PSALM 52 TALK
I TRUST IN GOD’S UNFALLING LOVE
(THE UNFALILLING LOVE OF GOD CONTRASTED BY THE GRAFT AND DECEIT OF MAN)
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide
I was going to entitle this talk, “In God we trust”, the famous US motto adopted in 1956 during the cold war and it is said that this motto was chosen during this time because, (Wikipedia),
“The United States wanted to distinguish itself from the Soviet Union, which promoted state atheism”.
This motto had been around long before 1956 in the US and it goes back to 1812 during what is called the second war of Independence and is taken from the US national anthem, “Star – Spangled Banner” where we read in the fourth stanza,
“And this be our motto; “In God is our trust”
It was changed to “In God we trust” when it was first put on coins in 1864 during the terrible conflict known as the American civil war.
I decided against this title for two reasons,
- That title says “we” trust and I am sure in the context of Israel at the time David wrote Psalm 52 or any time in its history not all Israelites as indeed Americans today could say they trust in God. David says something like this in verse 8 in contrast to the terrifying and Godless actions of Doeg and King Saul who killed all the priests of Nob.
- I ended up preferring to lift my title, “I trust in God’s unfailing love” straight from the wording of the Psalm in verse 8, which reads,
“But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God, I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever”.
The Hebrew heading notes says,
“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 Alimelech”.
1 Samuel 22: 20 -22 tells us when David would have first learnt of the killing of the priests of Nob after he had visited Alimelech who gave him consecrated bread and the sword of Goliath. These verses read,
“But one son of Ahimelek son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped and fled to join David. He told David that Saul had killedthe priests of the Lord. Then David said to Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your whole family. Stay with me; don’t be afraid. The man who wants to kill you is trying to kill me too. You will be safe with me.”
“You will be safe with me.”
Are words that express the true and courage’s faith of David. He trusted in God at a time that many would feel that God had let David and his faithful people down through the wilful slaughter of the innocent priests and people of Nob. Also David makes this promise to Alimelech’s son Abiathar when he was on the run from King Saul having become an outcast from his home land as a political traitor with little hope of survival against the wrath and power of King Saul and his mighty army.
We will learn in this study both what it means to really trust in God and this will be contrasted by not trusting in God and its consequences. This will introduce us to the bibles definition of true faith and I hope this too will be clearer from this study.
Some commentators like Leopold do not believe David’ s condemnation of the evil Doeg fits him and is better understood as befitting King Saul. I would like to take a middle ground on this and propose it is both Doeg and Saul that David’s words are aimed at. After all the 1 Samuel 22 text shows how both Saul and Doeg acted together in the deaths of the priests of Nob. Doeg informs Saul of David’s visit to Ahimelech at Nob and then carries out the sentence of death on the eighty five men or priests and then the whole town of Nob and King Saul ordered it. Even battle hardy soldiers of Saul’s army would not kill priests of God and it is the Godless Edomite Doeg who carries it out obviously seeking favour with King Saul.
My breakdown of this Psalm follows the theme of Trust in God’s unfailing love.
1. NOT TRUSTING IN GOD (1 – 4)
2. NOT TRUSTING IN GOD AND ITS CONSEQUENCES (5 – 7)
3. TRUSTING IN GOD’S UNFALING LOVE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES (8 – 9)
1. NOT TRUSTING IN GOD (1 – 4)
This first section sets down three characteristics of people who do not trust in God, they are:
1. They boast of their evil ways (vs. 1.)
2. They plot evil (vs. 3.
3. They love evil rather than good (vs. 3 – 4)
1. They boast of their evil ways (vs. 1)
The Psalm opens with a question,
“Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man?”
Both Saul and Doeg seem to have had no guilty conscience from what they did in the blood thirsty deaths of Ahimelech and the other priests of Nob and indeed the rest of the people except one of Ahimelech’s sons named Abiathar. When Abiathar Ahimelech’s son told David what had happened in Nob he said,
“Saul had killed the priests of the Lord”
Saul more than Deog qualified as a “Mighty man” as the king and Deog held an important position in Saul’s household as the head of Saul’s sheep (1 Samuel 21: 7). Both these men under God held important positions but they did not act as mighty men of God because they did not have faith in God. They in fact ignored the expressed laws of God and committed murder of innocent and in fact God loving people. No wonder none of the soldiers under Saul would carry out his evil orders to kill the priests of God in Nob.
Spurgeon makes this poignant comment about this,
“Doeg had small matter for boasting in having procured the slaughter of a band of defenceless priests. A mighty man indeed to kill men who never touched a sword! He ought to have been ashamed of his cowardice. He had no room for exultation! Honourable titles are but irony where the wearer is mean and cruel”.
We see today many men and women of both high and lowly status in our society boasting of their sins and acting as though there is no God to be answerable to. Such is the consequence of no longer believing in God.
