God’s goodness, grace, and love can often be forgotten. How would our lives be if we remembered continuously God’s steadfast love? In this message on Psalm 52, Jim Shaddix encourages Christians to live differently in light of God’s character. He breaks down three sections of the Psalm.
- The Rejection of God’s Steadfast Love
- The Vindication of God’s Steadfast Love
- The Application of God’s Steadfast Love
So if you’ll find Psalm 52 in your Bible, let’s worship the Lord by studying it together. Psalm 52. Let me read this Psalm as you follow along in your copy of God’s Word.
Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day. Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit. You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right. You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. But God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. The righteous shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, “See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!” But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever. I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.
My faith is so helped, is so strengthened, when I meet families who have adopted children. And this congregation is full of them. Many of you have been on that journey. And I’m so encouraged when I talk to children who are navigating life, having been adopted with all of the challenges that go along with that. And I’m helped in my walk with our Lord when I encounter women and families who have courageously chosen to place children for adoption rather than to have abortion.
And I want to tell you why that helps me, why it strengthens my faith. One of the biggest reasons is because adoption is such an incredibly clear picture of what God has done for us. I’m confident that in those journeys there is a mixed bag for both parents and children of feeling sometimes of abandonment and being alone and being afraid and anxious and having anxiety about the future and all of those things. And yet in adoption, in that whole journey, we see such a clear picture of how God speaks into all of those feelings and He draws us to Himself and takes us into His family. No doubt adoption is a clear, clear picture of the gospel.
And I think when we have the same thing in Psalm 52, when we understand the words that we read just a moment ago against the backdrop of the story out of which this Psalm grew. The story is actually found in 1 Samuel 21 and 22. If you were here last week, Pastor David introduced us to it when he was talking about the background of Psalm 56. It’s the same story. And if we were to go there this morning, what we would find is David in one of his darkest moments, in one of his most bitter experiences. He’s running for his life from King Saul, the current king of Israel.
And at one point he ducks in to see the priest named Ahimelech, to ask for some provisions and for a sword. And when Saul finds out about it, he orders Ahimelech and all of his family and his entire community to be massacred. More than 80 people were killed that day because Ahimelech helped David out.
One of Ahimelech’s sons, Abiathar, was fortunate somehow to escape the massacre. And when David found out about that, he offered to this orphaned, if you will, and defenseless son this generous and gracious invitation. I want to read it to you from the end of 1 Samuel 22. This is what David said. “Stay with me; do not be afraid, for he who seeks my life seeks your life. With me you shall be in safekeeping.” (1 Samuel 22:23)
What Is this Psalm About?
And in Psalm 52, I think David unpacks that generous offer, that generous invitation for us. Now, in order to understand it rightly, it’s important for us to identify two themes that run through this passage, that really prop this Psalm up and help us to understand what this Psalm is about. One of those is this Psalm is about God’s character. I want you to see it.
The phrase “the steadfast love of God” bookends this Psalm, in verse one and then also in verse eight. Steadfast love is loving-kindness. It might be translated that way in some of your translations. And this is a love that is a loyal and faithful love, and it describes the character of God. This is how He loves us. He loves us with a love that never cops out, it never caves in, it never breaks down, it never lets up—it just keeps going. It never shrinks back. This is the love of God. It is a love—listen to me now, come in here real close—that can be trusted. It can be trusted. This is a Psalm about God’s character.
But it’s also a Psalm about our choice. We can either accept that steadfast love of God or we can reject it. The rejection of the steadfast love of God is exemplified in the guy who’s described in verse seven. Just glance down there at it. “See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches.” Here is a picture of somebody who rejects the steadfast love of God. Accepting the steadfast love of God is found in the psalmist, the author of this Psalm. You see his personal confession in the middle of verse eight: “I trust in the steadfast love of God,” he says. There are the two options. There are the two choices.
