Summary: Corruption in high places - PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email:


Accusation – Lawlessness Practiced (vs 1-5)

Condemnation – Lawlessness Punished (vs 6-8).

Vindication – Righteousness Praised (vs 9-11)



• Victor Hugo, wrote a number of very well-known novels;

• These include, ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ & ‘Les Misérables’ (Les- Mis-era).

• One of his lesser known books is called “Ninety-Three.”

• It tells of a ship caught in a dangerous storm on the high seas.

• At the height of the storm,

• The frightened sailors heard a terrible crashing noise below the deck.

• They knew at once that this new noise was made by a cannon which had broken loose.

• It was moving back and forth with the swaying of the ship,

• Crashing into the side of the ship with terrible impact.

• Knowing that it could cause the ship to sink,

• Two brave sailors volunteered to make the dangerous attempt to retie the loose cannon.

• The sailors knew that the greater danger to the ship & crew was not the fury of the storm;

• But rather the danger from within;

• At any moment;

• The loose cannon could burst through the side of the ship and cause it to sink.

• TRANSITION: The biggest danger we all face is the corruption from within!

• It is the terrible depravity within us which can so often overwhelm & threaten us.

• Now because each of us are flawed creatures;

• We ought not to be surprised when we see corrupt behaviour in other people;

• We ought not to be surprised when we corruption in high places;

• If we had not come to faith in Jesus Christ;

• We too might be considered dishonest and crooked, untrustworthy;

• And without the filling and enabling of the Holy Spirit in our lives;

• We could so easily revert back to type – the old nature.


• A dictionary defines corruption as:

• 'to make impure, to make morally unsound, to act dishonestly, to pervert, to bribe'

• And this is can most often be seen through the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.

• According to International Chamber of Commerce;

• ‘Corruption is the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development around the world.'

• And according to the World Bank every year US $1 trillion is paid in bribes;

• While an estimated US $2.6 trillion is stolen through corruption;

• Sums equivalent to more than 5% of global Gross National Income (GNI).

• Corruption in high places is nothing new;

• Greed and abuse of power are as old as human history.

• And even though we know this to be the case;

• It is still a wonder why we are shocked or surprised;

• When we hear stories of corruption in government and among our political leaders.

• TRANSITION: In this psalm David is clearly taken aback;

• By the size and scope of political corruption of his day.

Quote: Bible commentator J.J. Stewart Perowne writes:

“This psalm is a bold protest against unrighteous judges. It opens with an indignant expostulation on their deliberate perversion of justice, whilst they pretend to uphold it. It lays bare their character and that of those whom they favour, as men thoroughly, habitually, by their very nature, corrupt. And finally, because they are thus beyond all hope of correction or amendment, it calls upon God to rob them of their power and to bring all their counsels to nought”.

• King Saul is on the throne ruling the nation;

• He has surrounded himself with a group of submissive flatterers who feed his ego;

• And who cater to his foolish whims.

• These officials have authority but they are using it for personal gain;

• And not for the national good.


• Psalm 58 is one of a number of psalms we call imprecatory psalms;

• They are psalms where the writer asks God to pour out judgement,

• Calamity, or curses, upon one's enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.

• The verb “imprecate” means “to pray evil against” or “to invoke curse upon” another,

• Hence the name for these prayers.

• There are quite a few imprecatory psalms;

• The mildest is Psalm 7 and the worst is Psalm 109;

• Commentators have counted at least thirty anathemas in that one psalm alone!


• It might surprise you to know;

• That Jesus actually quoted some of the imprecatory psalms during His earthly ministry.

• In John chapter 15 verse 25, Jesus quoted Psalm 35 verse 19 and Psalm 69 verse 4.


• The apostle Paul as quoted from imprecatory psalms in Romans chapter 11 verses 9-10,

• Which is a quotation from Psalm 69 verses 22-23.

Now since Jesus and Paul quoted verses from imprecatory psalm;

• This repudiates the idea that these psalms are not inspired by God;

• Some have argued that they are just the thoughts and feelings of an angry man.

• But the fact Jesus and the apostle Paul quote from them;

• Removes all doubt that they were sinful in any way;

• Or simply selfish prayers of revenge.


• Should Christians pray imprecatory prayers?

• Are Christians justified to use imprecatory prayers in order to bring harm to one's enemies?

• Should Christians pray imprecatory prayers after all;

• Jesus commanded us to pray for our enemies; not against our enemies?

• (Matthew chapter 5 verses 44-48 and Luke chapter 6 verses 27-28)


• As Christians we read these verses through New Testament spectacles;

• And we therefore pray accordingly!

• Yes we should pray for justice to be done and for evil to be destroyed!

• But when we pray for our enemies;

• I don’t think we should pray for bad things to happen to them;

• But instead we should pray for their salvation – whoever they are!

• And we should ultimately pray that God’s will be done in their lives.

