When God Seems Distant in a Broken World

SAMSUNGPsalm 10:1-11

As already remarked, Psalms Nine and Ten are companion songs or perhaps they were originally one psalm. As David meditated on God’s rule and the life of his people in a fallen, broken world, he presented two sides of reality. In Psalm Nine, David looked at God’s rule and supremacy over all, even when people are oppressed and afflicted. Next, in Psalm Ten his focus is on the suffering of people in this broken world. David wrote this psalm for God’s people in their worship and praise, and unlike much of contemporary Christendom where everything has to turn out “right” in our view, David willingly made known the heartache and pain of brokenness. People do not need religious fantasies.  We need to hear the truth about God and our brokenness. Then we will be prepared to understand and rely on God’s answer.

David had a privileged position in the purposes of God. The Messiah or God’s Anointed One would come from his line. He could face the future with some degree of certainty. Though this was true, David had to live through his then present, hard circumstances. This will always be the life of people of faith. We have great hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, but we have difficulties in this present, broken world. “It is a function of the Psalms to touch the nerve of this problem and keep its pain alive, against the comfort of our familiarity, or indeed complicity, with a corrupt world” (Kidner, Commentary on Psalms 1-72).

David opens Psalm Ten with a question about God’s inaction during times of trouble. Why, O Lord, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? (10:1 ESV). I’m sure we have all experienced David’s mood and have most likely uttered words like this to God. This is what life is like in a broken world. We dare to think that the Lord is standing far away from us, and when that doesn’t arouse him, we become bolder and accuse him of hiding himself. The living God is not playing a cosmic game of hide and seek with us. Yet we can feel like he is. The Holy Spirit, who inspired David to write these words, is not afraid of our worries or our brashness. He informs us that it is all right to state matters from our limited point of view. When two people can talk out their problems, we say that they have a healthy relationship, though the discussion might be painful. I am not hinting that we should be irreverent; my point is reality. It’s part of the boldness that belongs to everyone in God’s family. I make this point because I have heard a few people confess that they were angry with God. I have seen too many hide the pain of their hearts behind “church smiles”. We can tell the Lord what we think and feel about situations.

Next, David describes the condition of evil people that are a major problem in our broken world. He paints a general picture. Thankfully, not everyone manifests all these characteristics. But they do provide sketches of people who oppose God and his people.

  • They oppress the weak (10:1). Notice the vivid imagery. They plan (“schemes”) their downfall and pursue (“hunts down”) them to ruin. Wicked people despise weak people. They are targets for their own enrichment or for displays of their own power.
  • They brag about what they crave in their hearts (10:3a). This is ugly. Self-satisfaction at the expense of others is a way of life for the wicked. Think of the sex slave traders, the con artists, the identity thieves, and dishonest salespeople. Oh, and what about financial institutions that charge exorbitant fees and interest? Those profiting from such schemes laugh about their abuse of others.
  • Their values are reversed (10:3b). The wicked person blesses the greedy and reviles theLord (NIV). Greed is a serious sin (Colossians 3:5; 1 Timothy 6:10). The wicked congratulates those who exploit others, and at the same time slander the Lord.
  • They have no room for God in their thoughts (10:4). Their view of reality is limited by their own senses, experiences, and opinions. They are too pride to seek God; they do not even want to consider God, because they grossly over exaggerate their supposed intellects. “We’ve got everything figured out. Needing God or gods is an indication of foolishness.” Yet a simple list of what they don’t understand could fill thousands of web pages. Here is the root of atheism or functional atheism. People have no room for God in their thoughts, nor do they desire to have room for them. We’ll see why in the next verses (10:5-11).

Invest time in reading this section. Any successful professional sports team understand the opposition. In order to reach out to people with the good news of Christ and salvation, we must know their condition.  Then we can speak with wisdom and compassion.

Grace and peace, David