And listen. When we look at those two options in light of these two themes in this Psalm against the backdrop of the story that I told you just a moment ago, what we find in this Psalm is a gracious offer, a gracious invitation, to all spiritual orphans. And that’s all of us. All spiritual orphans, to give ourselves to the gracious invitation of a heavenly Father who promises to love us steadfastly, to adopt us compassionately and to stay with us permanently.
Very simply, we have a choice to accept the steadfast love of God and all of the security that comes with it and the glorious benefits that last forever and ever and ever, or to reject the steadfast love of God, to trust in ourselves, which only lasts for a very brief time and brings with it grave, grave consequences.
How Is Psalm 52 Developed?
So David develops these themes, these choices, in three major segments in this Psalm. So this is what I want you to listen for. He develops the rejection of God’s steadfast love, he develops the vindication of God’s steadfast love, and then he develops the application of God’s steadfast love. We’ll take them one at a time.
The Rejection of God’s Steadfast Love
Let’s start with the rejection of God’s steadfast love. Now, the informant and the executioner on that day of King Saul’s massacre was an Edomite named Doeg. And David takes Doeg, that murderous snitch, as his case study in verses one through four, as someone who rejects the steadfast love of God. And what we see here is an example of what it means to do that, and what it looks like to do that.
David starts out by calling him out in verse one: “Why do you boast of evil?” And then immediately, he puts the superior alternative on the table. “The steadfast love of God endures all the day.” When we look at the meaning of “steadfast love” that we described just a moment ago, and we look at the context of this Psalm, what we understand is that the phrase “endures all day” is just metaphorical for eternity. It goes on forever and ever.
And consequently, what David does here is he asks a question that reflects the foolishness of someone who would choose evil in this brief life when they could have had the steadfast love of God forever and ever and ever. And then he shows us how this is manifest in Doeg’s life. You look at the words that are used here. “O mighty man,” he calls him. Sarcastic term, as if Doeg earned this term in his exploits and in butchering.
And if you go back to 1 Samuel 21 and 22, what you’ll discover at the beginning of 1 Samuel 21 is that Doeg in fact was the modest shepherd of Saul’s sheep. But by the end of 1 Samuel 22, when this massacre is over and Doeg has done all of this, he becomes the mighty executioner of Saul’s enemies. And listen, no doubt he was very, very proud. He was very, very proud of his loyalty to Saul and his obedience to carry out his diabolical plots.
Because these verses right here indicate to us that he was quite accustomed to tooting his own horn and exalting himself and calling attention to all that he had done. Notice the words that are used right here. You have the word “tongue” used in verse two and verse four. You have the word “lying” and the word “speaking” in verse three. You’ve got the term “words” in verse four. All of which simply serve as the oral vehicles of the manifestation of the wickedness of Doeg’s heart.
Every time he opened his mouth, he was talking about—in verse one—evil boastings. He was talking about destructive plots in verse two, and lacerating and cutting deceit in verse two. He preferred evil over good in verse three, and he preferred lying over telling the truth in verse four. The motives of his heart were for deceit and were for destruction. All of these things picture an individual who is separated from the steadfast love of God.
Now, before we throw too many stones, we need to stop right there and realize something and that is that when you look at this, what you have here really is a picture of all of mankind. David’s talking about Doeg here and he paints this vivid imagery of his wickedness. But the reality is when we look at all of Scripture, what we find is this is just a pretty good description of each and every one of us—even though there’s probably not anybody in this room that’s murdered 85 people.
In fact, Jesus, in the New Testament, Matthew 12, said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) And then in Matthew 15, He kind of expounds on that, when He’s talking about the fact that it’s not what’s on the outside that defiles a person, you know, what they do with washing their hands or not washing the hands. This is in one of His rebukes of the Pharisees and their worship of religion. And Matthew 15:18, Jesus says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart,” and listen to this, “come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.”
