The psalmist, in Psalm 52, describes an evil man who, for his own selfish benefit, is seeking the destruction of good. The description of this enemy serves as a portrayal of evil. Evil is strong, boastful, and arrogant in its wickedness and in its oppression and destruction of good. Skillfully, forcefully, evil attacks and twists truth with deception. With lies evil oppresses and defeats truth and good.
“Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God? Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit. You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue!” (Psalm 52:1-4).
The psalmist is confident God will bring his judgment against this evil man. “Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin: He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living. The righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at him, saying, ‘Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others!’” (Psalm 52:5-7).
In the ancient city of Thessalonica Christians were being persecuted. Evil people were oppressing and destroying them. Yet these disciples of Christ held fast to their faith though by all appearances good was defeated, evil was overcoming the Christ and his followers. Often so reads the New Testament account of the followers of Christ. And so reads the history of the followers of Jesus Christ throughout the centuries. The story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer is but one example of a disciple of Christ oppressed, facing destruction, with no apparent hope. The Allies were within range, but not in time to save Bonhoeffer from execution. Yet within those early disciples, the followers of Christ through the centuries, modern martyrs like Bonhoeffer, there is found peace, a boldness of faith and of hope, in the midst of darkness and seeming hopelessness. This peace is expressed in their words, in their stedfast faithfulness to Christ, and in their perseverance.
From the first Christians to this very day the hope which sustains Christ’s disciples is the promise of the fullness of salvation in the resurrection when Christ comes in judgment against the wicked and to be glorified in His faithful followers. The persecuted church in ancient Thessalonica is encouraged to persevere in faith in the midst of the darkness of persecution. The apostle Paul writes, “God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
The confidence and hope of Christians throughout the centuries is more than the confidence of God’s judgment coming against the wicked. The psalmist writes, “The steadfast love of God endures all the day” (Psalm 52:1 ESV). He is confident of the steadfast love, the loving kindness, of God which endures continually. “I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever” (Psalm 52:8). God’s love, his lovingkindness, is unfailing, faithful. Confident of the love of God the psalmist does not fear but confidently hopes. It is the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ which has sustained and strengthened Christ’s followers in the midst of the darkest times. The apostle Paul is emphatic in telling us there is nothing which “will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). God, in Christ Jesus, will not fail his people. God’s love overcomes fear.