Psalm 52: Wickedness, Justice and Our Response
It’s not a secret that we live in a world that is dominated by evil. It seems that we are constantly being told of a new act of violence or another instance of incredible wickedness. As we consider the evil that is all around us we should desire to understand these things through the proper lens. How should we consider the wickedness of our world? How should we think about God and His judgment of those who oppose Him? How do we continue to trust God when wickedness seems to abound?
In Psalm 52 we have David writing during one of the most difficult seasons of his life; He is on the run from King Saul who wants him dead. As he runs he meets with Ahimelech the priest who gives him some provisions for his journey. David soon finds out that Ahimelech’s kindness cost him his life along with his entire community. The man who carried out the massacre by the command of Saul was a man named Doeg (1 Samuel 21-22).
Psalm 52 is a largely focused on Doeg’s wickedness and David’s confidence that God will bring judgment on the wicked. As we follow the Psalm we get insight into the nature of man, the justice of God and how we as believers in God should consider these things.
After listening to the sermon consider using this reading plan to further meditate on the content of the message.
Overview of This Week’s Reading: Considering the Justice and Judgment of God
In Psalm 52 there is a large focus on the judgment and justice of God. In verses 1-4 we read of a truly wicked man and David provides a thorough description his depravity. His heart is consumed with deceit and he is a lover of evil, but as we come to verse 5 David makes it known that God will not let him go unpunished; God’s judgment is sure and severe. The imagery David employs in verse 5 leaves little doubt that God hates evil and will harshly and mercilessly judge the wicked.
As we read and consider Psalm 52 we are confronted with this picture of God breaking down, snatching up, tearing away and uprooting (Psalm 52:5) the wicked. In addition, in verses 6 and 7 David goes a step further and explains that the people of God should not only acknowledge God’s justice but even find a sense of satisfaction in knowing that God will not let evil go unpunished. While the text speaks of these realities plainly, these can be hard truths to consider. For many people the wrath and judgment of God are subjects that they would rather not think about.
Maybe there have been times when you have read the Scriptures and felt uncomfortable with the extent or severity of God’s judgment. Or, perhaps, you can stomach the thought of God severely punishing the most heinous of people, but you recoil to think that all people are deserving of this kind of judgment because of sin. Does it really make sense that God would bring judgment on people whom He created, based on laws and standards that He determined?
The realities of God’s judgment and wrath are not easy to consider, but they are subjects that we cannot ignore. In both the Old and New Testaments the Scriptures have a lot to say about the surety, severity, and the rightness of God’s judgment. He is holy, He cannot allow sin to go unpunished and on our own we are all guilty and deserving of His wrath.
In this week’s reading we will spend time in some passages that speak of the judgment of God. The reading will not provide an exhaustive study, but I hope that it will encourage us to start thinking more about the reality and the importance of God’s wrath and justice. I also hope it will remind us of the significance of the Gospel. The good news is that while God is just and He must punish sin, He has also made a way of salvation possible through Jesus. As we consider God’s judgment on those who oppose Him we should be overwhelmed by His love and grace toward us, because we deserved the same judgment.
Day One: Psalm 52
Take time to read the Psalm that we considered on Sunday. The notes from the message are available on our website. In Psalm 52 we have David writing during one of the most difficult seasons of his life. We learn from 1 Samuel 21-22 that David is on the run from King Saul who wants him dead. As he runs he meets with Ahimelech the priest who gives him some provisions for his journey. David soon finds out that Ahimelech’s kindness cost him his life along with his entire community. The man who carried out the massacre by the command of Saul was a man named Doeg. Psalm 52 is a largely focused on Doeg’s wickedness and David’s confidence that God will bring judgment on the wicked. As we follow the Psalm we get insight into the nature of man (vv. 1-4), the justice of God (vs. 5) and how we as believers in God should consider these things (vv. 6-9).