Paul speaks of the consequences of people turning away from God and mentions this boasting as one of the many consequences of this in Romans 1: 28 – 32,
“Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, No mercy. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them”.
So a sure sign and consequence of not trusting God is the boasting of evil deeds. David goes on to say in the second half of verse 1 what God thinks of this kind of boasting,
“You are a disgrace in the eyes of God”
When a person turns away from God and seeks to live as though he does not exist the bible teaches that that person is not only out of step with God but will face God’s judgment something the next section of the Psalm will spell out in more detail. Saul and Deog might have foolishly thought they were carrying out the will of God by their murderous actions but they were not inspired by God but the evil one and therefore they are seen by God as a disgrace.
Recently we have seen on our TV screens of extreme muslins’ in Iraq and Syria holding the severed heads of their enemies, many of them Christians and they boasted of doing this for God. One can only surmise that such evil could not be inspired by God as we know him from the bible but is in fact the work of the devil himself. These people believe they will go to paradise when they die but the bible teaches they are actually headed for hell along with Satan and all his followers. Many are fooled by a person’s sincerity but we all need to watch out for the trap of being sincerely wrong.
Paul had to deal with people who were sincerely wrong in the Church in Corinth and gives us this warning about how deceptive Satan can be using even religion as a weapon to try and bring down God and his true followers. We read of this in 2 Corinthians 11: 13 – 15,
“For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve”.
2. They plot evil (vs. 2)
The next point follows the first, not only do they boast of doing evil they plot and plan it as well. The verse reads,
“Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you practice deceit”.
Another consequence of not trusting in God is how people actually plan to do evil rather than good. Back in Psalm 36 verse 4 David spoke of this as part of a special revelation from God about sinful man, he writes,
“Even on his bed he plots evil; he commits himself to a sinful course and does not reject what is wrong”.
All of humanity, every man and women are so affected by sin that even our good acts are tainted by sin. The answer to this is the love of God seen in Christ and the new life he gives us when we turn in faith to him. Outside of this new life of faith is a life of evil and deceit that can lead to terrible acts like the massacre of innocent lives like we see in the actions of Saul and Deogs killing of the priests of Nob and like we see in our world today in places like Iraq and Syria.
Note how David describes this evil as a plotting of destruction by the tongue. We have seen from many Psalms already that the tongue is a major problem for sinful man, Psalm 39 is a great study on this very point, a Psalm also written by David.
Here in Psalm 52 David speaks of the tongue in terms of a dangerous weapon he says it is like,
“A sharpened razor”
Interestingly the weapon all Christians have is the word of God which the writer to the Hebrews describes as a very sharp weapon, Hebrews 4: 12,
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.
So in our battle with a world that does not truly trust in God our major weapon is The Word of God which the writer to the Hebrews describes as something which,
“Judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.
3. They love evil rather than good (vs. 3 – 4)
The final characteristic of a person who does not trust in God is that they love evil rather than good. David speaks of this in both verse 3 and 4 which reads,
“You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth, You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue”.
This captures chillingly what Saul and Deog did when they conspired together to kill the priests of Nob. They did evil rather than good, they chose to believe their own lies about David and act on that. David was accused of treachery and deceit which was false as David always had and continued to be loyal to King Saul. Saul was driven by the sins of jealousy and covetousness and in the name of God he sought to kill David and anyone associated with him like the priests of Nob.
This is a horrible picture of evil and deceit and this is why David says Saul and Deog spoke falsehood and deceit. This horrible picture of evil can be seen in our world to today as it has been at all stages of this worlds history.
I mentioned the beheading of Christians in Iraq and Syria which for us in the west seems so barbaric and evil but to those who are doing it they believe they are carrying out the expressed will of God himself. This is an extreme example of people loving evil rather than good.
We cannot simply throw rocks at people with extreme and dangerous religious views when in our own countries we have people loving evil rather than good as well. When many business leaders and political leaders are involved in corrupt practices like over charging the poor for services they need in the name of free enterprise or when political leaders pay bribes for favours and votes.
On an everyday level we fall to loving evil rather than good when we sin in various and many ways and the bible makes it clear that faith or true trust in God must be seen in our lives to be true. James in his letter to believers of his day made this very clear in James 2: 14 – 19,
“ What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder”.
Jesus taught this and used the expression “fruits” rather “deeds”. Listen to teaching on this in a passage like Matthews 7: 15 – 20,
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them”.
Finally note how this loving evil rather than good is closely linked to the tongue or how we speak,
“Falsehood rather than speaking the truth”
“You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue”.
James also had much to say about the evil and problem of our tongue and this is best seen in chapter 3: 3 – 12,
“When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness.
Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water”.
So many problems in our world today can be related to things people have said and of course evil propaganda has led to the deaths of many innocent people throughout history just as it did in David’s time with the deaths of the priests of Nob.
