A Psalm, A Slaughter, and the Supremacy of God

Psalm 52

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of David, when Doeg, the Edomite, came and told Saul, “David has come to the house of Ahimelech.”

 1Why do you boast of evil, O mighty man?
   The steadfast love of God endures all the day.
2Your tongue plots destruction,
   like a sharp razor, you worker of deceit.
3You love evil more than good,
   and  lying more than speaking what is right.
                         Selah
4You love all words that devour,
   O deceitful tongue.

 5But 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.
                         Selah

6The righteous shall see and fear,
   and shall laugh at him, saying,
7“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!”

 8But I am like a green olive tree
   in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God
   forever and ever.
9I will thank you forever,
   because you have done it.
I will wait for your name, for it is good,
   in the presence of the godly.

Psalm 52 is a psalm written by David. If you read this psalm knowing nothing of the historical context, you’ll more than likely miss some of the richness contained within it. Without any reference to the context in which David writes, readers will likely view this Psalm as merely one of many which compare and contrast the wicked and the righteous. No doubt, this comparison is present in Psalm 52, but David is not speaking about these things abstractly here. He’s talking about a specific person. A specific wicked man….and knowing the context of this psalm and what this guy did will make you cringe, but it will also give so much more weight to what David writes. Here’s the story (the whole shebang can be found in 1 Samuel 18-22)…

Anybody who’s familiar with the life of David at all knows that Saul hated him. Saul himself was a wicked man whose jealousy and insecurities caused him to develop an intense hatred for David. Saul was rejected by God as Israel’s King (because of his wickedness) and David was anointed as his successor. In response, Saul plots to kill David. David, taking advice from his good buddy Jonathan, goes on the run.

Early on in his days on the run, David connects with a priest named Ahimelech. David doesn’t tell Ahimelech that he’s running for his life. Instead, he says that the king had appointed him to complete a “top-secret” matter. David is not exactly straight-forward. He lies to keep a low profile.

Ahimelech hooks David up with some food (consecrated bread) and a weapon (Goliath’s old sword…yep…the same one David used to lop off said Giants head). Before David takes off, the Bible clues us in on a bit of information that seems to be out of place. In 1 Samuel 21:7 we read,

“Now one of the servants of Saul was there that day, detained before the LORD; and his name was Doeg the Edomite, the chief of Saul’s shepherds”.

Doeg peeps everything that goes down. He then goes and sells Ahimelech out. Doeg tells Saul that Ahimelech helped David. Saul thinks that Ahimelech is conspiring against him, so he has him and the rest of the priests killed. Right in the thick of it all, taking part in this massacre is Doeg the Edomite. He personally kills 85 priests (1 Samuel 22:18) and then proceeds to lay waste to the rest of the city, “…both men and women, children and infants; also oxen, donkeys, and sheep he struck with the edge of the sword”. (1 Samuel 22:19)

This is the story behind Psalm 52. It’s Doeg whose wickedness is described in the first four verses of Psalm 52. He’s the one who “boasts of evil” (verse 1). It’s his tongue that “plots destruction” (verse 2) and he’s the one who is said to “love evil more than good” (verse 3).

Knowing the story behind this psalm “puts a face” to the wickedness described. This isn’t some abstract wickedness. This is a real man who slaughtered A BUNCH of real people…in cold blood. Many of the folks that were murdered that day were David’s friends and family. He would have no doubt, been grieved by the news of each of their deaths. But even in the face of grief, David finds remarkable comfort in the justice of God and in the security of those who take refuge in Him.

David prophesies the downfall of Doeg in verses 5-7. He says of Doeg in verse 5, “…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.” Doeg’s wickedness will not go unpunished, and the reason it will not go unpunished is because the LORD is in control. The LORD is just and so therefore no wickedness will ultimately go unpunished. You can be assured of that. In response to the LORD’s righteous judgment against Doeg, verse 6 says, “The righteous will see and fear, and shall laugh at him…” I appreciate James Boice’s comments on this verse. Boice says,

“This is not a mockery at another person’s misfortune. It is a satisfaction at the rightness of things when God intervenes to judge those who have done great harm to others”. (From James Montgomery Boice Expositional Commentary on the Psalms Volume 2:p.442)

The righteous find comfort and satisfaction in the justice of God.

David closes this psalm by painting a picture of people who trust in the LORD even in the face of horrendous injustice like the kind committed by Doeg. Those who find refuge in the LORD will continue to be thankful to Him and to live dependent on Him, knowing that he is good even in the face of gross injustice. David says to the LORD in verse 9,

“I will thank you forever because you have done it [exercised justice]. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.”

Brothers and sisters, God is good, He’s just, and He’s in control…even in the face of horrible injustice.

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