/ Psalm / Gentle Reformation

The Ways of Doeg and David - Psalm 52

The title of this psalm ties it to a specific event in the life of David which is recorded in I Samuel 22. In his flight from Saul, David was given refuge and supplies by Ahimelech, a priest at the city of Nob. A herdsman named Doeg reported this to Saul, who subsequently ordered the massacre of all the priests in the city. None of Saul’s servants would carry out this heinous order except the informant himself. Doeg not only killed eighty-five priests, but also the men, women, children, infants, and animals that inhabited the town. "Doeg the Edomite" can also be translated "Doeg the Red," which some have taken as a descriptive nickname for this brutal man – "Doeg the Bloody."

Hate Speech (vss. 1-4)

David marvels at Doeg, and those like him, who not only love evil but boast about it (vss. 1-4). It is fascinating that David’s indictment of this vicious killer focuses on his speech – specifically, "the tongue that devises destruction" (vs. 2), the love of lies (vs. 3), and "devouring words" (vs. 4). The slaughter of hundreds of innocent people was on Doeg’s account, but David identifies the source of this crime in hateful, devious speech. Doeg put his hateful words into action, but the point is that a world of evil is contained in malicious words (James 3:5-10). For this reason, believers are called to sanctify our speech (Eph. 5:29), remembering that our words are a mirror into our souls (Matt. 12:35-37).

The Last Laugh (vss. 5-7)

The exploits of the evil, for all their sound and fury, are short lived. While they may prosper for a time, ultimately they will come to judgment in a moral universe governed by a righteous God. Verse 5 says to the wicked, "God will likewise destroy you forever." We think of "destruction" as a singular event that brings something to an end, but the destruction of God’s righteous judgment is forever. It is not as though the wicked are simply destroyed, never to return; their destruction itself is everlasting. The parallel image of being plucked up and uprooted (vs. 5) is a vivid contrast to the believer who is like a ripe olive tree growing in the house of God (vs. 8). God’s people will respond to the sight of this judgment first with the fear of awe and praise (vs. 6), then with laughter (vs. 7). This is not the cynical laughter that rejoices in someone else’s pain, but the laughter of vindication – even relief – as one might laugh when old wrongs are finally made right. What will be said of the wicked as they are judged? "Here is the man who did not make God his strength" (vs. 7). Again, it is instructive to keep Doeg in mind. Here is a mass murderer, but even worse, he did not make God his strength.

Life-Giving Grace (vss. 8, 9)

The psalm concludes with the contrast of David’s trust in the Lord, cast in beautiful imagery in which every believer can find comfort. "But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God" (vs. 8). This is an image of thriving life, abundantly supplied and fruitful as a result. So is the believer as he or she abides in the life-giving grace of God and His son Jesus Christ. David resolves several things that should likewise be our constant resolutions. First, "I will praise you forever, because you have done it." Our worship is a loving response to all that God has done in us and for us in Christ. Secondly, "In the presence of your saints, I will wait on your good name." The steady and expectant trust expressed in the idea of "waiting" on the Lord takes place in the covenant community, the church, where there is spiritual blessing, nurturing, and companionship for our souls.

The contrast between Doeg and David is one that is seen over and over again in our world. It is the contrast between those who do not make God their strength and those who abide in His life-giving grace. This contrast lays two paths before us: the way of life and the way of death, the way of blessing and the way of judgment, the way of David and the way of Doeg.