Jesus says, “This is what makes a person separate from God.” And while probably not any of us would look at everything on that list right there and say, “I’ve done that,” we could look at this list and every single one of us find something. And the truth of the Word of God, the truth of the lips of our Savior, is that ultimately our lips—the things that we say—give evidence to the condition of our heart. And that’s what we have here in Psalm 52, as a picture of a guy that that’s exactly what characterized his heart. Listen, while Doeg is David’s case study here, he’s a case study for every man, woman, boy and girl that is separated from, is outside, the steadfast love of God. So there’s the rejection of God’s steadfast love and a picture of it.
The Vindication of God’s Steadfast Love in Psalm 52
Look at the vindication of God’s steadfast love. You see, here’s the deal, beginning in verse five. God is characterized by steadfast love, no doubt. But He is also characterized by justice. And justice will not allow something as good as His steadfast love to be trampled forever.
And so, beginning in verse five, David the psalmist announces that Doeg’s self-exaltation will not last very long. It will be short-lived, relatively speaking. It’ll be limited to this life, but won’t go any further. And this is evident again in that summary statement in verse seven, when we see Doeg is described as an individual—notice the words here—“who would not make God his refuge.” Note that word: His safety, his security. But he trusted in himself, the psalmist said, his own possessions, his own position, his own power. He did all of that instead of making God, look at it, “his refuge.” He sought refuge in himself.
And then you begin to see all the ways that God describes His judgment: His vindication on Himself, His vindication of His steadfast love and His vindication—listen to me church—of all of His children who have embraced His steadfast love. Notice the descriptions here. They’re just some forceful words that just bring this to life. He describes this judgment as first of all being violent. Did you notice the words? Look at the descriptors there. Verse five, He’ll break you down. He’ll tear you—rip you—from your tent. He will uproot you from the land of the living.
Not only will God’s vindication, His judgment, be violent, but it’ll be permanent. Look at it there at the beginning of verse five. He’ll break you down—for how long? Temporarily? It’ll be real quick? No. Forever, he says. It’s going to be violent, it’s going to be permanent, and it’s going to be swift and unexpected. Did you see the word “snatch” there in verse five? Just kind of grabbed away from you. You weren’t looking for it. It came when you weren’t expecting, when you were least expecting it.
And ultimately all of this leads to eternal death. Notice the description at the end of verse five. He’ll “uproot you from the land of the living.” And so God very clearly in this Psalm says that He’ll not allow His steadfast love to be trampled underfoot, to be rejected, to be shunned forever. He’ll vindicate it.
And by the way, can I just remind you—those of you that are somewhat familiar with your Bibles know this—you go to just about any description of the coming judgment of God, descriptions in the Old Testament, descriptions in the New Testament, even off of the lips of our Lord, and they sound really familiar with this. Violent and permanent and swift and unexpected, leading ultimately to eternal death.
I would just pause to make a plea to those of you that are without Christ today, who may have stumbled in here, come at the invitation of a friend or shown up to just visit your mom today—who find yourself characterized more by verses one through four, and somebody who said “no” to the steadfast love of God because you have exalted yourself and because you are depending upon your bank account and your position and your power and your capacities for your security in this life, and if there is a next life, in the next life as well. I would appeal to you to hear this Word of God today. This is the judgment of God, and He will vindicate the rejection of His steadfast love as our security.
But maybe worst of all about this judgment, maybe worst of all about God’s vindication of His steadfast love and of His children and of His graciousness, of Himself, will be the reality of those being judged having to listen to the celebrative worship of the righteous on this day. It’s described here in verse six. Look down at your Bible at it. It’s described as being characterized by awe. Do you see in verse six? “The righteous shall see and fear.” And not only by awe, but by joy. “They shall laugh at him,” it says.
Now let’s just be honest. For those of us who read this on this side of the cross, that seems a little bit strange. In fact, that description seems, you know, to contradict what we know of in the Christian ethic because it seems to champion somewhat of a rubbing victory in the face of those who are being judged. And after all, the New Testament is replete with commands for us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Jesus said it in Matthew 5. Paul said in Romans 12. Peter said it in 1 Peter 3.
