The psalmist begins by calling on God to punish wicked people (vv. 1-3). One of the common responses of people is the desire to take revenge on those who have been cruel to them. Yet as far as the psalmist was concerned, it is better to wait until God rises up to punish rather than anyone taking personal vengeance on them. The attitude of the believer regarding his hatred of the presence of evil is important because it is evidence that he is longing for a better world.
In verses 4-6, the psalmist mentions several cruel features in the lives of his opponents. They expressed this cruelty in their words and in their actions towards the weak in society such as the widows, refugees and fatherless. In the process they dismissed the possibility that God would do anything about it (v. 7).
Indeed they may have assumed that somehow they were doing God’s will. It is surprising how often God today is brought into a discussion of what to do with refugees. Usually it is stated that they don’t accept the Christian religion, as if the residents themselves were all Christians. But God often warned his people that he would judge those who were cruel to aliens, widows and orphans.
The psalmist rejects as foolish the notion that God does not know what is going on. After all, he is the Creator who formed our hearing, seeing and understanding (vv. 8-11). In a sense, the author is telling these foolish people to consider that although they are made in God’s image they are still fragile. In contrast to those who ignore God, the psalmist asks to be taught personally from his Word; and if God does so, the psalmist knows he will experience a life marked by contentment (vv. 12-13).
The psalmist also knows that, contrary to appearances, the Lord will not abandon his people. Instead he will restore to them a society in which they will be able to live righteously (vv. 14-15). The ultimate fulfilment of this promise is heaven, although the Lord often gives foretastes of it.
The situation of existing cruelty bothered the psalmist and he wondered who would help him against the evildoers. His experience had been that only God would help him. Even when he thought his life was in danger, he had discovered that the Lord’s help was real and that his love was strong. The psalmist discovered that even in the midst of his many cares he could be comforted by the Lord (vv. 16-19).
It is important to remember that God never gets involved in coalitions involving evil (v. 20). Instead he will judge and punish the wicked (v. 23). At the same time he will remain the place of refuge for his people, the fortress in which they are always safe. He will remain the stronghold as long as there are wicked people. Those who despise him will eventually be punished by him.