The Book of Psalms

Friday: Sudden Destruction for the Wicked


Theme: Eventual and Sudden Judgment
In this week’s lessons we see that as David looks to God for victory over his enemies, there is much we can learn as we face battles of our own.
Scripture: Psalm 64:1-10
In the last chapter of Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle writes of the wicked, saying, “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3). That is exactly what we have in Psalm 64. For five verses the wicked have been hatching their nefarious plots against King David. They have done it secretly, cunningly and with mutual bucking one another up and with encouragement. They have reached the point of congratulating themselves on their efforts, saying, “We have devised a perfect plan” and “Who will see us?” But suddenly, just when they think they have succeeded brilliantly, God, who has been watching it all from heaven, launches his bolt against them and quickly brings them down. Indeed, they have been in his sights all along, and it does not require a quiver full of arrows to destroy them. One arrow does the job.
If you read this carefully, you may notice that the psalm’s structure reflects what the words are saying. There are a lot of verses telling about the laborious, drawn-out plotting of the wicked. They build to a climax. But then destruction comes quickly, in just a verse and a half.
It is hard to read about the sudden destruction of the wicked without thinking of the story of Haman and Mordecai in the book of Esther. Mordecai was a Jew who worked in the court of Xerxes the king of Persia. Haman was a high official. Most people deferred to Haman, bowing to him almost as if he were the king. Mordecai would not do this. Therefore, Haman hated him for the perceived affront and plotted to get him killed. Haman did this by a particularly nasty bit of anti-Semitism, telling the king that there was a race of people in the kingdom who did not obey the king’s laws and were subversive. He got the king to approve a secret, sudden uprising against the Jews, while he himself prepared a gallows on which he planned to hang his great enemy Mordecai.
Mordecai had a niece whose name was Esther. Her Jewish ancestry was not known, and she had been taken into the palace where she had won Xerxes’ favor and became his queen. Esther was present at this strategic moment, and God used her to alert Xerxes to what was really going on and to expose Haman. Xerxes, Esther and Haman were at dinner when she did this. She told the king of a person who was plotting to destroy both herself and her family. The king couldn’t believe someone would try to kill his queen. “Who is he?” he demanded. “Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?”
Esther pointed to the man sitting next to her, saying, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman” (Esther 7:5, 6).
“While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3). Haman must have been struck with terror like a man turned to stone. He was exposed—suddenly, and there was no escape. The king was furious, and that very day Haman was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Poetic justice? Yes. But even more important than that: sudden and certain justice, just like that which will come on all who despise God and reject his Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The last two and a half verses of the psalm sketch three lessons to be drawn. First, the wicked will be exposed, so that those who are watching from the sidelines will “shake their heads in scorn” (v. 8c). Second, people will be directed to “fear” God and “ponder what he has done” (v. 9). This does not always happen, but it tends to happen when some particularly wicked person or nation is brought down. Third, the righteous will “rejoice in the LORD and take refuge in him” (v. 10). In Psalm 64 the judgment of these evil persons is still in the future, but God’s people are told to rejoice even now, because the eventual, sudden judgment of the wicked is so certain.
It takes faith to trust God and look ahead to the future destruction of the wicked. But a true faith wins that victory.
Study Questions:

Compare the planning of the wicked with the victory of God. What is the outcome for each?
How does the structure of the psalm demonstrate the sudden destruction of the wicked?
Why is the example of Haman and God’s intervention an important lesson here?
What are the three lessons from Psalm 64?

Reflection: How do you feel when you see the plotting of evil people, whether against you or others around you?
Prayer: In times of difficulty with other people, ask God to help you to remain faithful to the truth that he is in control, and to his promise that he will handle the wicked with perfect justice.
For Further Study: To learn more about God’s judgment, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message from Hosea, “Reaping the Whirlwind.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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