The uprooted tree and the flourishing tree Psalm 52

We don’t know for certain when the Psalms were written. Just half of the Psalms, like Psalm 52 are ascribed to David, and I take the traditional view that in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, David the shepherd and musician probably wrote them soon after 1000 BC. The titles or introductions at the beginning of most of the Psalms were probably added a long time after the individual Psalms were written. Most people believe that the collection of Psalms as we have them now was put together as late as after the return of the Exiles to Jerusalem in the period after the Second Temple was built, so roughly 500BC. But the context suggested in the title to Psalm 52 certainly fits with the content, so let’s take a moment to look at that introduction.
For the director of music. A maskil of David. When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: ‘David has gone to the house of Ahimelek.’
Doeg the Edomite was not a nice man. You may remember how David was anointed by Samuel to be King of Israel and then he defeated Goliath. But then the reigning King Saul tried repeatedly to kill his rival to the throne. So David went to the town of Nob and hid with Ahimelek the priest. That was when Ahimelek broke the rules and gave David and his men the consecrated bread to eat and he also gave him Goliath’s sword which was kept there. It happened that one of Saul’s servants, his chief shepherd Doeg the Edomite was also there and saw what happened. Doeg blabbed to Saul who sent for Ahimelek and all his family. Saul accused Ahimelek of conspiring against him with David but the priest defended David so Saul condemned his whole family to death. Saul’s guards refused to murder the priests. But Doeg the Edomite had no such scruples and he murdered 85 priests. He then went on to massacre the whole town of Nob. Not only had he betrayed David – Doeg was also a mass murderer. But without doubt that made him very important and very rich in Saul’s court. That is the backdrop suggested for this Psalm by David.
The second thing to point out by way of introduction is that we don’t often take much notice of the fact that the Psalms are songs or poetry. But we will tonight because it is significant. We talked about structures in Hebrew poetry when we talked about parables last year. We pointed to different parables, such as the Prodigal Son, where the order of events unfolds in a symmetrical pattern known as chiasmus. We have also mentioned that structure in the story of Noah and the Flood. Events at the beginning are mirrored by events at the end. The second section is mirrored by the second-to last section and so on. So the structure could be summed up as A B C B’ A’. In the middle of the poetry is the hinge or turning point, and the central location in the poem marks out the most important point in the whole piece. In the parable of the Prodigal Son that is when the son “came to his senses”. In the Flood narrative the hinge is the wonderful phrase, “But God remembered Noah.” We can see a similar chiastic structure in Psalm 52.
It begins and ends with alternative things in which people find their security – in doing evil or in God.
1 Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?

Some people live by the motto, “the end justifies the means”. Doeg the Edomite achieved power through doing evil – by betrayal and murder. His title is ironic. He is only a “mighty hero” in his own eyes and in the eyes of other people who are also ignoring God. Doeg broke the sixth commandment – you shall not murder.
Then verse 7 recounts more of this evil man’s sins.
7 ‘Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!’
Rejecting God and looking to his wealth for security. Growing strong by destroying others.
In contrast the writer looks to God for his eternal security.
8 But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.
9 For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.
The Psalm writer, let’s assume it is David, puts his trust in God’s unfailing love. God’s steadfast love is the most important aspect of God’s character revealed in his covenants with Abraham and with Israel and with David. The Hebrew word is HESED and it occurs 100 times in the Psalms. It speaks of God’s unfailing loyalty and faithfulness. It is the attribute of God’s character which guarantees the covenants and makes them strong and durable. It is because of God’s steadfast love that the Psalm writers know that He will answer their prayers and rescue them in times of trouble. And they know that God’s love will keep them safe not just in this life but forever more. So David continually praises God for his faithfulness and he puts his trust in God who is the source of his hope forever.
The second motif which recurs before the end is use of the tongue, to destroy or to rejoice. The evil man is a liar and deceiver. Breaking not only the sixth commandment but the ninth as well.
2 You who practise deceit, your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor.
3 You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
4 You love every harmful word, you deceitful tongue!
Evil words often accompany evil actions. In fact sometimes evil people don’t even need to do anything bad. Their words alone can do terrible damage to others. In contrast good people will not use words to harm others. They will simply declare the truth.
6 The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at you, saying,
7 ‘Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold
Can you see the symmetrical structure? Beginning: security then the tongue. Ending: tongue then security. And right in the middle of the Psalm we find emphasised the most important point, the turning point: Divine action!
5 Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
he will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The evil person who murders and deceives and puts their trust in their wealth is forgetting one thing. They are forgetting God. They may be getting away with their sins for now, but in they end they will have to pay for them. The God of justice will bring judgment and the well-deserved punishment of everlasting ruin. The evil man will be like a tree uprooted from the land. The exact opposite is true of the righteous man who puts his trust in God.
8 But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God;
This Psalm teaches us where we can look to find true security. It inspires us to put our trust in God. But from the introduction it also tells us what we can do when other people let us down or hurt us as Doeg the Edomite hurt David. David did not pursue revenge. Nor did he call down curses. David simply pointed out that God would bring judgment on his enemies and put his trust in God’ unfailing love. And we should do the same.
What somebody has upset us. Or let us down. When they have broken their promises. When they have said things which are spiteful or untrue? When they have done things which damage us physically or mentally or emotionally or spiritually? What do we do when somebody hurts us? We read this morning in
Ephesians 4 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. 5 1 Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
George Herbert wrote, ”He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass if he would ever reach heaven, for everyone has need to be forgiven.”
If life has disappointed us – if people have let us down – take it to God!
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden, Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge, Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee, Thou wilt find a solace there.
God longs to help us and heal us and give us his peace. If we are discouraged, even if we are suffering or persecuted, we should not give up! True hope in God WILL NOT disappoint us. His steadfasr love will never let us go. The wicked will ultimately be plucked from the land. But the righteous who put their trust and their hope in God will flourish into eternity.

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