Theme: When Evil Flourishes
From this week’s lessons we learn that just as God protected and delivered David when he was surrounded by the hostile forces of King Saul, so also will God protect and deliver his people from whatever enemies surround them.
Scripture: Psalm 59:1-17
In the psalmist’s first appeal (vv. 1-5), the emphasis seemed to be on David’s danger and therefore on the bloodthirsty men who had been set against him. In this second parallel appeal (vv. 10-13), David’s description of the danger shifts to what he is asking God to do to these enemies.
He is asking God to destroy them, of course: “bring them down” (v. 11), “let them be caught in their pride” (v. 12), “consume them in wrath, consume them till they are no more” (v. 13). But what is unique in this second appeal is his asking that these enemies not be destroyed at once but rather gradually so that people will see it, learn from it and not forget God’s justice. David says, “But do not kill them, O Lord our shield, or my people will forget” (v. 11).
This says something important about evil and God’s willingness to let evildoers survive for a time. For some this is an offense, even a reason for disbelieving in God: “If there is a God, why would he permit such things to happen?” Here is the answer: God allows evil to flourish for a time so that we might learn from it. We can see that evil is short lived. We can learn that sin carries the seeds of its own destruction in itself. We can know that judgment does come upon the wicked in the end. If God did not permit evil, we would never learn any of this and would not grow spiritually.
Verse 13 sums this up. When evil emerges, is tolerated for a time, is allowed to stagnate and fall because of its own inner corruption, and then is eventually judged decisively by God, “Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob” (v. 13). This understanding of evil must have been in David’s mind for a long time, for these are almost the same words he used when he went out to fight Goliath. He told the Philistine champion, “This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head…. And the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Sam. 17:46).
This fifth section of the psalm is like the second, even to the point of exact verbal repetitions. But there is this difference. In section two David was describing the conduct of his enemies, portraying them as wild near eastern dogs. Here he is noting their punishment, particularly their howls of frustration when they are “not satisfied.”
Remember that. Not only does evil carry within it the seeds of its own destruction. It is not capable of being satisfied either. In fact, it is the very nature of evil to be dissatisfied: wanting, but never having enough, eating, but never getting full, grasping, but always seeing the object of the desire slipping from one’s hands. There is a picture of this in God’s judgment on the serpent in the Garden of Eden, described in Genesis 3. God told the serpent, “You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life” (v. 14). A snake does not eat dirt, of course. This is a way of saying that for those who pursue evil everything they taste will turn to ashes in their mouths.
As for the godly, they know that God will “prepare a table” for them even “in the presence of [their] enemies” and that “goodness and love will follow [them]” all the days of their lives (Ps. 23:5, 6).
What are the psalmist’s two appeals? What shift in focus do they demonstrate?
Why does God allow evil to flourish?
Application: What evil has befallen you lately? What do you believe the Lord wants to teach you from it?