The Desolated Soul
“The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. Evil shall slay the wicked: and they that hate the righteous shall be desolate.” (Psalm 34:16, 21 KJV)
Psalm 34 is a wonderful outpouring of love and gratitude from David after escaping from a dangerous situation with Philistines in Gath. For 22 verses he expresses one marvelous promise after another to those who love God. In the midst of this outpouring, and seemingly utterly out of place, he makes two statements about the wicked.
Perhaps he did so just to remind the godly what they have been spared in life. Whatever the case, David makes four assertions regarding those who will not obey God.
“Evil shall slay the wicked,” he says. It sounds stark as if the angel of death seized a person quickly and decisively—and, of course, there are times this actually occurs. Think about the many stories you have heard about famous sinners suffering violent deaths. But actually, I think David had in mind the slow working poison that destroys a person over time. The ungodly person becomes increasingly involved in sin and little by little he destroys his soul. “Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature,” claims Paul, “will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature.” (Galatians 6:9 NLT)
David also tells us, “The face of the LORD is against them that do evil.” This could just as easily be translated, “The presence of the LORD…” as the Hebrew term can mean either. One can only imagine the implications of having God’s wrath breaking out against someone’s soul—continually, relentlessly, forever. As Spurgeon stated, “Hell itself is but evil fully developed, torturing those in whom it dwells.”
As if these dire warnings aren’t enough to frighten the most stouthearted sinner, he continues by telling the reader that those who “hate the righteous shall be desolate.” I don’t believe he was limiting this punishment to those who detest and loathe believers. There are people like that, but I think the word “hate” here simply means that these wicked people are opposed to the kingdom of God and everyone associated with it.
Such people are undergoing a subtle and systematic process within their souls. They are being hollowed out, emptied of everything decent and worthy. While they are on this earth, where they can still reap the benefits of being in the environs of the godly people they despise, the disintegrating process is slowed down. But once they cross into the eternal realm, there will be nothing to hold back this process of spiritual decay.
Lastly, such people will have their memory “cut off” from the land of the living. Those who imagine others forever recalling fond memories of them are kidding themselves. People go on with life and, over time, all memories of the lost are gone.
And how about you? Do you have unsaved loved ones? Perhaps these fearful warnings can serve as a catalyst for heartfelt pleadings on their behalf.