Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!
The problem in the previous Psalm is the pervasive and deep rooted nature of sin. Psalm 51 deals with my sin, my failure to live up to God’s expectations and to be the person that God created me to be, a person in his image full of his love, his joy, his peace. Psalm 52 is also about sin but this time it is about other people’s sin.
The other major difference is that in Psalm 51 David recognises and ‘owns’ his sin: he realises (albeit with quite a lot of help from Nathan) that he is without excuse for his actions and he takes responsibility for the evil that he has done. For the evildoer of Psalm 52 there is no awareness of wrongdoing and no recognition of the need to repent. The evildoer of Psalm 52 has become set in his ways. Unlike the penitent David of the previous Psalm this is someone who boasts of evil, not just occasionally in moments of weakness but all day long (v. 1), who has grown to love evil rather than good (v. 3).
This is the person who has no fear of God, they think they can act with impunity. Such people clearly existed in David’s time and they exist in our own. They may be infamous on a worldwide or national scale, they may just be local bullies, their activity may be criminal or their activity might be quite lawful.
When we see people act in such a way, we are not to envy them but to pity them knowing that they will have to give account to God for their actions (v. 5).
God is often described in the Psalms as a rock. He is our ultimate security and safety, but also the immovable force upon which evil will be broken. In Hebrews 9:27 the author writes that people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgement. We may have questions about the nature of that judgement and how that interacts that with God’s love but as Paul wrote ‘Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.’ (Galatians 6:7). We ended Psalm 51 with the English rapper Stormzy, so we’ll leave Johnny Cash with the last word on Psalm 52.
Well, you may throw your rock and hide your handJohnny Cash, ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’
Workin’ in the dark against your fellow man
But as sure as God made black and white
What’s down in the dark will be brought to the light
You can run on for a long time
Run on for a long time
Sooner or later God’ll cut you down