Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?Atheism
Psalm 10:4; Psalm 14:1
The Psalmist's view of the men whom he calls the 'Ungodly' is explained in those two verses.
I. He does not bring against the ungodly any charge of theoretical Atheism. He is dealing with practical as distinct from theoretical Atheism, and therefore it is that his words have an interest for ourselves. The practical Atheist is he who says not in his speech, not in look or pamphlet, but in his heart, 'There is no God,' one of whom may be said in other words of the Psalmist, 'Neither is God in his thoughts'. The great question for us is really not whether we confess the existence of a God or not, that may matter little to us, still less perhaps to God—but how far our belief in Him plays an active and practical part in our lives. Do we, as a practical creed in our present time, believe more in the power of God or the power of gold? Do we in our political relations believe more in the right cause or brutal force, or do we say—and this, remember, is the most atheistical thing we can say, far more atheistical than denying the creed—that 'God is on the side of the big battalions?'
II. 'The ungodly is so proud that he careth not for God, neither is God in all his thoughts.' The ungodly is so proud. When Holy Scripture paints us the picture of an Atheist, it is not the picture of a person in his study inventing arguments against God's existence but rather that of a severely practical person, with plenty of gods of his own, whose only real faith is in material force. We know how across the stage of history those tremendous and portentous figures—Napoleon's and others—have stridden, setting at defiance all spiritual power; saying in their hearts 'There is no God,' but indeed this practical materialism is not confined to them. It is found in lowly places and among quite ordinary men.
III. And so the real question for us is just this—What is our real practical working religion? What do we believe in most? God or Mammon? fear most, poverty or wrong? What do we love most? Worldly power, comfort, success, or purity, righteousness, truth? It is in some such way as this that we shall find out whether we are Atheists or not.
—H. R. Gamble, Christianity and Common Life Sermons, p. 146.
References.—X. 4.—International Critical Commentary, vol. i. p. 68. Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv. p. 57. X. 5.—C. Kingsley, Sermons on National Subjects, p. 174. X. 13.—J. Bunting, Sermons, vol. i. p. 288. X. 16.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 118. X. 19, 20.—J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p. 256. X.—I. Williams, The Psalms Interpreted of Christ, p. 212. XI.—International Critical Commentary, vol. i. p. 88.
The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.
For the wicked boasteth of his heart's desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the LORD abhorreth.
The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them.
He hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved: for I shall never be in adversity.
His mouth is full of cursing and deceit and fraud: under his tongue is mischief and vanity.
He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places doth he murder the innocent: his eyes are privily set against the poor.
He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he lieth in wait to catch the poor: he doth catch the poor, when he draweth him into his net.
He croucheth, and humbleth himself, that the poor may fall by his strong ones.
He hath said in his heart, God hath forgotten: he hideth his face; he will never see it.
Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up thine hand: forget not the humble.
Wherefore doth the wicked contemn God? he hath said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it.
Thou hast seen it; for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.
Break thou the arm of the wicked and the evil man: seek out his wickedness till thou find none.
The LORD is King for ever and ever: the heathen are perished out of his land.
LORD, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear:
To judge the fatherless and the oppressed, that the man of the earth may no more oppress.