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Psalm 52:8-9

8. But I am like a green olive-tree in the house of God: I have hoped in the goodness of God for ever and ever. 9. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it. I will wait on thy name, for it is good before thy meek ones.

 

8 But I am like a green olive-tree 283283     Our English Bible also reads, “like a green olive-tree;” but it would be more correct to translate, “I am like a flourishing, or vigorous olive-tree.” The original word, רענן, raanan, has no reference to the color of the tree, but to its fresh, vigouous and flourish condition. Hence this word is used, in Psalm 92:11, to express “fresh oil;” and in Daniel 4:4, to denote the prosperous condition of Nebuchadnezzar, “I was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace.” The fact is, that the color of the olive-tree, so far from being of a bright and lively green, is dark, disagreeable, and yellowish. Travellers, when they have seen this tree, have experienced a feeling of disappointment in not finding it to possess the vivid verdure which they had been led to expect from the description given of it in the Scriptures. An excellent English traveler, Mr Sharpe, writing from Italy, thus expresses himself on this subject: “The fields, and indeed the whole face of Tuscany, are in a manner covered with olive-trees; but the olive-tree does not answer the character I had conceived of it. The royal Psalmist, and some of the sacred writers, speak with rapture of the ‘green olive-tree,’ so that I expected a beautiful green; and I confess to you I was wretchedly disappointed to find its hue resembling that of our hedges when they are covered with dust.” But this disappointment which Mr Sharpe felt arose not from overcharged or exaggerated colouring on the part of the sacred writers, but from his not understanding the meaning of their language. The beauty of the olive-tree is represented in other parts of Scripture as consisting, not in the greenness of its foliage, but in the spread of its branches, (Hosea 14:6.) — Harmers Observations, volume 3, pp. 255-257. The propriety and beauty of the comparison which David here makes appears from the fact that the olive is an evergreen, and is also, considering its size, long-lived. While, in the 5th verse, he had predicted the speedy and total destruction of Doeg, comparing him to a tree plucked up by the roots, he, in contrast with this, represents himself as like a young, vigorous olive-tree, which had long to live and flourish; confidently expecting to obtain that outward peace and prosperity which God had promised him, and, along with this, the enjoyment of all spiritual blessings. We have seen that David was enabled, by the exercise of faith, to look down upon the worldly grandeur of Doeg with a holy contempt; and now we find him rising superior to all that was presently afflictive in his own condition. Though, to appearance, he more resembled the withered trunk of a tree which rots upon the ground, he compares himself, in the confidence of coming prosperity, to a green olive. I need not say that the destruction of Doeg could only communicate comfort to his mind, in the way of convincing him that God was the avenging judge of human cruelty, and leading him to infer that, as he had punished his wrongs, so he would advance him to renewed measures of prosperity. From his language, it appears that he could conceive of no higher felicity in his condition than being admitted amongst the number of the worshippers of God, and engaging in the exercises of devotion. This was characteristic of his spirit. We have already had occasion to see that he felt his banishment from the sanctuary of God more keenly than separation from his consort, the loss of worldly substance, or the dangers and hardships of the wilderness. The idea of an allusion being here made, by way of contrast, to Doeg, who came to the tabernacle of the Lord merely as a spy, and under hypocritical pretexts, is strained and far-fetched. It is more natural to suppose that David distinguishes himself from all his enemies, without exception, intimating that, though he was presently removed from the tabernacle, he would soon be restored to it; and that they who boasted of possessing, or rather monopolising, the house of God, would be rooted out of it with disgrace. And here let us engrave the useful lesson upon our hearts, that we should consider it the great end of our existence to be found numbered amongst the worshippers of God; and that we should avail ourselves of the inestimable privilege of the stated assemblies of the Church, which are necessary helps to our infirmity, and means of mutual excitement and encouragement. By these, and our common Sacraments, the Lord, who is one God, and who designed that we should be one in him, is training us up together in the hope of eternal life, and in the united celebration of his holy name. Let us learn with David to prefer a place in the house of God to all the lying vanities of this world. He adds the reason why he should be like the green olive-tree — because he hoped in the goodness of God; for the causal particle appears to be understood. And in this he adverts to the contrast between him and his enemies. They might flourish for a time, spread their branches far and wide, and shoot themselves up to a gigantic stature, but would speedily wither away, because they had no root in the goodness of God; whereas he was certain to derive from this source ever renewed supplies of sap and vigor. As the term of his earthly trials might be protracted, and there was a danger that he might sink under their long continuance, unless his confidence should extend itself far into futurity, he declares expressly that he would not presume to prescribe times to God, and that his hopes were stretched into eternity. It followed that he surrendered himself entirely to God in all that regarded this life or his death. The passage puts us in possession of the grand distinction between the genuine children of God and those who are hypocrites. They are to be found together in the Church, as the wheat is mingled with the chaff on the same threshing-floor; but the one class abides for ever in the steadfastness of a well-founded hope, while the other is driven away in the vanity of its false confidences.

9. I will praise thee, etc. He concludes the psalm with thanksgiving, and shows that he is sincere in this, by the special acknowledgement which he makes of the fact that this had been the work of God. Such is the corruption of the human heart, that out of a hundred who profess gratitude to God with their lips, scarcely one man seriously reflects upon the benefits which he has received as coming from his hand. David declares, therefore, that it was entirely owing to the divine protection that he had escaped from the treachery of Doeg, and from all his subsequent dangers, and promises to retain a grateful sense of it throughout the whole of his life. There is no religious duty in which it does not become us to manifest a spirit of perseverance; but we need to be especially enjoined to it in the duty of thanksgiving, disposed as we are so speedily to forget our mercies, and occasionally to imagine that the gratitude of a few days is a sufficient tribute for benefits which deserve to be kept in everlasting remembrance. He speaks of joining the exercise of hope with that of gratitude; for to wait on the name of God is synonymous with patiently expecting his mercy even when there is least appearance of its being granted, and trusting in his word, whatever delays there may be in the fulfillment of it. He encourages himself in the belief that his hope will not be vain, by reflecting that the name of God is good before his saints Some read, because it is good before thy saints; that is, to hope in the divine name, (Psalm 118:8.) But the other reading appears to me to be the most simple and natural, expressing the truth, that God will not frustrate the expectations of his people, because his goodness towards them is always conspicuous. The name of God may be detested by the wicked, and the very sound of it be sufficient to strike terror into their hearts; but David asserts it to be a sweet name in the experience of all his people. They are here called his meek ones, because, as I have remarked in commenting upon Psalm 16:3, they reflect in their character the kindness and beneficence of their Father in heaven.


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