Sermons

Summary: 911, Part Four

THE LAST LAUGH (PSALMS 52)

On the cover of the May 21, 2001 Newsweek magazine was the full-size head of a man, except that the face of the man is indistinct because the print is like a red X-ray film or an undeveloped photograph. The word E V I L in bold covers his nose and mouth, but not the sharp, hollow, piercing eyes that seem to stare right at readers of the magazine. Underneath the word E V I L is this question: “What makes people go wrong??

When I saw the cover for the first time, I remarked, “What a choice for a model!?Turning to page 3 I discovered that the cover was not a model, but a hated, vilified, and controversial murderer. At the bottom of the page was an explanation of the cover design:

COVER: Photograph of Timothy McVeigh by Gamma. Colorization by Steve Walkowiak for NEWSWEEK.

Tim McVeigh, you may recall, single-handedly blew up the Oklahoma City federal building to vent his anger at the government, killing 168 innocent victims, including 19 children. The Newsweek edition was published in conjunction with McVeigh’s original execution date, May 16. McVeigh’s execution by lethal injection was carried out a month later, June 11, after his lawyers had failed to delay the execution a second time.

Psalm 52 is an agonizing poem and prayer from a man who felt responsible for the evil that was thrust upon others, causing their death (1 Sam 22:22). David visited a kind priest, Ahimelech, who sheltered, fed, and unwittingly armed him when he fled from King Saul (1 Sam 21:7-9). Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd, reported to Saul that the priest was harboring David, Saul’s sworn enemy. Saul then ordered Doeg to execute the priest, his family, and other known priests in the town of Nob. Altogether eighty-five priests were killed. Only Ahimelech?son, Abiathar, escaped. If that wasn’t enough, Doeg also killed the men and women of the town, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep. (1 Sam 22:18-22)

With the knowledge of what Doeg the Edomite, a descendant of Esau, had done, David penned this intense, wrenching and probing psalm. This is the only psalm that covers the massacre at Nob and only five of one hundred and fifty psalms begin with this agonizing question “why?(Ps 2:1, 10:1, 22:1, 52:1, 74:1).

What bothered David was not only the act of evil, but the arrogance of evil - - the boldness, the heartlessness, and the shamelessness of evil to boast, to argue, and champion its merits, which include causing trouble, creating havoc, and amassing destruction.

52:1 For the director of music. A maskil of David. When Doeg the Edomite had gone to Saul and told him: "David has gone to the house of Ahimelech."

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? 2 Your tongue plots destruction; it is like a sharpened razor, you who practice deceit. 3 You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth. Selah 4 You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue!

Evildoers elect to draw the first blood. They strike first and they strike hard. There is no moderation, restrain, or compassion in their schemes, system, or soul. They are cold-blooded, thick-skinned, and heavy-handed.

The word “boast?is the same word for hallelujah in Hebrew or praise in English. Instead of praising God or boasting in the Lord (Ps 34:2, 44:8), the mighty man blows his own trumpet, toots his own horn, and sounds his own praise. Bragging about evil is the worst form of bragging in the Psalms. People have been known to boast of the cravings of their heart (Ps 10:2-3), to boast of their great riches (Ps 49:6), and even to boast in idols (Ps 97:7), but admiring evil is inexcusable, because admiring evil is the same as approving, commending, and embracing it. And embracing evil is abominable to the Lord.

The evil that David referred to (v 1) is the most common word for evil in the Bible, outnumbering another, lesser word for evil three-to-one. This is the word that describes Noah’s generation (Gen 6:5), the men of Sodom (Gen 13:13), and the kings of Israel and Judah after David’s reign.

The admiration of evil is intensified by the word “love.?The Hebrew usage for “love?is similar to English. One can love an abstraction such as evil the same way as one love a person or an object. The evil man concurs, connects, and cooperates with evil. He believes, persists and delights in using evil to accomplish his goals.

One of the most captivating stories of good vs. evil is Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low. A wealthy, ambitious and ruthless shoe executive who built his residence on top of a hill received news that his son had been kidnapped, except that his chauffeur’s son was the one wrongly kidnapped. Gondo, who had planned to use his funds for a hostile takeover, did not want to pay the ransom that would have bankrupted him, but relented for moral reasons after a titanic emotional battle.

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