Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Mighty Man and the Humble Man of Psalm 52

Reading:   Psalm 52  
Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man? The steadfast love of God endures all the day. 2Your tongue plots destruction, like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit. 3You love evil more than good, and lying more than speaking what is right. Selah
4You love all words that devour, O deceitful tongue. 5But 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. Selah (Psalm 52:1-5)
On Sundays we are going through the book of Proverbs. This Sunday we covered the subject of Gossip and Slander... the twin brothers of evil speech. One key truth we talked about might be stated: gossip and slander are contrary to the very nature of the Gospel itself, and therefore are one of the most destructive forces against it, and are an assault on God. I believe we can pick up on that truth here in Psalm 52 as well.
Who is this “mighty man” of Psalm 52? If you look at the description in the title of this psalm you will find that this is a psalm of David, “When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: 'David has gone to the house of Ahimelech [the priest].'” Now I am not sure whether the title's are “inspired” or always accurate, but Doeg certainly fits the picture. Of course, the Psalms are purposely vague at times, because they are intended to be used by believers of all times in many situations.
In the case referred to with Doeg, David had gone to the town of Nob, to Ahimelech the priest, to get food and, hopefully a weapon. As it turns out Ahimelech had the sword of Goliath there and he gave it to David along with the consecrated bread. You may remember that David has been on the run from Saul who is attempting to unjustly kill David. And during this scene Doeg the Edomite shows up and later reports on this to Saul. At Saul's command, Doeg has a blood-fest and slays 85 priests that day. Undoubtedly, these men would have been unarmed and defenseless against this heinous crime. (1 Samuel 21, 22)
Doeg was certainly the “mighty man” that day, yet I think he represents more than just one man at one time in history. The mighty man might well be taken as the world's forces against the humble man—ultimately, Jesus Christ. This slanderous tongue of Psalm 52 is the stream of lies and destruction that have arrayed themselves against God and His people throughout the ages. They find their high point at the trial of Jesus Christ, our High Priest, when he is falsely accused and in a mock trial delivered over to death. It is important to keep in mind, though, that even in this grand miscarriage of justice, God allowed our sin to be placed on Christ that we might be set free. The slanderous tongue of Psalm 52 finds expression today as people, even Christians, engage in attacking the body of Christ.
The “mighty man” of Psalm 52 is the slanderer and gossip who goes about destroying the unity of the body of Christ to which we have been called to make every effort to maintain (Ephesians 4:3). When properly responded to, we become like Christ. We can rejoice because we know,
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26)
The humble man implied in Psalm 52 is Christ, and those who, in being joined with Him, are responding in love to the attack of slander and gossip.
Jeremiah 9 describes how the people of God had, in that time, descended into the pit of gossip and slander to the point that Jeremiah was so grieved he would write (Jeremiah 9),
1Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. 2Oh, that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers, so that I might leave my people and go away from them; for they are all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people.
Then Jeremiah tells us why they are “all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people.”
3"They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land. They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me," declares the LORD. 4"Beware of your friends; do not trust your brothers. For every brother is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. 5Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. 6You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me," declares the LORD.
And it is in this context that we find the glorious gospel pointing promise of Jeremiah 9:23-34, which Paul later quotes in 1 Corinthians 1.
This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man [same as the mighty man of Psalm 52] boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.
The mighty man, the one who has his “wisdom” that he must share, the one who has power to divide and cause division by a deceiving tongue, should not boast in his power. Rather, he should turn his attention to the LORD's kindness, justice and righteousness on earth...to the things God delights in. God delights in compassion, humility, forgiveness, and forbearance; God delights in Christ and Christ-likeness. May we only boast that we know this God in Jesus Christ who has forgiven our sins, and may we view others, and their sins through this same lens.
By God's kindness, my experience of the body of Christ is largely one of love and peace. Rarely have I encountered the kind of attacks we often hear of in our stories of gossip and slander. But I have seen first hand the destructive power of the tongue, and I pray the church would not end up being its own worst enemy. There are plenty of willing participants outside the church who would gladly destroy it and testify against it; may we not join forces with them and become a Doeg. It would be much better to be amongst the 85 slain... to be with the crucified Savior.
So as we pray through Psalm 52, even if we are not experiencing gossip and slander ourselves, we might well know that many in the church are under attack by these twin enemies. Pray for them, lift them up and pray God strengthen them through this psalm.

Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,