Psalm 52: God's faithfulness during evil times
The Steadfast Love of God Endures
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of David, when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul,
"David has come to the house of Ahimelech."
(1)Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
(2)Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
(3)You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right.
(4)You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue.
(5)But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
(6)The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying,
(7)"See the man who would not make God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!"
(8)But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
(9)I will thank you forever, because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.
The Steadfast Love of God Endures.
The title in the ESV means so much more when we understand the historical setting of this Psalm. This particular Psalm is a poem of meditation, a song that the choirmaster would perform in the temple.
This is a Psalm to remind the children of God throughout time that God is present in hard times, and He will deal with evil.
It's a reminder in the worst circumstances to breathe, to calm down, and to let God move.
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you so little faith?"
Read 1 Samuel 21-22 for the story of Doeg, the foreigner.
Here's the gist: David and his men were staying far away from the crazy King Saul. They were hungry and without weapons. David went to seek out Ahimelech the lead priest of the temple in Nob. It seems that David was being a bit sneaky or maybe he was being careful because he knew there could be a lurking traitor (there was!) and maybe he was trying to protect himself and his men. Who knows for sure. But, the priest gave him food and an important weapon. Doeg was snooping nearby. He went to Saul and told on Ahimelech. King Saul summoned Ahimelech and called his actions out. Ahimelech the priest did not lie. King Saul, being filled with that evil spirit, asked one of his soldiers to kill the treacherous priest who "chose David over him." None of his soldiers would kill the priest. But Doeg raised his hand. Doeg killed Ahimelech and 85 other priests that day. Then he went into the priest's city and murdered all who lived there; men, women, children, babies, and animals.
Someone escaped and ran to David. David wrote this Psalm.
In 1996, I clearly remember the beginning of what seems to be "normal" happenings now: two school shootings back to back. One right here in Washington State and the other in Scotland where an entire classroom of Kindergarteners and their teacher were murdered. That tragedy struck me so hard that all I could do was write about it.
King David was many accomplished things, not least of which, a writer. When he felt bottled up with so much pain and worry and heartache, he picked up a pen and wrote.
This is that song.
Why do you boast about your crimes, great warrior? Don't you realize God's justice continues forever? All day long you plot destruction. Your tongue cuts like a sharp razor; you're an expert at telling lies. You love evil more than good and lies more than truth.
Psalm 52:1-3 NLT
"Why do you boast, O mighty man, O great warrior, you hero?"
There's some simmering anger behind those words. But David doesn't then say, "I'm coming for you!" He could have said that. David was a mighty warrior, with many strong followers, who could have easily taken out a man like Doeg.
Instead, the key of this Psalm, is waiting on and trusting in God's final say, God's judgement. Someone who would murder unarmed, untrained priests, then their families and animals deserved the worst punishment. David knew that God would handle that.
How often do we try to take things into our own hands? Are we good at letting go when someone hurts us and trusting that God will handle it?
When we hang on to bitterness and anger, it only eats us up inside. David must of known this. After all, he wasn't completely honest with Ahimelech, and he could have blamed himself for their murders. Maybe he did for a time. Maybe he yelled and screamed and threatened to take it into his owns hands for a few days around the back of that cave he was hiding in.
I have a feeling that David argued with God often.
But...when he had calmed down, the words he wrote are the resignation of and faith in the sovereignty of God.
"The tyrant's fury cannot dry up the perennial stream of divine mercy. If priests be slain their Master lives. If Doeg for awhile triumphs, the Lord will outlive him, and right the wrongs which he has done."
--Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Maybe David repeated words he'd written before in his exile. Maybe words like these could be heard sung around his campfire:
I love you, LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
"SELAH. Let us pause and look at the proud blustering liar. Doeg is gone, but other dogs bark at the Lord's people. Saul's cattle master is buried, but the devil still has his drovers, who fain would hurry the saints like sheep to the slaughter."
You love to destroy others with your words, you liar!
But God will strike down once and for all.
He will pull you from your home and uproot you from the land of the living.
Psalm 52:4-5 NLT
Have I destroyed others with my words?
David speaks of plotting, lies, and a "razor" tongue. Doeg's lies and evil words led to the death of innocent people. What pain has my tongue has caused?
The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them."
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
James encourages us, as believers, to listen and think about what we say. This is not human nature. As humans, we are quick to demand justice, to be right. According to the Words of God above, we need to let go and let God.
Quick to listen...slow to speak...slow to anger...
The words that David uses to describe what God will do to people like Doeg are harsh: strike down, snatch from home, uproot from the land of the living.
God will do these things, all we have to do is trust in Him. He will handle evil. We must handle our tongues and our hearts, and wait for God.
The righteous will see it and be amazed. They will laugh and say, "Look what happens to mighty warriors who do not trust in God. They trust their wealth instead and grow more and more bold in their wickedness."
But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God's unfailing love. I will praise you forever, O God, for what you have done. I will trust in your good name in the presence of your faithful people.
Psalm 52:6-9 NLT
"His name alone can be our refuge and strong tower. It is very good for us to wait on that saving name; there is nothing better to calm and quiet our spirits, when disturbed, and to keep us in the way of duty, when tempted to use any crooked courses for our relief, than to hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."
--Matthew Henry, English minister, 1662-1714
God's Word is clear: when the world crumbles around us, we put our trust in God. When the wicked seem to win, we trust in God. When good comes our way, we give thanks to God. When we screw up and hurt others with lies and a razor sharp tongue, we ask for forgiveness and put our trust in God.
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.
I love the last two verses of Psalm 52. Here they are in different versions.
But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints. KJV
And I'm an olive tree, growing green in God's house. I trusted in the generous mercy of God then and now. I thank you always that you went into action. And I'll stay right here, your good name my hope, in company with your faithful friends. MSG
David turns his voice back to God here. He speaks tot he One who has never failed him. The One who has walked beside him during the darkest of times.
Some commentators suggest that maybe David saw an olive tree flourishing in or near the house of God in Nob. Olive trees can live for thousands of years and still fruit. They live through drought and fire even. It's a small, strong tree that provides fruit that sustains. The leaves are used for tea, the olives for food, and oil for good health.
David's heart is calm. He has once again put his trust in the Lord and in the promises of His covenant throughout time.
He remembers the covenant and God's hesed love, and he remembers that he is never alone.
Let us remember this Psalm when we see evil in this world. Evil came into this world when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, and there will be evil in this world until Jesus returns again. There were evil men like Doeg during David's time, and there are still evil men today.
When that evil begins to drown us, remember God's unfailing love and faithfulness throughout time and today.
But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.
2 Thessalonians 3:3
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Father in heaven, you are good and faithful even during the most evil of times. Help us to lean on your goodness during the times that we see evil prevailing. Help us to lean on your Word and the promise that you will handle it. You are God, you are the Creator of the universe, nothing happens that you do not see. Nothing happens that you will not deal with. In your time. Thank you that we are called your children and we have your promises to lean upon. Amen.