I leave the last words for this section to Spurgeon who writes,
“Let us pause and look at the proud blustering liar. Deog 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”.
2. NOT TRUSTING IN GOD AND ITS CONSEQUENCES (5 – 7)
The next section continues the description of Saul and Deog men in David’s time who acted as men who did not trust in God and we will look more at the consequences of not trusting in God.
We will see in this second then three consequences of not trusting in God.
The three consequences of not trusting in God are:
1. They will be brought down to everlasting ruin (vs. 5a)
2. Snatched from and uprooted from this life (vs. 5b)
3. Laughed at by those who trusted in God (vs. 6 and 7)
- They will be brought down to everlasting ruin (vs. 5a)
David always resisted taking God’s judgement of his enemies into his own hands unless he was directed by God to do so. He had at least two occasions he could have killed Saul in the eight years he was on the run from him but refused to do so on both occasions. Instead David prayed for and announced God’s judgment on his enemies. He believed in the prophecy contained in Psalm 2 about what God would do to those who opposed him as the Lord’s anointed. We read in Psalm 2: 4 – 6,
“The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill”.
It is an amazing fact that Saul was half correct in fearing David as the future King of Israel because he was in fact just that in God’s eyes. God had given up on Saul because of his rebellious ways. However David never sought the throne of Saul for himself while Saul was still alive.
David speaks clearly of Saul and Deog’s fate as men who failed to trust in God and who instead loved evil more than good by killing the priests of Nob and seeking to kill David and his followers.
David says that the first consequence for those who refuse to trust in God is:
“Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin”.
So often the unbelievers of this world are the so called high and mighty ones but if they refuse to trust in God, God will bring them down. Jesus spoke of the reordering of this world by the coming Judgement this way in Matthew 20: 16,
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last”.
In Luke Jesus puts this reordering another way which we read in Luke 14: 11,
“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.
The second aspect of this consequence for those who refuse to believe in God is,
This is a reference to the often controversial teaching of hell. It is a surprising that Jesus spoke more about hell than heaven and it has been suggested this is because hell is such a terrible place Jesus wants to warn people about it. Everlasting ruin is ruin or punishment that lasts forever.
I will only give one reference to this as a warning to the consequences of hell, Matthew 13: 40 – 42,
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
2. Snatched from and uprooted from this life (vs. 5b)
This consequence is similar to the first but looks more at how tenuous our lives are. We are as David in Psalm 103:15, Isaiah in Isaiah 40:6 and Peter in 1 Peter 1: 24 point out,
“All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”
Our lives are fleeting James tells us we are just like mist in James 4 : 14,
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes”.
I have lived for over 60 years now and have seen close friends and family pass on already and I find the older you get the more you realise how short this life is. David in verse 5b is speaking to arrogant Godless people like Saul and Deog who stood proud and bragged of their exploits in killing innocent priests and to them and people like them he says,
“He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living”.
So many tyrants of the distant and recent past have stood over others with cruel misuse of power but what was their ultimate fate?
They all died and then face God in judgment no matter how powerful they thought they were. These verses bring to my mind the parable of Jesus called the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12: 16 – 21. In this parable we have a godless man who did not trust in God but his wealth and property and as he makes plans to get more wealth and property we read these words in Luke 12: 20,
“But God said to him, “You fool ! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself”.
David speaks in the same dramatic way about the fate of men like Saul and Deog who did not trust in God but trusted in their own wealth and power instead. He uses words like “snatch”, “tear you from” and “uproot” to describe the dramatic nature of these men’s departure from this life. This life is pictured in terms of “your tent” and “the land of the living”.
People like Saul and Deog might think they can get away with evil deeds in this life but as the writer to the Hebrews puts it in Hebrews 9: 27,
“Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”.
3. Laughed at by those who trusted in God (vs. 6 and 7 )
The third and final consequence of not trusting in God in this life is an intriguing aspect of the judgment of God. Verse 6 reads,
“The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at him”
David was facing a vicious and ruthless enemy who it seemed would stop at nothing to kill him and anyone associated with him. It would seem that Saul backed up by men like Deog had it all over David or as this verse puts it, “laugh at” or as the old expression puts it “had the last laugh”. However David trusted in God and he knew God’s love and protection and God says that “the righteous” or those who truly trust in God not those who are wicked who do not trust in God will have the last laugh.
So often the wicked laugh at the supposed weakness and hopelessness of the true believer but either through God’s judgment on the wicked in this life or in the final great judgment this apparent weakness and hopelessness will be seen as the joy of the Lord which is their strength as Nehemiah 8: 10 puts it,
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.”
This laughing of the righteous is not a laugh of merriment but a laugh of fear or respect for the great God of Judgment.
And what do people who trust in God say when they see or learn of the destruction of the wicked?
The second part of verse 7 answers that,
“Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others.”
Three further characteristics of the man who does not trust in God are on the lips of believers when they see or learn of God’s judgment coming them. They are:
1. Does not make God his stronghold
2. Trusted in great wealth
3. Grew strong by destroying others
- Does not make God his stronghold
These three characteristics are seen clearly in Saul and Deog. The first is the characteristic of trusting in themselves and not God for their stronghold. As Spurgeon explains,
“This is the man that made not God his strength. Behold the man! The great vainglorious man. He found a fortress, but not in God; he glorified in his might, but in the almighty”.
Saul reveals how far he eventually fell away from trusting in God on the night before his death when in 1 Samuel 28 he consults a witch or medium in Endor rather than God and one of his true prophets.
We need to make sure who we truly put our trust in during our daily lives I love the clear and wonderful words of Joshua in Joshua 24: 15,
“”But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”.
So to must we daily choose who we will serve, who we will look to at all times both good and bad.
When difficult times come who is our stronghold?
Who do we trust in when all else fails?
Faith should reveal in us the same answer as Joshua came up with,
“We or I serve the Lord”
The Lord Jesus Christ is ready and waiting to help us in times of trouble and difficulty as he says in Matthew 11:28-30,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
2. Trusted in great wealth
Both Saul and Doeg had great wealth and position in society. Saul was the king with the wealth of the nation in his hands and Doeg was probably handsomely rewarded by King Saul for his services as King Saul’s head shepherd and for his treachery in the priests of Nod affair. Therefore David writes in the next part of verse 7,
“But trusted in his great wealth”
Not that being wealthy is a sin but trusting in wealth rather than God is the problem. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:10,
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief’s”.
Note it is not money or wealth that is the root of all kinds of evil but “the love of money”. Many might think they have no problems with trusting in great wealth because they are poor. However poor people can suffer from the love of money also as they live their lives trying to gain great wealth and this is as bad as having great wealth and living your life to gain more or maintain that wealth as opposed as living your life for God.
Jesus makes it very clear how a life of true faith in Matthew 6: 31 – 34,
“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.
Saul and Doeg did not truly look to God but their wealth and position in the society of their day, maybe Doeg gained financially from his treacherous deceit in telling Saul of David’s visit to Ahimelech and then in carrying out the blood thirsty killing of Ahimelech and the priests of Nod.
This wealth did nothing for Doeg in death as we have seen already in verse 5,
“Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin; He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent”.
Spurgeon makes this apt comment about this,
“Wealth and wickedness are dreadful companions; when combined they make a monster. When the devil is master of money bags, he is a devil indeed. Beelzebub and Mammon together heat the furnace seven times hotter for the child of God, but in the end that shall work out their own destruction. Whenever we see today a man great in sin and substance, we shall do well to anticipate his end, and view this verse as the divine in memoriam”.
I have heard that the tarriest group in Iraq and Syria known as “ISIS” has millions of dollars from mostly illegal activities but under God that wealth is useless and the same fate that King Saul and Doeg faced in death awaits them as well.
3. Grew strong by destroying others
The final word the “righteous” or those who have true faith will say of the wicked or those who do not have faith in the true God of Heaven and earth is,
“And (they) grow strong by destroying others”
These words fit Doeg perfectly he gained great position and wealth by his treacherous and wicked deeds for King Saul in the death and destruction of the priests of Nod. Victor Yapp in a sermon called, “The last laugh” says this about those in both David’s time and today grow strong by destroying others,
“The reign of evildoers is brunt but it will be brief. They will make a lot of fuss or noise but will fall short of their goals; they will charm some supporters temporarily but will exhaust all goodwill eventually; and they will win some wars but will surely lose the battle. They will not surrender but they will still succumb to the power of God”.
Recently I saw a news clip of a black mastered Muslim terrorist speaking with an English accent of how he was about to behead a western journalist in the name of his God. He seemed strong and powerful yet his end is coming when the God he thinks he serves will turn out to be the means of his eternal destruction and punishment.
Yap in his sermon on this Psalm speaks of US admiral named Jim Stockdale who was the highest U.S military officer captured in the Vietnam War. He was asked by a respected journalist how he survived his ordeal, Yap records Stockdale’s answer this way,
“Stockdale, who limps from repeated torture, answered, ‘I never lost faith in the end of the story’”.
As we as Christians suffer for our faith in Christ we to need to have faith like this which projects beyond our current problems and difficulties to what is surely coming in the end which Peter speaks of this way in 2 Peter 3: 14 – 22,
“But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing well than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him”.
3.TRUSTING IN GOD’S UNFALING LOVE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES (8 – 9)
This Psalm has much to say about the nature or attributes and fate of those who do not have true faith in the true living God of heaven and earth and this is because this Psalm was written in response to the evil and terrible deeds of David’s enemies King Saul and his chief Shepherd Doeg.
But in the final two verses David turns his attention to the nature or attributes and fate of those who have a real and true faith or trust in God.
I will speak first of the nature or attributes of those who truly trust in God’s unfailing love. Their nature is threefold;
1. Trust (vs. 8b)
2. Praise (vs. 9a)
3. Hope (vs. 9b)
1. Trust (vs. 8b)
In the second half of verse 8 we have the words which I used as the title of this Psalm talk,
“I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and forever”
These words are incredible when put in the context of when they were written by David. He had just heard the news of the brutal slaughter of the priest’s of God in Nod who recently put themselves out to help him.
Real faith is often only seen when life seems dark and desperate and in fact Peter actually taught that difficulties or trials in life are necessary for real faith in God to be proven genuine. We read this in 1 Peter 1: 6 – 7,
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed”.
How can we understand why David would speak of God’s unfailing love at a time when some might say God had failed to act in any way when dozens of his faithful servants were slaughtered?
The answer lies in David’s realisation of what Admiral Stockdale in the previous section called, “The end of the story”. The end of the story or the end story is that God will raise his faithful followers up to be in his presence forever and those who did not have faith in him in this life and practiced wickedness will be destroyed at the end and suffer punishment for eternity.
David’s faith not only looked to this sure and certain future hope but was also anchored in what God had done for him in the past giving him trust in God in the present. In verse 7 David spoke of those who did not have faith in God as those,
“Who did not make God his stronghold”
David speaks of God in many Psalms as his stronghold in the face of tremendous difficulties. A brilliant example of this is Psalm 18 verses 1 and 2,
“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in which I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.
When he wrote Psalm 52 he was well and truly on the run from Saul and his many men and during the eight to nine years to come he could do nothing less than trust in God as his stronghold or protector and over and over again David proved by faith in God that God is both loving and faithful.
As Christians we have even more reasons to believe that God is both loving and faithful. God has nothing but unfailing love for those who truly trust in him. As the writer to the Hebrews put it so well in Hebrews 2: 9 – 10,
“But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
“In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered”.
Faith in Jesus and what he has done for us is our link to the unfailing love of God and this brings me to my thoughts on what the bible has to say about what real faith is.
I would like to walk you through five New Testament verses that explain, I think, what real biblical faith is and then apply this to David’s words in verse 8b..
1. The bibles definition of faith – Hebrews 11: 1
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”.
Note how faith here is not some kind of airy fairy concept which is based on how hard we might emotionally build up what some call faith. I recently heard in a sermon at our church in which faith was being discussed and the preacher said something like,
“Real faith does not focus on our strength of belief but rather on the object of our belief”.
The object of our faith is the God of the bible and particularly what that God has done for us in Christ. Therefore in the bibles definition of faith in Hebrews 11: 1 , the “being sure of what we hope for” is nothing less than what God has done for us in Christ and what God will do for us in Christ when he comes again to take all his true believers to heaven forever.
“Certain of what we do not see”, is nothing more than that future event that is still to come but we know will come because we can look back to the past to see how he came the first time and died for our sins on the cross and then rose from dead three days later.
2. The bibles role of faith in our salvation – Romans 10: 9
“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved”.
This verse is the bibles definition of faith appropriated by a person in the form of confessing the central truth about Jesus, that he is the Lord himself and believing in our heart that God raised him from the dead which Paul taught will lead to that person being saved. Being saved means our sins are forgiven and we are now counted by God through Christ as one of the members of his family forever.
Note how this faith is both on our lips and in our hearts. Our hearts in the bible is the real us that lives inside us or the centre of our being. Some might say the words of belief but they mean nothing without the word of God about who Christ is and what he had done for us penetrating our hearts.
Real saving faith is not just some kind of intellectual exercise but involves a life changing attitude of heart and mind revealed outwardly in what we say about what God has done Christ.
3. The bibles stated role of faith in the believers life – Ephesians 6: 16
“In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one”.
Even as members of God’s family we are under attack by Satan and his forces and this will mean that some kind of pain and difficulty will come upon us. However faith not only saves us from our sins and guarantees us a place in heaven but gives us a powerful weapon in the Spiritual battle we are all involved in. In Ephesians 6: 10 and 12 Paul describes this battle this way,
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes, For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.
Don’t be afraid of the mighty forces you face in the battles of life because we have a mighty weapon to wield in this battle namely our faith not anchored in our ability to believe but anchored in what we believe.
4. The bibles statement of the reality of faith now and in the future – 1 Corinthians 13: 12
“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.
This verse is Paul’s attempt to explain how faith and its reality work in this life.
The Hebrews 11: 1 says “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see” and this means that faith is not some kind of vain hope but a certain anchor in the reality of who God is, what he has done for us in Christ and what he will do for us in the future.
Therefore Paul speaks of what we know and see now as being like looking into a poor reflection in a mirror. The full impact of this image is lost to the modern reader because in Paul’s day mirrors were nothing more that polished brass and the image was not very good at the best of times. Paul is saying we can see through faith the realities of God now but when we pass from this life and enter God’s presence the image will be crystal clear and we will see and know so much more.
