Psalm 52 was written by David, “when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said to him, ‘David has come to the house of Ahimelech.’ ” This event is recorded in 1 Samuel 21-22.
David had proven a capable and loyal soldier for King Saul, but Saul’s jealousy grew until he attempted to murder David. He fled the palace empty-handed, to Ahimelech and the priests ministering at the tabernacle at Nob.
David made up a cover story, perhaps to provide plausible deniability to Ahimelech; David told him that he was on a desperate mission for Saul. Ahimelech gave him the bread from the tabernacle as well as the sword of Goliath. David hastened into the wilderness.
Verse 7 foreshadows trouble: “One of the servants of Saul was there that day … and his name was Doeg the Edomite.”
David spent the next few months on the run, first going east to Gath, then to the cave of Adullam where 400 men gathered to him, then to a stronghold in Moab, and finally back into the land of Judah (22:1-5). Saul knew that David was in the land, but had no idea where. Saul could do little more than pout and yell. Saul began to accuse his men of treachery. Saul began offering rewards. Doeg, without any thought to the damage he was about to cause, spoke up: “I saw the son of Jesse coming to Nob, to Ahimelech the son of Ahitub. He inquired of the Lord for him, gave him provisions, and gave him the sword of Goliath” (22:9-10).
David of course was long gone. Ahimelech of course had no reason to suspect David was a fugitive. It didn’t matter to Saul. He found an outlet for his anger. He summoned Ahimelech and his family, and accused him of conspiracy. Ahimelech explained himself.
None of it made a difference. Saul was looking for blood not justice. He commanded his men to kill Ahimelech and the priests. When they refused, still having a scrap of decency, Doeg the Edomite “turned around and attacked the priests and killed that day 85 men who wore the linen ephod” (22:18). He then wiped out the town of Nob, including all the women and children. Only one priest, Abiathar, escaped to tell the story to David, whom David befriended and guarded for the rest of his life.
David wrote Psalm 52 to make sense of his feelings on that dark day. He, the Lord’s anointed, was powerless to defend Ahimelech against Saul. The evil Doeg had spoken wickedly against God’s gentle priesthood. Doeg slaughtered the priests and their families, nearly wiping out the line. How does a godly person respond on such a terrible day, when it seems like evil prevails?
David recognizes that an evil person’s tongue is an effective tool of harm (52:2-4). David recognizes that an evil person may enjoy temporary victories. The unrighteous may gain wealth and power, and harm the righteous. But David taunts him: “why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? … God will break you down forever; He will snatch you up … and uproot you from the land of the living” (52:1-5). On that day, the righteous will be vindicated, pointing out the fate of one who “would not make God his refuge, but trusted in the abundance of his riches and was strong in his evil desire” (52:5-7).
That’s all well and good. The day of God’s vengeance is something to look forward to. But how about now, when the blood is still dripping from the point of Doeg’s sword?
David says, “I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it, and I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones” (52:8-9). In this outburst of worship and faith, I find three things to take refuge in, during dark times.
Trust God. We must learn the difference between problems we have the ability to do something about, and problems that only God can solve. Those must be released to Him. Trust that God has our best interests in mind (Romans 8:32).
Give Thanks to God. Even in difficult circumstances, there is plenty to be thankful for. God had protected David so far, God was using David to rescue others, David had a band of faithful men from whom to draw encouragement. Count your blessings. Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18)!
Wait on God. We don’t have to take matters into our own hands; God will take care of them (Romans 12:14-19). Hope is the anchor of the soul. This hope is not just pie in the sky, but the confident expectation of God’s reign. The righteous can afford to wait, with patience and endurance, for while the present world may belong to the wicked, the future belongs to the righteous. That future is permanent.
So, when dark days come to you, when the government confiscates your church building, when a fellow employee gets you fired and takes your job because you refuse to cheat for the company, when you get an F on a paper because you refuse to regurgitate what falsehoods the professor wants to hear, it won’t feel good. Trust God, give thanks to God, and wait on God, and all will be made right in the end. —John Guzzetta