The Righteous Judge
(10) My shield is God Most High, the deliverer of the upright in heart. (11) God is a righteous judge, a God who is indignant (with the sinful) every day. (12) If he (the sinner) does not repent, he (God) will sharpen his sword. He will bend and string his bow. (13) He has prepared his deadly weapons. He makes ready his flaming arrows.
In these four verses David divides humanity into two groups, those who repent of their sins as opposed to those who refuse to do so. He shows how God relates to both groups. He serves either as our protector, our “shield” and “the deliverer of the upright” (vs. 10), or as our prosecutor, a righteous judge who punishes the unrepentant (vss. 11-13).
The first two verses emphasize God’s character by using three different names built on the Hebrew root, “El,” the basic name for God in the Semitic family of languages. First, he is called El Elyon, “God most high” (vs. 10). This name was used in connection with Melchizedek who was called “priest of God most high,” supreme over all others (Gen. 14:18). Next, we encounter “Elohim,” the name used more than two thousand times in the Old Testament to refer to Israel’s all powerful God. Finally, the basic Hebrew root, “El,” is found here in poetic parallelism with Elohim (vs. 11). Note that David is careful not to use “Yahweh” in these verses. Earlier in the psalm, he directs his prayers to Yahweh, the God of the covenant (vss. 1, 3, 6, & 8). In these verses, when speaking of God in connection with his enemies who are strangers to the covenant, he refers to God by those names which seem more appropriate to unbelievers.
The second pair of verses emphasizes the adversarial stance which God adopts toward his enemies by describing the weapons he has prepared, a sharpened sword, a strung bow, and flaming arrows (vss. 12 & 13). While we know that God has no need of weapons to fight his battles, these images effectively convey his readiness to deal with the unrepentant who spurn his grace. They serve as examples of anthropomorphism, a figure of speech in which the writer attributes human characteristics or actions to God to help us understand him better.
I. God relates to the upright as their advocate. (10)
II. God relates to the unrepentant as their adversary. (11-13)
While protecting the upright in heart, God will judge and punish those who refuse to repent of their sin.
Throughout the Bible we read of a day when God will judge the unrighteous. Here are three such warnings:
- “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them” (Dt. 32:35).
- “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).
- “The judge is standing at the door” (James 5:9).
While God’s judgment rarely occurs at the moment a sin is committed, we can be sure that it will inevitably be exacted. Everyone who sins must someday give an account before a holy God.
This is why the death of Christ is such good news for the believer. As Peter wrote, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24). This grace of God is offered to all humanity. We either shield ourselves with the righteousness of Christ who bore God’s wrath for our sins on the cross or we must experience that wrath ourselves. Being “in Christ” means that we will be spared God’s judgment as Paul tells us: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).