God, Let Me Like a Spreading Tree (Psalm 52)

Scripture References

Thematically related:

Further Reflections on Scripture References

Psalm 1 serves as a parallel passage in which the role of both the righteous and the wicked are contrasted.

The reference to growth and maturation is found in John 15:1-8.

Stanzas 2 and 3 express disdain for the wickedness of those who refused to follow God, and similar ideas surface, for instance, in Psalm 139:19-22, as well as other imprecatory Psalms.

Confessions and Statements of Faith References

Further Reflections on Confessions and Statements of Faith References

This song speaks about the fall into sin and the resulting sinfulness of the human race. God’s people are called to be aware of the fall. Belgic Confession, Article 14 summarizes the fall and its impact with these words: “They subjected themselves willingly to sin and consequently to death and the curse...”


Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 3, Question and Answer 7 points out that “this fall has so poisoned our nature that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition.” Yet, God’s people are also called to know about God’s grace, which is freely given, despite the depravity of the world. Our World Belongs to God, paragraph 14 claims that “we prove each day apart from grace that we are guilty sinners...”


God, Let Me Like a Spreading Tree (Psalm 52)

Additional Prayers

Holy God, your love is both fierce and tender.
Nourish and prune us through your Word and Spirit,
so that we may grow in truth, in peace, and in joy,
bearing fruit in this world, which you dearly love. Amen.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

A Petitionary Prayer
O God, lover of your good creation, let me like a spreading tree grow inside your love so that my leaves and twigs and branches and trunk may together say that you are the God who loves human life, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
— Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

God, Let Me Like a Spreading Tree (Psalm 52)

Tune Information

E♭ Major

Musical Suggestion

Sing slowly and softly. Sts. 1-2 in particular should be sung with a sense of weariness or exhaustion. It would also be effective to use st. 3 alone as a frame for the reading of the psalm. Or sts. 1-2 could be spoken, concluding with the singing of st. 3.
— Psalms for All Seasons (http://www.psalmsforallseasons.org)

God, Let Me Like a Spreading Tree (Psalm 52)

Author Information

Douglas C. Gay has been a lecturer in Theology and Religious Studies since 2005 in the School of Critical Studies at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He holds an MA degree in Modern History and International Politics from the University of St Andrews, a BD from the University of Glasgow, and the PhD at the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. He is an ordained minister in the Church of Scotland, and served two years as a minister before spending six years in Hackney, East London as a minister of the United Reformed Church. He has worked as a religious columnist for The Times and is also active as a hymnwriter and liturgist.
— Emily Brink

Composer Information

Bradbury (1816-1868) came from a musical family who encouraged him from an early age to learn to play various musical instruments. In 1830 his family moved to Boston. There he studied singing with Lowell Mason and sang in Mason's Bowdoin Street Church choir. In 1841 Bradbury moved to Brooklyn, New York, and became the organist at the Baptist Tabernacle in New York City. He organized children's singing classes, which developed into annual singing festivals and stimulated the teaching of music in the New York public schools. In 1854 William joined his brother Edward and a German piano maker to begin a piano firm, which became the Bradbury Piano Company. Bradbury wrote or edited sixty collections of popular music and edited and published numerous song books, including The Psalmodist (1844) and Golden Shower of Sunday School Melodies (1862). He is sometimes known as "the father of Sunday school hymnody."
— Bert Polman

Author and Composer Information

John Bell (b. 1949) was born in the Scottish town of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, intending to be a music teacher when he felt the call to the ministry. But in frustration with his classes, he did volunteer work in a deprived neighborhood in London for a time and also served for two years as an associate pastor at the English Reformed Church in Amsterdam. After graduating he worked for five years as a youth pastor for the Church of Scotland, serving a large region that included about 500 churches. He then took a similar position with the Iona Community, and with his colleague Graham Maule, began to broaden the youth ministry to focus on renewal of the church’s worship. His approach soon turned to composing songs within the identifiable traditions of hymnody that found began to address concerns missing from the current Scottish hymnal:
     I discovered that seldom did our hymns represent the plight of poor people to God. There was nothing that dealt with unemployment, nothing that dealt with living in a multicultural society and feeling disenfranchised. There was nothing about child abuse…,            that reflected concern for the developing world, nothing that helped see ourselves as brothers and sisters to those who are suffering from poverty or persecution. [from an interview in Reformed Worship (March 1993)]
That concern not only led to writing many songs, but increasingly to introducing them internationally in many conferences, while also gathering songs from around the world. He was convener for the fourth edition of the Church of Scotland’s Church Hymnary (2005), a very different collection from the previous 1973 edition. His books, The Singing Thing and The Singing Thing Too, as well as the many collections of songs and worship resources produced by John Bell—some together with other members of the Iona Community’s “Wild Goose Resource Group,” are available in North America from GIA Publications. 
— Emily Brink
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