Theme: A Contrasting Portrait of the Righteous
This week’s lessons remind us that those who do evil will eventually receive the judgment of God, and that in response to this truth we as Christians are to praise the Lord for his righteousness and trust in God’s unfailing love.
Scripture: Psalm 52:1-9
We have to be careful at this point, of course, because we are sinners too, and it is fatally easy for us to forget our own evil when we see how others are brought down and find improper satisfaction in it. Which is why we have the third and final stanza. In it David suggests what the proper attitude of the righteous should be, using himself as an example. He says, “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.”
We know from the story of David’s later life that he did not always live up to a righteous standard. But at the time he wrote this he could honestly say that he was “like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God.” The olive is one of the most lasting of all trees. With its dark waxen leaves it survives even the worse summer droughts, and it is valuable in its ability to produce a yearly crop of olives.
At this point it is difficult not to think back to Psalm 1, of which Psalm 52 is a specific illustration. Psalm 1 contrasted the way of the righteous with the way of the wicked, showing the righteous person to be “like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither” (v. 3), while the wicked are described as “chaff that the wind blows away” (v. 4): “Therefore,” says the psalmist, the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (vv. 5, 6). Assuming the prophecy of Doeg’s eventual end to have been fulfilled, the ways of David and Doeg illustrate that teaching.
Do you and I believe that? Do we believe that God really is in control of this world and that evil will be judged and righteousness will be rewarded in the end, even if not openly in every case right now? If we do, then the last verse of Psalm 52 describes what we will do and be like. In it David does three things. First, he praises God (“I will praise you forever for what you have done,” v. 8). Second, he trusts God for the future (“I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever” and “in your name I will hope, for your name is good,” vv. 7, 8). Third, he bears witness of these truths before others (“I will praise you in the presence of your saints,” v. 8).
Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, “Before or among the saints David intended to wait, feeling it to be good both for him and them to look to the Lord alone, and wait for the manifestation of his character in due season. Men must not too much fluster us; our strength is to sit still. Let the mighty ones boast, we will wait on the Lord; and if their haste brings them present honor, our patience will have its turn by-and-by, and bring us the honor which excelleth.”2 That is true. It will surely happen. The honor of God stands behind such an outcome. But when it does happen, make sure you are faithful in telling others about it, as David did.
What do we have to be very careful about when we see evildoers being punished?
What are the three things David describes in the last verse that we need to remember?
Reflection: Read Psalm 1, and ask the Lord to make you more aware of areas in your life that need to change in order to better reflect the description of the righteous.
For Further Study: Because God really is in control of all things, we can trust him to always do what is right. Download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Peace Casting Out Fear.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)
2C.H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1b, Psalms 27-57 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 428.