(Preached at First Baptist, Pauls Valley, OK on Sunday evening, July 20, 2014)
When most of us think of “wickedness”, we tend to think of certain specific “evil deeds.” Dr. Kermit Gosnell, who was in the news recently for having murdered numerous babies who were accidentally born during botched abortions, may come to mind. They reported that just before he killed one baby, he joked to his assistants that the child was “big enough to walk to the bus.” Thankfully, he was indeed convicted of murder. What he did was absolute wickedness, make no mistake about it!
But that kind of picture of wickedness also misses the point somewhat, because in many of our minds it serves to excuse US from any kind of responsibility for wickedness — surely none of US have been involved in that kind of evil, right? But in fact, if the truth be known, each of us does indeed manifest wickedness every day.
I want us to turn to Psalm 10, where it speaks of “the wicked” in :3. Following that verse, we see a description of some of the qualities of the wicked person. Some of them are what we might expect. But others may be more surprising — and some of us would have to admit, after studying this scripture, that we are much more wicked than we realized. Let’s look together for a few minutes at “Four Surprising Signs of Wickedness.”
I. NOT Seeking God
:4 “does NOT SEEK HIM”
This is the first “surprising sign of wickedness”: NOT SEEKING GOD. A person might be surprised at this; I don’t think most of us would put that at the top of a “Top 10 List” of wicked sins. We’d think of things like murder, adultery, abortion, homosexuality, etc., instead. But think about it: God is by far and away the single most important Being in the universe. Our whole existence is to revolve around Him. Jesus told us that THE Great Commandment is to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. In light of that, what could be more wicked than neglecting God by not seeking Him?
Romans 3 is famous for verse 23 which says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And the greatest part of the chapter describes in detail the depravity of all mankind. It says: “There is none righteous, there is not even one. There is none who understands, there is none who SEEKS for God.” A lack of seeking God is right at the heart of the Bible’s condemnation of human wickedness.
P.T. Forsythe once said: “The greatest sin is prayerlessness.” It is the height of haughtiness to walk out into a day without praying and seeking God in His word — as if you did not need Him! And yet that is exactly what many of us do! It is absolutely wicked!
Now, Psalm 10 tells us something about WHY that is true. It says that the wicked person says in his heart: ‘there is no God.’” The wicked does not seek God, because he doesn’t believe in Him. That just makes sense; they don’t seek Him because they don’t believe in Him. This teaches us that one of the sure signs of disbelief is NOT seeking God.
What is insightful and should be convicting for many of us is that the same thing is true even for those of us who DO claim to believe in Him. If we are not seeking Him, it shows that in our hearts, we really do not believe in Him — or don’t believe in Him very much. No matter what you SAY you believe about the Lord, you demonstrate what you really believe by how you seek Him. Do you believe that God is able to help you? Do you believe that He has the answer to your problem? Do you believe that your deepest needs will be met in His presence? If so, then you will seek Him. If you don’t seek Him, it shows that at heart you are just like the wicked, who does not seek Him because he does not believe in God. The fact is that many of us demonstrate ourselves to be wickedly unbelieving by the way that we do not seek God. By our lack of seeking the Lord, we are in effect saying: “There is no God”!
This passage confronts many of us with our own wickedness. It did me. In fact, the day I read this Psalm in my own devotional time, I had thought that very morning that I didn’t “feel” like having my quiet time. As I read this Psalm, I thought: that is really abominable. I didn’t feel like seeking God? That is like saying, “I don’t feel like being with my wife”, or “I don’t want to go out on a date with my husband.” These are people we are to love, and we should want to be with them. It is even MORE so with God. What a sign of a wicked, straying heart, that we would not want to seek Him. It is no small sin.
In light of this truth, many of us need to confess our lack of love for God, our lack of seeking Him. Even if we are His, we are acting just like the wicked, and need to fall again on His grace and forgiveness, because we are sadly demonstrating Psalm 10′s first “surprising sign of wickedness.”
II. Taking Things For Granted
:6 shares ANOTHER sign of wickedness that even many so-called “righteous” church people fall into: “He says to Himself, ‘I shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not be in adversity.’” This is the proud, arrogant, wicked man that we all despise. He thinks that nothing is going to happen to HIM: “I shall not be moved … I shall not be in adversity.” Other people may suffer, but HE is not going to! This person takes for granted that suffering and difficulty is only for others — nothing is going to happen to him!
This is just what God condemned in Isaiah 56:12; that there were those who said, “tomorrow will be like today, only more so.” It is a proud and arrogant attitude; nothing is going to happen to US — maybe someone else, but not US. This is ungodly pride. Who are we that we should avoid all trouble? Of course we are subject to the frailties and difficulties of all flesh. We are foolish if we do not think that we are.
