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Psalm 10 Sermon From July 2012 Prayer Service

Psalm 10 Sermon From July 2012 Prayer Service


Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Rev. Ted A. Giese / Wednesday July 4th 2012: Season of Pentecost, Psalm 10.Break a Leg? Or Break the Arm?”


            Why, O LORD, do You stand far away?

                        Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?

            In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;

                        let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.

            For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,

                        and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the LORD.

            In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek Him;

                        all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”

            His ways prosper at all times;

                        Your judgments are on high, out of his sight;

                        as for all his foes, he puffs at them.

            He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;

                        throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”

            His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;

                        under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.

            He sits in ambush in the villages;

                        in hiding places he murders the innocent.

            His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;

                        he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;

            he lurks that he may seize the poor;

                        he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.

            The helpless are crushed, sink down,

                        and fall by his might.

            He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,

                        He has hidden His face, He will never see it.”

            Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up Your hand;

                        forget not the afflicted.

            Why does the wicked renounce God

                        and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?

            But You do see, for You note mischief and vexation,

                        that You may take it into Your hands;

            to You the helpless commits himself;

                        You have been the helper of the fatherless.

            Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;

                        call his wickedness to account till You find none.

            The LORD is king forever and ever;

                        the nations perish from His land.

            O LORD, You hear the desire of the afflicted;

                        You will strengthen their heart; You will incline Your ear

            to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,

                        so that man, who is of the earth, may strike terror no more.

                                                                                                              (Psalm 10 ESV)


Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord. Amen.


Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. In show business when you desire someone to do well, the tradition is to say to them just as they’re about to go out on stage, “break a leg!” This is a way of wishing them good luck, but it is also somewhat superstitious; for almost a hundred years musicians and actors avoided saying “good luck!” by saying the opposite. This is not what is happening in Psalm ten when the psalmist says “You have been the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;” this is no “break a leg!” this is “Break the arm” and the psalmist means it.


We are uncomfortable asking for such things from God and we wonder, “how can we still, with [this Psalm], call for the wrath of God against our enemies,” when “Christ on the cross prays for His enemies and teaches us to do the same?” “Can [such a psalm] be understood as God’s word for us and as the prayer of Jesus Christ? Can we as Christians pray [this psalm]?”[1]


Psalm ten is generally understood as the continuation of Psalm nine both in tone and in topic. Again this is a psalm of King David, and again he is surveying the landscape of society around him. Interestingly David, who is a king, feels helpless in the face of the greedy, prideful, scheming, murderers of innocence who publicly speak ill and blaspheme God by claiming that “There is no God,” or that “God has forgotten [about them], [that God] has hidden His face [from them], [that God] will never see [their sin],” and that “You will not [be called] to account!” I’m sure King David would have wholeheartedly agreed with the cowboy, writer and actor, Will Rogers when Rogers said “You can't legislate intelligence and common sense into people;”[2] Because what we can gather from Psalm ten is that David believes firmly that these wicked enemies of God are deluded fools who have abandoned common sense when they abandoned the Lord.


Remember the game that infants play, peek-a-boo, when they seem to think that covering their eyes with their hands or a blanket makes them invisible or makes everyone else disappear. This is the foolishness that king David speaks of in Psalm ten, He sees their denial of God and their lifestyle of godless abandon as little more that tricking themselves into unbelief. Post-Modernism which seems to be the default setting of the university and pop culture of the day does this, it says that there is no universal truth and that whatever you believe is true for you.  What it fails to accept is that the bullet in the gun is just as deadly for the one who believes in bullets as it is for the one who doesn’t believe in bullets. It doesn’t matter whether the wicked believe that God exists or they don’t, in the end they will be just as judged as everyone else.


Seemingly at his wits end, in a place of frustration, David pleads to God asking, “Why, O LORD, do you stand far away? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” David knows the Lord and knows what the Lord can do? He stood face to face with a giant and saw Goliath fall;[3] he walked into the courts of his enemies and came out unharmed because God’s hand has shielding him;[4] he was protected from the wrath of king Saul when Saul sought to kill him; [5]  David knew of the deeds of the Lord when God rescued the children of Israel from slavery in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the Passover. David is asking God to do something, to act where David himself cannot. King David bows down to the true King, saying, “The LORD is king forever and ever; the nations perish from His land,” harkening back to God’s work through Joshua and the Judges, in humility he asks God to act on behalf of the helpless, the poor, the fatherless and the oppressed. Notice that David doesn’t ask here for their death, he simply wants them to be called to account to be stopped, for God to “Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer.” A broken arm does usually encourage a person to sit up and take notice; the skier who breaks her arm in a crash while speeding down the mountain side will think twice before heading to the ski hill gain, and the wicked man caught in his evil will be given to take pause before he acts out in his evil ways again.


In Psalm ten David doesn’t want the wicked to fear him as king, he wants them to fear God, to take the first and second commandments seriously: for them to acknowledge the Lord, to refrain from opening their mouths against the Lord. David wants God to be the one to act, so that they know that it’s not just the idea of the king but the true justice of God Almighty.


Are their people in the world who you would like to see gain some common sense at the hand of God and His judgment: So that they would be able and willing to repent of their sin and return to God? Than this psalm is a prayer you can pray, for in it you place the whole matter whatever it is into the Hand of God. If you live as though God doesn’t exist and speak ill of God then this psalm is a call to repentance for you! Heed the call and ask for forgiveness.


Perhaps the biggest question hovering around this psalm is: How is this prayer of King David’s answered? When David pleads, “Why, O LORD, do You stand far away? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” The answer is that God was not standing so far off; God was at work bringing to fulfilment the promise of salvation. God was not working on David’s schedule though; Father, Son and Holy Spirit were, as Saint Paul puts it, planning for just the right time: we hear this in Galatians when Paul writes, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”[6] What better action could God perform on our behalf? That He would send His one and only Son to be our salvation, and that by doing so God would, in Christ Jesus, strengthen our hearts and incline His ear to truly do everlasting justice for the fatherless and the oppressed; that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, every enemy would be subdued and even the wicked men who lie to themselves that there is no God would lose their power over the Christian, and may strike terror no more into the Christians heart.


When you know Christ Jesus and all that He has done for you; when you know what God the Father did in sending His Son, when you know how the Holy Spirit worked in your baptism to wash you clean and burry you with Jesus and raise you back up with Him righteous in the eyes of God’s judgment; when you know all this and by the grace of God believe it, then what can wicked men do to you? Speak against you? Speak against God? Steal your money? Destroy your property? Kill you?  What do these things truly matter when you have the promised resurrection and eternal life? At the cross God does not stand far off, in Christ Jesus, He is nailed in place for you; in Christ Jesus, God is not hidden from your eyes, but has taken His place on the stage of history for all to see: and as Jesus entered the stage the devil may have said “break a leg” and meant it not for luck but for ill, yet as Jesus died upon the cross His leg was not broken, rather the arm of evil, the arm of the wicked, the arm of death, the arm of sin, the arm of the devil, the arm of the world was broken and judged and put in submission to God. David prayed for action in Psalm ten and God heard his prayer, and was already acting to answer it, in the coming of Christ. Amen. 


Let us pray: Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.




[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Psalms: The Prayer Book of the Bible, pg 56-57



[2]William Penn Adair "Will" Rogers (November 4, 1879 – August 15, 1935)



[3] 1 Samuel 17



[4] 1 Samuel 21:10-15



[5] 1 Samuel 19:1-24; 23:15-29



[6] Galatians 4:4-7