So whatever it is this poetic imagery is intended to convey, it is not compelling us, beloved, to adopt an attitude, a motive of malicious contempt and vindictive contempt. It’s not taking us there. So where is it taking us? What do we make of this laughter on the coming Day of God’s judgment? Well, we probably cannot exhaust what this text is saying, but let me tell you two things. I want to encourage you with them and I hope they’ll help us to understand. This is a theme, by the way, which shows up—and it shows up numerous times—in Psalms.
I think here’s what we need to know. On that Day of judgment, the forgiveness of sin will inspire greater worship. The forgiveness of sin will inspire greater worship than even we are able and capable of offering right now. Think about it. Have you ever thought about the fact that the forgiveness of sin is something that we really are just only able to experience by faith right now? Not by sight. We understand it as a theological concept, as a biblical revelation. We have been forgiven of our sins because of Christ and we know it because we put our heads on our pillow at night and we know that there is a clean conscience, not based upon our own merit but on the merit of what God has done in Jesus Christ. We know that, but we know it by faith.
But do you understand, on the coming Day of God’s judgment, when we know our forgiveness, we see our forgiveness, and contrasted with the judgment of the unforgiven, and we fully and finally realize that we have escaped the judgment of God — Beloved, you’d better be sure, it is going to prompt outbursts of worship and praise and laughter like this one right here. What a glorious Day that will be, when we see that contrast, not just by faith but by sight we see it then.
This is that moment, that moment when it becomes real, when it becomes real that we’ve escaped the consequence. We’ve escaped the judgment of God, and the forgiveness of sin is brought to a new height that vaults us and launches us to a new height of expression of joy that’s difficult for us to imagine right now.
And secondly, forgiveness of sin inspires greater worship on that Day. On that Day, listen, the judgment of sin will involve greater consequence. Now, let’s just be honest. You don’t see that—right?—in our day and time. I mean, all we see is the unrighteous being exalted and the righteous seem to get kicked in the teeth. Right?
Did you read that story about those twin brothers this week that got their TV show cancelled on HGTV—a TV show that was going to be about fixing up houses and giving them to people who were in need, and they cancelled them because they found out about their Christian faith, which involves their conviction that marriage is to be between a man and a woman. So they cancelled the show. Cancelled a show that was going to help people like this. And I look at that and I think, that’s all we see. It seems like that’s all we get today is the righteous getting kicked in the teeth.
But yet when you come to this description right here, we’re reminded of this. We’re reminded that the judgment of God and the coming Day of His justice, of His vindication, is going to be so awful, it will be so horrible. By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the only way that the psalmist could describe it was to contrast it against the hyperbolic language of the laughter of the righteous, in much the same way that Jesus contrasted following Him with hating one’s father and mother.
He wanted us to understand the depths and the heights and the realities and the glory and the grandeur and the commitment and the surrender that was involved in being one of His disciples. So He said, “If I’m going to press that home, I’m going to have to go to the other extreme and find something over here to contrast it with,” and He took hating one’s father, mother, sister, brother and He put those two up against one another.
Here in Psalm 52, we have the psalmist, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, saying, “How do we emphasize the vindication of God on His steadfast love? How do we underscore it? How do we describe it adequately? How do we communicate its intensity?” Let’s go to the other extreme and let’s take the laughter of the righteous and let’s put these two in contrast and maybe that will help us to understand how horrible the vindication of God’s steadfast love actually will be.
And if you stop and think about it, added to that, added to these greater consequences in that coming Day of judgment, is that the righteous and the unrighteous just completely switch places here, don’t they? I mean, think about it. This guy’s life was characterized by self-exaltation, putting himself above everybody, “Look what I’ve done,” at the suppression of everyone around him that he had to step out on.
