God, Judge, and Avenger
1 O Lord, you are an avenging God;[b]
shine forth, O God of vengeance.
2 Rise up, O judge of the earth;
repay[c] the arrogant as they deserve.
3 O Lord, how long will the wicked,
how long will the wicked be triumphant?[d]
4 [e]Their mouths pour forth their arrogant words
as these evildoers never cease to boast.
5 They crush your people, O Lord,
and they oppress your heritage.
6 They slay the widow and the foreigner
and put the orphan to death.
7 They say, “The Lord does not see;
the God of Jacob[f] pays no attention.”
8 [g]Try to comprehend, you senseless people.
You fools, when will you gain some wisdom?[h]
9 Does the one who made the ear not hear?
Does the one who fashioned the eye not see?[i]
10 Does the one who guides the nations[j] not punish?
Does the one who instructs people lack knowledge?
11 The Lord is well aware of our thoughts[k]
and how foolish they are.
12 [l]Blessed[m] is the man you admonish, O Lord,
the man you teach by means of your law,
13 giving him respite in times of misfortune
until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not abandon his people
or forsake his heritage.[n]
15 Judgment will again be based on righteousness,
and all the upright in heart[o] will uphold it.
16 [p]Who will stand up for me against the wicked?
Who will defend me against evildoers?
17 If the Lord had not come to my aid,
I would long ago have been consigned to the kingdom of silence.[q]
18 When I realized that my foot was slipping,
your kindness,[r] O Lord, raised me up.
19 When my anxious thoughts multiplied,
your comfort filled my soul with joy.[s]
20 [t]Can evil rulers have you as an ally,
those who make use of the law to oppress the helpless?[u]
21 They conspire against the righteous[v]
and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the Lord has been my stronghold,[w]
my God, the rock in whom I find refuge.
23 He will repay the wicked for their iniquity
and destroy them for their evil deeds;
the Lord, our God, will destroy them.
- Psalm 94:1 Distressed at God’s delays in dispensing justice, the psalmist utters this cry of impatience. Why does God not intervene immediately against the wickedness that crushes the lowly? The reflection of this sage tells him that, despite appearances, the lot of the righteous is in the final analysis the only one that matters. Certainly God’s hour will come when the Lord will avenge his “heritage,” the true Israel, that is, the poor. He cannot remain indifferent to wrongs and evils that the innocent endure nor suffer the scorn of haughty spirits and wicked hearts. As “an avenging God,” he authorizes no one to launch individual reprisals; it is he himself who reestablishes a justice that is troubled by the arrogance of men to the plight of the poor. These comparative tableaus of the arrogant and the innocent have the astonishing power to challenge us: is our life marked by this sense of justice?
Placed in a condition similar to that of the psalmist, we can pray this psalm to implore the divine intervention against those who exploit our brothers and sisters. At the same time, we can use it to proclaim that trials, far from crushing us, instruct us and enable us to discover true joy and happiness in the love of God (see Jn 15:9-11).
- Psalm 94:1 An avenging God: i.e., one who redresses wrongs (see Deut 32:35, 41). It is God’s prerogative to avenge, as Paul declares in Rom 12:19.
- Psalm 94:2 Repay: the central theme of the psalm: God is righteous and repays both the good and the bad as they deserve (see Pss 7:7; 28:4; 62:13; Lam 3:64; Joel 3:4).
- Psalm 94:3 How long . . . ?: see note on Ps 6:4.
- Psalm 94:4 Not only do the wicked hurl arrogant words, but they also attack God’s people, especially those to whom the Lord has promised his protection: the widows, orphans, and aliens (see Ex 22:21; Deut 24:17; Isa 1:17; 10:2; Ezek 22:7). They no longer believe that God is concerned with their activities or demands an accounting from them (see Ps 10:2-11).
- Psalm 94:7 The psalmist presents an indictment of the wicked. See Pss 10:11; 64:6; 73:11; Ezek 9:9. Jacob: i.e., Israel (see Gen 32:29).
- Psalm 94:8 The wicked are senseless like animals (see Ps 92:7), fools (see Ps 49:11) without understanding. The Lord not only hears and sees and knows everything that takes place on earth but also metes out punishment for all wicked deeds.
- Psalm 94:8 This verse recalls Deut 32:6; Prov 1:22; 8:5.
- Psalm 94:9 See Ex 4:11; Prov 20:12; Lam 3:36.
- Psalm 94:10 Guides the nations: through chastisement (see Lev 26:18; Jer 31:18). Instructs people: about the natural and the supernatural order (see Deut 20:1-17; Isa 28:26).
- Psalm 94:11 This verse was probably added to comment on the preceding verse. It is cited by Paul in 1 Cor 3:20. See also Ps 44:2. The Lord is well aware of our thoughts: contrary to what the proud profess to believe.
- Psalm 94:12 The psalmist insists that all wisdom comes from God, even the wisdom found among the nations. Yet the Lord has bestowed upon his people a clearer form of instruction. Blessed are those instructed by God, for they know that the Lord sees all and doles out rewards and punishments in his own good time. The righteous receive his protection against all disasters and enjoy the promise of the kingdom, which all the upright in heart seek (see Mt 5:6; 6:33).
- Psalm 94:12 Blessed: see note on Ps 1:1. Law: in the wide sense, revelation and moral doctrine, as often used in the wisdom writings. This verse recalls Ps 119:71; Job 5:17.
- Psalm 94:14 God guides his people, especially the powerless, through difficult times because they are his possession, and he never rescinds his promises. On the day of the Lord, divine retribution will be meted out and justice will triumph. This verse is cited by Paul in Rom 11:1f.
- Psalm 94:15 The psalmist is certain that God will restore justice for the upright in heart. Heart: see note on Ps 4:8.
- Psalm 94:16 The faithful psalmist puts his trust only in God. When he was burdened with cares, temptations, difficulties, and trials, God was always there to help, console, and encourage him and bring joy to his soul.
- Psalm 94:17 Kingdom of silence: i.e., the silence of the netherworld (see Pss 88:4-6; 115:17).
- Psalm 94:18 The psalmist experienced the Lord’s presence (see Ps 24:1) through the support of God’s loving kindness (see note on Ps 6:5).
- Psalm 94:19 The psalmist was overcome with anxiety and close to despair because of his situation, but the Lord came to his aid and infused him with consolation and joy (see 2 Cor 1:5). Soul: see note on Ps 6:4.
- Psalm 94:20 The psalmist is confident that the Lord will save his people and call the wicked to account.
- Psalm 94:20 The Lord will never allow evil to be victorious over himself and his faithful ones for long.
- Psalm 94:21 Righteous: see note on Ps 1:5.
- Psalm 94:22 The Lord is the stronghold and rock of those who take refuge in him (see Pss 18:2f; 31:3) and the judge and chastiser of those who do evil (see Ps 7:12-17).