Psalm 59 is another psalm with an historical setting from the life of David, the great poet of the first two books of psalms. These historically-based psalms have appeared in more or less alternating order since Psalm 51. That is, when we look at the titles to these psalms, we find historical references for Psalms 51, 52,54,56, 57, and now 59 and 60. Most of these are linked to the days when David was hiding from King Saul, first at Nob, then at Gath, next in the wilderness of Ziph and finally in the wilderness cave of Adullam. As the collection comes to an end, we find Psalm 60 looking ahead to something that happened later in David's life when he had been king for some time, and Psalm 59, which we are to study now, looking back to David's first troubles with the king.

The last stanza of Psalm 58 is a prophecy or, as we might say, a confident statement that the wicked will be judged by God and the righteous rewarded. It is the climax of the psalm and a good one. The moral is that, although judgment may tarry long, it will come, and when it comes the way of the righteous will be seen to have been right.

The second stanza of Psalm 58 moves from a description of the wicked to a prayer that they and their evil might be overthrown by God. It contains five images for what David is asking God to do. They move from what is powerful to what is increasingly weak, from what is awe-inspiring to what is merely tragic or sad.

The stanzas of the New International Version are a reasonable way to outline this psalm. The first stanza is itself in two parts, since verses 1 and 2 address the wicked directly while verses 3-5 describe what they are like. But there is a sense in which the entire stanza is a portrait of these people. Stanza two is a prayer that they might be overcome or destroyed, a malediction. It occupies verses 6-8. The final stanza, verses 9-11, is a prediction of the end of the wicked and the vindication of the righteous. It concludes with a striking summary in verse 11.

Yesterday I mentioned Charles Colson's address at Harvard Business School, in which he spoke of the lack of ethics in our culture. The audience that heard the address I am referring to was mostly passive, however, as many Americans seem to be today. Americans tend to dismiss corruption, saying simply, "Well, that's just the way people are.” And they are, of course! That is what original sin is all about. G.K. Chesterton said that the doctrine of original sin is the only philosophy that has been empirically validated by 3,500 years of human history. But the fact that "all have sinned" and that low deeds in high places are so frequent does not mean that we are to accept sin or corruption passively. Especially not in our leaders! And not in ourselves!