The second stanza of Psalm 58 moves from a description of the wicked to a prayer that they and their evil might be overthrown by God. It contains five images for what David is asking God to do. They move from what is powerful to what is increasingly weak, from what is awe-inspiring to what is merely tragic or sad.

The stanzas of the New International Version are a reasonable way to outline this psalm. The first stanza is itself in two parts, since verses 1 and 2 address the wicked directly while verses 3-5 describe what they are like. But there is a sense in which the entire stanza is a portrait of these people. Stanza two is a prayer that they might be overcome or destroyed, a malediction. It occupies verses 6-8. The final stanza, verses 9-11, is a prediction of the end of the wicked and the vindication of the righteous. It concludes with a striking summary in verse 11.

Yesterday I mentioned Charles Colson's address at Harvard Business School, in which he spoke of the lack of ethics in our culture. The audience that heard the address I am referring to was mostly passive, however, as many Americans seem to be today. Americans tend to dismiss corruption, saying simply, "Well, that's just the way people are.” And they are, of course! That is what original sin is all about. G.K. Chesterton said that the doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy that has been empirically validated by 3,500 years of human history. But the fact that "all have sinned" and that low deeds in high places are so frequent does not mean that we are to accept sin or corruption passively. Especially not in our leaders! And not in ourselves!

There was a time in American political history when anyone reading Psalm 58 would have thought it somehow unreal, at least where the United States is concerned. Psalm 58 is about unjust rulers, and in those earlier halcyon days America was favored for the most part with leaders whose characters were upright and whose actions were above reproach. No longer. Today corruption is widespread even at the highest levels of political leadership, and Psalm 58 seems to be an apt prophetic description of our times.

So I apply the psalm here, asking: Are you faithful in this sense? Is your heart steadfast? Alexander Maclaren has a sermon on this verse titled "The Fixed Heart" in which he provides some wise words and asks some searching questions: