Psalm 52 (NIV)
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?
2 You who practice 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!
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.
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
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!”
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.
Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.
In the midst of great anguish in David’s life, he takes solace in the reality of the two ways we have encountered so often in the Psalms—the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. The psalm’s historical setting is found in 1 Samuel 21 and 22. Doeg, Saul’s head animal herder, saw David and betrayed his presence to King Saul, who was trying to find him and kill him.
The majority of this psalm rehearses the plots and actions of the wicked. The Bible never regards evil with silence, indifference, and certainly not with the modern congeniality that often speaks of evil as just a different perspective. The Psalms consistently name evil, and Psalm 52 is no exception. David takes comfort in the reminder that it is a foolish person who will not make the Lord his trust, and instead places his confidence in the abundance of riches. In contrast, the wise one will be like a tree (reminiscent of Psalm 1) flourishing in the house of God and trusting the covenant love of God. David trusts this, waits on this, and ends his psalm on a note of great praise even as he waits for that vindication that is not yet seen or evident.
Notice how David frames this psalm of present anguish with an assured declaration of God’s covenant loving-kindness (vv. 1 and 8). In the face of evil and betrayal, the covenant love of God is not shaken and is the steadfast foundation upon which David’s trust rests. This is no sentimental or emotive feeling of love, which can be devastated by the perpetrators of wickedness, or snuffed out by the disappointments of life. This is a steadfast love that is rooted in God’s covenant faithfulness, and cannot be broken or destroyed. Thus, in the midst of betrayal and fear in his life, David begins this psalm with a bold challenge to the powerful enemies around him, “Why do you boast of evil?” (v. 1), and then, after recounting the details of that wickedness, he returns to the same confidence at the end: “I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever” (v. 8). We know that David’s trust would someday find its final source in the covenant love made manifest to the world in Jesus Christ.