And all of a sudden you come to this picture here and you’ve got a complete role reversal. And you have now the righteous looking down on the unrighteous, and saying, “Oh. We escaped that. We escaped that. It’s so horrible. It’s so real. It’s so literal. We escaped that!” And that is characteristic of eternal judgment—a reversal of roles.
Remember the story Jesus told in Luke 16? Flip over there real quick. Many of you are familiar with it. Luke 16, the story of the rich man and Lazarus. I’m not going to read the whole story, many of you know it. It’s the story about the conversation between heaven and hell. In verse 19 of Luke 16, the Scripture says, “There was a rich man…” And follow this, now. Think about his condition, his position, his lot in life. He was “clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.”
But on the other hand, “at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores.” (Luke 16:20–21) Could you draw a starker contrast between two individuals’ lives in this life? Look at verse 22, “The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side,” a metaphor for heaven. “The rich man also died and was buried, and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’” (Luke 16:22–24)
Could you describe a role reversal, a position reversal, any better than that? You know, imagine having to think, “At one point, Lazarus, who I’m crying out to right now, was under my table, crying out for just a morsel of food to fall from my table.” The vindication of God, of His steadfast love, will be characterized by reversal of positions, no doubt.
So beloved, I would say to you today, if you find yourself in that place where you look at Christianity and you say it’s silly, you look at believers and you say they’re weak, and you applaud the culture when it pushes the righteous down, because you think that’s the way it ought to be—hear the Word of the Lord today. God will vindicate His steadfast love. He will vindicate all those who have received His steadfast love, and it will involve a total reversal of roles and positions.
The Application of God’s Steadfast Love in Psalm 52
And so there in Psalm 52 we come to the application of God’s steadfast love. We saw this in Psalm 51 in the 9:00 service, and David was preaching so much of this. Gosh, we don’t want to end there. We don’t want to camp there, and by the grace of God, neither do we have to do that in Psalm 52. Because this is where we come to see the picture of an individual who’s had the steadfast love of God applied to his life.
And it is a drastic contrast. Notice the little word “but” that introduces verse eight. That little conjunction draws a stark contrast between the man described in verses one through seven and the individual that is about to be described in verses eight and nine. Here we see David giving witness as one who’s received the steadfast love of God and now is extending that invitation on to us and to other people just as he did with the orphaned son, Abiathar.
But note this too. Listen. What we have right here is a picture of the gospel. It’s here, when we come to verses eight and nine, where we a picture of what it means to be adopted by God and to be brought into His household. We see beautiful descriptions here of what it means to have the gospel applied to your life, and not only that, listen. We see the implications of that gospel for our lives, not just in the future where we await by faith God’s vindication of all that is unrighteous and all that is unjust, His judgment on those things, but we wait by faith in a time when sometimes there’s not a whole lot to laugh about, right?
I mean, we look at verse six and we think, laugh? That hasn’t happened yet. That’s not happening right now. And so when you come to verses eight and nine, make sure—believers, listen to this, come in here real close—make sure that you understand that now the psalmist comes to a place where he describes, yes, how God has brought him into His household, but he’s doing it in such a way to identify the implications of living that out right now—even though we’ve not yet experienced verses five, six and seven. That’s still to come. This is reality; this is right where we live.
And so in the good news of God’s adoption by His steadfast love, we find the security and the nurture that comes from being a part of His family. I want you to see four descriptions of a person who’s had this steadfast love of God applied to their life.
Number one, we flourish in God’s presence. David likens himself in verse eight to an olive tree, and a green olive tree at that, one of the longest living and most resilient of all of plants—strong, deep roots that go find water; when they get knocked down, they grow back up. Historians tell us that when the Roman emperor Titus swept through Jerusalem and leveled it, his armies razed all of the olive trees in the entire region. But if you go back over there today, like many of you have done, you see that they’re flourishing. They’re all around. They grew back.
