Thoughts on Psalm 52

For the choir director. A Maskil of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul and said to him, "David has come to the house of Ahimelech.” 1 Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The loving-kindness of God endures all day long. 2 Your tongue devises destruction, Like a sharp razor, O worker of deceit. 3 You love evil more than good, Falsehood more than speaking what is right. Selah 4 You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. 5 But God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent, And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah 6 The righteous will see and fear, And will laugh at him, saying, 7 "Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge, But trusted in the abundance of his riches And was strong in his evil desire.” 8 But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the loving-kindness of God forever and ever. 9 I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it, And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.

I am uncertain as to who ordered, or as to how, the Psalms were ordered; but I find it interesting to compare the voice of David in Psalm 52 to his voice in Psalm 51. Such different circumstances, but both agreeing and sharing the same view and thoughts of God. Which is no great surprise, because all Scripture is consistent. The Old Testament pointing forward to Christ; and The New Testament pointing from Christ and His work on the cross, towards His second coming.

Psalm 52 appears to be linked, book-ended if you like with verses 1 and 8-9 completing the circle of the body of the Psalm; which is itself, a contrast between the wicked man and God.

Verse 1 is quite simply a statement of stupidity and foolishness. “Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The loving-kindness of God endures all day long.” This is a comparison, and not a flattering one, of sinful man, and a Holy Righteous God. David goes on later in the Psalm to show the weakness of sin, but notice the title David gives to the sinful person, “O mighty man.” Such mockery! I see David saying; ‘You boast in the weakness and temporarily of your sin, against an Eternal and Righteous God? Really? Don’t you know that God endures forever?’ It brings to my mind the idea of a Goldfish in the middle of the ocean, splashing, hoping to drive back the waves; or of throwing pebbles at The Empire State Building, hoping to topple it. Foolishness!

David goes on in verses 2-4 to show the weakness, foolishness and desolation of sin. It is all just words, and empty false words at that. Verse 2a “Your tongue devises destruction,”. Devises, it says, it doesn’t say that it succeeds in it. Look also at the choice of words David uses in these verses: devises, destruction, sharp razor, deceit, falsehood, devour, deceitful. In three verses David paints such a bleak and miserable picture. This is the life of sin. Yes, its’ lies may indeed entice us; they may indeed paint the false picture of success. I have never heard of someone falsely flattering another person by using insults. I am sure that the mighty man in this Psalm thought that he was successful, but as is to be shown; his success was a lie. Is it any wonder that Jesus said in Matthew 23:27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.” For me, if success is a world which is painted in words such as these, then I shall choose failure.

In verse 5 we see the contrasting image of the mighty man with God. Whilst the mighty man, the sinner, plots, plans, lies; God does! “God WILL break you down forever … WILL snatch you up and tear you away … (WILL) uproot you from the land of the living”. With God there is no empty boasting, no failed plans; just certainty.

In verses 6-7 we see the lie to the boast of the mighty man. We see the fragility of his strength. We see his impotence against God’s Omnipotence, and Righteousness. There is much to say here, but I would like to focus for now on verse 7b, “…But trusted in the abundance of his riches And was strong in his evil desire.” All that the mighty man trusted in, failed him. An alternate rendition of “his evil desire.” Is, “his destruction.” The mighty man, the sinner trusts in his destruction. What do we trust in? Do we trust in: How many people like us and what they think? Do we trust in wealth, education, our intelligence? Do we trust that we have the right job/house/car/family? Do we trust that we haven’t gone to prison, or at least not been caught … yet? Do we trust in our comparison of ourselves with others, “I’m not that bad”? All that we trust in, can be ripped away; and one day will be in death. All that is available for us to trust in, if it is not Jesus the Christ, will fail us. Are we trusting in our destruction?

[I ask you after you finish here to go and read David in Psalm 51. In verse 4 David declares of himself before God, “Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight,” Yet it is a Psalm where David is asking the very Lord whom he has sinned against, to cleanse him. Not David’s good works or intentions, but the cleansing which comes by the Grace of God in His Perfect Lamb; The Lord Jesus Christ.]

David concludes this Psalm in verses 8-9 by bringing us back to verse 1 and the loving-kindness of God which endures; and in so doing contrasting the life of His godly ones and the mighty man of sin.

David starts in verse 8 with the picture of the “green olive tree in the house of God;” I don’t know how much you know of olive trees, (or how much you want to know for that matter) but olive trees traditionally grew in harsh climates, and old trees are woody and gnarled. That is not the picture David paints here. Essentially he says he is like a young sheltered, well-watered tree, protected and cared for; supple and green, not woody and gnarled. From there he expands on what this means, and compare the language used here, to that used for the life of the mighty man: trust, loving-kindness, forever and ever, thanks, good, godly. Oh the sweetness of his words.

In verse 9 David begins by saying, “I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it,” What has God done? God is the One who has provided the care, shelter and nurture which allowed David to describe himself as the “green olive tree in the house of God;”

He then concludes with these words, “And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.” When I read this, I asked myself, “What is good?” Was it God’s name or was it to wait? The answer that I came up with for myself is that it is both. The name of The Lord is good, and it is good to wait on His name in His house, in the presence of His godly ones.

Life is hard! Sin lies, and it tempts us; oh how it tempts us. But amidst it all, trust in your sure Salvation. Endure through the Loving-kindness which endures. Our Lord and Saviour will tend us through the storms and droughts of life to see us through as young and tender trees.

Someone once said, “God wrote it; I just quote it.” I can’t think of a better way to end, except; AMEN!


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