Why standest thou afar off, O LORD? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?
The Psalter contains two main ideas: the defeat of God's enemies, yet the suffering of God's people.
I. When we sing the Psalms, we triumph in the Church's exultation over the might of this world. (We find triumph expressed in Psalm xxvi., Psalm xlvii., Psalm lxxxii., etc.)
II. Notice the other aspect of the Christian kingdom, which is much more frequently brought before us in the Psalms: the suffering, troublous state which in this world naturally befalls an empire so large, so aggressive, so engrossing, so stately and commanding, yet so destitute of weapons of earth. It provokes persecution at all times, both from its claims and from its weakness. (1) Thus then we cry out to God against our enemies (Psalm 27:2-3, Psalm 27:13, etc.). (2) We lay before Almighty God our desolations (Psalm 44:12-13). (3) We complain of our captivity (Psalm 14:7). (4) The Psalms say much concerning the poor and needy, and God's protecting them against bad men (Psalm 9:9-19). (5) The Psalms speak especially of the righteous being in trouble, plead for them, and wait for their deliverance (Psalm 34:17, etc.).
III. Now here it is easy to make this objection: we are not in persecution; for us to use the language of the Psalms is l unreal. But many answers may be made to this objection. (1) It is not necessary that all parts of the Church should be in persecution at once either to fulfil the Scripture statements, or to justify the use of the Psalms. If we are members of the body of Christ, we must feel for the rest, in whatever part of the world they are, when they are persecuted, and must remember them in our prayers. (2) In spite of her prosperity for the moment, even in this country the Church of Christ is in peril, as is obvious. Is there no battle between the Church and the world in this country, and no malevolence, no scorn, no unbelief, no calumny, no prospect, or at least materials, of open persecution, though persecution, through God's mercy, as yet be away? (3) If we are not altogether in a position to use the words of the Psalter, is it not possible that so far we really do lack a note of the Church? is there not a fear lest the world be friends with us, because we are friends with the world? Let us but put off the love of the world, and follow the precepts of our Lord and His Apostles, and then see in a little while where we should all find ourselves, and what would be the condition of the Church.
J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p. 256.
Reference: Psalm 10—I. Williams, The Psalms Interpreted of Christ, p. 212.
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.