For believers who are smarting under the hand of a proud sinner, this Psalm renders words suitable for both prayer and praise. It begins with a question, "Why do you stand far off, O Lord? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?" (v.1). The Psalmist then gives a description of his persecutor, "The wicked in his pride persecutes... the wicked boasts of his heart's desire... the wicked will not seek after God... he has said, 'I will not be moved.'" (v.2-6). The Psalmist then describes the language of one who lives life without faith in God. "His mouth is filled with cursing, deceit and oppression: under his tongue are mischief and iniquity" (v.7).
- "Under his tongue" is a description of the heart.
The Psalmist does not say in his tongue or from his tongue are mischief and iniquity. One commentator points out that this phrase "under his tongue" is an allusion to certain vipers in Middle Eastern deserts that carry poison bags "under their tongue." The phrase points to the heart of a man. "Cursing men are cursed men," John Trapp. Just the temperature of a body is an indication of the health of a human body, so the words that flow from a person's mouth is indicative of the condition of a soul. When someone curses, lies, speaks oppressively, it should cause one to look deeper.
- The source of rash, inappropriate speech is a heart full of mischief and iniquity.
"A heart full of mischief and iniquity (vanity)" is what some might call a heart of sin. That is true, but the words of this text are far more specific and filled with insight.
- A heart full of mischief
This Hebrew word amel has as its root the idea of labor, toil, or suffering. It is not deviousness, or what we call a "mischievous look," but dissatisfaction. The same Hebrew word is used by Moses "The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble" (Psalm 90:10).
- A heart full of iniquity (vanity)
This Hebrew word awen pronounced aven) means trouble that comes from emptiness or idolatry (substituting things for God). When Bethel (the house of God) became a city filled with idolaters the name changed to Bethaven (Hosea 10:5). The person who lives life working to find fulfillment or happiness in work, or material success, or fame, or achievement will never find real contentment. This idolatrous, dissatisfied heart leads to a mouth full of cursing and deceit.
- A heart full of mischief
- A heart filled with rest and satisfaction leads to apples of gold.
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver" (Proverbs 25:11). The question is a simple one. How does a mouth change from one "filled with curses and destructive speech" to a mouth that is filled with "aptly spoken words"? In essence, the heart that is struggling to find satisfaction in this life must realize the ultimate and absolute emptiness in finding contentment in anything other than Jesus Christ. Jesus said, "Come unto me all ye that labor... and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). "If you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts... [lest you] not enter his rest" (Hebrews 3:8, 11a).