5. The bibles warning about having true faith in God – James 2: 19 – 20
“You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless”.
The final fact I want to point out about biblical faith is that just intellectual belief is not saving faith. James points out that even demons or in fact the Devil himself believes in God but that belief is not saving faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour of our their loves. The extreme terrorist who are beheading people claim they have faith in God but their very deeds reveal that that their faith is not saving faith. Jesus spoke of deeds as fruits in Matthew 7: 20 – 21,
“Thus by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven”.
James is saying we must acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Saviour in our minds and hearts but this must show in our lives or our deeds. The extreme Muslim terrorist claims to be serving the one true God but by their cruel and merciless deeds they reveal they are in fact serving the evil one.
It is not just the extreme Muslim Terrorist who reveals who they are by their deeds but many people in all walks of life in both the East and West live lives that reveal who they really serve and it is not the God of the bible.
So the bibles warning is make sure who you are really trusting in, make sure your faith or trust in anchored in the God of the bible and what he has done for us in Christ and make sure that faith you claim you have is revealed in your deeds or as Jesus put it reveals fruit from God.
These five truths about biblical faith related to Psalm 52: 8b
We have seen that David’s claim of how he lived was,
“I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever”.
First of all David makes a clear statement of his ongoing faith or trust in God and his love even when that faith would have seen ill founded in the context of the terrible murders of the priests of Nod.
As we hear of Christians today being killed or murdered for their faith some might ask:
How can you believe in a God of Love when he allows that to happen?
Or how can God be a reality today when even his faithful followers are killed by cruel so called God devoted followers?
This would have been the same questions people of David’s day would have asked of David. Yet David says that he trust’s in God’s unfailing love. You see David’s faith was not determined by his current circumstances good or bad but it was anchored in what the revealed word of God said about him.
Even in the Old Testament in passages like Deuteronomy 7: 9 David would have heard what his God was all about,
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments”.
David like admiral Stockton looked beyond the present trials and tribulations to the end story as he spoke of in the earlier verses of this Psalm when speaking of the fate of men like Saul and Doeg, verse 5,
“Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin; He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living”.
Secondly David saw that his greatest spiritual asset was his faith in God which we saw dramatically in David’s words in Psalm 18: 1 and 2,
“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in which I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold”.
David knew that without God in his life he was powerless and in big trouble but with God he could trust that God would help him through the worst that life and Satan could throw at him.
Even the priests of Nod and the persecuted Christians of today knew and know this and even though they lost their earthly lives for their faith there end story is life with God forever as we will see in the last part of this study.
Thirdly David certainly would join Admiral Stockdale’s view on how to face suffering this whole Psalm could be summed up with Stockdale’s words in answer to how he coped with his many years of suffering namely, “Faith in the end of the story”. We saw how David’s faith made him look beyond the terrible and evil deeds of King Saul and Doeg when they slaughtered the priests of Nob to the way God would deal with such people in judgement. David knew from God’s word and his experience of God so far in his life that wicked godless people are eventually brought down by God.
His faith was not seeing this crystal clear but as Paul put it like looking at an image in a poor mirror. We will join with David one day in the future and see the ultimate judgement and destruction of all wicked followers of Satan.
Finally revealed he had true biblical faith by his actions of acknowledging God in the face of what many might see as evidence for God not being real or true. David told the grieving fearful son of the murdered chief priest Ahimelech,
“Stay with me; don’t be afraid; the man who is seeking your life is seeking mine also. You will be safe with me”.
David could only speak confidently like this because he had real faith anchored in God, a God he claims in verse 8b is a God of,
2. Praise (vs. 9a)
David’s second nature or attitude of those who have true faith in the living God is verse 9a,
“I will praise you forever for what you have done”
Again these are amazing words of faith in the context when they were said and written down. Remember according to the heading of this Psalm David wrote this Psalm when he first heard the terrible news of the slaughter of the innocent priests of Nod. He now says he will praise God for what he has done.
Of course David is not referring to the evil slaughter hear of the innocent priests of Nod but his faith is projecting forward to the judgment of God on the wicked men who killed the priests of Nod namely King Saul and Doeg. He is also praising God for what we will soon see is the blessing of the faithful true believers who will pass from this life into the very presence of God himself.
This too is a great word of faith that must encourage us to be people of praise in all circumstances. Paul taught and practiced this throughout his Christian life. He taught things like we read in 1 Thessalonians 5: 18,
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus”.
And Ephesians 5: 17 – 20,
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
In the book of Acts we find Paul in all kinds of difficulty and he is often seen practicing this teaching of thanking God and praising God in all circumstances.
The best example of this is in Acts 16 where we find Paul and his missionary companion Silas locked up in prison in Philippi and what are they doing as they sit on a cold wet cell floor in chains?
