Psalm 10: Lessons on How To Respond When Evil Appears to Succeed Over Good

Introduction: David was a great man of faith. But he sometimes struggled when he observed evil people succeed without consequences. Many people today share in this struggle. What made David a great hero of the faith was not his ability to simply accept any evil event that happened without emotion; it was instead his ability to pour out his feelings to God. From David’s example, God reveals seven lessons that you can apply when it appears that evil around you is prevailing. When evil is rampant, you can respond by: (1) seeking God, (2) lamenting to Him, (3) trusting Him, (4) having faith, (5) intercessory prayer, (6) gratitude, and (7) praise.

First, at a time when David felt alone and that evil was prevailing around him, he cried out for God to let him feel His presence. When you feel distraught, God also wants you to seek Him out with all your heart. Second, when evil appeared to go unchecked, David also poured out his laments to God. When you feel overwhelmed, God also wants you to pour out your feelings to Him. Third, David cried out in frustration that evil people appeared to succeed in their wicked schemes. When you feel as David did, God wants you to trust Him that He is in control. Fourth, David also cried out in frustration that evil persons appeared to go unpunished. When you feel this way, God wants you to have faith that He will be just and fair in His timing. Fifth, David cried out for God to arise and deliver those in need. When others suffer around you, God also wants you to pray as an intercessor for His deliverance. Sixth, David then gave thanks where God had been faithful to help His people. When evil appears to prevail, God also wants you to be thankful for His faithfulness. Finally, David praised God for His ultimate victory over evil. When you feel that evil is succeeding, God also wants you to praise Him for His future victory.

1. Seek God: When Evil Appears to Prevail, Seek Out God With All Your Heart. Ps. 10:1.

  • David cried out for God’s fellowship when he felt alone and distraught. Like any person, David sometimes felt alone when he faced his enemies. But he showed his faith by crying out to God for his fellowship when he felt alone: “1 Why do You stand far away, Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?” (Ps. 10:1). We can learn from David’s example that it is not a lack of faith when you cannot feel God’s presence. It is instead a sign of great faith to cry out for God’s fellowship when you feel alone.

  • David frequently cried out for God’s fellowship. This was not the only time when David felt alone and cried out to God. As our example, David frequently cried out when he could not feel God’s presence: “You have seen it, LORD, do not keep silent; Lord, do not be far from me.” (Ps. 35:22). “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near; for there is no one to help.” (Ps. 22:11). “God, do not be far from me; My God, hurry to my aid!” (Ps. 71:12). When you feel alone or distraught, God also wants you to cry out to Him.

David cried out to God when he felt alone and abandoned1

  • Jesus offers His fellowship to you if you seek Him in faith. God promises His fellowship to anyone who earnestly seeks Him in faith: “And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). “But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul.” (Dt. 4:29). Jesus made this same offer to believers at Laodicea. They were saved. But they were not walking in fellowship with Him: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” (Rev. 3:20). Are you seeking out Jesus’ fellowship?

2. Lament to God: When Evil Appears Rampant, Pour Out Your Heart to God. Ps. 10:2-4.

  • David poured out his honest feelings to God when evil appeared to succeed. David was not stoic when evil prevailed around him. Instead, he poured out his laments to God: “In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the needy; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of his soul’s desire, and the greedy person curses and shows disrespect to the Lord. The wicked, in his haughtiness, does not seek Him. There is no God in all his schemes.” (Ps. 10:2-4). Many people imagine that a true person of faith accepts any bad outcome without emotions. David shows that you don’t need to hide your feelings to God. You can instead be honest with Him when you feel frustrated or if evil is succeeding. Your true faith is in giving Him your burdens.

Because he had fellowship with God, David could pour his heart out to God2

  • David frequently poured out his laments to God. This also was not the last time when David poured out his feelings to God. David frequently lamented when evil people either: (1) denied God’s existence or (2) that God would hold them to account for their actions: “A Psalm of David. The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have committed detestable acts; there is no one who does good.” (Ps. 14:1). “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; there is no one who does good.” (Ps. 53:1). In an increasingly secular world, believers will frequently feel isolated in their faith. When you are surrounded by people who deny God or if you feel alone, pour out your heart to God.

  • God welcomes your honest feelings. The Psalms show you how you can express all of your feelings directly to God the same way a child might cry out to his or her parents. According to the French theologian John Calvin (1509-1535 A.D.), the Psalms show you how to confess your every need to God: “Here the prophets themselves, seeing they are exhibited to us as speaking to God, and laying open all their inmost thoughts and affections, call, or rather draw, each of us to the examinations of himself in particular, in order that none of the many infirmities to which we are subject, and of the many vices with which we abound, may remain concealed.” (John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Trans. By James Anderson. 3 Volumes (Eerdmans, 1963 reprint p. xxxvii).

