Summary: This psalm is an example of an “imprecatory prayer,” as it contains brutal honesty and an earnest call for God to bring His justice to bear on the wicked.
A Cry from the Heart
As many of you know, I like to begin my sermons with humor, often at my own expense. This morning as we come to Psalm 10 in our series called, “Praying Through the Psalms,” I must confess that I can’t find anything very comical about this cry from the heart.
Last week we focused on Psalm 8 and on the fact that that while God’s glory is above the heavens, He is involved with His children. He treasures you and He thinks about you all the time! Scholars have suggested that Psalm 9 and Psalm 10 were originally a single poem, as evidenced by the fact that taken together the verses form an alphabetic acrostic, with the first word of every other verse beginning with a subsequent letter of the Hebrew alphabet. But there are some differences. Psalm 9 is a hymn of thanksgiving, while Psalm 10 is a languished lament.
This psalm is an example of an “imprecatory prayer,” as it contains brutal honesty and an earnest call for God to bring His justice to bear on the wicked. No punches are pulled here. As C.S. Lewis once said, reading Psalm 10 is like throwing open the door of an oven that is set to 500 degrees – you immediately get hit full in the face with the heat of the psalmist’s fury (see Reflections on the Psalms, page 20).
[Read Psalm 10]
One of the things I like about the Psalms is that they are so honest. These poets of old had no qualms about questioning God and had little patience with powerful people who persecuted the poor.
This prayer gives us a three-fold process for dealing with our own questions and problems. When life throws you for a loop…
Declare your questions (10:1)
Describe your complaint (10:2-11)
Deepen your commitment to God (10:12-18)
Declare Your Questions
Verse 1 begins rather abruptly: “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” God, you may be powerful and you may be personal, but why can’t I sense your presence right now? The psalmist is expressing his frustration at the aloofness of the Almighty.
The psalms are saturated with these kinds of questions. Here’s just a sample.
Psalm 13:1: “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?”
Psalm 42:9: “I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’”
Psalm 44:23-24: “Awake, O Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?’”
When tragedy leaves you teetering, it’s not unspiritual to declare your questions to God. He’s big enough to handle your cries. Some of you have been rocked by some pretty tough stuff.
Maybe a person very close to you has died unexpectedly
Perhaps you’ve just recently lost your job
Your marriage is fracturing and you wonder if you’ll stay together
Your parents’ health is fading fast
Your children are not living like they should
Your bills are piled up like mountains on your desk
You’ve had an accident that has altered the trajectory of your life
You’ve just received some health news that is not very promising
Maybe your childhood was filled with more abuse than affirmation
Perhaps a close relationship has ruptured
What do you do when you’re faced with an avalanche of agony and you feel like God is playing “hide and seek” with you? I’d like to suggest this morning that it’s OK to declare your questions. Some of you think that Christians shouldn’t question God and so you keep your concerns bottled up. Friend, it’s much better to ask God where He’s been than it is to wear your spiritual smiles and act like everything’s going well when you know it isn’t. Follow the prayer paradigm of the psalmists. You have permission to be honest.
Let me make an observation from verse 1. This question is expressed directly to God and is amplified in the New Living Translation: “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I need you the most?” The implication is that he doesn’t complain to anyone else. Job did a similar thing in Job 13:24 when he cried out directly to God: “Why do you hide your face and consider me your enemy?” As believers, we have an avenue for unloading the hidden turmoil of our hearts. We don’t have to dump on friends and family because we can go directly to God with our questions. If you’re wondering what’s happening or why things are unfolding the way they are, ask God about it. He can take it!