Acts 16: 25 simply says,
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them”.
God at this time chooses to cause an earthquake and Paul and Silas are released from the prison cell and chains but before they leave they witness to a stunned and fearful jailer and lead him to have in the Lord Jesus Christ.
I don’t think this teaching is saying we are to praise God in a mindless way in the face of difficulty but rather we are to look beyond our current circumstances to God’s end story and praise him for that. We are to exercise true biblical faith by praising God for what he has done for us in the past in Christ and what he is going to do for us in Christ in the future.
This will help make our current difficulties just an inconvenience in which God obviously wants to teach us new things that we can use for him in our growth and service for him. As Paul teaches in the first chapter of his second letter to the Corinthians in verses 3 – 7,
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort”.
3. Hope (vs. 9b)
The final nature or attribute of those who have real faith or trust in the God of the bible is in the second next part of verse 9,
“In your name I will hope, for your name is good”
David speaks here of hope in the name of God. Both these concepts namely hope and the name of God can be easily misunderstood by the modern reader.
First of all hope is a word in our vernacular means some like, I wish for something to happen or it could be described as a kind of unsure optimism but in the bible it means something different. In the bible the word hope means a sure and certain confidence in the promises of God for the future. As we saw in verse 7 of the last passage I quoted in 2 Corinthians 1 which reads,
And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort”.
An even better example of the New Testaments use of Hope is, Romans 8: 24 – 25,
“For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”.
Hope here is both looking back and forward, looking back to what God has done for us in Christ on the cross and the resurrection and looking forward to the hope of the coming of Christ when the total re-ordering of created things will take place and we will live with God forever.
The second term easily misunderstood today in this verse is the concept of the name of God. David says his hope is in the name of God. Today names are usually no more than mere labels. Sometimes some parents give names to their children because of some special significance of that name.
My first name is James and I was given that name because my father comes from a family of 13 children but the first child named James died tragically as an infant so my parents decided I should be given that name as the first child in their family to give life to the name of a child that was lost at a early age in life. My parents gave little thought to the meaning of my name which is “Supplanter” as it is a variation of the Old Testament name Jacob. Jacob got his name meaning “Supplanter” because he was a twin born second and was clutching at his brothers heals as he came out of the womb of his mother. Jacob’s character seems to be well represented by his name supplanter as he actually seeks to pull down his brother Esau from his actual birthright as the first born son.
Later in Jacob’s life he has a life changing encounter with God recorded in Genesis 32: 22 – 32. Jacob encounters God through an angel and wrestles all night with the angel seeking to only let him go if he was blessed by him. Jacob is touched on his hip and has a permanent limp and God decides to give Jacob a new name, Israel which verse 28 explains,
“Because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome”
Some scholars believe the name could also mean something like, “Prince of God” but the text seems to suggest it is more something like “who prevails with God” as the real meaning of the name.
The point of all this is the understanding of what the name of God actually means. It represents the entire character of God revealed in the bible. Actually there are many names of God in the bible, there are around 7 main names for God and hundreds of others we call minor names. In the Old Testament making an image of God is forbidden so the best way to describe what God is like is in his many names and what those names mean.
So David’s hope that was a sure and certain hope was in the God of the Bible whose character is vast and mighty. The main characteristic of God in this Psalm is found in our key verse, 8b which speaks of God’s unfailing love. In the New Testament this becomes the central characteristic of God as John declares in 1 John 4: 8,
“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love”.
No other religion or faith presents the central characteristic of God as Love making Christianity unique. In fact all other faiths present how we can reach up to God but the bibles message is about how God reached down to us in love through the coming of his son. As we see in the other famous love of God verse again given to us by John, John 3: 16,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.
THE FATE OF THOSE WHO HAVE REAL FAITH IN GOD
In the final section of the Psalm talk I will look at the last two concepts David presents in this Psalm which deal with the fate of those who truly trust in the God of the bible. They are two- fold:
1. The olive tree in the house of God (vs.8a)
2. Praise in the presence of the saints (vs.9b)
- The olive tree in the house of God (vs.8a)
The first fate of those who truly trust in the God of the bible is expressed this way by David in verse 8a,
“But I am like an Olive tree flourishing in the house of God”
This is obviously a poetic image but what does it mean?
The best answer to this question I found was in a commentary I read by a man named Coffman, he writes,
“Some scholars have questioned whether or not olive trees were actually planted upon tabernacle grounds, or later upon the temple grounds; but the great likelihood is that they were indeed planted there.
Coffman then quotes a man named “Herodotus” and writes,
“Herodotus tells us that there was an abundance of trees in the courts of Egyptian temples; and till this day on the site of the ancient temple there are a number of magnificent cypress, olive, and lemon trees. As a metaphor of the safety of God’s child, such a tree was very appropriate. It would have been protected from vandalism and would have received the very best of care”.
