Psalm 52 - Part 2
Several years ago, at a growing church in San Diego, Donna the Dragon used her sinister methods to grab power while trashing those biblically given the power to lead. After she demonstrated her in depth knowledge of the Bible as a parishioner in a variety of women’s settings, leadership eventually gave her a large women’s Sunday School class to teach. That was their first mistake. From the beginning of the class, she wasted no time dropping in little negative comments here and there regarding how much she did not like, nor trust, the leadership of the Senior Pastor. By the way, you couldn’t have found a more passionate, dedicated shepherd or a more gifted communicator. Excellence dripped from his ministry. But that is what set this power-hungry, arrogant woman off. So, she quietly worked in and through her class to sway the thinking of the ladies under her care and tutelage.
When no one confronted her in class regarding inappropriate and unfounded remarks about their wonderful pastor, she ramped up her vocal opposition to him in every lesson. Eventually, various concerned ladies spoke with elders about what they heard on a given Sunday morning spewing from the mouth of this dragon. Yet, no one dared say anything for fear of negative consequences. For months, Donna the Dragon just kept turning up the heat with vile, vicious, and venomous comments about the wonderful Senior Pastor to anybody and everybody who would listen to her. And the less anyone held her accountable, the more she scorched.
During an annual business meeting her unholy hubris reached its zenith. As the elders attempted to guide the church business and ministry discussion from the stage, along with the Senior Pastor, she stood up and began to publicly berate him, going so far as to attack even his teenage children. Again, no one took her to task, no one came to the defense of the pastor, and no one expelled her from the meeting for being an antagonistic gossip. What happened afterward? Sad to say, the pastor left the pastorate, never to return, and the once flourishing, thriving church, which reached many for Christ, literally fell apart. And to think that the entire momentum of the ministry was completely dismantled by one egotistical, evil woman. I’ve met Donna the Dragon and Dave the Dragon, unfortunately, many times over the years, both inside and outside the church. When they cross your path, you will be asking yourself one practical question as a Christian:
How Should You Deal with A Dragon? (Psalm 52)
Fortunately, our question finds its much needed answer in the counsel of David. From his notation in Psalm 52, we learn about how he dealt not with Donna or Dave, but with a devious, destructive man named Doeg. Structurally, the passage easily divides into two quadrants, and from these we can readily see David’s wisdom regarding how to respond to a person who seeks to trash your life in order to elevate theirs. In our last study we just scratched the surface of David’s teaching. Verse one not only sets the historical before us so we can better understand the magnitude of the personal attacks he endured, but it also introduces us to the first flash of divine insight concerning how to react to the dragon:
Give The Dragon Some Warning (Psalm 52:1-5)
David’s warning enfolds with verse 1: 1 To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of David when Doeg the Edomite went and told Saul, and said to him, David has gone to the house of Ahimelech. Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. David seeks, by means of sarcasm sprinkled with a touch of irony, to wake up the vicious Doeg the Dragon. In his prideful eyes, the man believes and tells others he is a mighty man, a powerful warrior; however, David, a true mighty man and warrior, poses one question to plough the man’s hard heart. Doeg is, to use the words from a Clint Eastwood movie, a legend in his own mind. Using well-timed, truth-based questions with a Doeg is a great idea. To the Donna the Dragon someone should have piped up and said, “If you are for peace and unity in our body, why is it you seem to verbally spread disunity and disruption?” Someone else could have asked, “So you tout your knowledge of the Bible, but why is it you do not follow its dictates concerning how to respond to church leadership?” “You call yourself a Bible student?” another could have responded. Questions are a great way to not only attempt to reach the dragon (for whom Christ died), but they are also an excellent and unassuming method for keeping them in check by calling them out.
At the end of the day, as David shows us, the dragon needs to remember that God will always stand with His people, no matter how they are opposed. Granted, He may be in the background, as He was when the church Paul planted in Corinth had a faction which unmercifully attacked him and his character; however, as Paul learned, God’s grace is always sufficient for us (2 Cor. 12) when Satan buffets us in a variety of ways. And sometimes, God shows up when leadership deals with dragons, as He did when Paul took them to task for the lack of Grecian academic eloquence in his teaching:
10 "For his letters," they say, "are weighty and powerful, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible." 11 Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present. 12 For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise (2 Cor. 10).
Unlike the leaders in San Diego, Paul didn’t put his head in the sand, hoping the dragons (“they say” . . . is plural telling us Paul faced many dragons) would go away. No. He exposed their sinful statements and revealed their arrogant standards, and in this method we see the hand of God at work protecting the leader and seeking to protect the flock. Paul’s response here also illustrates the Davidic counsel of warning the dragon of the how God is not with him/her, but with those who actually know and live out the biblical mandates for maturity. David’s emphasis on warning the dragon of the error of his/her way, is broken down in clear terms in verses two through five.