So often we presume on tomorrow, and what we will have, and be able to do.
Again, I will admit to having done this myself. For most of my adult life, I have been pretty healthy. I had been pastoring for almost 30 years. I assumed that my health would continue, and that I would pastor to well past my 70’s — why do anything else? And yet all that came to a screeching halt when I came down with POTS last winter. I lost my health, which I had taken for granted, and was no longer able to pastor, which I thought I would always do. I had just not envisioned those things even as a possibility. And yet it was. Maybe I didn’t say it consciously, but subconsciously I was thinking, “tomorrow will be like today, only more so.” But it wasn’t. And so often it is that way. We think that things will always stay the same as they are now — but they rarely do. We should put on a heart of wisdom, and of humility, and recognize that we are subject to the same frailties that everyone else is.
(Of note: the attitude espoused in this verse sounds like some of the “word faith” people: just say “I shall not be moved; I shall not be in adversity” and you won’t! Just believe God will prosper you. But it is also very presumptuous — and very wrong.)
So much of the borrowing that people in our country do stems from this very attitude: we borrow for homes and cars and other things, assuming that we are always going to have the same job, the same health, the same income, the same circumstances that we do now. But how often, in reality, does that presupposition turn out to be false? Tomorrow is NOT “like today only more so”; there are all kinds of unforeseen things that happen. We need to stop this wicked attitude of presumption. Instead, we should heed God’s words in James 4:13-17:
“Come now, you who say, ‘today and tomorrow we will go to such and such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
God is speaking to US in these verses. He’s saying, don’t take tomorrow for granted. Don’t think tomorrow will be like today only more so. Thinking that nothing could ever happen to YOU is not a sign of faith, but of pride and presumption, and it is one of the “surprising signs of wickedness.”
III. Not Taming Your Tongue
In :7 we find a THIRD sign of wickedness which we all manifest: the tongue reveals our wickedness. “His mouth is full of curses and deceit and oppression; under his tongue is mischief and wickedness.”
There are at least 5 different descriptive words and phrases about the corruption of the tongue here:
1) “full of curses”: this doesn’t just mean “swear words” but speaking evil for/about others. Gossip and slander might be included here.
2) “deceit”: this means lying, or half-truths. Keil & Delitzsch describe it as “deceit and craft of any kind.” This could mean sharing deceitful things about ourselves — making ourselves look better than we really are; or spreading lies, or half-truths, or slanted information about other people.
3) “oppression”: This is using your words to ‘beat people down’. You may not harm another person physically, buy you can do just as bad or worse with your words. The old adage: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is wrong! You can harm and abuse others with your words.
4) “mischief”: the Hebrew word here literally means “trouble.” Sometimes we enjoy causing trouble for other people with our words; that is what this word refers to. I’ve seen people take a sinister kind of “delight” in getting other people in trouble. Some of us know that we have done that very thing, too.
5) “wickedness”. This word is used in Proverbs 19:28, where it says “the mouth of the wicked spreads iniquity.” So these “wicked” words are words, according to Proverbs, which may be “spread” — sounds like gossip, of which virtually everyone here must admit that we have been guilty.
All of these are ways in which we can sin with our words, and they are very common. In fact, sinning with what we say is one of the most common sins — even among Christians.
James 3 says:
“For we all stumble in many ways; if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” But unfortunately, he says, none of us DO that. He goes on to say “but no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse man, who was made in the image of God.”
ALL of us sin with our words, just like James and Psalm 10 indicate.
But the significance of your words goes beyond just the impact of your words on others. Jesus said “the mouth speaks of that which fills the heart.” A lot of us try to minimize things we have said by saying things like, “I didn’t really mean that” or “I don’t know where that came from”, etc. But the truth is, we DO know where your words came from your heart, according to Jesus. Your words are very revealing because they uncover what is in your heart.
Not long ago I read about someone who had a breakout on their skin, and they thought, “oh, that looks bad” and decided that they needed to take care of it. But it turned out that the “breakout” was a result of a cancer that was inside their body. As bad as what was on the surface looked, what was deep inside them was much worse!
The same thing is true of your words. You might think, “Oh I shouldn’t have said that; that was bad.” And it was. But the truth is, the reason that came to the surface is because it is even worse in your heart inside. The truth is, what you DIDN’T say was worse than that! There is far worse sin underneath, in your heart, which hasn’t yet come to the surface, which is even more damning and incriminating than what you said. Yes, your words themselves are significant; they can be harmful and devastating to others. But even more than that, they also reveal the even greater sinful nature of your heart, which will see in a moment, condemns us all.
