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Psalms 52-55 are four maskil- or instruction-psalms, instructions of David where the two great sins of Israel are expounded. One of them is adultery against God because the people ally themselves with the antichrist.
In these four psalms the antichrist is prophetically painted. He is the man of sin, the man who will be the false king of Israel, the man who will come in his own name, who will declare himself to be God and be accepted by the people of Israel (2Thes 2:3b-4; Jn 5:43). This false king, along with the unbelieving part of the people, will persecute the weak believing remnant, causing them to seek refuge in the mountains east of Israel, abroad.
The time that then comes is what the Lord Jesus calls “a great tribulation” (Mt 24:21; cf. Dan 12:1). This time will begin with the placing of “the abomination of desolation” in the temple (Mt 24:15; Dan 9:27b). The abomination, or idolatry, is a man declaring himself to be God (2Thes 2:4). This is the full measure of the sin of Israel and of mankind.
When that time comes, the time has also come for the LORD to intervene and destroy Israel. But first the faithful remnant is brought to safety from judgment in a place where they will be purified.
The first psalm of this mini-series of maskil-psalms, Psalm 52, is a great contrast to the previous one. In Psalm 51, we hear someone turning to God with repentance for his sin and being completely broken. In Psalm 52 it is about the power and depravity of someone who boasts in evil. That wicked, prideful person is a picture of the antichrist.
With the wickedness in which this wicked person expresses himself, faithful believers in all times have to deal. The believer is always surrounded by people who behave in this way. In this psalm we see the expressions of the violent person and how faith responds to them.
The Downfall of the Mighty Man
For “for the choir director” (Psa 52:1a) see at Psalm 4:1.
The psalm is “a Maskil of David”. It is one of the thirteen maskil-psalms. Maskil means ‘teaching’ or ‘instruction’. The instruction here is about the fulfillment of the principles of Psalm 1, in which the contrast is presented between Christ and the antichrist, between the faithful and the wicked, between a David and a Doeg (Psa 1:1-6). For “a maskil” or “an instruction”, see further at Psalm 32:1-2.
What is said here of Doeg is described in the first book of Samuel (1Sam 21:1-8; 1Sam 22:6-23). There we read that Doeg is the supervisor, the chief shepherd of Saul’s shepherds. Doeg is therefore a type of the antichrist, the false shepherd of Israel. He is “the worthless shepherd who leaves the flock” (Zec 11:17a). He stands in sharp contrast to David, who is a type of the Son of David, Who is “the good Shepherd”, “the great Shepherd”, and “the Chief Shepherd”, Who gives His life for His sheep (Jn 10:11; 14; 15b; Heb 13:20; 1Pet 5:4).
The psalm dates from the time when David was fleeing from Saul. The maskil or instruction is made by David in response to the treachery of Doeg, who informs Saul of David’s visit to Ahimelech (1Sam 22:9). Thereupon Saul orders Doeg to kill the priests because they are on the hand of David. Doeg carries out that order with devilish delight (1Sam 22:18-19). When David hears about it, he takes the blame for the massacre and offers protection to Ahimelech (1Sam 22:20-23).
Because David is a prophet (cf. Acts 2:30), he, inspired by the Holy Spirit, not only wrote about an event in the past, but did so with the future in mind. In the history with Doeg, the facts are stated in a way, that the final fulfillment takes place only in the person of the antichrist. For example, it says in Psa 52:3 that this person, who is clearly a picture of the antichrist, is a liar, while of Doeg no lie is mentioned (cf. Dan 11:32).
Doeg is called “the Edomite”. This means that he is a descendant of Esau, who is called a “godless person” (Heb 12:16). The Edomites are indeed the bitterest enemies of God’s people and of God Himself. Doeg is a clear example of this. He is, like another Edomite, Herod (Acts 12:21-23), pre-eminently a type of the antichrist.
After what has happened has penetrated deeply to David, he expresses his thoughts and feelings about it as an instruction for the whole people in this psalm. Doeg is a violent man who is favored by King Saul. David looks at this murderer in the light of God. In this way we must also learn to see the violence of people who love evil and still seem to succeed in life. That is why this instruction is also “for the choir director”.
David begins his psalm not by addressing God, what is usual, but by addressing the “mighty man”, in which there is an undertone of sarcasm (Psa 52:1b). Mighty man is literally ‘strong hero’. This is fully true of the antichrist (Rev 13:11-18). The translation “mighty man” is based on the fact that Doeg carried out a slaughter among the priests (1Sam 22:18). That was not enough for him. He went beyond the king’s order and wiped out the entire city of Nob, women, children and livestock (1Sam 22:19).