2 Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. 3 You love evil more than good, lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah 4 You love all devouring words, You deceitful tongue. 5 God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, and uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
Let’s sink our interpretive spades into this rich soil to see what we learn. First, David teaches us that we must expose the road, or activity, of the dragon with specificity (vv. 2-4). With verse 2, David’ uses a metonym of the cause for the effect (viz., the tongue, the cause, is used for the effect, the wicked words) to drive home his point about the absolute destructive nature of the dragon’s speech:
2 Your tongue devises destruction, like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.
“Destruction,” is from the Hebrew, havah (הָוַּה ,(which literally denotes a deep pit one might dig in order to trap animals. To fall into this unsuspecting trap is to wind up with no way out. This reality helps us understand how the word also applied to catastrophic situations, as when Job’s life fell apart (Job 1, 6:2). This person deceitfully uses their words to dig pits for you to fall into say they can get rid of you and assume power and prestige. The simile, “like a sharp razor” (similes make comparisons by using like or as, viz., Forrest Gump states, "My mom said life was like a box of chocolates.” Metaphors, conversely, powerfully just make a comparison, viz., Pat Benatar emphatically sings, “Love is a battlefield.”) heightens the ruthless nature of their deceptive work because without you even realizing it, your life is metaphorically bleeding all over the place because the nature of their deceptive words. In a sense, you, nor anyone else, really saw them coming until it was too late. Hard to imagine there are people like this, but they exist and we know it.
Interestingly enough, David employs a Pual participle for the word “to sharpen.” What’s the significance of this grammatical note? It denotes this person’s sad, sick lifestyle is one given to verbal deception for the purpose of destroying others. It is what they live for. They live for doing you in. Solomon talks about them in Proverbs 6:
12 A worthless person, a wicked man, walks with a perverse mouth; 13 He winks with his eyes, he shuffles his feet, he points with his fingers; 14 Perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord. (Prov. 6).
To your face, he/she speaks as if they respect and are for you. Behind your back their theme song was sung years ago by the O’Jays, Backstabbers. Are you a backstabber? Do you put others down as a way of life? Do you plot how to destroy the lives of others so you can move up in the company? Do you sit on review boards for the promotion of officers and use your position to say sideline the career of a man/woman you personally don’t like, even though they are worthy of the new rank? Do you move from church to church leaving saints bleeding all over the place, all while you hide behind your false piety? May the Lord move you to repentance and confession . . . and to knowing what real living is all about.
If, however, you are the receiving end of this type of pernicious person, follow David’s sagacious advice. Pull the curtain back (with facts) regarding their activity. This is what he continues to do in the ensuing verses. He minces no words, and neither should you:
3 You love evil more than good, lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah
A person is full of darkness, despite what they say, if pushing evil is more important the preserving good. They actually love evil, which is from the Hebrew word, ra, a term denoting that which is morally depraved.1 Is it not utterly and deceitfully depraved when the same politicians who embrace abortion call for the restriction of weapons in the hands of law-abiding Americans in order to save and protect lives? This is merely and illustration of how pugnacious dragons say one thing (which appears righteous), while really pushing evil (confiscation and control).
Isaiah warns us in the fifth chapter of his book a nation/person is near the judgment of God when evil and depravity supplants that which is good, wholesome and holy. Sadly, our world if full of bad bullies masquerading as purveyors of hope and healing, and these folks will stop at nothing to push their lies as truth so you are silenced and they are showcased.
When David could have easily stopped discussing how vile the talk is from a dragon like Doeg, Donna, or Dave (and I do apologize if you the latter two just happen to be your name), he doubles down in verse 4:
4 You love all devouring words, You deceitful tongue.
Not only do they love anything/everything which promotes evil, they love “all devouring words,” especially when the person who is the target of the evil is duped and misled by the language employed by the dragon. Devouring, belah (עַלֶבּ ,(is a homonym (meaning it only occurs one time in the OT), and it speaks of someone devouring, say, a tasty steak at Ruth Cris Steak House. Who in their right mind would order a rib eye here, only to leave some on the plate? Not I. The object is to get rid of the steak completely. It is the same with the dragon who employs deceitful words with and against you. They have one goal: to silence you completely, to get you out of the way, to minimize your godly influence and impact. So,
• If a Twitter beatdown works, they’ll do it.
• If a Facebook pugnacious and loaded posting works, they’ll do it.
• If they can pass on some juicy, but twisted information they have on you to coworkers on a coffee break, they’ll do it.
• If they can turn holiness and goodness on its ear so they can classify a godly person as a member of newly created “hate group,” they’ll do it.
• If they can slap an explosive term on an unsuspecting person (xenophobic, Nazi, lunatic fringe, conspiracy nut, etc.) all because they do not like the lofty moral stance a given person takes (privately or publicly), they’ll do it and act as if they are on the high moral ground.
