This psalm makes statements and asks questions that trouble many believers.
The psalm opens with a pair of questions that are really two phrasings of the same question: Why does it seem like God does not intervene?
The psalmist elaborates on what is meant by this question.
The wicked pursue the afflicted and the psalmist desires justice (v. 2). What is more, the wicked boast about what they want to do and spurn God (vv. 3-4). Still today, there seem to be rather a lot of people who see no need for God. There are atheists and agnostics who think that there is no God and that they are doing just without one. There are more aggressive atheists who are out to prove that there is no God. We have politicians and celebrities and executives who use their position and power to abuse those who ave neither position nor power.
The psalmist expands on this theme of the wicked doing their own thing (vv. 5-11), saying that their ways prosper at all times and that they are able to capture the poor and innocent. The verses read like a synopsis of the evening news. These people are not afraid of other people, because other people are their prey. And the psalmist indicates (v. 11) that these individuals think that God is not paying attention, if they believe in God at all.
The psalm then transitions into a plea for God to take action (vv. 12-15). And the action requested is, ultimately, that the wicked would receive their recompense. The psalmist states that God does see what the wicked do (v. 14) and the closing verses (vv. 16-18) come to the conclusion that God will take action. The psalmist remembers that the LORD is King forever and ever. While it may seem like God has let go of control, He has not. The realization of God’s persistent kingship reminds the psalmist that Nations have perished from His land. Entire people groups have arisen and disappeared from memory while God’s kingship remained. It is a very long game that God is playing, and the psalmist ultimately concludes that, when it comes to the poor and afflicted, God will strengthen their heart.
All of this is immensely encouraging when I consider the state of things in the world. There are people in positions of power abusing that power and doing terrible things. There are people who plan to take in others and succeed in the short term. It can sometimes seem as if God set the universe in motion, then stepped back to watch it all play out. While He does give us free will and permit the consequences of our choices to be real and immediate, that does not take away His control or lessen His ability to intervene on behalf of those who are His.
Father, thank You for the encouragement that You are in control, even when it seems that You take no active part in events; even when the wicked prosper; even when people deny Your existence entirely and reap the consequences of that. No matter what, You are King and in control. Please strengthen my heart when it falters in the face of the apparent success of the wicked. Please remind me that You have seen and that You will require it of them.