Who judges the judges?
By Don Ruhl
Images of speaking newborns, poisonous serpents, deaf cobras, broken lion’s teeth, flowing water, cut up arrows, melting snails, stillborn children, pots over a fire of thorns, whirlwinds, and washing feet in blood fill Psalm 58. One commentator said, “The 11 verses of the psalm are ablaze with graphic comparisons and daring figures of speech” (Walter R. Roehrs, Concordia Self-Study Commentary, St. Louis, Missouri: Concordia Publishing House, 1979 p. 369). He slapped the baby on the bottom with that comment.
Psalm 58 shows corruption wearing the apparel of justice, but the perceptive David could see through it and wanted the Lord to do something about it.
To the Chief Musician. Set to “Do Not Destroy.” A Michtam of David. David created a poem of the Lord punishing wicked judges, and David wanted it sung. Therefore, he or the chief musician set the poem to music. The tune he named, “Do Not Destroy,” not telling the Lord to cease from destroying wicked judges, but telling the wicked judges not to destroy righteous men and women. The Lord hears poems, songs, and prayers with this theme. Wicked judges operate in our land. What do you do about it? Do you just complain? Cease complaining and do something about it, reading the prayer of Psalm 58 to the Lord. The preface to Psalm 58 says it is a michtam or miktam of David, which means to stamp, that is, to engrave something precious, like stamped gold. This psalm is precious as gold, worthy of being saved for all generations. This psalm shows why God called David a man after His own heart. David wanted the wicked punished. However, he placed the matter in God’s hands.
Psalm 58.1, 2
1, 2 Do you indeed speak righteousness, you silent ones?… David knew what the judges spoke. Was it righteous? Did they judge uprightly? No, they did not judge with integrity. David knew that in their hearts worked wickedness and weighed out violence in the earth. Why do judges do that? You have heard the cases. For example, a judge releases a child molester on a technically. The judge believes he upheld the law when he did that, but David revealed that in heart those judges work wickedness. Some use the facade of the judicial system to promote their wicked agendas, but the righteous see what happens. The question is do the righteous do what David did, or do they just throw up their hands, believing there is nothing they can do?
Picture of the Wicked
3–5 The wicked are estranged from the womb… To show just how wicked the judges were, David exaggerated how soon they began speaking wickedness. From their earliest days, the wicked begin their practice. It is difficult to find a time when they did not speak wickedness. From childhood they learned how to manipulate the system to achieve and justify their own evil. However, the righteous see it all. Wicked judges reminded David of poisonous serpents with deadly bites whose venom burns when it enters the veins of their victims before bringing on death. Even so, wicked judges do not commit murder themselves, but lay the ground work for it. Reasoning with such judges is as useless as charming the cobra that does not hear the charmer, although the charmer uses great skill to hypnotize the snake. These judges will not listen to arguments, reason, or the law. They want something and they use their power to get it.
Break the Wicked
6 Break their teeth in their mouth, O God… Here the Psalm takes a turn. The first five verses showed the nature of wicked judges and the last five verses shall show the outcome of wicked judges. Verse 6 is the middle of the psalm and it is where David began to do something about slimly judges. Wicked judges are also like young lions, biting with their fangs into innocent people. Therefore, David urged God to break their teeth right in their mouths. See God clenching His fist and punching the lions in their mouths, hitting them so hard He breaks their teeth.
Curse of the Wicked
7–9 Let them flow away as waters which run continually… A flood of water comes in, but it keeps flowing and goes away. It destroys, but the water soon dissipates. Wicked judges do damage, but they flow away and the righteous restore society. The judges shoot arrows at people, but David requested that God break their arrows in pieces. See the wicked judge place an arrow in his bow. He pulls the string, ready to shoot. Suddenly the arrow breaks into pieces, because a righteous man prayed that God would do that. Have you prayed for God to do that? As the snail goes his way, he leaves a trail. He leaves part of himself. Wicked judges act like poisonous serpents and uncharmable cobras, but in truth they are just snails that the righteous crush under foot through prayer and song. Sing and pray about God’s justice. The wicked are born speaking lies, and because of that they actually are like stillborn children that never see the sun. However, it happens when righteous people sing, pray, and write about it. Do not give over this world to the wicked. When shall these things happen? Assuming the righteous write, pray, and sing about these things, it will be before the pots feel the burning of thorns. Just as the wicked judges seek to enjoy the exploits of their wickedness, God sends a whirlwind and takes them away. Habakkuk 2 shows the time of judgment arriving. The prophet complained of unjust judges and other wickedness, wondering when the Lord would do something about it. Listen to the answer the Lord gave Habakkuk,
Then the LORD answered me and said:
“Write the vision
And make it plain on tablets,
That he may run who reads it.
For the vision is yet for an appointed time;
But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
Because it will surely come,
It will not tarry.
Behold the proud,
His soul is not upright in him;
But the just shall live by his faith.”
Therefore, as verse 9 says that although the poison of wicked judges burns as venom, but they will burn in the wrath of God.
Psalm 58.10, 11
The Righteous Judge
10, 11 The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance… Wicked judgments by wicked judges vex the righteous. Wicked judges operate in the land (vv. 1, 2), but so does the righteous Judge (vv. 10, 11). For that reason, the righteous pray and expect to see God’s vengeance. When it comes they do not rejoice to see an enemy fall, but they rejoice to see the cessation of wicked judgments. It is like the righteous washing their feet in the blood of the wicked, as a warrior standing victorious over the one he has defeated, blood pouring out from the wounds of the wicked. The judges used their corruption to get what they wanted, but the righteous wrote, sang, and prayed against their wicked works. They fought one another, but the Lord helped the righteous and the wicked fell at the feet of the righteous who feared not to engage the wicked in spiritual battle. All this makes men conclude two things. First, that the righteous are rewarded, whereas the wicked are punished. Second, that there is a God who judges in the earth, whereas the wicked judges failed to judge in the earth.
See the pictures of this psalm. Hear the promises of the psalm. Speak the prayers of Psalm 58. Then you shall see the defeat of wickedness. Then you shall enjoy the reward of your righteousness.