Wow! David having a bit of a bad day, it seems.
This is one of the Psalms I would generally skip or quickly move past to the next one if it was just for my reading, but since I’ve committed to commenting on them I guess I will have to give it a try, but this one is NOT for the faint of heart. In fact, if Psalms had movie restrictions, this would get an R for sure.
I think maybe one important point that can be brought up using this psalm is the following: Just because it’s in the Bible does not mean it is true. Wait, let me be more specific there – does not mean it’s true for me. Not every line in the Bible is teaching. Because it says he took a second wife means I can take a second wife. Because Cain killed his brother means I can kill my brother. No, that just shows lazy, uneducated reading of the Bible. Because the Bible is written in so many different forms of writing [history, poetry, song, metaphor, teaching] we need to be mindful of the intention of the part we are reading. What message would the intended audience have taken from it? Is this what God is trying to say to me now?
And with psalm 58 I think that is important because it is a bit of poetry or song and really seems to be David [once again, you say] having a bad day rant against the people he sees as unrighteous or his current enemies at the time [he had quite a lot throughout his lifetime] and he wishes some pretty hectic stuff against them.
1 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.
The first two verses echo what a lot of us might think and feel about our present governments, I imagine. Just a sigh of frustration as the people who have been put in the places of leadership [or authority, perhaps] just don’t seem capable or at least focused on doing what is right.
But then over the next few verses David gets a little graphic about what he wishes would happen to them and the wicked in general. I’ll let you go and look those up.
Then in verses 7 and 8 he comes up with some strong metaphors which I do want to look at [the one is very hectic and unfortunate, but does convey strong imagery] in terms of perhaps finding something that might apply to us in an introspective kind of way:
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.
So, pretty hectic, right? But let me look at each one briefly in terms of the possible meaning I see in them [this is not necessarily what David was meaning but just trying to draw some meaning of my own from what I read here]:
# ‘water that flows away’ indicates something with non-present boundaries. If water is placed into a container it will remain there and be useful. But once you take all the boundaries away, remove all the limits and restrictions, then the water will be lost. It will seep away into nothingness. This can be a strong reminder for us as individuals and as society I think or the need for helpful boundaries and restrictions. Not ones that are so rigid that the water is not allowed to flow where it needs to or even ones that can’t be changed or adapted from time to time. But the complete lack of all restriction and restraint can often lead to something becoming completely ineffective and useless.
# ‘let their arrows fall short’ to me speaks of the lack of power behind the arrow. If you put an arrow into a bow and let go, the arrow will fall directly to the ground and have shown to be completely useless in achieving its goal [or your goal with it]. In the same way if we continue to operate purely in our own strength so we will miss our goal [or God’s kingdom goal for us] again and again. We need to be empowered by His Holy Spirit living in us and invited to operate fully in us. Have you surrendered yourself completely to God or are you at least in the process of living day to day offering your life to Him. When we allow ourselves to have the power of God working in and through us, then our arrow will fly further and be more effective in hitting its intended target.
# ‘a slug that melts as it moves along’ – with my limited understanding of biological things, i’m still pretty sure that if you throw salt at a slug it melts and so when I read this I think of a slug that is moving along on a trail of salt. The lesson for us being that if we pursue or follow a destructive path [or a path that contains strong elements of the things that are bad for us] then we are causing our own destruction. The warning to be aware of the things in our life that are not helpful or healthy for us and making wise [sometimes difficult] decisions to that we don’t melt as we move along. The enemy never starts out with tempting someone to commit adultery or to kill someone. No, he begins with the subtle temptation of a returned lingering glance, of a late night meeting with that person you have felt attracted to at work [despite being married] and choosing to go and have a drink with them afterwards instead of heading home [and not telling your wife about it] or a little white lie that at a later stage will need a slightly bigger one to cover it. Before you know it there is a weird smell and a bubbling sound. We are called to be salt in terms of adding flavour and preservation to things and people around us. But we must identify the things that would act as salt to us if we were slugs and choose a different, less dangerous path, every time.
# ‘a stillborn child that never sees the sun’ – this is a hectic image and not one I really want to look at because of all the pain that it carries for anyone who has walked that path [and even those who know people who have]. But simply put, it brings to mind the idea of missed potential. All that could have been that will now not be.
And so this psalm is a rant from David and not necessarily a teaching on what we should even wish on our enemies – after all, Jesus gave us some strong teaching on how we should love them, bless them, walk the extra mile for them [and at least the metaphorical satisfaction of the burning coals that might fall on them if we do] – but by looking at the extent of his curse-wishing on them, we have hopefully been able to do a quick stock take on our own lives and take some valuable lessons of things, life paths to avoid from those.