Modern Christianity is occasionally guilty of half truths, much like the politically correct arena of the contemporary world. We either preach a gospel of unconditional love, and neglect the gospel of hell; or we preach the judgment of the lakes of fire and neglect to point out that it is Jesus, our gracious Saviour, who is himself the Judge on the last day.
The world tells us that either we are all eternally ‘condemned’ to a life of no higher meaning, that we are but dust and ash of the earth and we will return to the earth as such; or that we are valued ‘as we are’ and that no one should be condemned because that is a basic human right.
What Psalm 58 teaches us, however, is that David saw the world differently. In God’s economy, in His kingdom, there are victors and losers; the gospel requires that there are only two camps of people – those who are with Him, and those who are without.
David opens the chapter by pointing out the falsehood and lies of the ‘gods’ – that such gods are incapable of judging the children of man uprightly, because they are filled with violence. He then moves on to the wicked who are estranged from the womb, from birth, as liars, spouting out venom like the Satan. They are incapable of hearing He who can charm, and sing the right tune that provides them with a central bearing. Indeed, His sheep hears His voice, and the wicked by contrast are deafened: John 10:27.
Psalm 58 is directed to the choirmaster according to ‘Do Not Destroy’. It is unclear what this means exactly – yet it would appear the content of Psalm 58 contradicts this direction. David pleads to God to break the teeth of the enemies, to tear out their fangs, to let them vanish, and to undo the damage that the wicked could cause by their flaming arrows. They are to be swept away, and not to see the light of day like a stillborn child. This is graphic imagery that David employs to show us that on the last day of Judgment, Jesus too will destroy the wicked in like manner.
The chapter ends contrary to the judgment of the violent gods in the opening; instead, their judgment is replaced by David’s God who judges on the earth, who rewards the righteous.
One may read this chapter and consider how this is reconciled with the loving God; how a loving God can ‘bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked‘. Yet, it is because God is loving, that his ‘violence’ is firmly directed towards the unjust; firmly directed towards those who have been led astray and lead other astray. It is in loving judgment that sin, and the sinners without the covering of Christ’s blood, is swept away. His immense, epic intolerance of the wicked only demonstrates to His immense, epic love for His children.
This may be why the psalm should be sung according do not destroy. David did not say that the Lord delights in destroying the wicked; on the contrary, He is simply describing that life under the ‘gods’ muddies the waters of His love with compromise. Life under the ‘gods’ shows no distinction of right and wrong; of blessing and curse; of light and darkness.
However, His love transforms us. The righteous can enjoy life intimate from the womb; speaking truth; that our lips and tongues are like honey to our neighbours’ hearts; and that we hear His voice because we are His. Our closeness to Him, like a lamp on the hill, only condemns the wicked even more, like the shadow that darkens proportionate to the brightness of the light. It is only when we are righteous, that we identify sin for what it is, and that (like the Lord) we demand it be destroyed with those aligned to it without remorse, as David sings.
Not all are victors, though we are all born losers. The gods of this world deal out violence, making us believe in lies so that we are equally condemned by the illusion that it is all meaningless, and what is left is but atheistic/agnostic humanism. No – David is singing that there is One who is victorious, and by standing in His victory, we are shielded from the damage and loss that comes from a life estranged from the Father.