By Pamela Lewis

A Reading from Psalm 52 

1 You tyrant, why do you boast of wickedness
against the godly all day long?

2 You plot ruin;
your tongue is like a sharpened razor,
O worker of deception.

3 You love evil more than good
and lying more than speaking the truth.

4 You love all words that hurt,
O you deceitful tongue.

5 Oh, that God would demolish you utterly,
topple you, and snatch you from your dwelling,
and root you out of the land of the living!

6 The righteous shall see and tremble,
and they shall laugh at him, saying,

7 “This is the one who did not take God for a refuge,
but trusted in great wealth
and relied upon wickedness.”

8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God;
I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.

9 I will give you thanks for what you have done
and declare the goodness of your Name in the presence
of the godly.

Meditation

This psalm was written about Doeg, the Edomite who had betrayed Ahimelech and David and then killed God’s priests (see Sam. 21:7; 22:9-23). Doeg thought he was a great hero, and boasted about his deed. In reality, however, Doeg’s boasting, not unlike the hubris exhibited by mortals, which offends the gods in Greek mythology, was not only an offense, but a “disgrace” to God.

Hubris always precedes the deities’ wrath, and the psalmist predicts that his God will bring to Doeg everlasting ruin in the forms of removal from his tent and uprooting from the land of the living, conditions of utter isolation. Rather than honoring him, the psalmist reduces Doeg to a mere “deceitful tongue” that vaunts his great yet evil deeds and speaks lies rather than the truth.

Doeg’s fault lies in confusing his “accomplishments” with goodness and in believing that something done well or thoroughly is automatically worthy of high regard. In contrast to the wealthy and vain Doeg, whose strength was derived from slaughtering others, David compares himself to an olive tree that flourishes in the house of God. The olive tree is one of the longest-living trees, and possesses even greater longevity when it flourishes. Unlike Doeg, who trusts in his evil — and short-lived — achievements rather than in God, David praises God, and places his trust in his unfailing, protective, and eternal love.

Pamela A. Lewis taught French for thirty years before retirement. A lifelong resident of Queens, N.Y., she attends Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, and serves on various lay ministries. She writes for The Episcopal New YorkerEpiscopal Journal, and The Living Church.

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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer

Today we pray for:

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Va.
The Diocese of Canberra and Goulburn (Anglican Church of Australia)