Olives

Why do you boast about your crimes, great warrior? Don’t you realise God’s justice continues forever? All day long you plot destruction. Your tongue cuts like a sharp razor; you’re an expert at telling lies. You love evil more than good and lies more than truth.
But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God. I will always trust in God’s unfailing love. I will praise You forever, O God, for what You have done. I will trust in Your good name in the presence of Your faithful people.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭52:1-3, 8-9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A Psalm about two people. A great warrior who tells lies and the Psalmist who likens himself to an olive tree. It could be the actor list for a stage play or the character list in a fantasy novel. But then the seriousness of the message unfolds. David, the Psalmist, was recording the wrongs of a man called “Doeg the Edomite”, a man who massacred priests at Saul’s behest. We can read about the event, and his evil, in 1 Samuel 21 and 22. But what can we learn from this Psalm? I think the main message is that there is an eternal reality about God and His righteousness and justice. There have been many men and women, past and present, who are self-serving, mirroring the behaviour of the “great warrior” and thus assuring themselves the fate reserved for evil people. Perhaps David introduced a hint of sarcasm when he referred to Doeg as being a “great warrior”, because anyone with that title would be expected to be brave and courageous, and with a character befitting the word “great”. David referred to Doeg’s tongue as being like a sharp razor; he was apparently no stranger to boasting about his ruthless deeds and he used his mouth as the vehicle for underpinning his evil reputation. But Doeg was a man without a conscience and his one motivation in life was to maximise his own selfish rewards – an original “what’s in it for me” person – and he came to a early end, dying, according to Jewish traditions, at the age of 34. In today’s culture, the spirit of Doeg lives on, and many a person, not just those in a position of power or leadership, shipwreck their lives on a sea of lies and deceit. 

But David turns away from his rant to more personal matters. He likens himself to an olive tree. Why an olive tree? Why not an oak tree? Or one of those cedars of Lebanon? Perhaps he saw an olive tree planted close by while he wrote down his thoughts in God’s house, and was impressed by its fruitfulness. He saw the blessings of God manifested in this vigorous, long lasting tree; it was perhaps getting close to the time of a rich harvest of olives, and he equated it to his own life of trust in his loving Heavenly Father. A life full of “olives” of praise and thankfulness, a life founded on his relationship with God.

The moral of the story is that sooner or later, a life of deceit will face a time of reckoning. Lies will be exposed before the almighty Judge. And those people who commit to a life of righteousness will be amazed at how blind such deceitful people can be. They will laugh about the fate of even the most mighty of “warriors who do not trust God“. The righteous look on and observe godless, self-seeking evil people as they tumble down the slippery slope leading to the ultimate home of the father of lies.