The problem in Psalm 9 is the enemy invading from without, while the problem in Psalm 10 is the enemy corrupting and destroying from within.9 There were wicked nations around Israel (9:5), but there were also wicked people within the covenant community (10:4), people who claimed to know God, but whose lives proved they did not know God (Titus 2:15). They know there is a God, but they live as though there is no God or no final judgment. They are “practical atheists” who are their own gods and do whatever they please.
Questioning God (v. 1)
The psalmist wrestles with the age-old problem, “Why doesn’t God do something about the prosperity of the wicked (vv. 2, 3, 4, 7, 10, 15) and the misery of the afflicted (vv. 2, 8–10, 12, 14, 17, 18)?” It’s also discussed in 13:1–3; 27:9; 30:7; 44:23–24; 73; and 88:13–15, as well as Job 13:24ff and Jeremiah 14. The wicked are marching through the land, but the Lord seems to be distant and unconcerned. During the past century, millions of godly people have lost their homes, jobs, possessions, families, and even their lives because of the ruthless deeds of evil leaders, and where was God? (See 22:1, 11; 35:22; 38:21; 42:9; 43:2; 71:12; 74:1; 88:14.) God has expressed a special concern for widows, orphans, and the helpless (68:5; 82:3; Deut. 10:18; 24:17–21; 26:12–13; 27:19), yet He is not to be found. He “covers His eyes” as though nothing is happening (see Lev. 20:4; 1 Sam. 12:3; Prov. 28:27).
Rejecting God (vv. 2–13)
The psalmist now describes these wicked people, what they do, and why they do it. He gives four statements that express what they believe, because what they believe determines how they behave.
“There is no God” (vv. 2–4, see v. 4, NASB). Believing this lie frees the wicked to do whatever they please, for they become their own god. “You shall be as God” (Gen. 3:5 and 6:5). The wicked cleverly plot against the righteous and hotly pursue them until they get what they want. These evil workers live to please themselves and fulfill their selfish desires, and then brag about their sins! (Phil. 3:18–21). They revile the Lord (vv. 3, 13, NIV) and “stick their nose up” when anybody challenges them.
“I shall not be moved” (vv. 5–7). This arrogant attitude comes from an ignorance of the laws of God, because unconverted people have no understanding of the Word of God or the ways of God (1 Cor. 2:10–16). Because God is longsuffering, they think they’re getting away with their sins (Eccl. 8:11). Peace and prosperity give them a false sense of security that will end very suddenly. See Luke 12:13–21 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1–3. Telling lies and swearing oaths they have no plans to keep, they escape the penalties of the law and pursue their devious ways. Like people savoring tasty food, they keep lies under their tongues and enjoy them (Job 20:12–15; Prov. 4:17). Paul quoted verse 7 in Romans 3:14. It is the godly who have God’s promise of true security (15:1–5; 16:8; 21:7; 62:2; 112:6).
“God doesn’t see me” (vv. 8–11). Like ferocious lions, wicked people hide and watch for opportunities to pounce on the helpless prey, and like hunters or fishermen, they catch their prey in their nets. They are sure that the law won’t catch up with them or the Lord notice what they do. The lion is often used as a picture of ruthless sinners who attack others (17:12; 37:32; 56:6; 59:3; 64:4).
“God will not judge me” (vv. 12–13). At this point, the psalmist cries out to God for help, and he uses three different names for God: Jehovah, the God of the covenant, and El and Elohim, the God of power. The wicked boast that God will not investigate their sins or judge them, but God says, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). The Lord will keep His covenant promises to His people, and there will be a day of reckoning when sinners will be judged by a righteous God. “Arise, O God” takes us back to Numbers 10:35 and the triumphant march of Israel
Read those statements again and see if they don’t express the outlook of lost sinners today.
Trusting God (vv. 14–18)
As the psalm draws to a close, the writer expresses his full confidence that God is on His throne and has everything under His control. The Lord may not explain to us why some people seem to get away with their evil deeds, but He does assure us that He will judge sinners and ultimately defend His own. In this paragraph, the Lord answers all four of the statements of the wicked that are quoted in verses 2–13.
God sees what is going on (v. 14). This answers the claim in verses 8–11 that the Lord pays no attention to what the wicked are doing. Even more, God sees the trouble (outward circumstances) and grief (inward feelings) caused by the wicked as they persecute the helpless, and He will take the matter in hand. The poor and needy can safely commit themselves into the hands of the Lord (55:22; 1 Peter 5:7).
God judges sin (v. 15), and this answers the false claim of verses 12–13. The psalmist prays that the Lord will carefully investigate each sinner’s life and works, until every evil deed is exposed and judged. But he asks that the sinners be judged in this life and their power removed (“break the arm”). This prayer isn’t always answered. (See Rev. 6:9–11.)
God is King (v. 16). The wicked claim that there is no God (vv. 1–4), but the truth is that God is and He rules over all! (See 2:6; 5:2; 24:7–10; 29:10; 1 Sam. 8:6–7.) After their deliverance from Egypt, the Israelites sang praises to their King: “The Lord shall reign forever and ever” (Ex. 15:18).
God defends His own people (vv. 17–18). The wicked boast that they will not be moved (vv. 5–7), but God has other plans for them. He hears the prayers of the persecuted, He sees their plight, He strengthens their hearts for whatever trials He permits (Rom. 8:28), and He eventually judges those who abuse them. People of faith can depend on the God of heaven, but the self-confident and arrogant “people of the earth” have no future with the Lord. Life without the Lord is empty and vain (49:12–20; 62:9). Christians have their citizenship in heaven (Phil. 3:20), and their names are written down in heaven (Luke 10:20). They don’t belong to this world, although their ministry is in this world. God’s people have been “redeemed from the earth” (Rev. 14:3) and have heaven as their home. The phrase “them that dwell on the earth” is found often in the book of Revelation (3:10; 6:10; 8:13; 11:10; 12:12; 13:8, 12, 14; 14:6; 17:2, 8) and describes not only where these unbelievers live but what they live for—the things of the earth. The “earth dwellers” may seem to have the upper hand today, but wait until the Lord reveals His hand!