Vs. 1-3 appeal for God to Judge humans;
Vs. 4-7 appalling behavior deserving condemnation;
Vs. 8-11 above all is God;
Vs. 12-15 approved of God;
Vs. 16-23 assurance from God.
There is no definite time or person originating this Psalm, but it does seem to deal with Israel’s corruption, and could have applied to the time of 2 Kings 17:1-23. There are numerous verses that are either quoted or referred to in the New Testament, as will be indicated.
Verses 1-3: God claims the power to rightly dispense “vengeance” (Deuteronomy 32:25; Hebrews 10:30), and this is acknowledged (verse 1) appealing for God to “shine forth,” “rise up,” “render punishment to the proud” (verses 1-2). The question “how long will the wicked triumph” (verse 3) is asked before the Destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. (Revelation 6:10).
Verses 4-7: Explain how corrupt the people had become that justified God’s vengeance. Their disobedience to God was seen in their: idle and arrogant speech (verse 4); oppression (verse 5); heartlessness toward the hurting-widow, stranger, fatherless (verse 6); blindness toward God (verse 7). They thought “whatever is done in Israel stays in Israel,” when the truth is “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
Verses 8-11: “The LORD” is untainted by their evils because He is wise, they are “senseless among the people” [Israelites, jtpII] (verse 8); He created human ears and eyes because He hears and sees (verse 9); He is the source of “knowledge,” therefore is the only One who can “correct” “the nations” [Gentiles, jtpII] (verse 10); He knows all the “thoughts of man, That they are futile” (verse 11), quoted in 1 Corinthians 3:20.
Verses 12-15: By contrast, those who remained faithful to God: received His teaching “out of Your law” (verse 12); were given “rest from the days of adversity” (verse 13) while “the wicked” were targeted, that is, even the righteous were included in God’s discipline of removing all the Israelites from their land; were not included in the number of those who were to lose their inheritance (verse 14). When the people came to their moral senses (verse 15), the righteous would have learned the lesson. Verse 14 is explained in Romans 11:1-5 that God did not completely cast off His people for their sins, but kept His part of the promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Galatians 3:15-16) by returning the faithful to the Land after 70 years exile (Ezra-Nehemiah) until the Gospel of Jesus Christ came.
Verses 16-23: Who stands with the righteous when sinners prevail (verse 16-17)? “The LORD” without Whom a righteous soul would “have settled in silence,” or be destroyed by his enemies. This is what Paul claimed had happened to him: “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion” (2 Timothy 4:16-17). When we fail, God is there to help (verse 18-19), which happened to Peter (Matthew 14:22-33). This case is summarized (verses 20-21) and reassurance repeated (verses 22-23). Verse 21 aptly describes the situation that sent Jesus Christ to the cross (Matthew 27:1-5, 20-27).
All Scriptures and comments are based upon the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.