Psalm 52 is one of a short run of psalms which bring the Psalmist’s call for godliness into sharp relief. In particular it challenges those who both rely on, and flaunt, wealth and, potentially, the less than ethical source of that affluence.
Only those who trust in, and rely on, God will have reason to celebrate whilst those who build their confidence and power base on ill-gotten gains, hiding behind a torrent of sharp tongued and false rhetoric will find themselves deposed from their self-appointed position.
The Psalmist ‘paints’ a triptych of human experience for us; the interaction of futile wickedness and righteousness followed by the rejoicing of those who put their trust in God and God’s steadfast or unfailing love.
In verse 5 we see the actions of God responding to the ungodly described at the beginning of the Psalm. I have been left wondering how this might have been portrayed within a Marvel Comic or character as the description seems to be not unlike the actions of, for instance Wolverine, Iron Man or Luke Cage.
But God will surely bring you down….uproot you from your tent…..snatch you…..and carry you away. (I would be among the first to admit that this perhaps says more about me than discloses many insights about our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.)
Thereafter we see the Psalmist’s turn to the third section (verses 8 & 9) with images of trust, unfailing love, praise and hope. The godly are likened to an olive plant growing freely in God’s house. This is a powerful simile not only because the olive tree is known to live, flourishing and fruitful, for, at least, hundreds of years – long enough to seem like eternity, but also because in ancient Hebrew culture it is described as the first among all trees and thought of as a symbol of beauty and blessing. The comparison of the godly to an olive plant underlines that God is the source their blessing.
Loving God, help us take a moment to envision ourselves as an olive tree; steady and reliable, in for the long haul, sporting beauty in our gnarled trunks and the fresh shoots springing from as-if-dead wood, flourishing and fruitful, without need to make ourselves out to be different from who we are or cruelly critical of others.
May we always be content with the growth and fruitfulness that discipleship can bring. Amen
The Rev Helen M Mee is minister both in Granton United Church, Edinburgh and Carluke URC & South Link and is the Convenor of the URC Equalities Committee
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