I’m sure if I asked for a show of hands, everyone of you would put up a hand (or maybe even two!) to the question, “Has someone done something bad to you?”
The real issue is not if we’ve been the victim of evildoers doing evil things; the real issue is how to respond to evildoers that do evil things.
In Psalm 52, David tells us that he wrote this prayer after a vile man named Doeg had done atrociously evil things to a whole town of innocent people. Worse yet: these people were simply trying to help David!
David was fleeing for his life from King Saul, forcing him to leave home with just the clothes on his back. He stopped at the village of Nob and asked Ahimelech the priest for food and a weapon. That act, in King Saul’s mind, was worthy of death. None of Saul’s soldiers would carry out his command to execute the priest, but Doeg quickly responded. Doeg not only killed Ahimelech, but he killed the 85 priests with him, and then he proceeded to annihilate everything and everyone left in the village of Nob. Only one man escaped to tell David what happened.
When David begins this psalm, he uses the words you or your 14 times in just the first five verses. David is addressing Doeg, almost holding up a mirror to his evil deeds. By contrast, the word I is used five times in just the last two verses of this prayer.
That tells me that we have to work on this problem of evil from two different directions. We need to see evildoers in their evil, and we need to see a godly response to evildoers. As with many Hebrew poems, the most important principle is in the middle—Surely God will bring evildoers down to destruction, but He will protect the righteous (v. 5).
In the opening words, David asks Doeg, “Why do you boast of evil?” The word for boast in Hebrew is halal—this is usually the word we translate Hallelujah! In other words, Doeg has put his evil on the throne of his life and is saying “Hallelujah!” to it. A downward slide of all sorts of evil words and evil deeds spiral out from this until the climax: Surely God will bring judgment.
Notice David says “God” (not you) “will” (not might) take care of this.
Now let’s look at it from a righteous perspective. Working backwards from verse 9 to verse 5, we see whereas Doeg was praising his evil deeds, David is praising God. David recognizes that it’s only in God’s presence that he can be free, and it’s only God that can ultimately balance the scales of justice.
▶️ My friend, you cannot make things right. Only God can do this. Please, please, take your eyes off the evildoer that did evil things to you, and put your eyes on the Perfect Judge. He alone can balance the scales of justice. ◀️
So here are four lessons for all of us to learn—
- When evildoers do evil things to you, talk to God about them; don’t talk to your enemies and don’t even talk to your friends.
- Continue to redirect your heart and thoughts to God’s unfailing love, and away from thoughts of retribution—even if you have to do this a hundred times a day.
- When evildoers afflict you, look in the mirror of God’s Word to see if there is anything for which you need to repent and then ask forgiveness.
- When judgment comes, don’t gloat. John Bradford, when he saw a cartful of men going off to be hanged said, “There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.”
In this video I reference our series on the Selahs in the book of Psalms. If you missed any of these, please click here to find a list of the other topics we covered.