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Reading the Story Lived

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This psalm gives us a glimpse of David’s early years, and of the faithfulness and trust he displayed in hard circumstances. But he knew what God was like, and he knew how the world worked. That being the case, he could wait patiently, trusting.


To the chief Musician, Maschil, A Psalm of David, when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech.

“Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually. Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah. Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue. God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah. The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him: Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints” (Ps. 52:1-9).


According to the ancient inscription above the psalm, the occasion for this was the debacle with Ahimilech and his priests in 1 Sam. 21-22. The psalm begins with asking why Doeg the mighty would boast in mischief—God’s goodness is continual (v. 1). His tongue is like a razor, capable of cutting his lies fine (v. 2). Not only were they words of mischief, but lying words of mischief (v. 2). Doeg loves evil more than good, which means he loves good not at all. He loves lies more than words of righteousness (v. 3). Selah is an invitation to pause and reflect, and we should reflect on the mystery that makes sin attractive. He loves it when deceits devour (v. 4). But it comes back around—he loves destruction, but God will visit destruction upon him (v. 5). Think about that, and selah. The response of the righteous, when he sees this judgment, is to fear and laugh both (v. 6). Isn’t that the guy who did not make God his strength, and who did trust in his own wealth (v. 7)? But the wealthy scoundrel destroyed is nothing like David. In the house of God, offering true worship, he is a green and fruitful olive tree (v. 8). David will praise God forever, because God is the one who has done this great thing (v. 9). With that trust, the judgment is as good as done, and David will wait for it (v. 9). It is good before the saints.


David fell into disfavor with Saul, not because of anything he had done, but simply because the grace and favor of God was upon him (1 Sam. 20). David fled from Saul, who was seeking his life. David came to Nob, where Ahimelech was, and obtained the shewbread for his men, and the sword of Goliath (1. Sam. 21:6, 9). Doeg the Edomite saw him there. Ahimelech knew nothing about the falling out between Saul and David, and David told him he was on urgent business from the king. After this, David fled to various places in order to stay away from Saul. When Saul heard that David was in the forest of Hareth, he upbraided his courtiers. Doeg, who had been his chief shepherd, told the king that he had seen him getting help from Ahimelech. Saul summoned the priest, who answered him bravely. Saul ordered the priests slaughtered, which his men refused to do, to their credit. He then ordered Doeg to do it, which he promptly did, and then he went and sacked the city of Nob. This was probably the cause of Doeg’s ascendancy, mentioned by David in the psalm. And note how Saul, the persecutor (1 Sam. 22:8) felt persecuted. He was trying to kill David for no good reason, and wanted everybody to feel sorry for him.


Doeg did not trust in God, but rather trusted in his riches and great wealth. He gained them by destructive deceit—he had been at Nob, and knew David was there, but he also knew that Ahimilech was innocent of any conspiracy. Nevertheless, he lied with a half truth, and then sealed his commitment to that lie with his willingness to shed innocent blood. “If riches increase, set not your heart upon them” (Ps. 62:10). Doeg had a good year, at least the way he was calculating it. But he read the story completely wrong.


There are four verbs that describe what God will do to Doeg, translated here as destroy, take away, pluck out, and root out. It would be hard to make the coming desolation of Doeg any more clear, and it is a destruction that is entire and absolute. The first verb means to pull down and break into pieces, the second means to pluck up by twisting, the third means to sweep away,   and the last refers to him being rooted up out of the land of the living.


When worldling conspire against God, we are not surprised to find that God laughs that them (Ps. 2:4. But sometimes we think that the privilege of such laughter is withheld from us, afraid that we could not do this apart from personal vindictiveness, which the Scriptures everywhere forbid. But notice what it says. The righteous shall see and fear, and laugh. This is no petty malice. Modern saints have been so warned about the dangers of triumphalism that we have forgotten to fear God. There is a deep seated gladness in the prerogatives of God that cannot be described as jolly merriment, but is nevertheless a solemn and righteous laughter.


David writes this when he was still on the run, and Doeg in a position of power at court. The last time he had been at the house of the Lord, the priests had all been slaughtered as a result. Nevertheless, he saw himself, in themidst of his affliction, as a green olive tree. The olive was a symbol of Israel, and David (who knew he had been anointed king by Samuel) was that Israel, even though he was on the run. And Doeg, even though he was a mighty man at court, was a dead man walking. As you walk by faith in God, see yourself in the story that God is writing. Know the story well enough to call the shots beforehand, not in arrogance, but in humility.

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