Day Two: Romans 2
In Romans 2 Paul helps us understand the extent to which we are all deserving of God’s judgment. If we look back to Romans 1 Paul provides one of the clearest teachings in the Bible on the depravity of man. He describes how people have rejected God how this rejection has led to all kinds of evil. When we read chapter 1 we may have a sense that there are some people who deserve God’s judgment, but as we come to chapter 2 Paul makes it clear that there are no exceptions - even those who consider themselves moral or religious also deserve judgment. We have all sinned and we all stand without excuse. Chapter 2 ends without resolution, but the following chapters bring hope: while we all deserve judgment, grace and salvation are available through Jesus. John MacArthur summarizes and outlines Romans 2 this way:
“Having demonstrated the sinfulness of the immoral pagan (in chapter 1), Paul presents his case against the religious moralist – Jew and Gentile – by cataloging six principles that govern God’s judgment: knowledge (vs. 1), truth (vv. 2-3), guilt (vv. 4-5), deeds (vv. 6-10), impartiality (vv. 11-15) and motive (vs. 16) . . . After using vv. 1-16 to show that outwardly moral people will stand condemned by God’s judgment, Paul turns his argument exclusively to the Jews in verses 17-29. Neither their heritage (v. 17), their knowledge (vv. 17-24), nor their ceremonies, specifically circumcision (vv. 25-29), will protect them from God’s righteous judgment.” – The MacArthur Study Bible
Day Three: 2 Thessalonians 1
As we consider the final judgment of God we know that it that will happen in the future, but what we see in the New Testament is that this future event should give us hope for our current situations. In particular, as Paul writes to the church at Thessalonica he knows that they are experiencing persecution, but he uses the coming judgment of God to provide hope. In fact, he says that their perseverance in the midst of their affliction is evidence of the work of God and a sign of the rightness His judgment (vs. 5).
Paul explains that the coming judgment of God will impact both believers and unbelievers and these realities should provide hope. For believers the judgment of God will result in relief from their current afflictions and the privilege of entering into the presence of God (vv. 10), but for unbelievers the result will be the opposite. Paul describes how Christ will come with His angels to enact judgment on those who have rejected Him and that their punishment will be eternal separation from the presence of God and His glory (vv. 7-9).
As we consider this passage and the coming judgment of God there are at least two important points of application. First, we should know that as believers we will suffer affliction from the world, but it’s not our job to worry about retribution; God will judge those who oppose Him and His saints. For now we may be afflicted, but when He comes He will afflict those who now cause our affliction. Second, as we look forward to the coming of the Lord and His work of judgment it should lead us to obedience. Our hope of salvation should motivate us to good works and give us the desire to honor Him with our lives (vv. 11-12).
Day Four: Revelation 20
In Revelation 20, specifically in verses 11-15, we have the account of the final judgment. John describes the “Great White Throne of God” and how from that throne God judges the wicked. In his book Systematic TheologyWayne Grudem writes this regarding that final judgment:
“It is clear that all unbelievers will stand before Chrsit for judgment, for this judgment includes ‘the dead, great and small’ (Rev. 20:12) . . . This judgment of unbelievers will include degrees of punishment, for we read that the dead were judged ‘by what they had done’ (Rev. 20:12, 13).” (Systematic Theology, pg. 1143)
“Scripture clearly affirms that God will be entirely just in his judgment and no one will be able to complain against him on that day. God is the one who ‘judges each one impartially according to his deeds’ (1 Peter 1:17), and ‘God shows no partiality’ (Romans 2:11). For this reason, on the last day ‘every mouth will be stopped,’ and the whole world will be ‘held accountable before God’ (Romans 3:19), with no one being able to complain that God has treated him or her unfairly. In fact, one of the great blessings of the final judgment will be that saints and angels will see demonstrated in millions of lives the absolutely pure justice of God, and this will be a source of praise to him for all eternity.” (Systematic Theology, pg. 1147)
Day Five: Psalm 53
Read Psalm 53 in preparation for our service on Sunday. As you read ask yourself these questions: What does this Psalm teach us about God? What does this Psalm teach us about ourselves? Also, take time to write down questions that you have about the Psalm, then come on Sunday and listen for answers to those questions.