Hebrews believe the olive plant was a sign of security and well-being, and not only that, it provided food, and it provided medicine, and it provided ointment, and it provided other household necessities. So it’s no wonder that they domesticated the plant and brought it into their homes and nurtured it much like we do potted plants in our home today, that it might produce all of those things.
But notice something. Notice that this particular olive plant is not just growing in your average Hebrew household. Look at it. It says, “I am like a green olive tree in the house of God,” (Psalm 52:8) in the sacred courts, where it was sure to receive the best nurture and have the best protection and care. Nobody would mess with it there and that’s what David identifies with.
Now, it’s important for us to stop right here, to just press ‘pause’ for a moment and ask the question, “What does this look like on this side of the cross?” Well, we know in the Old Testament the “house of God” referred to the tabernacle, first, and the temple second—both of which were representations of the presence of God. This is where God dwelt.
But when we come into the New Testament, we are told that when Jesus came, God stopped dwelling in houses made by men and He started living with me, right? John 1 tells us that in the beginning was God, the Word was with God, the Word was God, and then he says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14)
And so what we have here is a picture of the nourishing presence of God, that you and I have the opportunity to be planted in as recipients of the steadfast love of God, forever and ever and ever. And so we look at the New Testament and we see what the temple represented in the New Testament. We understand that it represents God’s presence, His nourishing eternal presence that we get to benefit from. In John 2, Jesus said He was the temple.
In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul said, “You are the temple as individual believers.” I am the temple. Then, in Ephesians 2, he said, “Together in covenant community, we are the temple.” We’re being built together as a house for God. And so Jesus is in each individual believer and each individual believer is tied together with other believers in community. And in our midst, in our life together, dwells the presence of God.
And then we see this in its fullest in Revelation 22, when John in his vision of heaven says, “I didn’t see any temple in heaven because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” We see the picture of us—us—unified with the Lord Jesus Christ, with God in Christ, for all of eternity. And you look at the description there and you see us flourishing in His eternal presence. This is what it means, beloved, for us to be olive plants in the house of God. We get to be planted in His nourishing deep soil and we get to live under His security forever and ever and ever and ever.
The New Testament is replete with images about this, too, that come to mind, in particular both in John’s Gospel. In John 10, Jesus, talking about Himself being the door to the sheep and eternal life, He says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) And then in John 15, He describes being attached to Himself as the vine and says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:5) But with me, you can flourish wherever you are.” Wherever you are, whatever situation you are in, we flourish in God’s presence.
Secondly, we trust in God’s nature. In the middle of verse eight, he says, “I trust in the steadfast love of God.” To trust in something is to rest in it, it is to have confidence in it, it’s to believe in it, to have faith in it, to bank everything on it. And this stands in contrast, by the way, to Doeg and those who are outside the steadfast love of God up there in verse seven, who don’t make God their refuge but trust in the abundance of their riches and seek refuge in their own destruction.
Here the psalmist is completely reliant upon the nature of God who gives steadfast love. And notice how long that’s going to last. He says, “I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.” (Psalm 52:8) It just goes on. How could he know that? How could he be sure about that? He could be sure because of the object of his trust. The term “steadfast love” implies eternity. It doesn’t go away. It never stops. The context, as we’ve already seen, is describing this life that way.
And consequently, while Doeg’s trust was in something temporal and therefore it was transient, and his faith would peter out, the psalmist’s trust was in something eternal and would last forever and ever, even though right now it is unseen. You can’t see it with the naked eye. That is what he’s trusting in. And why would anybody want to trust in anything else, when you look at God’s nature and you look at His character from this side of the cross?
You see, the New Testament says that in these last days God has invested fully His nature in the person of Jesus Christ. It’s what we see. I quoted it just a moment ago in John 1, verse one. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Then in verse 14, “And the Word became flesh,” all of God in His nature, including His steadfast love, now invested in the Person of Jesus Christ. And when you look at the references in the New Testament—this is really interesting—when you look at the references in the New Testament to Jesus being the nature of God, they’re almost always, almost exclusively, attached to the gospel.
