This psalm is about two kinds of people, and David relates each sort of person with a kind of tree. The first sort of person is a “mighty man” who “boast[s] of evil” (52:1). He has a deceitful tongue and plots others’ destruction (52:2-4). Because this person is mighty by human standards, they find it easy to be proud in their strength. This person is the source of injustice towards their neighbor, and doesn’t fear any retribution for it.
God won’t let that sort of thing stand. 52:5 says, “God will break you down forever; he will snatch and tear you from your tent; he will uproot you from the land of the living.” This unjust person—the CEO who cheats his customers; the mean and abusive parent; the bribe-able judge or police officer; the slum lord; the porn-watcher or strip-club patron—this unjust person will be like a tree uprooted by God himself.
The righteous—including you and I if we are in Christ—will look at this person and say “See the man who would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and sought refuge in his own destruction!” (52:7). The righteous are those who put their trust, not in themselves, their riches, their power, but in the Lord. In other words, think twice before finding confidence in your bank statement. Trust the God who made you, the bank, and everything else.
If we find our refuge in the Lord, if we “trust in the steadfast love of God,” we will be “like a green olive tree the house of God” (52:8). Finding refuge in God is like being a firmly rooted, fruitful, olive tree. Olive trees don’t try hard to produce their fruit, and they don’t pride themselves in their riches. They produce olives because that is the sort of tree they are. They are simply doing what they were made to do.
No matter how dry or rocky the soil around, the olive tree keeps producing without effort. It doesn’t worry about producing fruit. It simply does.
Likewise, we don’t fret, but trust in the Lord for our salvation, thanking him “because [he has] done it” (52:9). So we wait for him, knowing that we have been planted by a merciful God who will sustain us, no matter how hard our circumstances. And we produce fruit, not because we are great or smart or impressive, but simply because that’s who we are.