Psalm 58: God, Who Judges the Earth

(11 verses, 1:06 to read)


What I am about to READ

  • A prayer for God’s judgment to fall upon the enemies of the righteous


  • vv. 1-2: The enemies of God’s people set themselves up as gods by upending true justice and persecuting the righteous.
  • vv. 3-5: This is a poetic description of the wickedness of the “gods” described in verses 1 and 2.
  • vv. 6-9: This is a prayer against these “gods.” This places this psalm in the category of “imprecatory psalms,” where God’s judgment is called down upon the enemies of the righteous.
  • vv.10-11: The psalm resolves with how those who see God’s judgment carried out will react.


  • This Psalm opens with a rather clever literary device. If you aren’t paying close attention, it may appear that the psalmist is about to praise God for His righteous judgments on the earth. However, verses 1 and 2 are a set up. As we know from experience in this life, there are enemies of the Church who set themselves up as authorities. They twist God’s divinely instituted system of justice or replace it their own. They place themselves above divine judgment and set themselves up as gods. In so doing, they bring harm to the Church. This is true from the Caesars in Rome to the Muslims of ISIS today.
  • Interestingly, we see that this depravity is something that these “gods” are born with. This reminds us that original sin is the source of all wickedness in the earth. The Lutheran Confessions call this “concupiscence” and condemn it as actual sin. Without God’s saving grace given to us in Baptism, we are lost in the clutches of sin.
  • The imprecatory portion of the Psalm (vv. 6-9) is very difficult for us to reconcile with the theology of the New Testament. So difficult, in fact, that none of the imprecatory psalms made it into the Lutheran Service Book! How are we to pray for our enemies and also pray that God would “break the teeth in their mouths”? The imprecatory psalms serve as a reminder of the battle we Christians have faced since the fall into sin. There are enemies of the Church. They are actively working to bring about the downfall of the Church. These psalms give voice to our suffering. We do well to remember that these difficult portions of Scripture are also inspired pieces. My earnest advice here (via the German theologian Dietrich Bonhöffer) is this: pray the Psalms allow them to form your prayer life. Let them give voice to your sorrows, complaints, joys, and thanksgivings. Be confident that when you pray these, you are saying back to God what He has already said to you. He will delight in your prayers.
  • The resolution in vv. 10-11 is important to this psalm. When God executes his judgments on the earth, two things happen. First, His baptized faithful rejoice in the deliverance that God has accomplished for them. Second, those who are on the outside of the whole affair see the power of God and may be taught to fear Him. This may lead them to despair of themselves and to trust in Him alone.


  • Prayer: Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word. Curb those who by deceit or sword would wrest the kingdom from Your Son and bring to naught all He has done. Amen.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Post below, or join the conversation in our Facebook group:

-Rev. Jordan McKinley, pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church, Vallonia, IN

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