Let me show you some examples. Second Corinthians 4:3, “And even if our gospel is veiled,” so he’s talking about the gospel, “it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God,” he says. So in the context of the gospel, he identifies Jesus as the nature of God.
Colossians 1:19, “In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” That is the gospel. And there is the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:3–4, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” There’s the gospel and there is Jesus, the very nature, the very image of God.
Why would He do that? Because of everything related to the nature of God. The most vivid expression is found in the One who walked out of heaven and pursued you and pursued me, and incurred the wrath of God on a cruel cross on our behalf, that we might be reconciled to Him. This is the gospel, beloved—those who trust in the nature of God, who trust His steadfast love in Jesus Christ, the recipients of the gospel.
Thirdly, we give thanks for God’s grace. Beginning in verse nine, it’s pretty straightforward. “I will thank you forever, because you have done it.” Done what? Done all of this that makes it possible for someone to receive the steadfast love of God. Just think about the contrast. Look at this. Think about the contrast between the “you” statements in verses one through four, and the “I” statements in verses eight and nine. You look back up there. “You boast of evil.” “Your tongue plots destruction.” “You love evil more than good.” “You love all words.”
And then you come down to verses eight and nine, and you’ve got stuff like, “I’m a green olive tree in your house.” “I trust in your steadfast love.” “I thank you forever.” “I’ll wait for your name.” What makes the difference? I’ll tell you what makes the difference. It is the “but God” statement in verse five and what follows. Did you see it in there? “But God.” You’ve got Doeg, you’ve got a description of his wickedness and how it’s overflowing and spewing out of his mouth. It’s all about self-exaltation.
But then down here you’ve got this man who’s resting, who’s living in all of what God is and all of what He has done. And what makes the difference is God intervenes in this situation. God steps in and He assures us of His steadfast love. He promises us that He’s going to vindicate His steadfast love in us and He promises to be with us forever.
And this is the picture that we have here in Psalm 52 of the grace of God. And we find in Psalm 52—we see it even in heightened fashion in the New Testament. It’s the same passage I read a moment ago in John 1, verse 14. Remember what John said? He said, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,” watch this: “full of grace and truth.” And then in verse 16, he says, “From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”
Psalm 52 Illustrates the Power of God’s grace
Jesus is God’s grace on steroids. On steroids. And that phrase, “grace and truth”—we studied this a couple months ago—is equivalent to the Old Testament phrase “loving-kindness and truth,” both of which reflect the grace of God that we see here in Psalm 52. If we see it here in Psalm 52 and throughout all of the New Testament, we see it for sure in the Person of Jesus Christ.
And our response is the same: If it merited in the Old Testament the longest and loudest of thanksgiving, it merits that in the New Testament. If all of the grace of God is invested in the Person of Jesus Christ, then all of our thanksgiving must be rooted in the grace of Jesus Christ as well. And you know what that means? It needs to permeate everything that we do. Everything we do.
I’ve been convicted about this recently. I’ve had to make a distinction between being a thankful person and a person who gives thanks. I think I’m a thankful person but I don’t think I give thanks very often. I live with a sense of thankfulness for God’s grace, but I don’t know how often I give thanks to God in front of other people, other than in the songs that we sing. I’m a thankful person but I don’t give thanks very often.
And it has to raise the question: Am I really a thankful person? Does it permeate my conversation with you, with my wife, with our staff, with people I encounter? Am I calling attention to this grace of God? Am I expressing how grateful I am for it? So I love what the Apostle Paul said in Colossians 3. Just count the number of times he mentions being thankful.
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” This short sentence. There’s number one. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs….” How? “With thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks,” there’s number three, “to God the Father through him.”