  • Failing to seek out God is a sin. David said of the wicked: “The wicked, in his haughtiness, does not seek Him.” (Ps. 10:4). Regarding this verse, one commentator observes: “We immediately recognize that anyone who renounces the LORD is sinful. Yet the Psalmist here puts the one who does not seek God and the one who does not think about God (God is in none of his thoughts) in the same category as the one who renounces the Lord. Men do not seek God; this is a great sin. Men do not think about God; this also is a great sin. Man has obligations to God as His creator and sovereign, and it is a sin to neglect them. Man commits these sins because of his proud countenance; ignoring God is an expression of our independence and perceived equality (or superiority) to Him.” (David Guzik on Ps. 10).3 God does not want you to be independent from Him. You were made to fellowship with Him in all circumstances.

3. Trust: When Evil Appears to Prevail, Trust That God is Fully in Control. Ps. 10:5-7.

  • David poured out his feelings that evil people appeared to succeed without consequences. Despite having faith in God, David struggled when he observed evil people prevail: “His ways succeed at all times; yet Your judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for all his enemies, he snorts at them. He says to himself, ‘I will not be moved; throughout the generations I will not be in adversity.’ His mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression; under his tongue is harm and injustice.” (Ps. 10:5-7). David complained of the wicked person that: “His mouth is full of cursing, deceit, and oppression; under his tongue is harm and injustice.” (Ps. 10:5-7). Paul later quoted from David’s psalm as evidence of mankind’s universal sin: “Their mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”; (Ro. 3:14). We live in a fallen world. Thus, you will encounter evil people. When evil appears to go unchecked, place your trust in God.

  • God sometimes allows evil people to prosper. David complained: “His ways succeed at all times;” (Ps. 10:5). Sometimes, evil can reign for a long time. For example, Noah suffered through the wickedness of his contemporaries for a full 120 years (Gen. 6:3). The psalmist would also later point out that there are plenty of wicked people who appear to prosper: “I have seen a wicked, violent person spreading himself like a luxuriant tree in its native soil.” (Ps. 37:35). “How long, LORD, shall the wicked— How long shall the wicked triumph?” (Ps. 94:3). The psalmist also lamented how evil seemed to succeed without experiencing God’s judgment: “How long, LORD, shall the wicked— How long shall the wicked triumph?” (Ps. 94:3). Jesus also observed that God the Father “ . . . causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matt. 5:45). Although God may also allow sinners to face judgment on Earth for their sins, that is within His discretion and subject to His greater plans for good (Ro. 8:28). God will one day judge each person according to their deeds. But this will happen in heaven. For believers in Christ Jesus, He has taken the penalty for our sins. If we were all judged by our deeds, none would be found worthy (Ro. 3:10). Thus, you should show the same mercy and grace to sinners that God shows to you.

  • God also can allow the innocent to suffer. God may also allow the innocent to suffer when it is necessary as part of His greater plan. The best example of this was Jesus. He died without sin so that mankind’s sins could be cast upon Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

  • God uses His control over all things to work together for His good. God’s plans are frequently beyond our limited comprehension: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is. 55:9). “For who has known the mind of the LORD, or who became His counselor?” (Ro. 11:34). Yet, even when you lack the ability to understand the reasons for a trial or why God allows evil to happen, God wants you to have faith that He has a greater plan for you: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). When evil seems to be everywhere, do you still trust that God has a greater plan for you?

  • Put your trust in God, even when His plans are unknown. Even when it seems that evil is prevailing, God wants you to trust that He is in control and has a greater plan for good: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor. 16:13). “Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the LORD.” (Ps. 31:24). “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6). Even if an evil person tries to kill you, your soul remains protected with Jesus: “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” (Lk. 12:4). The only person that you are to fear is God (Prov. 1:7). And the fear of the Lord is hating evil (Prov. 8:12). Even when evil seems to prevail, do you trust God?

4. Faith: When Evil Appears to Prevail, Have Faith that God Will Be Just. Ps. 10:8-11.

  • David lamented how evil people believed that they could conceal their evil from God. David also poured out his frustration that evil people engaged in secret evil acts and managed to escape any feelings of remorse or God’s judgment: “He sits in the lurking places of the villages; He kills the innocent in the secret places; His eyes surreptitiously watch for the unfortunate. He lurks in secret like a lion in his lair; He lurks to catch the needy; He catches the needy when he pulls him into his net. 10 Then he crushes the needy one, who cowers; and unfortunate people fall by his mighty power. 11 He says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it.’” (Ps. 10:8-11). David later complained that evil people devoured the innocent like lions: “He is like a lion that is eager to tear, and as a young lion lurking in secret places.” (Ps. 17:12). Because we live in a fallen world, evil will frequently appear to go unpunished. When this happens, you need to have faith that God will one day be fair and just to judge every evil act.

