Like a Green Olive Tree (Psalm 52)
Like a Green Olive Tree
The founder and CEO of a company called effy wrote an article posted on the website Linkedin, titled, “Why water cooler conversations are more important than you think.”
He offers two reasons for that: Talking about non-work related issues at the water cooler helps build company culture. It creates bonding with helps with team-building. Secondly, it allows informal and face to face chats with management. That helps build an atmosphere of open and honest communication. Connections with others are vital to our growth as human beings.
This is all fine and good — until the “water cooler talk” turns into gossip, backbiting, backstabbing, and so forth. Perhaps you’ve been the victim of that type of talk. Sometimes the talk is true, but not necessary to share. Other times, the talk simply is not true at all. And you get the arrows of malicious talk thrust into your heart - it might impact your work, it might impact your pay, but it hurts your heart more than anything else.
David was fleeing from King Saul. David found himself in the village of Nob, speaking to Ahimelech, the priest. Ahimelech does not know about the bad relationship between David and Saul (which is not David’s fault, of course) and Ahimelech asks David why he is basically traveling by himself. David lies to the priest and says that he is on a secret mission for King Saul. At that point, all Ahimelech did for David was give him bread to eat.
But, there was also there a servant of King Saul, the chief of King Saul’s shepherds, from the nation of Edom, by the name of Doeg. David asked Ahimelech if there was a weapon there that would be available for David and Ahimelech said that Goliath’s sword had found its way there at Nob. David asked for that sword, which Ahimelech gave to him. Then, David fled from Nob and found refuge among the Philistines, in the village of Gath. The king of Gath was turned against David by the Philistines and David had to flee again, this time to the cave of Adullam. There, David’s family came to visit him.
Then David went to Mizpah, to the king of Moab and asked if his parents could stay there. Remember, David’s great-grandmother, Ruth, was from Moab. After that, David fled to the forest of Hereth. This whole story is told in 1 Samuel 21 and 22.
In the meantime, King Saul is lamenting the fact that he can’t catch David and he is berating his servants for allowing David to continue to escape. But Doeg, the Edomite, the chief of Saul’s shepherds, was there and he told King Saul that he saw David at Nob, with Ahimelech. Doeg told Saul that Ahimelech gave food to David and the sword of Goliath. So, King Saul sent to call Ahimelech and his household, the priests from Nob. They all came to King Saul. King Saul asked Ahimelech why he was helping David!? Saul accused Ahimelech of helping David rise up in rebellion against Saul.
Ahimelech, of course, is completely innocent; he is ignorant of all of this. In fact, Ahimelech told King Saul that nobody was more faithful to King Saul than David was. That was true. David did all he could to serve King Saul in sincerity and truth. Then Ahimelech tried to prove his innocence in the whole affair. But King Saul sentenced Ahimelech to death. King Saul commanded his servants to king Ahimelech but they would not do that. However, this infamous Doeg, the Edomite, who did not respect the role of priests in the religion of God, turned against the priests of God and killed them with the sword. He killed not just Ahimelech but a total of 85 priests - all innocent of any rebellion against King Saul!
You may not have a person in your life with the violence tendencies of a Doeg, but you may have someone in your life who is willing to turn their back on you like Doeg did with David.
Once this happened, David felt badly about it, feeling responsible for what had happened. Then he sat down and wrote this psalm where he contrasted the wickedness of Doeg and so many others like him, and the need to keep the faith in Jehovah God and His love and lovingkindness. If you are the subject of water cooler talk, take courage from these thoughts from David in psalm 52.
THE EXISTENCE OF EVIL - 52:1-4:
Verse 1 - There are those who “boast in evil.” “Boast” here means to “praise.” Instead of praising God, they praise evil!
In contrast, the “lovingkindness of God” endures all day long. There are plenty of people today who think they are big shots. God looks at them as pipsqueaks. David saw himself as a “pipsqueak,” but God saw him as the future king of Israel and the prototype of the coming Messiah.
We should be careful and always be humble toward God and allow God to work in the way that He knows is best. The wise man wrote: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles” (Prov. 24:17).
Verse 2 - (These verbs are plural, showing that David is confronting a group of evil men, not just one.) The tongue of evil devises destruction, like a sharp razor. Observe that specifically, the evil is guilty of “deceit.” Think of a razor - it moves quietly, smoothly, but cutting deeply.
James warns how wicked and destructive the tongue can be: James 3:6, 8.
Verse 3 - This individual loves evil more than good. Here, the “evil” is “falsehood” or lying, as opposed to “speaking right.”
We need to recognize that the devil is the “father of lies:” “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
aa Verse 4 - This wicked person loves “words that devour.” That is a graphic way of describing these words that are destructive. David mentions again the “deceitful tongue.”
The wise man warned against the destructive nature of the tongue, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit” (Prov. 18:21).
Doeg told the truth about David, but he did it with malicious intent.
SECURITY IS FOUND IN GOD - 52:5:
Verse 5 - David states that God will break the evil down “forever.”
God will snatch them up.
God will tear them away from their tent (their dwelling place).
God will uproot them from the land of the living.
We need to remember that God is good and He is fair and He is just. He will not allow a single act of wickedness to go unpunished. Paul wrote: “will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation” (Rom. 2:6-8).
THE IMPACT ON OTHERS - 52:6-7:
Verse 6 - The righteous will see the destruction of the wicked and fear.
The righteous will laugh at the wicked… This is not a vindictive laugh or a malicious laugh; it is of joy, of relief, at divine justice.
God said in Deuteronomy 32:35: “‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’”
Verse 7 - The righteous will say, ‘Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge.
“Behold, the man who trusted in the abundance of his riches
Behold, the man who was strong in his evil desire.”
THE IMPACT ON DAVID - 52:8-9:
Verse 8 - David considers himself and says, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.” A “green olive tree” is the picture of stability, of fruitfulness, of growth, of beauty, of prosperity. This particular “olive tree,” observe, is in the “house of God.” That is, David is in worship. When David gets criticized or attacked, invariably, he goes to worship. He did not flee worship when it became inconvenient. To David, life was inconvenient when it stopped him from worshipping. David compared himself to a tree also in Psalm 1:3.
“I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.”
The olive tree is an evergreen that can bear fruit for centuries, usually in alternating years. Of course the olive tree was crucial to the Palestinian economy. It grows well in the Mediterranean climate and needs 7 months of sunshine and heat. However, frost can help its productivity. The olive was used for food and oil was used for cooking. The oil was used for medicine and hygiene as well as for cosmetic purposes. Rachel and I had a friend in Alabama who was a secretary and she used olive oil as a hand moisturizer. The oil was used for lamps and in worship. Palestine exported olive oil as well.
Verse 9 - “I will give thanks forever, because You have done it.
“I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.” Here’s another reference to worship, gathering together to sing praises to God, The word translated “godly ones” is related to the word “lovingkindness.” These are the ones who are faithful to the God of heaven. John writes in 1 John 4:4: “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.”
Truly, the “last laugh” belongs to God’s people.
I want to end with some thoughts from the apostle Peter, thoughts which have some similarity with this psalm: 1 Peter 4:1-6: “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. For the gospel has for this purpose been preached even to those who are dead, that though they are judged in the flesh as men, they may live in the spirit according to the will of God.”
Take home message: In the midst of slander and gossip, stay faithful to God. He’ll punish the wicked and bless the faithful.