Paul says this is just natural. This permeates everything you do. It ought to permeate our conversation—our hallway conversation, our small group ministry, our sermons, our songs—everything we do, giving thanks to God. Why? Because He has shed His grace on us in Jesus Christ.
Finally, we live differently because of God’s goodness. There is some disagreement over what the psalmist is saying in the first part of that sentence in the middle of verse nine. Some translate it, “I will wait,” which suggests a rest and a trust and a confidence in one’s lifestyle. Others see it as best being translated, “I will proclaim,” which reflects a verbal witness. Any time we come across things like that, that by people that are really smart about the language have some disagreement on, it’s always best for us to start with what we know, not with what we don’t know.
I want to show you what we know in this text. What’s not up for debate is the Object of whatever it is that David’s going to do this thing he’s going to do with, and that is your name, God’s name, His nature, His character. Pastor David taught us last week, His Word. All those things are wrapped up. What’s not up for debate is the nature of the Object of whatever it is David’s going to do, and that is that it is good. That is the nature of it.
And what’s not up for debate is the venue in which this action, whatever it is, is to be expressed, and that is “…in the presence of the godly.” So whatever it is David’s going to do, it is invested in God’s name, it is inspired by God’s goodness and it is intended for God’s people.
And you know what? When we get those things, it’s pretty easy to reconcile the first part of the verse because it really doesn’t matter if it’s talking about a lifestyle or if it’s talking about the verbal proclamation. What this beckons us to is to live a life in both word and deed that is a testimony to one another and to those who are about…to one thing…and that is that God is good. That He’s good. He…is…good. He’s really good. He is the epitome of goodness.
And how this shows up in the New Testament as the mantra of the people of faith in so many different ways… But I love the way our Lord’s brother, the Apostle James, began his epistle. Some of you know the reference that he makes there to the goodness of God, in James 1. He says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers…” And then these next two verses—James identifies God as the ultimate and unchanging Source of all things good. Here’s what he says. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
And then…and then, watch this: And then he describes God’s greatest act of goodness, His greatest gift of goodness in all of history, in verse 18. “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” Who’s he talking about? Jesus, right? You look at the terms, the descriptions there, you match them with other places in the New Testament. This is what happens, as new creation, new life that comes only in the Person of Jesus Christ. This is God’s greatest expression of His greatest gift.
And then you know what James does? He launches at that point into five chapters of talking about how we ought to demonstrate our faith to one another through our words and through our deeds. And so he talks about things like caring for orphans and widows, and not being prejudiced and showing partiality. He talks about taming your tongue. He talks about staying away from worldliness and not presuming upon tomorrow. And he talks about avoiding the pitfalls of riches, and suffering well, and praying a lot.
All of those things right there—why? Because those who are the recipients of the goodness of God live differently. We cannot make the confession, “God is good,” if it is not making a difference in our lives because it’s our lives that ultimately demonstrate this goodness of God. We—we are the recipients of that and we live differently because of His goodness.
This is a complex world, isn’t it? Sin has created a Pandora’s Box of variables out there. There are a lot of gray areas, it seems at times. But in the midst of all of that, there are oftentimes some simple choices. It’s one or the other, it’s black or white, it’s good or bad. Psalm 52 is one of them. We either choose to reject the steadfast love of God, experience self-exaltation for a brief time but reap the eternal consequences of being separated from Him—or—we choose to embrace the steadfast love of God, have it applied to our lives and we become recipients of His care and nurture for all of eternity.
And so in Psalm 52, we hear in the background His voice to us. “Stay with me. Do not be afraid. With me, you shall be in safe keeping.”
What is this Psalm about?
- God’s character
- Our choice
How is this Psalm developed?
- The Rejection of God’s Steadfast Love (1–4)
- The Vindication of God’s Steadfast Love (5–7)
- The Application of God’s Steadfast Love (8-9)
- We flourish in God’s presence.
- We trust in God’s nature.
- We give thanks because of God’s grace.
- We live differently because of God’s goodness.