  • The wicked falsely believe that they can conceal their sins from God. David lamented that the wicked believed that they could hide their sins from God (Ps. 10:11). This complaint is repeated throughout the Psalms: “They have said, ‘The LORD does not see, nor does the God of Jacob perceive.”’ (Ps. 94:7). “Behold, they gush forth with their mouths; swords are in their lips, for, they say, ‘Who hears?”’ (Ps. 59:7). Many feel the same way today when evil appears to go unchecked. But Isaiah warns that those who believe that they can conceal their sins from God will one day regret their foolish beliefs: “Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the LORD, and whose deeds are done in a dark place, and they say, ‘Who sees us?’ or ‘Who knows us?”’ (Is. 29:15). When you feel that evil runs ramped, trust in God to be just and fair in His perfect timing.

  • No sin can be hidden from God. Because God is omnipotent, no sin can be concealed from Him. The prophet Hanani proclaimed: “For the eyes of the LORD roam throughout the earth, so that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.” (2 Chr. 16:9a). Solomon also observed: “For the ways of everyone are before the eyes of the LORD, and He observes all his paths.” (Prov. 5:21). The book of Hebrews further declares “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him to whom we must answer.” (Heb. 4:13). Thus, you cannot hide your sins. Are you living your life knowing that God is watching everything you do?

  • Mankind frequently misuses God’s mercy and grace as a license to sin. Because God loves mankind, He is slow to anger and judgment: “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in faithfulness and truth;”’ (Ex. 34:6). He is also slow to anger because He does not want anyone to perish: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not willing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). Yet, because mankind’s desires are wicked, many view the absence of a quick judgment as license to sin more: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of mankind among them are fully given to do evil.” (Ecc. 8:11). Those who misuse God’s mercy and grace do so at their own peril. He will one day judge every evil act.

  • Be patient for God’s timing. From his many trials, David learned to patiently wait on God’s timing: “A Psalm of David. I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me and heard my cry.” (Ps. 40:1). “Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.” (Ps. 27:14; 25:3, 21). Even in the face of trials, Paul also encourages believers that your faith should include “rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,” (Ro. 12:12). Evil may at times appear to prevail. Yet, any victory that Satan wins is temporary. God wants you to have faith in His timing.

  • Even when evil appears to win, trust in God’s timing. God wants you to place your trust in His timing, even when it might appear foolish to do so. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). You must trust Him even when all seems lost: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” (Prov. 3:5-7; 28:26; Ps. 62:8; Is. 26:4).

5. Intercessory Prayer: When Evil Prevails, Pray For God’s Deliverance. Ps. 10:12-13.

  • David cried out for God to address the evil that had gone unchecked. As our example, David responded to evil by praying as an intercessor for God to deliver the innocent: “12 Arise, Lord; God, lift up Your hand. Do not forget the humble. 13 Why has the wicked treated God disrespectfully? He has said to himself, ‘You will not require an account.’” (Ps. 10:12-13). God does not want you to feel resigned to endure evil. He instead wants you to pray as an intercessor anytime someone is in need of deliverance.

When you see or experience evil, cry out for God’s deliverance4

  • David frequently prayed as an intercessor. David proclaimed that God will not ignore the innocent when they suffer: “He does not forget the cry of the needy.” (Ps. 9:12b). David also prayed as an intercessor for God to spare the Jews after 70,000 men across all of Israel died in a plague that came about because of David’s sins (2 Sam. 24:17). When you encounter suffering, the Psalms remind you to cry out as an intercessor for God’s deliverance: “Arise, God, and plead Your own cause; remember how the foolish person taunts You all day long.” (Ps. 74:12). “Do not grant, LORD, the desires of the wicked; do not bring about his evil planning, so that they are not exalted. Selah” (Ps. 140:8).

  • Plead as an intercessor for God to help others. Another man of great faith, Abraham, also used his faith to plead with God as an intercessor to spare the innocent in Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:23). God also spared the Jewish nation in response to Moses’ faithful prayers after they made the golden calf (Ex. 32:11-14). He again spared the Jews in response to Moses’ prayers after they rebelled at the edge of the Promised Land (Nu. 14:18-22). God again spared the Jews in response to the prayers of Moses and Aaron after Korah, 250 men of renown, and then the 14,700 rebelled (Nu. 16:21-24). As an intercessor, Samuel promised to continue to pray for the people’s sins (1 Sam. 12:23). Elijah also cried out to God in faith for God to raise a widow’s son from the dead (1 Kgs. 17:21-22.) Jonah also made a plea as an intercessor when his disobedience caused the men in his boat to suffer (Jo. 1:12). The apostles also continually prayed for others (2 Tim. 1:3; Col. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; 1 Thess. 3:10). You are part of Jesus’ holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev. 1:6). As His appointed priest, you too have the power of intercessory prayer. But it rarely works if you lack faith (Jam. 1:6). Are you praying as an intercessor for those whose faith has failed them?

