Summary: Our confidence rests in the covenant mercy of God, revealed to us in Christ Jesus.
THE EPITAPH OF THE UNGODLY AND THE TESTIMONY OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
The superscription of this Psalm associates it with the tittle-tattle tale-telling of a certain Edomite named Doeg, who was Saul’s chief shepherd (1 Samuel 21:7). This man - not wholly untruthfully, but certainly maliciously - informed King Saul that he had seen David coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the high priest there, who 'enquired of the LORD' for him, and gave him victuals, and gave him the sword of Goliath the Philistine (1 Samuel 22:9-10).
Ahimelech denied having enquired of God for David (1 Samuel 22:15). Enraged, King Saul ordered the massacre of all the priests: but his own footmen refused to raise a hand against them (1 Samuel 22:17). So Saul ordered Doeg to do the dirty deed, and he killed 85 priests, and slew all the men, women, children, babies, and livestock of the priests’ city of Nob with the edge of the sword (1 Samuel 22:18-19).
“Why do you boast yourself in mischief, you mighty man,” scolds the Psalmist (Psalm 52:1a). It is possible that Doeg was one of Saul’s ‘mighty men’ (cf. 1 Samuel 14:52), but the term is no doubt used here mockingly. What great deeds these were, to cut off the godly out of the land of the living!
Then he adds (although some translations miss this): “the goodness of God endures continually” (Psalm 52:1b). “CONTINUALLY” is echoed in the turning point of the composition, “God shall likewise destroy thee FOR EVER” (Psalm 52:5). Which, in turn, fits in with the confidence expressed towards the end of the poem, “I trust in the mercy of God FOR EVER AND EVER” (Psalm 52:8b).
There is no doubt that the accusation fits the case of Doeg. “Your tongue devises mischiefs; like a sharp razor working deceitfully” (Psalm 52:2). As Jesus said, the things which proceed out of the mouth have their origins in the heart of a man, and these are they which defile the man (cf. Matthew 15:18). Doeg went so far as committing mass murder and then, or so it would appear from Psalm 52:1, BOASTING about it!
“You love evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness” (Psalm 52:3). In fact, you love good not at all! The high priest Ahimelech did NOT ‘enquire of the LORD’ for David as Doeg alleged, but that lie cost the lives of all the priests and people of Nob. “Selah.” Pause for thought.
“God shall likewise (i) destroy YOU for ever, (ii) He shall take YOU away, (iii) and pluck YOU out of YOUR dwelling place, (iv) and root YOU out of the land of the living” (Psalm 52:5; cf. Proverbs 2:22). This is the just recompense of all who would lay hands upon God’s people! “Selah.” Pause for thought.
“The righteous also shall (i) see, (ii) and fear, (iii) and shall laugh at him” (Psalm 52:6).
(i). ‘When the wicked are cut off, you shall SEE it’ (cf. Psalm 37:34). Mordecai SAW Haman hanging on the gallows that Haman had made for Mordecai (cf. Esther 7:10). But even seeing such a thing should not cause us to gloat, but to pity. Remember how, even in judgment, Jesus WEPT for Jerusalem (cf. Luke 19:41-44).
(ii). Rather, such a sight should cause us to exercise restraint, godly awe, and reverent “FEAR.” ‘He put a new song in my mouth, even praise to our God: many shall see it, and shall fear, and shall trust in the LORD’ (cf. Psalm 40:3).
(iii). As for our LAUGHTER, it is not malicious, but a solemn acknowledgement of what we know: that God in His providence will so deal with all who oppose His people. We simply join the LORD in His laughter (cf. Psalm 37:12-13).
Here is the epitaph of the mighty man: “Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness” (Psalm 52:7).
Back in Psalm 52:5 we saw the wicked plucked up and uprooted. However, the testimony of the righteous is: “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God” (Psalm 52:8a). The word sometimes translated “green” stands for verdure, a condition of freshness. “In the house of God” is where we are: ‘seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 2:6).
“I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever” (Psalm 52:8b). Our confidence rests in the covenant mercy of God, revealed to us in Christ Jesus.
The Psalmist turns to praise. “I will praise you for ever, for you have done (it). I will wait on your name; for it is good before your saints” (Psalm 52:9). Jesus is our vindicator, and we can rest in His mercy, and believe that our prayers are already answered. To His name be glory.