Reading Time: 7 Minutes
The phrase “pecking order” originated with the behavior of chickens on the farm. The strongest chicken is always first to the feed and the weakest will always be the last. In between the strongest and the weakest the remainder of the chickens fall in line with the relative order of strongest to weakest.
In Psalm 52 a person at the bottom of the “pecking order” calls to account the person at the top.
The enduring question for people who read this Psalm is what kind of strength really of the greatest importance? Is it power, riches, and the ability to impose our will on others – to be at the top of the “pecking order”? Or, is a relationship with God the most important value in life?
A thoughtful look at this Psalm will help us determine our own behavior in the “chicken yard” of life.
Accusation Against the Arrogant
People on the bottom of the “pecking order” are generally not able to confront the powerful. The powerful only care about people at the bottom, if they can use them to further their own self-centered schemes.
People on the bottom have historically found their voice in prayer. They have been able to come to God with the reality of their situation.
Before God they address the so-called “great one,” who has injured them.
Why do you boast, great one, of your evil?
God’s faithfulness is eternal.
You make plans to ruin others;
your tongue is like a sharp razor.
You are always inventing lies.
You love evil more than good
and falsehood more than truth.
You love to hurt people with your words, you liar! (Psalm 52.1-4)
In the presence of God, the vulnerable and last-place persons of the world can tell it like it is.
— The top-of-the-pecking-order “big shots” are arrogant and evil.
— The “great ones” use words to cut down the very people they oppress.
— The are always inventing lies. They love falsehood more than truth.
— They love evil more than good.
— The arrogant use words as weapons to hurt the less fortunate.
I learned about the “pecking order” of chickens while I was serving a small church in Louisiana in the 1970s. My friends and fellow church members were at the bottom of the pecking order in a small Louisiana town.
I have served five churches in 50 years of ministry. Besides Maywood Baptist Church, this Louisiana church ranks second in my list of favorites.
I learned a “pecking order” danger while I was in that Louisiana church. Even though they were at the bottom of the pecking order in town, some people attempted to exert their superiority over their fellow church members. They used the same techniques of power that were used on them by the “great ones” of the city.
The key lesson to learn from this Psalm is to evaluate what is really important. Without a doubt, we don’t want to adopt the methods of the “big shots” in the Psalm.
As we read further, we learn that the greatest value is to know God well enough to affirm that a relationship with him is the ultimate experience in life.
God’s Response to the “Great Ones”
The person at the bottom of the “pecking order” speaks as if he or she is the bailiff who reads the verdict of the judge.
So God will ruin you forever;
he will take hold of you and snatch you from your home;
he will remove you from the world of the living.
Righteous people will see this and be afraid;
then they will laugh at you and say
“Look, here is someone who did not depend on God for safety,
but trusted instead in great wealth
and looked for security in being wicked.” (Psalm 52.5-7)
The world’s system has turned God’s principles upside down. The world has made dishonest speech and harmful behavior acceptable for centuries.
The person who knows and does the will of God is able to perceive the end of the so-called “great ones.” When they are snatched from the earth, they will be revealed as nothing more than chaff.
At one time, the king of Babylon was a terrifying force who dominated the Middle East. Isaiah revealed just how this “great one” was like chaff on the day of his death.
He wrote, “The world of the dead is getting ready to welcome the king of Babylon. The ghosts of those who were powerful on earth are stirring about. The ghosts of kings are rising from their thrones.
“They all call out to him, ‘Now you are as weak as we are! You are one of us! You used to be honored with the music of harps, but now here you are in the world of the dead.
“You lie on a bed of maggots and are covered with a blanket of worms.'” (Isaiah 14.9-11).
The “big shots” trust their wealth, their ability to manipulate people with words, and the results of their evil deeds. Their end result is weakness, death, and judgment.
Rather than fearing the “great ones,” the righteous fear God. God’s famous command in Deuteronomy describes what it means to be both righteous and to fear God.
Rather than trying to emulate the behavior of the “big shots,” they make this their aspiration: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6.5).
The people who reside at the bottom of the “pecking order,” but who love God have put their trust in God’s constant love.
But I am like an olive tree growing in the house of God;
I trust in his constant love forever and ever.
I will always thank you, God, for what you have done;
in the presence of your people
I will proclaim that you are good. (Psalm 52.8-9)
Even though this Psalm features people who have been harmed by the “great ones,” being able to love and trust God is available to persons of all walks of life.
They resemble the person in Psalm 1, who put their entire trust in knowing God and doing God’s will.
They are like trees that grow beside a stream,
that bear fruit at the right time,
and whose leaves do not dry up.
They succeed in everything they do. (Psalm 1.3)
Lessons from Psalm 52
There are some lessons everyone can learn from Psalm 52.
Jesus made it clear when he said, “For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their soul? Indeed, what can they give in return for their soul?” (Mark 8.36-37).
It is very easy to be seduced by the rich and famous, the “great ones” of the world. This Psalm and the entire life of Jesus tell us the truth. Loving and trusting God with all our heart is the ultimate value.
People at the bottom of the “pecking order” are welcomed before God’s court to bring their complaint. As they speak of the injustice they have experienced, God hears their cry and he directs their path.
God directs them to a relationship of love and trust in his gracious Being.
May We Pray for You?
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. I will pray for you and so will the prayer team at Maywood Baptist Church.