Psalm 52

March 04, 2024

To the chief Musician, Maschil, A Psalm of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech.

1 Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.

2 Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs: like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.

3 Thou lovest evil more than good: and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.

4 Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.

5 God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, He shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah.

6 The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:

7 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.

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 praise Thee for ever, because Thou hast done it: and I will wait on Thy name: for it is good before Thy saints.

The Point:

There is a sharp contrast between the wicked and the righteous, between those that love God and those that love evil.

How do we feel in the recitation of this psalm?

When we fall prey to the conspiracies of wicked men, two emotions take us simultaneously. First, we will fear the kind of judgment of God that comes upon men that will kill His priests and undermine His kingdom in the tradition of Doeg the Edomite. Wouldn’t you fear for someone who has the audacity to oppose God Himself? But secondly, the righteous man’s response is laughter. We laugh as we would laugh at a mouse challenging an elephant to a boxing competition. Faith responds with an incredulous gasp and a loud guffaw when anybody sets himself against the mighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth.

The Selah is a pause in the reading or singing of the psalm. This gives us a moment to let the incongruity of the scenario sink in, concerning that audacious mouse that shook its little fist in the face of the elephant.

What does this psalm say?

Verses 1–5. The wicked man. The psalm begins with a question put in the form of sarcasm: “Hey, mighty mouse, why do you boast yourself before you get into the ring with the elephant?” These wicked men boast loudly concerning their wicked exploits—they do this all the time in the media, in the schools, and in our businesses. Everywhere we look, we find these men celebrating their drunkenness, adultery, and homosexuality. To further consign themselves to their audacious rebellion they flaunt their sinful lifestyles coram deo, in the face of God. In so doing, they manifest their disdain for the goodness of God, the sacrifice of His Son for sins, and the forgiveness He offers to the humble.

Using the form of direct exhortation, verses 2 through 4 describe the wicked man in detail. He is known by what he says and what he writes. He will plot out his evil deeds, and then brag about these exploits. Whereas a righteous man is ashamed of his sin, the wicked man is proud of his lying, his homosexuality, and his slothfulness. A wicked man loves evil and he loves to destroy with his tongue. Whenever a relationship is torn apart by gossip and slander, it brings this man great delight.

The end of the wicked man is described in verse 5. Basically, the elephant steps on the mouse, and the fight is over. When David speaks of God destroying the wicked forever, he is referring to a destruction that will last for an eternity—an eternity in hell. No matter how wealthy he may be or how strong and secure he feels, God will pluck him out of his home and destroy him forever.

Verses 6–9. The righteous man. Now, the Psalmist contrasts the righteous with the wicked man who boasts in his wickedness. As the righteous watches the wicked oppose God with impunity, this inspires in him a wonderful fear of God. Why should he look at the mouse shaking its fist at the elephant and react in fear? Of course it is because he sees the elephant, and elephants are quite a bit larger than mice. The righteous man both fears God and laughs at the wicked man. Would it be inappropriate for the persecuted church in Vietnam or China to laugh a little at the antics of a powerful government that shakes its fist at God? These believers may legitimately smile at their foes, but only if they fear God and the fear is born of strong faith in God.

Verse 7 introduces the root problem with the wicked man—he refuses to accept God as his Strength and Savior. He stubbornly refuses to trust in God. This, therefore, draws a real line of demarcation between the righteous and the wicked. While the righteous trust God, the wicked would rather trust in themselves, their own riches, and their own autonomy (or right to make their own laws).

Finally, the Psalmist ends with a personal testimony of commitment and trust in the mercy of God forever. Even in heaven, he will be trusting in God, that His mercy will continue to cover him forever. Moreover, God blesses the righteous man who trusts in Him, and he will grow like a fruitful olive tree in the church of God. Therefore, while the wicked man opposes God to his own demise, the righteous man is overwhelmed with God’s blessings and commits to praising Him for His goodness forever.

How do we apply this psalm?

1. There are those who will trust in God (or Jesus Christ) as their Savior, and those who will not. Effectively then, there are only these two groups of people in this world. Either they are in the category of those who are righteous, or they fall into the other category of the wicked. May God save us from our own self-sufficiency! We must never trust in our riches or in our accomplishments to save us. Only God can be our strength and our salvation.

2. May God give us the ability to laugh in the face of powerful, wicked men who work to oppose the godly! Our first inclination is to fear men, but we would be able to laugh if we were only fearing God and trusting that He would save us. If the wicked mouse attacks the pet mouse belonging to an elephant, I don’t think that the pet mouse would fear if he could see the elephant in the room. Let us live our lives with an ever-present sense of God’s presence, power, and goodness.

How does this psalm teach us to worship God?

1. Worship includes a sharp depiction of contrast. In the case of this psalm, we look with incredulity upon the man who refuses to trust in God and who tries to destroy the church of Jesus Christ. The psalm contrasts the life and death of the man without faith against the fruitful, eternal life of the man with faith. Then at the end, we burst out in praise to God for His salvation. For we are part of the righteous only because God has been good to us.

2. Occasionally, worship may include sardonic laughter at the incongruous and senseless attempts of the wicked who pretend to be god in the face of God Himself.


1. What is the context of the psalm?

2. Why does the righteous man laugh in this psalm?

3. What is a Selah?

4. Describe the wicked man.

5. What is the difference between the wicked man and the righteous man?

Family Discussion Questions:

1. In whom or what do we trust? Are we trusting in the abundance of our riches? Where is our confidence in the day of trouble?

2. When the wicked attack us and do their best to destroy the church of Jesus Christ, are we able to laugh? What sort of examples of laughter or humor might be appropriate in a worship service? Psalm 53