# 188 A journey through the Psalms. Psalm 52. Like an olive tree – stocky and sturdy.

The psalms are full of imagery and analogies and Psalm 52 is no exception. Following all his negative words concerning the one who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others (verse 7), the psalmist then writes concerning himself, describing himself as follows:

But I am like an olive tree
    flourishing in the house of God;
I trust
in God’s unfailing love
    for ever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
    in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
    for your name is good.

So, why an olive tree flourishing in the house of God?

Olive trees (and other notable trees and vines) are mentioned often in the OT, and a few times it is used as the psalmist does here, comparing it to the person who follows God faithfully.

An example is Hosea 14:6 His splendour will be like an olive tree.

So,who is Hosea referring to? In the context of these verses it is the person who truly repents and turns back to God, walking in his ways. The Lord says:

“I will heal their waywardness
    and love them freely,
    for my anger has turned away from them…
His splendour will be like an olive tree,
    his fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon.
People will dwell again in his shade;
    they will flourish like the grain,
they will blossom like the vine.    
(Hosea 14:6-7)


    
In fact, in these verses, that person is likened not only to an olive tree in all its splendour, but also as having a fragrance like a cedar of Lebanon… [and that] they will blossom like the vine. A picture of agricultural life in all its fullness and fruitfulness.

Which reminds us ofPsalm 1, when those who faithfully worship God are likened to a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither – whatever they do prospers (Psalm 1:3)

But, what is so special about the olive tree?

Blaiklock calls this a “rich image”. He continues, “The olive was life to the ancient Eastern world. Indeed, even today [written in 1977] the economy of some of its lands would stagger if the precious tree failed. The traveller finds it everywhere.”

He describes the tree as “stocky and sturdy” and explains, “It is the living symbol of indestructible vitality. It grows best in what most trees would find a hostile environment. In the fertile valleys, to be sure, the fruit will grow large and round, but there is more oil in the fruit from the harsh and stony slopes, where a good tree will produce half a ton of oil a year. Nothing can kill the olive.” (# 37)

Wilcock adds to the above: “In contrast to the uprooted tree of verse 5, God’s people are like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God…The picture of the olive tree…has a special richness – evergreen, hardy, remarkedly long lived, its fruit valuable, practical, versatile, life sustaining, life enhancing.” (# 5)

So, what would you rather be? The contrast could not be greater. Either uprooted…from the land of the living, i.e spiritually dead! Or, an olive tree flourishing in the house of God, i.e. full of life! And note that this latter state is accomplished (just like some olive trees) even in a “hostile environment”. Jesus promised:  I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  (John 10:10)

And so, the psalmist finishes off this psalm with three great character traits of one who God describes as a flourishing olive tree growing in his house. They are:

  1. He/she trusts in God, knowing he/she is loved

I trust in God’s unfailing love
    for ever and ever.

  • He/she is full of praise for all God has done for him/her.

For what you have done I will always praise you
    in the presence of your faithful people.

  • His/her life is one of hopefulness because he/she knows that God is good.                               And I will hope in your name,
        for your name is good.

Does these describe you at this time? If not, take the words of God in Hosea to heart when he says that if you turn (or return) to Him, He will heal your waywardness and love you freely, for his anger will turn away from you. (Hosea 14:6)  

Father, thankyou for the truth that, because of all Jesus has accomplished for us, we can thrive and grow and produce spiritual fruit, even in the most hostile environment. Thankyou for the encouragement of the words of Jesus, who said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

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