• If they can use your words about tolerance to shut you down, all while they are the epitome of intolerance (because, remember, they are deceptive), they’ll do it, meaning they will drip with so-call tolerance. Yet, behind the nice, deceitful mask lurks a dragon ready to devour you with his/her intolerance of who you are.
• If a verbal barrage of filthy words will to the trick, they’ll drop them on you with the power of a B52 strike.
Whatever words prove to silence you, to devour you, they won’t hesitate for a moment to use them against you, and they will then typically . . . and arrogantly . . . strut around like a peacock letting others know how powerful and successful they are in life.
Remember your Lord. After he told the religious leaders the Parable of the Vineyard Owner (Luke 20:1-18), which relayed how a vinedressers killed the servants of the wealthy vineyard owner and ultimately killed the wealthy man’s son who came to check on the vineyard, these godless dragons realized Jesus spoke of them and they hated him for it. Read on and you’ll see the dragons in action:
19 And the chief priests and the scribes that very hour sought to lay hands on Him, but they feared the people-- for they knew He had spoken this parable against them. 20 So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, that they might seize on His words, in order to deliver Him to the power and the authority of the governor. 21 Then they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: 22 "Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" 23 But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, "Why do you test Me? (Lk. 20).
They were not interested in learning from Him, but in lowering Him permanently. That’s why they sent the spies in with a loaded political question. Jesus instantly exposed the actions of these special class of dragons by asking them a question, “Why do you test Me?” Gulp. We all should know how He masterfully disarmed and dismantled them. He said they should give Caesar his due and God his due. Interesting. They tried to devour Him, and He, ironically, devoured them. It was but a small taste of future judgment, but the encounter does show how dragons operate. They are falsely pious, often chicken/gutless, and skilled at posing loaded questions designed to silence you and elevate them. They didn’t get far with Jesus because He responded to them in a Davidic fashion. Thanks, David. Thanks for being man enough to call a spade a spade. Instead of ducking and covering, instead of just taking the barrage from the bad person, you tell us to logically step forward and address what the dragon is doing so he is exposed, hopefully silenced, and driven toward a life-giving relationship with God.
Beyond pulling the dragon’s mask off, David adds this final word of warning to the person in question:
5 God shall likewise destroy you forever; He shall take you away, and pluck you out of your dwelling place, and uproot you from the land of the living. Selah
The opening particle, gam ( לֵ ם־אַגּ ,( which means surely, is emphatic in the Hebrew text since it is placed at the head of the sentence. Grammatically, it is as if God takes the dragon by the shoulders and forcefully says, “You had better wake up!” Why? God, who is holy, will not permit you to skate through life like this, leaving a wake of personal destruction in your path. He will, in due time, in the here and now or the hereafter, “take you away,” which is from the Hebrew, nataz (ץַ תָנ ,(a word that references the literal destruction of a building (2 Kings 10:27).
Yes, one day, God will finally lose patience with you, He will stop convicting you of your wicked ways, and He will bring your house down, forever. You might lose your job, family, friends, position, or your life, but He will bring justice for justice is what He is about, and justice is woven into the fabric of the cosmos He created. To live unjustly is to swim against the flow of how God has ordered things, and to do this long enough it to eventually go over the falls of divine discipline and wrath. Many verses in Scripture underscore this truth. Here are a few:
For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. 5 The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man (Ps. 5).
Many dragons in our godless day are living on borrowed time. Since they seem to get away with their exploits, they not only firmly believe the end (be what it may) is totally justified by the means (be what it may), they live to think of new, provocative ways to push their power and twisted brand of morality and justice. God, however, will not put up with your perversion and prickly behavior forever. One day, He will lower the boom of His judgment to silence you, you who have done your fair share of silencing true saints around you. Perhaps another verse will grab your self-absorbed attention:
19 Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the wicked; 20 For there will be no prospect for the evil man; the lamp of the wicked will be put out (Prov. 24).
This verse merely echoes the cultural statement we are all well-aware of: what goes around really does, in fact, come around. You want to live to uproot lives with your bad behavior? You will live to see God moving to uproot your life for all eternity.
