Theme: A Prophesied Judgment
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
Having described Doeg’s evil character, David next prophecies his end. For it is an important principle in the psalms, often stated by David but also by others, that in a moral universe ultimately evil does not prosper but is instead brought down. And by contrast, the righteous excel.
This is not to be taken as a truth with no exceptions, of course, for clearly the righteous sometimes do suffer, even death. After all, Ahimelech and the other priests as well as their families were killed by Doeg. That is the very occasion of the psalm. And the wicked for their part do sometimes flourish. That is one of the things that bothers the psalm writers. They can’t understand why evil people frequently do prosper or why the judgment of God on such persons is often long delayed. The psalm writers were not naive. In fact, they were far more sensitive to these anomalies that we customarily are. But underlying these observations and more basic was their steadfast conviction that in the end the wicked are brought down and the righteous are preserved and blessed by God.
This stanza contains two main ideas: first, what God will do to Doeg eventually, and second, what the righteous will do when at last they witness God’s judgment.
The statement of God’s judgment on Doeg contains four vigorous verbs meant to stress the utter totality of his ruin. The first verb is “bring down.” It has the idea of tearing something down in order to break it into pieces, as when an altar is torn down and demolished. The second verb is “snatch up.” It has the additional thought of twisting something up or out, as trees are sometimes torn out of the ground by twisting them. The third verb is “tear (or sweep) away.” The New International Version reads “tear you from your tent,” but other scholars believe the idea is actually “so you may no longer be a tent,” that is, a family in Israel. As Doeg had destroyed the families of the priests, so he and his family would be expunged from Israel. The final verb, “uproot (or eradicate),” reinforces this idea.
At this point we might expect something about punishment in the life to come, judgment of the soul as well as of the body. But instead we have two verses describing what the righteous will do when they witness God’s judgment on the evil man. They will “see” it and “fear,” that is, they will stand in awe of God’s mighty judging acts. And they will “laugh,” drawing the appropriate conclusion on Doeg’s folly in pursuing evil rather than good, and falsehood rather than truth (vv. 6-7): “They will laugh at him, saying, ‘Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!’”
It is the lesson drawn from God’s judgment that keeps the laughter of the righteous from being what we would call mere selfish delight at the fall of some mighty enemy. This is not mockery at another person’s misfortune. It is satisfaction at the rightness of things when God intervenes to judge those who have done great harm to others.
From the lesson, what is an important principle in the psalms that we need to remember in our own day?
How does the psalm describe God’s eventual judgment on Doeg?
What will the righteous do when they witness God’s judgment on evildoers? Here, what does it mean for the righteous to “laugh”?
Application: Pray for opportunities to tell others of the judgment that is coming, as well as the grace of forgiveness and repentance that is now offered in the Lord Jesus Christ.