The truth is that your words are another “surprising sign of wickedness.”
IV. Thinking God Doesn’t See
:8-11 “lurks … hiding places … hiding place”, etc. and :11 “He says to himself, ‘God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it.’”
Thinking that somehow God doesn’t care about what you are doing, and will never call you to account for it, is a sign of the wicked mindset.
Isaiah 40:27 says: “Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, ‘my ways are hidden from The Lord, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God’?”
This applies to those who are doing evil, and don’t think that God is going to do anything about it.
There was a report out of Seattle, Washington that the Transportation and Safety Administration screeners at the airport there will “turn a blind eye” when they see a passenger who takes marijuana on the airplane. Even though it is illegal nationally, it is legal and very popular in Washington State, and so they are reporting that a lot of the screeners will just let it pass, and not do anything about it.
We have all known of certain authorities who similarly “turned a blind eye” when something wrong was going on, and didn’t care about it. But the problem comes when we think that God is that way. Are you doing something that you are taking for granted that God doesn’t see? Or you just think He doesn’t care that you are doing it, and that like those screeners in Washington, that He is going to let you get away with it?
— do you think that God doesn’t care about the television shows you are watching in your room?
— do you think He turns a blind eye to what you are looking at on the internet when no one else is looking?
— do you not think He cares how you treat your family when you aren’t at church, or when there is no one else present?
— don’t you know that He sees those unethical financial dealings on the job?
He sees all these things. “He who formed the eye, does He not see?” (Psalm 94:9)
If you think God is going to let you get away with these things, He is NOT! That is a wicked mindset. God does see; He does care; and you are going to be called to account for it. He is calling you today! You must repent, or you will be called to account.
Thankfully, Psalm 130:4 says: “there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” There IS forgiveness to be found with God. If you repent, He will forgive you – that is a great promise! Conversely, if you do not repent of your sin, you will be broken. But one thing you can be certain of: God will NOT turn a blind eye to your actions. It is one of the most basic principles of the Christian faith: that God has given us standards of right and wrong, and He will hold us accountable for what we do. That is part of “the fear of The Lord” which is taught all through scripture. But saying to yourself like :11 does here: “God has forgotten, He has hidden His face; He will never see it”, is another surprising sign of wickedness.
Many of us would have to admit today that we see one or more of these “surprising signs of wickedness” in ourselves. What do we do?
The first and most basic thing we need to do is to admit our sinfulness. In fact, that is the purpose of much of the word of God; God gave it to us to convict us of our sin, and point to our need of a Savior. See, left to ourselves, we begin justifying ourselves, and comparing ourselves to others, and we become “self-righteous.” We say things to ourselves like, “I am not as bad as so-and-so”, or “at least I haven’t done what HE did!” But the Bible says that is the wrong attitude to take.
It is like when some of our older kids were younger, and were in school, they would occasionally make a grade on a test that was not as good as we expected. More than once, we had one of our kids try to justify it to us by saying: “at least I didn’t make as bad a grade as Bobby did!” But we were never satisfied with that, and wise parents will not be. The wise parent will tell that child that they are not being compared to how Bobby did; they are being evaluated by how THEY should have done against the standard of that test, and the fact was, they did not do well.
It is the same with us. We don’t get any credit with God for being “not as bad as so-and-so.” We are each compared with the righteous, holy standard of the word of God. And what that standard shows us is that every one of us has failed vs. that standard. Perhaps we do “better” than some others, but we have all failed. As Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (In fact, Paul uses :7 here in his overarching condemnation of all mankind in Romans, as an example of how “all have sinned.”)
— we have all not sought God like we should
— we have all taken things for granted
— we have all sinned with our mouth
— we have all thought that God didn’t see us in some secret sin.
These verses remind us that even if we aren’t mass murderers or baby killers like Kermit Gosnell, we are still sinners. We still have these signs of wickedness all over our lives.
Since every one of us has sinned, we all need a Savior. You can’t hope to enter heaven and have a relationship with God apart from Jesus Christ.
Since every one of us has sinned (and undoubtedly continues to sin in these ways) we need to put away every vestige of “self-righteousness” from us. Who do you have the right to “look down” on, when you are a sinner just as much as they are? Your sins may take a different form, but they are sins nonetheless. These verses cast us all upon the grace of God, the only way that any of us will be saved; and they should also cause us to be gracious to others who sin, because although our sins may be different, we too have are guilty of numerous “surprising signs of wickedness.”