So the image of being an Olive tree in the house of God is an image of a person being close to God who God both cares for and protects us intimately.
In the New Testament there are many references to the Christian hope of one day being close to God in heaven.
However we are not just close to God when we die and go to heaven but all true believers are close to God right from the time they first believed and on till they are with God forever in heaven. We see this teaching in a passage like John 10: 28 – 29,
“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand”
Jesus spoke to his disciples on his last night on earth offering them comfort and hope and this is recorded for us by the apostle John in chapters 13 – 17. I John 14: 1 -4 Jesus has these wonderful words of comfort and hope about how he has a special blessed place in heaven for all who truly have in him,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
2. Praise in the presence of the saints (vs.9b)
The final fate of all true believers is what I call the eternal fellowship of all true believers as expressed in verse 9b,
“I will praise you in the presence of your saints”
This is a final illustration of the great faith of David when we consider for the final time the occasion of the writing of this Psalm.
David was on the run from Saul and his mighty army and had just heard of the wholesale slaughter of the priests of Nod and he confidently claims he will praise God in the presence of God’s saints.
The saints are simply all true believers of God.
David had the company of up to 600 faithful men for most of the time he was on the run from Saul and these men would have given him great support and fellowship. However I think David is not just referring to his present company of believers but rather is referring to the fellowship of the saints or of all believers. Psalm 52 and the other 71 Psalms of David have been used for 3,000 years as aids to praise and worship and of course all true believers will join together in heaven to praise God forever as we read in the book of revelation, Revelation 19: 4 – 9,
“The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: “Amen, Hallelujah!”
Then a voice came from the throne, saying:
“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, both great and small!”
Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)
Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
I was once asked, “What do you appreciate the most about being a Christian?”
My answer was besides the comfort and assurance of being saved it was the amazing fellowship and support from other Christians. Besides travelling around many parts of Australia I have had the privilege of visiting many countries throughout the world and everywhere I go I can meet other people who believe the same things I believe and we always have wonderful fellowship together. All true believers can join with David and say:
“I will praise you (forever) in the presence of your saints”.
My poem for Psalm 16 is called “The giving God” and the fourth verse is devoted to the concept of the “fellowship of all believers”
I believe God has given us everything.
Like the world wide Christian family,
Like joyful fellowship with those in Christ,
Like true worship based on the death of Christ,
Not based on our ideas but God’s word we trust.
So we have now read and studied an amazing Psalm of faith, great faith that David had in the face of the news of what could only be called a wicked human tragedy. Dozens of faithful men and women of God lost their lives because their leader, Ahimelech chose to help David and his men when they were on the run from Saul and his army.
David has set down what he believes is both the nature and fate of those who do not believe in the true God of heaven and earth presented to us in the bible. A God who made it clear who he is and what he is like by sending his Son into human history in the person of Jesus Christ the Lord. Jesus did not come to earth just to show us who the true God is and is like but he came to make us a way back to God by dying for our sins on the cross. Jesus death and resurrection pays for all our sins and wins for those who truly trust in him eternal life.
The fate of all people who do not have faith in God is expressed clearly in verse 5,
“Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin”
Finally David sets down in this Psalm the nature and fate of those who have true faith in the God of the Bible. They exercise three things, faith, praise and hope and this hope we saw in the bible is a sure and certain confidence in the promises of God for the future. David like admiral Stockdale faced trial and difficulty with an eye of fiath for the end of the story. The end of God’s story for those who have true faith is to have fellowship with all true believers in the presence of God forever. This fellowship of believers will be marked by our faith and praise of our God who David says is a God of unfailing love.
I close as usual with a poem and a prayer,
GOD’S UNFAILLING LOVE
I trust in God’s unfailing love
I hope in God’s sure and certain promises
I join with all who have faith in Him
And forever will we sing
For Jesus gave his life for us
And in him we always trust.
Why do many boast of evil
Don’t they know God sees all and hates their sins.
They use their tongues to put God’s people down
But they are destruction bound
They will face judgment in the end
When Jesus returns again.
Evil men will be snatched away
They thought they were secure in their wealth and power
And all God’s people will see them fall
When they face the Judgment call
Because they failed to trust in God
They will all be judged by God,
We trust in God’s unfailing love
We look to God for nourishment and life
We praise his name for the hope he gives
Because his risen Son now lives
We will rise and will be with him
To praise and forever sing.
By: Jim Wenman
Dear Father in heaven thank you for your great unfailing love for us. Help us to always have true hope and faith in your Son who died for us. We pray for the ability to look wickedness and difficulty in the face with faith and confidence knowing that no matter what happens to us in this life in the end we will one day be with you and our fellow believers forever. Help those who do not trust in you to turn away from sin and come to faith in your unfailing love given to us by the death and resurrection of your dear Son Jesus Christ. In his name we pray Amen.