The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
4 They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
5 so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.
6 O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!
7 Let them vanish like water that runs away;
when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted.
8 Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime,
like the stillborn child who never sees the sun.
9 Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns,
whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away!
10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance;
he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.
11 Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous;
surely there is a God who judges on earth.” (Ps 58:3-11 ESV)
It is hard to read a psalm like this in our day and age, which calls for the destruction of others. We recall the words of Jesus to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We wonder, where is God’s mercy?
When we read a psalm like this we must ask, “did the OT singers of this psalm have a problem with it?” Probably not. So something between then and now has changed. It isn’t God. He does not change. It must be us…
Here’s what we can get out of it. Sin and wickedness is truly an awful thing. In fact, the worst thing in the world is to mar the image of God, to rebel against the God of glory. There is not greater offense for there is nothing greater than God. There is no higher calling for us, as God’s creatures, to glorify God. Thus, the graphicness of the imprecations called for by the psalmist are not too great. They can never be too great, given the gravity of the offense. We struggle with this kind of language at least in part because we belittle sin.
Secondly, it is hard to hear how the psalmist calls down imprecations upon babies (v.3). How can he not even give a person a chance to grow up before he pronounces him wicked. “In the womb” he hasn’t done anything yet. That is the common thought. But that assumes something about man and about God. It assumes that man is born neutral and God is simply waiting to see how he’s going to turn out before bringing judgment. That is not the case. Those who are righteous in God’s sight are those whose names were written in God’s book of life before the foundations of the world were laid. This is the doctrine of election flowing into the psalms.
Finally, the judgment of God reveals the glory of God. It shows the world that God is God. There is no one higher. He is the supreme court, the final place of appeal, the absolute standard. Nothing is left out or misinterpreted or eschewed with God’s judgment. Additionally, it highlights the beauty of God’s character in contrast to the wickedness of those that are judged.