Psalm 52. So, What Kind of Tree Are You?


Today’s Lectio Divina: Excerpts from Psalm 52. (MsgB)

A David psalm, when Doeg the Edomite reported to Saul, “David’s at Ahimelech’s house.”

You scheme catastrophe; your tongue cuts razor-sharp, artisan in lies.
You love evil more than good, you call black white.
You love malicious gossip, you foul-mouth.

Big Man bet on the wrong horse, trusted in big money, made his living from catastrophe.

(But) I’m an olive tree, growing green in God’s House.
I trusted in the generous mercy of God then and now.

I’ll stay right here; (God’s) good name my hope,
In company with (God’s) faithful friends.

Let’s play two questions today.

Question #1…So what kind of tree would you like to be when you grow up?

Question #2…And where will you choose to be planted?

As I see it, we all start out in life as tender shoots. Little sprouts with all of our future in front of us (as the wise sage, baseball great Casey Stengel, used to say). Potential everywhere. Possibilities unending. The sky is the limit.

But then it happens. Unfortunately, so many of us earth dwellers pay so little attention to what’s going on in and around our lives, we wake up one morning and find that we’ve become something we don’t really want to be. And worse yet, without our awareness, life has an amazing way of transplanting us to places we’d really not choose for ourselves if we were actually thinking about it more.

Take Doeg the Edomite, for example.

Doeg was the chief herdsman for King Saul. Chapters 21 and 22 of 1st Samuel tell us a bit about his ugly story. This ‘big man’ (as David pegs him in Psalm 52) had a very little heart. Yet rabbinical writings suggest that Doeg, a Gentile, had a love for God and converted to Judaism early on in his life, becoming one of the greatest scholars of his day. Apparently Doeg was so talented and well-versed, he could make others ‘blush’ when they tried to outdo him with their own wisdom. Ancient Jewish writings say that Doeg could entertain 300 different questions with reference to one single ritual case.  Other writings tell us however, that this young man with a heart for God also became a very jealous man with a very big tongue. One big man with a small conscience, a holder of grudges, and one that, over time, showed little or no mercy toward others. I guess one could say that Doeg, the young sprout who once had a soft heart for God, chose to let life make him into a cactus tree planted in a field of poison ivy.

David, on the other hand, chose to let his hard knocks in life not shape his destiny. For years, young David, a man who, like Doeg, had a soft heart toward God, had to live most of his life on the run, escaping the wrath of King Saul. Quite honestly, David could have grown bitter and allowed live to make him into that cactus tree planted in a field of poison ivy, but David chose something better.

In Psalm 52, David calls himself an olive tree, growing green in God’s House. And just as David prophesied here in Psalm 52, Doeg the Edomite died at age 34, cut down in the prime of life, betrayed and murdered by those who had followed him and his wisdom for many years. But David? This green olive tree, choosing to live in God’s House rather than in a field of poison ivy, lived to a ripe old age, increasing in God’s presence until the day he drew his last breath.

Hmm. Now let’s review those two questions again…

Question #1…So what kind of tree would you like to be when you grow up?

Question #2…And where will you choose to be planted?

My prayer: Father God, help me learn from these ancient stories found in the Scriptures. I choose today to not let life shape me into a tree I don’t want to become. I also choose to not allow my circumstances, difficult as they might be, to plant me in places I don’t want to go. I choose this day, Jesus, to become an olive tree, growing green in the House of the Lord. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: Like in Doeg’s life, good gifts from God (such as wisdom), when combined with expanding pride and a boisterous tongue, can lead to really bad fruit. What self-centered and self-focused manure is fertilizing my roots today? Am I aware that my selfish insecurities and self-consumed promotion of myself can be taking me down a road I just don’t want to travel on?

So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?


Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Sustainable Faith-Heartland network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.

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