Why, Lord, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak,
who are caught in the schemes he devises.
He boasts about the cravings of his heart;
he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord.
In his pride the wicked man does not seek him;
in all his thoughts there is no room for God.
His ways are always prosperous;
your laws are rejected by him;
he sneers at all his enemies.
He says to himself, “Nothing will ever shake me.”
He swears, “No one will ever do me harm.”
His mouth is full of lies and threats;
trouble and evil are under his tongue.
He lies in wait near the villages;
from ambush he murders the innocent.
His eyes watch in secret for his victims;
like a lion in cover he lies in wait.
He lies in wait to catch the helpless;
he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net.
His victims are crushed, they collapse;
they fall under his strength.
He says to himself, “God will never notice;
he covers his face and never sees.”
Arise, Lord! Lift up your hand, O God.
Do not forget the helpless.
Why does the wicked man revile God?
Why does he say to himself,
“He won’t call me to account”?
But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted;
you consider their grief and take it in hand.
The victims commit themselves to you;
you are the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked man;
call the evildoer to account for his wickedness
that would not otherwise be found out.
The Lord is King for ever and ever;
the nations will perish from his land.
You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted;
you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,
defending the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that mere earthly mortals
will never again strike terror.
– Psalm 10
We live in an age of terror. Earlier this year in Manchester, excited teenage girls were going to a pop concert, mums and friends were going to collect them and they never came back. The truth is we have been living in an age of terror for over forty years and there have been members of our own congregation who have been directly affected by the cold calculated actions of those who have held human life so cheap. Acts of terror like those at Manchester rightly grab our attention, our prayers and our sympathy but in many places around the world such violence is common place. In the same week as the killings in Manchester Arena, 29 Coptic Christians, including children were murdered in Egypt when a bus was attacked by armed militants.
At times of terror the words of Psalm 10 have a very contemporary ring. For both victims and onlookers, the question of verse 1 demands an answer: where are you God? Why aren’t you doing something about it? The book of Job reminds us that we should be very careful of pat answers. There have always been people who have come up with all sorts of explanations but many of them sound very unconvincing in the face of real pain and suffering.
The Psalm ends (vv. 16–18) with a bold affirmation of faith in YHWH. When faced with the problem of evil and suffering that seems like the best response. We don’t know all the whys and wherefores about evil and suffering but, because of Jesus’ empty cross and tomb, we know that the powers of evil do not have the last word in human history. In the meantime, the Psalm is a useful guide for helping us pray for those who are the victims of evil while we await that final victory to be revealed.