Wickedness is a matter of degrees, some would say. And generally, for the most part, most humans don't really ask themselves if they are wicked. Perhaps because we generally believe that we are good people, and we tend to judge wickedness by degrees. Besides, we can always find someone whom we considered more wicked than we are.
Compared to God, everyone is wicked. If we ask God to protect us against a wicked person, shouldn't someone else be asking God to protect them against us and our own wickedness? When we say, "That person is wicked" or "If there's a God, he shouldn't allow that wickedness," we aren't asking rightly. The question of degrees comes in. After all, where is the cut-off line? Should God stop the mass murderer from being born? Should God stop the serial murderer from being hurt (innocently or intentionally) as a child in order to prevent the child from growing up to be a wounded bitter murderer? Should God allow a serial killer to live and then give him a heart attack just before he strikes out on his journey into murder? And what of other "lesser" wickedness? Should God stop the drug-dealer from selling crack on the street? Or should he stop an adulterer from cheating on his wife? Or a woman from having her third abortion?
And what of the violent man? Again, this is a matter of degrees. What is violence? If an entire generation has been reared to be nasty and verbally-cruel, how do we separate differentiate between cultural teenage sniping and violence? Or is there no difference?
In this Psalm, the psalmist gives us a description of the types of violent people we should avoid, the people we need to be protected from.
There is the person who imagines mischiefs in his heart -- a petty person, a person with cruel fantasies, a person who assumes evil of other people and is ready to act upon it.
There is the person who cruelly gossips and spreads untruths.
There is the person who wants to destroy another person's life.
There is the proud person who likes catching people in mental, career, and neighborhood traps.
The is the person who speaks evil of other people and who thinks a lot of him/herself.
Whether it is the mean drug dealer who sets out to snare innocent kids or the jealous neighbor or the religious churchgoer who imagines evil of her neighbor and tells one's business under the guise of intercession, all humans have this capacity for wickedness and are like the devil, the most violent accuser and snare-setter of them all.
These are the kinds of people the psalmist asks God to deliver him from.
1Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man;
2Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war.
3They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah.
4Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings.
5The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah.
6I said unto the LORD, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O LORD.
7O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle.
8Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. Selah.
9As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them.
10Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again.
11Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth: evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him.
12I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.
13Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.