David opens his words to this violent man with a question. In that question, indignation at the depravity of that man and also astonishment at his foolishness resound. It is bad enough that he does evil, but it is even worse that he boasts of it. He boasts that he exerts so much influence through his evil deeds. To himself, these are not evil deeds. He takes pleasure in his deeds.
The mighty man boasts of the evil that he does to the godly ones of God. To boast means: he takes pleasure in it. It also means that in his heart he says: “I will not be moved; throughout the generations I will not be in adversity” (Psa 10:6).
Faith responds to this by referring to “God’s lovingkindness”. Evil may assert itself for some time, but then it is over. God’s lovingkindness echoes throughout the day. There is not a moment when God is not kind. Here it is about chesed, the faithfulness of God by virtue of the covenant.
For us it is the faithfulness of God on the basis of the blood of the new covenant. This will also be true for the faithful remnant in the future. On the basis of this covenant, God can grant His blessings, His lovingkindness. This is what the believer holds on to, and through this he stands firm against the evil and wicked one. The awareness of the lovingkindness of God is the best protection against evil.
The evil of the mighty man is primarily in his tongue (Psa 52:2). His tongue is seen here as a ‘destructive tongue’, an instrument by which he does not primarily speak harmful things, but devises harmful things. This indicates that he deliberately chooses his words to cause as much harm as possible. His tongue is “like a sharp razor” that works “deceit” (cf. Psa 55:21; Isa 7:20; Dan 11:32; Jam 3:6). He cuts people down with what he says. His words work like thrusts of a sword (Pro 12:18a).
There is not a shred of truth in what he says, even when he says things that are true. When Doeg tells Saul that he saw David with Ahimelech, it is true (1Sam 21:6-9; 1Sam 22:9-10). But the motives behind his words, make all his words ‘devouring words’. His tongue speaks words that are true, for he says what he has seen, but he does so with a ‘tongue like a sharp razor’ that works deceitfully.
What it really is about here is not falsehood in general, but the big lie with regard to God. What the antichrist says is in the greatest possible contrast to Christ. Christ speaks only truth about God, without any lies. The antichrist speaks only lie about God, without any truth: “That king will act according to his own will. He will exalt himself and will exalt himself above every god. He will speak wondrous things against the God of gods” (Dan 11:36). The antichrist is “the man of lawlessness …, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God“ (2Thes 2:3b-4).
He has an obsessive love of evil over good (Psa 52:3; cf. Mic 3:2a). He prefers lies “to speaking what is right”. It is not even a little white lie, but the persistent and consistent speaking of lies. The man is a chip off the old block, for his father is the devil in whom is no truth. “Whenever he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies” (Jn 8:44b).
This is true for many unbelievers, including the scribes to whom the Lord Jesus says this in John 8. However, this is especially and above all true for the antichrist, the beast from the earth, of whom John writes that it speaks as a dragon, as the devil himself (Rev 13:11). And then a selah follows in the psalm, for this is what the wise, the maskilim, must consider carefully.
The mighty man loves “all words that devour” (Psa 52:4; Psa 10:7). He loves to say things that devour other people and plunge them into misfortune. Words can ‘devour’ someone’s reputation. Devouring words work devastation and decay. Directly related to this is a “deceitful tongue”. Everything that comes over his tongue is all deceit because the source is totally corrupt.
It is not primarily about the quantity of his deceit, the amount of lies, but about its quality, the content or origin of the lie. It is not primarily about lying about anything and everything, but that he is a liar about the great truth about God: He denies the Creator-God, the Elohim. This will be worked out later in Psalm 53. The spirit of the antichrist can already be seen in the evolutionists, who deny God the Creator.
When David is finished with his description of the mighty man, he presents him with the judgment that God will bring on him (Psa 52:5). David describes this judgment in various pictures, all of which mean that he will be completely wiped out. God will “break” him “down forever”, which refers to his dwelling place. It will be an eternal mess, without any possibility of rebuilding.
God will “snatch” him “up and tear” him “away” from his tent in which he has been living. To snatch here is to grasp a fiery coal that is hurled away as quickly as possible so as not to burn oneself on it. With this speed, God snatches him up from the tent, that is, from all that is dear to him (cf. Mal 2:12).
