Psalm Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalm 52, Knowing the Wicked Man


The psalm begins with a superscription telling us the background of the psalm revolves around Doeg the Edomite. We read about Doeg in 1 Samuel 21 & 22. Doeg was one of Saul’s chief shepherds (1 Samuel 21:7). Saul is chasing after David, trying to kill him. Doeg informs Saul that David had gone to Ahimelech, the priest at Nob, and received provisions and Goliath’s sword from him. Doeg tells Saul this in an attempt to take an opportunity to gain greater favor with Saul. Saul charges Ahimelech with conspiracy and ordered his guards to kill Ahimelech and his whole family. The guards refuse, recognizing that it was sinful to raise their hands against the anointed servants of the Lord. Saul orders Doeg to kill Ahimelech and his family. “So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep” (1 Samuel 22:18-19). It is a horrific scene which compels David to pen this psalm.

I. The Characteristics of a Wicked Man (52:1-4)

A. Proud

  1. The first verse charges this sin: “Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?” What Doeg did was a horrible evil. As bad as his actions were, how much worse it was for Doeg to be proud of what he had done! What a perversity!
  2. This is the nature and characteristic of the wicked. They are proud of their actions. They do not see that what they have done is evil. Their consciences are not moved when they act with such guile. According to Boice, the thought of the Hebrew word is not necessarily that the wicked one goes about making claims about what he has done. Rather, he or she is smug, convinced of his or her superiority. The person thinks of himself as clever and is absorbed in his own supposed wisdom.
  3. Sometimes we forget this side of boasting. Many times we may think of boasting as proclaiming ourselves to other people. But just as sinful is the boast of ourselves to ourselves. Within our own minds we uphold our own wisdom, considering the ways of others as foolish. To allow this attitude to dwell within us is to take on the characteristics of Doeg and to be condemned from God.

B. Sharp tongue

  1. “Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit.” The wicked have a tongue like a razor blade. This is a truthful description of the wicked. They always say things that are cutting and hurtful to others. It becomes second nature to speak things that cause emotional pain.
  2. We need to be so careful about what we say and how we say things to people. Sometimes we intend to say sharp words to others because we want to make a point. However, we are needlessly inflicting hurt on others. Our tongues are dangerous weapons that either help others or hurt others. In speaking about the tongue, James said, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men who are made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things should not be this way” (James 3:9-10). These should not be, yet they are. How can we praise God and curse others made in God’s image with the same tongue? This shows hypocrisy in our lives. We must control our tongues and speak only things that are proper to one another.

C. Love evil

  1. The third characteristic described is a love of evil. “You who love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue!” This may be the worst part of the description. The wicked person takes joy in evil and loves harmful words.
  2. This reaches to the darkness of the heart. To intend another’s harm and enjoy its effects is of the utmost evil. To be happy with evil deeds performed and attempt to justify people’s unlawful actions is an abomination to the Lord. The nation of Israel, though the people of God, were condemned and judged for loving evil rather than loving good.

II. The End of the Wicked (52:5-7)

A. Brought to ruin

  1. David proclaims that the end of the wicked is total ruin. In verse 5 David describes the everlasting ruin that will come upon these who love evil and whose tongue is like a razor. First, David says “surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin.” You may be sitting in a lofty place, in your own mind and in reality, but God will bring you down from that high place and ruin you. Second, David says that the wicked will be snatch up and torn from your tent. There is no safe place for the wicked to hide. Their lives will be turned over by God.
  2. Third, God will uproot the wicked form the land of the living. The end is destruction. The wicked will not live forever. The wicked do not have an advantage over the righteous. They will be taken from the land of the living and will be judged.

B. Lessons for the righteous

  1. But David is not just gloating over the end result of the wicked in this world. The righteous are to learn from the end result of the wicked. First, “the righteous will see and fear.” We need to watch what happens to the lives of those who practice evil and see that such a lifestyle is not for us.
  2. Second, the righteous will see the foolishness of wicked living. “Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!” David says that others simply laugh at those who trust in riches. This seems to picture a funeral eulogy, as everyone stands around noting that he trusted in riches, yet he is still dead. This reminds me of how everyone gave such praise to Frank Sinatra when he died because “he did it his way.” Did living life “his way” change anything? No, he still died and now he can explain to the Lord why he did things his way. Wealth is no buffer against tragedy and problems in life. Wealth will not prevent death from coming upon us when we are not ready. The righteous laugh at those who think they have done something so great, yet have accomplished nothing.

III. The Character of the Righteous (52:8-9)

A. Strong and fruitful

  1. David concludes his psalm by describing the character of the righteous in the last two verses. David declares, “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of the God.” These words share imagery from Psalm 1 (a tree planted by the waters) and Psalm 23 (I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever).
  2. David pictures the righteous standing tall and standing strong with God, enduring any storms that may come. Not only are the righteous strong, but they are fruitful and flourishing. The righteous are growing. All of this is taking place in the house of God. The righteous are pictured as being near God and as family members of God. By implication, David is stating that the wicked are none of these things. Evildoers will not flourish nor endure the storms of life. Further, the wicked are not near God and not in the family of God.

B. Trusting in God’s love

  1. Even though evil things happen and the righteous will experience persecution and rejection from the world, the righteous must continue to trust in God’s unfailing love. The key word must be “unfailing.” God’s love is unfailing and that gives us reason to trust in God. Though the righteous suffer at the hands of the wicked, justice will come against the wicked.
  2. This is one way we get through our difficult times. We must truly have faith in God’s unfailing love. We must continue to believe that God is with us, cares about us, will never abandon us, and will work out things to His glory.

C. Praising God

  1. Finally, one characteristic of the righteous is always praising God. David praises God for what God has done. David is able to look at the past (even though a horrible thing has happen with Doeg and Ahimelech) and see all the good that God has done. Many times we want to ask “where is God?” Can you imagine what this world would be like if there was not a good involved in this world? To think that God is not involved is to believe that this is as bad as the world could be. But this would be a far darker world if God had completely abandoned His creation.
  2. David is also praising God in hope. We need to remember that God is so good to us. It is shameful that we can be so focused upon the few things that do not go our way and forget the goodness that God has shown toward us on a daily basis every year of our lives.
  3. Finally, David will praise God in the presence of all the saints. The righteous do not keep their faith hidden from others. He will praise God in the presence of all. This praising of God is not just simply giving thanks and singing songs. This is a picture of the righteous explaining to others the goodness of God in our lives. We need to tell each other about God’s goodness toward us. This will encourage one another to continue trusting in God’s unfailing love. (NIV)
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