King David is angry. The kings of the world are silent when they see injustice. David sarcastically asks, “Do you rulers indeed speak justly? Do you judge people with equity?” (Psalm 58:1). The implied answer is “No!” David uses a play on words to sharpen his point. The Hebrew word behind the word “rulers” is also translated as “silence” and even “gods” depending on your translation. This flexibility is intentional. The injustice of wicked rulers is entwined in the silence of their gods. Together, the forces of false religion and politics unjustly plot to benefit themselves at the expense of those under them (Psalm 58:2).
These wicked spiritual and political elites have been crooked since birth (Psalm 58:3). They’re lying snakes. Their words are venom. They are so determined to do harm that no snake charmer can temper their restless evil (Psalm 58:4-5). The psalmist prays that God will break the fangs out of their mouths and (changing the metaphor) make these lions toothless, this evil flood evaporate, these sharp arrows blunt, and these slug-like men melt (Psalm 58:6-8a). The final request asks God to make it as if these unjust gods and kings had never been born (Psalm 58:8b).
The psalmist then expresses settled confidence that God will wipe away evil thoroughly and finally (Psalm 58:9). The innocent righteous will one day dip their feet in the blood of their defeated enemies (Psalm 58:10). The justice of this will be so incontrovertible that people from all over the world will agree with God’s actions. Contrary to what they previously said, they now say that doing justice will always be rewarded, and God will silence evil (Psalm 58:11). Interestingly, in the last verse, the word translated “God” in most Bibles is actually the word “gods.” This final play on words implies that appeals to “the gods” bring universal judgment, but appeals to the one God will bring final justice to all who are oppressed.
Where is the Gospel?
Psalm 58 is a cry for justice against the corrupt from the mouth of someone who has suffered under evil and silence. It’s often difficult for those of us who have not experienced great evil and calloused silence to sympathize with the strong language used to describe these evil leaders and gods. It’s even more difficult for us to ask God, as the psalmist does, to “dip our feet” in the blood of these defeated moral monsters (Psalm 58:10).
Often our discomfort is a function of our relative safety. But once you’ve been hunted by the secret police, or watched as loved ones are buried in mass graves, you are confronted with the need for strong words against injustice and the final obliteration of the people, institutions, and systems that cause it. It’s only the oppressors and the privileged who cringe at the vengeance and retribution described here. One day soon Jesus himself will provide it.
Jesus is the one true God who has been invested with the authority to judge the earth (John 5:22). In the book of Revelation, we’re told that Jesus will stain his feet with blood as he crushes evil and injustice like grapes in a winepress (Revelation 19:15b). Even more vividly his entire robe will be dipped in the blood of those who have plotted injustice and evil (Revelation 19:13). In Jesus all evil will be dealt with. And instead of silence, the whole earth will sing, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments” (Revelation 19:1-2).
If you are currently experiencing great injustice at the hands of the leaders and gods of this world, Jesus is the God and Ruler who does not stay silent in the face of oppression. He is on the side of the innocent and the righteous, and he is coming quickly to all who cry out to him for aid.
See for Yourself
I pray the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to see the God who brings justice. And may you see Jesus as the one who is coming soon to put an end to evil.