus.
Read Psalm 10 and then read Mark 14 and read Mark 15. And you’ll see that the innocent victim who’s being attacked by people who hate God is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. And what that means for us is that we have a king who can empathise with us in our suffering. Jesus was a victim as well. And so, if you’re a victim you can find a saviour who understands, who empathises.
In Hebrews 4:15-16 we’re told, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”.
You have a king who was a victim. And you can approach him at his throne of grace in your time of need. You can know, love and trust the Jesus who said and felt the things of Psalm 10. It’s a Psalm that gives you a window into his own experience.
Pray To Jesus The Saviour
Jesus is a king, Jesus is a victim and Jesus, lastly, is a saviour. See, the sufferings of Jesus point us to one final thing that the New Testament does with this Psalm. Because if you think about it, it’s an interesting combination. How can a king also be a victim? Would I typically think of kings being vulnerable and weak? And the answer has to do with how the Bible understands the dynamics of evil.
You see it would be tempting to look at Psalm 10 and think that evil is just out there. But that’s not the way the Bible uses Psalm 10. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul quotes Psalm 10 and he applies it to all of humanity. He does it with several Psalms and I’ll read the section he does it.
Evil Isn’t Just ‘Out There’
In Romans 3:9-18, Paul says,
“The Jews and Gentiles alike”, that is all people, “are under sin, 10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
That’s a description of humanity, of all of us. You see, evil and sin aren’t just out there. They are in here. They are in your hearts and in my heart.
Jesus said that to his disciples. They’re busy talking about something else and Jesus says to them, “You’re evil!” You know? To his own disciples, “You’re evil!”
Evil isn’t just out there, it’s inside. And if you don’t recognise your own evil, your own sin, you will be naïve about your capacity to do evil things. You will be ignorant about your need for forgiveness. And you will be self-righteous in how you relate to other people.
Of course there’s a spectrum, we understand that. Of course we understand that. Of course there is a spectrum! We’ve got violent perpetrators of rape and murder. But Jesus, the Apostle Paul and the most profound thinkers of history have recognised that evil is not just out there, evil is inside of me, right? Evil is on the inside.
Humanity’s Big Problem
And so there’s a problem. Because if God is gonna judge evil and destroy it, then he’s going to destroy all of humanity. Because there’s no one who is perfect. There’s no one who is guiltless. And this is where you see the unique resources of Christianity. Because of God’s unique response.
If God is gonna judge evil and destroy it, then he’s going to destroy all of humanity. Because there’s no one who is perfect.
The God of the Bible deals with evil in two ways. He deals with evil in judgement, and he deals with evil through forgiveness.
How God Deals With Evil
God opposes evil. He exposes evil. But he’s also the God who through Jesus Christ can forgive evil. And that’s because when Jesus came to earth as a king, he came ultimately as a substitute: someone to take our place, to bear our sin upon himself. He suffered like one of us as a victim. But he came as a sin bearer to take our guilt upon himself. To take our sin upon himself. To experience the wrath of God so that we might be forgiven.
The Apostle Paul goes on to explain this in Romans 3:23-26. He says:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
God doesn’t sweep sin and evil under the carpet. But Jesus took it for us.
You see when Jesus died on the cross, that was the evidence of God’s righteousness. It was proof that God doesn’t sweep sin and evil under the carpet. But Jesus took it for us.
Mercy & Justice At The Cross
There’ll be another day where God’s righteousness is revealed. And for those who don’t know Christ, they will experience God’s righteousness in deep pain. God will come to judge. And so the cross reveals his justice, but the cross also reveals his mercy. Because it is at the cross where Jesus takes our place, where Jesus bears our sin upon himself, where Jesus satisfies the righteous wrath of God.
Jesus satisfies the righteous wrath of God.
And so, this morning I wanna point you to someone who is absolutely sufficient for all of our needs. We all need forgiveness. Of course, there’s a spectrum of evil right? We understand that. But one of the helpful things coming out of the conversations of this past week, is that actually the little things really matter. The little deeds, the everyday behaviours, the thoughts, those really matter. Because a sick society doesn’t just get there out of nowhere. It’s little by little. Getting desensitised slowly. And so sin is in all of our hearts and all of us need to be forgiven and pursue righteousness.
So if you’re here this morning and you need forgiveness, can I point you to Jesus the saviour? If you’re here this morning and you need justice, can I point you to Jesus the king? And if you’re here this morning and you need comfort, can I point you to Jesus the victim who understands what it’s like to be the recipient of abuse?
He is sufficient for us. He will comfort you. He will give you justice. And he will forgive you. Do you know Jesus in all of his sufficiency?
I really want to commend Psalm 10 to you this week. It will teach you how to pray. It will force you to deal with reality. It will help you to understand the way evil works in the soul. It will point you to the certainty of God’s justice. But ultimately it will point you to the one who fulfilled it: to the king, to the victim and to the saviour.