As Israel’s prophets, priests, and politicians told the ordinary people that God promised only peace for their nation, one man stood against the deceptive mantra. His name? Jeremiah. Because the nation had abandoned God, because they worshipped any and all gods, and because they enjoyed any and all sins, Jeremiah called them to task with truth. In chapter 19 of his book he prophesied against these dragons in leadership and said that one-day God would break them as easily as an earth flask is shattered by striking it. Pashhur, a priest, who was the official in charge of maintaining order in the Temple, and who also (falsely) claimed to be a prophet/spokesperson for God, struck Jeremiah and had him thrown in prison and put is stocks for speaking against the status quo (Jer. 20:1-2). Talk about a dragon. The next day Pashur had Jeremiah brought before him. Listen to Jeremiah’s words:
3 And it happened on the next day that Pashhur brought Jeremiah out of the stocks. Then Jeremiah said to him, "The LORD has not called your name Pashhur, but Magor-Missabib (which is Hebrew for “terror on every side”) 4 "For thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will make you a terror to yourself and to all your friends; and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and your eyes shall see it. I will give all Judah into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall carry them captive to Babylon and slay them with the sword. 5 `Moreover I will deliver all the wealth of this city, all its produce, and all its precious things; all the treasures of the kings of Judah I will give into the hand of their enemies, who will plunder them, seize them, and carry them to Babylon. 6 `And you, Pashhur, and all who dwell in your house, shall go into captivity. You shall go to Babylon, and there you shall die, and be buried there, you and all your friends, to whom you have prophesied lies'" (Jer. 20).
In the second wave of the unstoppable Babylonian invasion in 597 B.C., you can guess who was hauled away. It wasn’t Jeremiah. It was Pashur . . . the dragon.
If you are the dragon, I’m here today to give you a word of warning. Your godless game which has gotten you far in life as you walk over countless people you’ve discarded along the way, won’t go on forever. God will deal with you and when He does it will be ominous and permanent. Far better and wiser to repent of your sin right now and turn to the Savior who can cleanse your soul and give His Spirit so you can live life as He designed it, a life full of joy, hope, and, yes, that all-elusive peace you can’t find right now.
If you, conversely, are the object of a man like Pashhur, I think you know now how to respond to him. You are sanctioned by the living God to warn him of the error of his ways, and to mince no words as you expose his wickedness which hides behind false robes of so-called righteousness. In addition to giving the dragon a word of warning (or two, or three), David next counsel you to . . .
Give Yourself Some Words (Psalms 52:6-9)
Listen and learn as we read from David’s inspired pen:
6 The righteous also shall see and fear, and shall laugh at him, saying, 7 "Here is the man who did not make God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness."
Note, David says, one day you, the godly person “shall see” God’s hand come down on the godless person. Granted, it may take years, but God says you will in your lifetime see Him bring justice to dragons. And when you see it, as I have in my lifetime, you will naturally fear Him for He is no respecter of persons, He does not forget what man does, and because of this He will move to bring justice in due time. His divine judgment on the dragon’s life will be so definitive you will laugh. This isn’t laughter in a joking sense, but laughter in a rejoicing sense. You will one day smile when God takes the dragon down a few rungs, so the godly can be elevated in His sight. When you see this, not if, you are counseled by David to make this a learning opportunity to those under your care:
7 "Here is the man who did not make God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness."
Yes, when the dragon is dealt with by God is when you step up the Bible study lessons with those around you. This is when you step forward to note how unproductive and illogical it is to trust in everything but God for your life. One day, power goes. One day, money goes. One day, wickedness comes to full bloom and God says, Enough! As that person is lowered by God, godly folks are called to sit up, take note, and teach others the wise way to live has got nothing to do with being a dragon who serves self and everything with being a sheep who serves the Savior. Another word to give yourself concerns who you really are before God as the dragon attacks:
8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever.
Mark well the contrast, which is emphatically denoted by the omission of the main verb “am.” The dragon will be like an uprooted, worthless, unproductive tree, while you are, despite what the dragon says, a fertile and flourishing olive tree planted, as it were, in the very presence of God. Amazing. Because you are planted in His sight, He sees you and will be merciful to you . . . so don’t be afraid. In addition, since God will go before you, instead of complaining about the dragon, do what David says next:
9 I will praise You forever, because You have done it; and in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good (Ps. 52).
The Hebrew here means to praise God in public for having “done it.” What does this mean? It means you are so convinced that God will be true His character and bring justice with the dragon, the deceitful, abusive person, that you can’t wait to stand up in public and praise Him as if He has already brought His justice to earth. Perhaps this is all worth a second reading, especially for those who are losing heart that dragons will be divinely silenced. Yes, as it seems like dragons are proliferating in our day and age with little to no pushback, when it feels like they get away with anything and everything, God says, “Hold on, saint. I will deal with them in due time. You, on the contrary, warn them of my displeasure, and give yourself some positive words to live by until I make a move.
• Give others wisdom when I do move.
• Give yourself a heavy dose of reality concerning who you are.
• Give me some praise before the fact for I am coming.
Some of you are ready to throw in the towel because of the activity of the dragon. Some of you are angry at God because He is permitting you to see and experience things which smack of injustice. Some of you haven’t been praisin’ God in a long time because you’re too busy complainin’. I think this little Psalm tells you all you need to know about living life in the here and now. Give warning where warning is due, and give yourself some wise words because you are going to need them for the road ahead.