(1). Accusation – Lawlessness Practiced (vs 1-5)

“Do you rulers indeed speak justly?

Do you judge people with equity?

2 No, in your heart you devise injustice,

and your hands mete out violence on the earth.

3 Even from birth the wicked go astray;

from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.

4 Their venom is like the venom of a snake,

like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,

5 that will not heed the tune of the charmer,

however skilful the enchanter may be.

Do you rulers indeed speak justly?

Do you judge people with equity?

2 No, in your heart you devise injustice,

and your hands mete out violence on the earth.

3 Even from birth the wicked go astray;

from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.

4 Their venom is like the venom of a snake,

like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears,

5 that will not heed the tune of the charmer,

however skilful the enchanter may be.”

In this section David addresses these corrupt leaders and asks them some questions:

• Are your words just & reasonable?

• Are your decisions legal & lawful?

• Are your sentences fair & impartial?

• Are your silences genuine & honest?

• Are you upholding the law and defending the righteous;

• Or twisting the law and benefiting the wicked?

• Of course these are all rhetorical questions because David knew the answer;

• And so do we!

• Verse 3 reminds us ‘from birth’ we see that sinful nature unmistakable in people.

• David goes on to say that these unjust judges were liars;

• Their words were like venom that poisoned society;

• Instead of medicine that could bring health & healing to society.

• David compares them to snakes (vs 4-5);

• Like the disobedient cobra, they refuse to listen to the snake charmer,

• Because they are set on their own independent path.

(2). Condemnation – Lawlessness Punished (vs 6-8).

“Break the teeth in their mouths, O God;

LORD, tear out the fangs of those lions!

7 Let them vanish like water that flows away;

when they draw the bow, let their arrows fall short.

8 May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along,

like a stillborn child that never sees the sun.”

• David compares them to lions (vs 6);

• With fangs that will tear their prey apart.

• Again the picture is that of an animal bent on only looking after itself.

• And not worried about who gets hurt or killed.

• So David prays with a righteous anger;

• “Lord, tear out the fangs of those lions!”

• A lion without is severely limited in its attacks.


• Luis Suárez is a Uruguayan professional footballer;

• Who plays for Spanish club FC Barcelona and the Uruguayan national team as a striker.

• His claim to fame is that he has also bitten three opponents,

• The latest being Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup

• There were many jokes doing the rounds;

• But I thought the best suggestion was just to pull his teeth out.

• End of problem – no teeth – no pain – no injury - no problem!

• TRANSITION: As far as we know David did not do any of the things to people;

• That he prayed in these imprecatory psalms.

• Instead he asked the Lord to do them;

• He believed that vengeance belonged to the Lord.

In this section we have a number of powerless & ineffective metaphors:

• Verses 7-8 contain five metaphors, five figures of speech.

• Verse 6: Lions without fangs.

• Verse 7a: Spilt water that flows away and is consumed by dry & thirsty ground.

• Verse 7b: Arrows that when fired from the bow, fall short of the target;

• Verse 8a: A slug that appears to be melting away as it moves along a rock.

• Verse 8b: A stillborn child that is unable to function and enjoy life.

• David’s prayer is that just like images used in these metaphors;

• That these corrupt leaders would also be powerless and ineffective.

(3). Vindication – Righteousness Praised (vs 9-11)

“Before your pots can feel the heat of the thorns –

whether they be green or dry – the wicked will be swept away.

10 The righteous will be glad when they are avenged,

when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.

11 Then people will say,

‘Surely the righteous still are rewarded;

surely there is a God who judges the earth.’”

David finishes the psalm by using two more metaphors, figures of speech:


• A traveller in the desert could cook a meal over a fire of thorns;

• But that fire could quickly go out because the fuel burned quickly.

• Or the fire could be swept away by a gust of wind;

• Scattering fuel, fire and cooking pots over the desert floor.

• The image here is portraying something that happened quickly and without warning;

• A modern colloquial expression would be; “Like a flash in the pan”

David is reminding his readers that:

• These corrupt leaders might feel and look like they will be around for a very long time;

• But they won’t! Their fire is about to be distinguished.

• Judgement is coming and they will not escape.


• In verse 10 David draws on the battlefield for his imagery.

• At the end of a battle victorious soldiers walked around the battlefield;

• As they walked they picked up anything of value - the spoils of war.

• As they walked among the dead bodies;

• Their feet would become stained by the blood of their enemies.

• The soldier has his victory;

• The soldier has his reward.

• The battle is over and the enemy defeated!

• Likewise says the psalmist;

• People will say, ‘Surely the righteous still are rewarded;

• surely there is a God who judges the earth’.

This last stanza is a prophecy, it is a confident statement:

• That the wicked will be judged by God;

• And the righteous will be rewarded.

• The moral is that although judgement may seem to tarry a long time;

• It will come;

• And when it comes the righteous will be vindicated;

• They will be seen to have been right.