Who is David referring to in the opening verse of Psalm 52? David says that this man is a hero or mighty man who boasts of evil, whose tongue plots destruction, who is deceitful, loving evil more than good, lying more than truth and loves words that devour. David wrote this Psalm after the unfortunate incident recorded in 1 Samuel 21 & 22.
In my opinion, the best way of approaching this Psalm, as it relates to the story that inspired it, is to work from the Psalm backwards to the story. So then, what is this Psalm about?
May I propose that this Psalm is about where one puts his/her trust and hope. To put it another way, it is about which basket one puts all his/her eggs. It is about what in our lives is our pillar and our hope and even our boast.
Where am I getting this from? Well, notice that the end of verse one "the steadfast love of God endures all the day" doesn't fit in well with the rest of the section (Verses 1-4). It almost stands alone, unrelated to what is being said, notice:
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.
~Psalm 52:1-4 (ESV)
In this phrase, however, lies the key to understanding the Psalm. The man described in this Psalm did something that was evil and wrong and yet was considered heroic and mighty. He boasted in this evil act and it defined him. This mighty act, the name and everything else that came as a result of it became his refuge. Thus David says in vs. 7 that the righteous will see this man when he is punished by God and say:
"See the man who did not make God his refuge,
but trusted in the abundance of his riches
and sought refuge in his own destruction!"
This man didn't trust in God but in what he had accomplished and that accomplishment became his refuge, his pillar if you will. It was the basket in which he put all his eggs.
David, on the other hand, who could have trusted and depended in and on the fame he garnered from his defeat of Goliath and the fact that he had been anointed King of Israel (things actually noble), did not make these things his refuge. He did not boast about them or put his trust in them, he did not depend on those things. He trusted, rather, in God's steadfast love:
"But I am like a green olive tree in the house of GodThis explains David's odd statement in the first verse. What David seems to be doing there is contrasting. Why boast of evil accomplishments when you can boast of God's steadfast love? Why boast and trust and seek refuge in accomplishments that are even evil when God's steadfast love (a much more appealing and rewarding thing) lasts forever and ever?
I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever..."
Having understood the heart of the Psalm, we can now infer that Doeg, having annihilated an entire town, boasted of it. Being the only man who was willing to carry out that daring instruction, Saul may have rewarded him materially and politically (interms of a promotion for he was merely Saul's head shepherd), thus the statement "...but trusted in the abundance of his riches..." in verse 7.
The town of Nob was a town for the priests and Doeg killed everyone of them except one who escaped. This would have made him famous at best and infamous at worst. His name was on everyone's lips and he did not hesitate to mention anywhere he went that he was the face behind that name. Being an Edomite and therefore an alien (The Edomites and Israelites weren't the best of pals) he would have found it easier to kill the priests and would have bragged about it to his fellow Edomites. Thus we see that Doeg had reason and motive to boast in his evil actions.
How do we reconcile the lying? Doeg knew that he would be endangering the life of Ahimelek the priest by revealing that he had helped David. One can tell because he brutally killed not only Ahimelek but the whole town of Nob. Surely if he was really trying to be a good servant of the King he would have killed Ahimelek only, why kill the entire town? There was obviously something else going on. He wanted Ahimelek to suffer and perhaps even the entire town of priests. He lied by making it look as though Ahimelek was conspiring with David. He deceived the King by appearing loyal to him when in actual fact he had a personal vendetta. Thus David calls him a liar and deceiver who loved devouring words.
What did Doeg have against the priests? It is not mentioned. It could have had something to do with his detainment (1 Sam 21:7). This is the most convincing for me, as he may have become bitter about being detained and taken it out on all the priests. Perhaps he harboured some resentment against the priests. It could have had something to do with the fact that he was an Edomite. We cannot be sure, but he certainly had a bone to chew with them!
We are like Doeg sometimes. Perhaps not in brutality but in our accomplishments and all that comes with them. They become our refuge, security, pillar and even our boast. While Doeg boasted and found refuge in an evil accomplishment, perhaps we find refuge and boast in noble accomplishments. For instance, a graduate can find security in the high grades or honours achieved and feel their furture is secure based on them. Or a woman can find security in marrying a good man when her friends have no one. Those pursuing their careers may find security and refuge in a good job recently acquired etc. Notice that David who could have boasted and taken refuge in things noble preferred rather, to boast and take refuge in the steadfast love of God.
Perhaps those most obvious example of this are men and women in the afternoon of their lives who have achieved great things. Especially professors who will leave no person who they meet 'unturned', letting them know what they have accomplished in their lives. I am reminded of one particular professor we greeted as 'Mr.' and he asked us not to take away his professorship because he did not receive it on a silver platter. "Call me Dr. or Prof.- I worked hard for it," he said. There is nothing wrong with that, unless it becomes our boast, refuge and security. We then become nothing but holy Doegs.
Let us therefore trust in the steadfast love of God which endures forever and ever. Let it become our refuge and boast and then like David, we will be like green olive trees in the house of the Lord!
Why do you boast of anything other than God's love? It is steadfast and endures all the day!
"The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms..." ~Duet 33:27.