Just as Doeg uprooted Ahimelech and the priests of Nob, God will “uproot” him “from the land of the living”. Uprooted means that Doeg has not only wiped out the priests, but has wiped out the entire city, women and children included, meaning that there will never be any descendants.
Uprooting is also a sudden, violent act. Like a tree he will be uprooted, so that he will not ever sprout and blossom again. All connection with life will be cut off. He will be eternally in the realm of death, where nothing of his deceitful words, thoughts, and actions will remain. As for the end of Doeg, we know little. He is now in the realm of the dead. Of the antichrist we do know how and where he ends. He will be thrown, without having been in the realm of the dead, directly into the lake of fire (Rev 19:20). In type we find this with Herod in Acts 12, where God Himself intervenes at the moment the measure of sin is full (Acts 12:21-23).
The Mockery of the Righteous
Those who fear God, “the righteous”, will live to see the day of judgment on the wicked (Psa 52:6). They will see God’s judgment on this man. This will fill them with awe; it will greatly impress them. They will also be filled with holy mockery (cf. Psa 2:4). They will laugh at him, not out of gloating, but out of joy that God has exercised His righteous judgment and thus fulfilled His promise of judgment on evil. At the same time, this is also their deliverance. It is not an amused laughter, but a joyful laughter because the power of the mighty man is over and done with.
They point the finger at “the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches” (Psa 52:7). Not making God his refuge means that God is not his fortress, that he has not sought his safety and protection from Him. Whoever gives up God is given up by God. Everything on which he has relied will be to no avail when God judges him (cf. Psa 49:6-8).
His arrogance and self-confidence have led him to harmful actions. By what he has ‘earned’ in doing so, he has become strong. Everything served to enhance his own independence and importance. He did not need God. With a deeply ingrained malice he harmed others and inflicted damage to the benefit of himself. With this ‘testimony’ the description of this arch villain ends.
What the Righteous Shall Be and Do
The first words of Psa 52:8, “but as for me”, indicate that what now follows is the tremendous contrast between David and the mighty man. David compares himself to “a green olive tree in the house of God”. He can say this without any of fame of his own and in spite of all the bragging of the mighty man. What he says here is in great contrast to the mighty man who is torn away from his tent (Psa 52:5).
Green means that the foliage of the tree does not wither. This is because this tree is planted by streams of water. This applies to the faithful remnant in the future. Throughout the great tribulation they have always put their trust in God, the source of refreshment and life.
Prophetically, the “olive tree” of Israel speaks in connection with the blessings of the covenant with God (lovingkindness = covenant faithfulness). We find this worked out in Romans 11. For a time they – Israel, the natural branches – are broken off from the cultivated olive tree. But soon, when the wild olive branches – the professing Christianity – are removed, they will be grafted back onto their own olive tree (Rom 11:23-29).
David is constantly in the house of God, that is, in God’s presence, while the mighty man will be outside God’s presence eternally. In contrast to the mighty man who has relied on his great wealth, David trusts in “the lovingkindness of God”, God’s chesed, God’s faithfulness to His covenant and His action on that basis. He does this not once when it seems to be necessary and useful, but “forever and ever”.
We can apply the comparison of the green olive tree in the house of God to the New Testament believer who is led by the Holy Spirit in the church. Green means that there is an outward witness of the Spirit’s power. We see this in believers who show the fruit of the Spirit in their lives (Gal 5:22-23).
There is one more thing that David will do forever and that is to give thanks to God (Psa 52:9). Here David is addressing God directly. His reason for giving thanks to God is found in what God has done. He has punished the mighty man and all his followers and has cleansed His own from all blame and blessed them.
David will wait on God’s “name”, by which he says that he looks forward to the revelation of God’s features and actions. Therein is his hope, for he knows that that name is good for God’s godly ones, for all who are in God’s favor. All who are in God’s favor, both Old Testament and New Testament believers, can testify to that. They will know the Name that is above all names and will worship Him as their Lord and their God.
When we testify to the lovingkindness of God’s Name, we know that many other believers can also testify to that. He has many names. Each name reveals an attribute. We have come to know many names or features of Him in our lives. For each name or attribute we can give thanks to Him and praise Him with all who have also come to know Him that way.
Thus, prophetically speaking, in this psalm we find instruction from the maskilim about the man of sin and instruction about the salvation of God for the remnant who will worship God when this man of sin is broken and uprooted.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 52". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19