Psalm 52: you've buttered your bread…
May 26, 2006 § 2 Comments
This psalm can be interpreted both historically, in the context of David’s experience with Doeg the Edomite – the “wicked” person referred to in this psalm – and prophetically, as the two experiences to be had by those who “would not place [their] reliance on God,” and those who “put [their] trust in God’s faithful love”.
The use of the tree metaphor, so interesting to follow in the Bible, shows up here as well. We find it in verse 5, where David writes “… uproot you from the land of the living.” It signifies the fate that awaits the evil ones, and it’s important to observe its meaning. There is a violent, but brief end, that awaits those who are evil. The end is also permanent. Once a tree is uprooted, it doesn’t live anymore, and it’s either burned, or disposed of in another way. This puts to doubt theories floating around these days, such as the one about the lake of fire and brimstone that burns forever, and also some other ones that say our souls, being somehow immortal, will float around forever, or reincarnate into something else. No, I think this verse, along with many in the Bible, makes it clear that the end of those judged and found wanting will be brief and permanent. It doesn’t take forever to uproot a tree. Quite the contrary, given God’s awesome power, I imagine He can uproot something instantly. It will be the same with the wicked. They’ll be disposed of, instantly, and permanently.
The contrast is quite marked between the fate of the wicked and the fate of those who put their trust in God. Another tree metaphor is used, but to an opposite effect: “But I, like a flourishing olive tree in the house of God, put my trust in God’s faithful love for ever and ever.” The good will flourish and be protected by God. There is a clear indication of permanence here – opposite from the one discussed before. The good will permanently reside in God’s presence, and will “praise [God] for ever for what [He] has done.” While the evil will be gone for good, the good will live for ever in God’s presence. It’s, as seen in other Bible texts, a clear, binary fate.
Finally, why an olive tree? Because olive oil was vital to Jewish culture. It was used for many things, among which was the anointing with God’s blessings, or an anointing for a special purpose, like when someone became a king or a prophet. It was also used for an anointing of healing, as it still is used today in certain churches. So when the term “olive tree” is used, it brings to mind all of these meanings. What’s more, its use in connection with those who are good, who become olive trees (not literally, but figuratively), indicates that God’s blessings will no longer be poured onto us, but will flow from us. We will be fully integrated as God’s children in His re-Creation, and we will fit in perfectly.
It’s a joyous picture to behold, and it gives me great encouragement when I think about it!