  • All things are possible with God when you have faith. There is no request that is beyond God’s power: “Is anything too difficult for the LORD?” (Gen. 18:14(a)). “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jer. 32:27). “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2). “‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26(b); Mk. 10:27(b); Lk. 1:37; Ro. 8:31). With faith, God can deliver you from any evil.

6. Gratitude: When Evil Appears to Prevail, Be Thankful For God’s Faithfulness. Ps. 10:14.

  • David gave thanks for God’s prior faithfulness. Immediately after crying out for God to intervene, David gave thanks that God had seen the plight of the innocent to deliver them: “14 You have seen it, for You have looked at harm and provocation to take it into Your hand. The unfortunate commits himself to You; You have been the helper of the orphan. (Ps. 10:14). David boosted his faith by remembering God’s faithfulness. When you face a crisis, you can also boost your faith by giving thanks for God’s faithfulness to you.

God knows when you are grieving and will ultimately ensure that justice prevails5

  • God is faithful to hear the cries of the oppressed. Moses promised that God hears the cries of the oppressed: “If you oppress him at all, and if he does cry out to Me, I will assuredly hear his cry;” (Ex. 22:23). “He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the stranger by giving him food and clothing.” (Dt. 10:18). The Psalms are filled with these same promises: “For the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted perish forever.” (Ps. 9:18). “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous, and His ears are toward their cry for help.” (Ps. 34:15; 1 Pet. 3:12). “He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry for help and save them.” (Ps. 145:19). “The LORD will also be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble;” (Ps. 9:9). “The LORD watches over strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.” (Ps. 146:9). When you feel oppressed, you can also know that God will hear your cries.

  • Be thankful in all things. When God answers your prayers, the Psalms remind you to give Him the credit. If you fail to make a habit of thanking Him, you may take Him for granted. Even in times when he was jailed and persecuted, Paul worshiped God and gave thanks: “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to our God and Father;” (Eph. 5:20). Giving thanks can also remind you of His faithfulness.

7. Praise: When Evil Appears to Prevail, Praise God for His Ultimate Victory. Ps. 10:15-18.

  • David praised that God’s ultimate justice would prevail. Even though David struggled with the unchecked evil that he saw around him, he praised God for His ultimate justice: “15 Break the arm of the wicked and the evildoer, seek out his wickedness until You find none. 16 The Lord is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land. 17 Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will make Your ear attentive 18 to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that mankind, which is of the earth, will no longer cause terror.” (Ps. 10:15-18). Because of his faith, David never doubted whether God’s ultimate justice would prevail: “For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but the LORD sustains the righteous.” (Ps. 37:17).

Jesus, the King of Kings, will rule in perfect justice6

  • Greater is He who is in you than the ruler of this world. Satan is prideful and seeks to rule over all (Is. 14:12-17). His power can seem scary at first. Yet, God has judged him (Rev. 20:10). Thus, you also don’t need to fear him. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.” (1 Jo. 4:4). “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.’ (1 Jo. 2:13).

  • Praise God because He is faithful to keep His promises. As a man of faith, David led the Jews with both psalms and songs of praise and thanksgiving: “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His faithfulness is everlasting.” (1 Chr. 16:34) “Then David and all Israel played music before God with all their might, with singing, on harps, on stringed instruments, on tambourines, on cymbals, and with trumpets.” (1 Chr. 13:8). The Psalms also encourage believers to praise God with worship music: “It is good to give thanks to the LORD and to sing praises to Your name, Most High; to declare Your goodness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night, with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music on the lyre. For You, LORD, have made me joyful by what You have done, I will sing for joy over the works of Your hands.” (Ps. 92:104; Ps. 150:3-6). Does your devotion to God include heartfelt worship and praise?

  • Praise Jesus, the King of Kings, for His promised just-reign. Moses proclaimed: “The LORD shall reign forever and ever.” (Ex. 15:18). David repeated this praise: “The LORD sat as King at the flood; yes, the LORD sits as King forever.” (Ps. 29:10). “Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Your dominion endures throughout all generations. The LORD is faithful in His words, and holy in all His works.” (Ps. 145:13). The King of Kings who will reign forever is Jesus Christ: “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.”’ (Rev. 11:15). You can praise Jesus because He guarantees a future eternity where you can dwell securely without the threats of evil, suffering, and sorrow.