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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Praise for the Justice and Mercy of God
Text:1 Samuel 21:1-9; 22:6-23; Psalm (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Justice

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Selections from the 1976 Psalter Hymnal:

192 - Unto God Our Savior

RR - Psalm 52:1-9

97:1-2, 5-6 - O Mighty Man, Why Wilt Thou Boast

293:1-3, 5 - To God My Earnest Voice I Raise

14 - Wholehearted Thanksgiving to Thee I Will Bring


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
“Praise for the Justice and Mercy of God”
1 Samuel 21:1-9; 22:6-23; Psalm 52:1-9
David’s life was, in many ways, a forerunner to Him who is often called “the greater David,” the Lord Jesus Christ. We recognize that in several areas, including the many attempts on his life.  Those attempts point ahead, in shadowy form, to the reality that our Savior would have many attempts on His life.  How many times do we read in the New Testament that the enemies of Jesus sought to end His life? 
Each time they were put off, until the fullness of time when at the feast of the Passover Jesus allowed the events of His triumphal entry to lead to His arrest, false conviction and crucifixion. He did so to reveal that He is the true Passover Lamb, whose blood atones for the sins of all who, by His grace, place their faith in Him.
As we find David on the run, as Saul continues to try to take his life, we are also given a foreshadow of how Jesus had no place to lay his head. David had no place to lay his head in these chapters.  He had fled his home. Perhaps you remember how Saul had surrounded his house, but Micah, Saul’s daughter and David’s wife, had helped him escape. David escaped and went to Ramah. From Ramah he went to see Jonathan.  And now, as Jonathan warns him to run for his life, David escapes to Nob.  He went to Gath and from there he hid out in a cave at Adullam. He was a man who, at this time in his life, had no place to lay his head. 
S.G. De Graaf, in his series on the Old Testament entitled Promise and Deliverance, writes: “During his time of persecution by Saul, David is particularly a type of Christ in His humiliation. Remember what Christ said: ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.’” 
While David serves as a type of Christ in these ways, he is also, unfortunately, a son of Adam in many ways.  In this passage we read how he lied to the priest, Ahimelech. Chapter 21:2 records how David lied and said to Ahimelech, “The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, ‘No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions.’ As for my men, I have told them to meet me at a certain place.”
There are a few commentators who justify David’s remarks to Ahimelech, when he told him that he was on a secret mission of the king, but most acknowledge that what he said simply was not true.  In fact, just the opposite was true. King Saul had not taken David into his confidence and had not sent him on a special mission. King Saul was intent on killing David. Yet David perpetuated this lie to the priest, Ahimelech.  The lie is woven throughout the first 9 verses of 1 Samuel 21. 
That lie led to the bloody and tragic scene that unfolds in 1 Samuel 22. Doeg the Edomite happened to hear David’s request to Ahimelech. 1 Samuel 21:8 has an ominous tone: “Now one of Saul’s servants was there that day, detained before the Lord; he was Doeg the Edomite, Saul’s head shepherd.”
Doeg was an evil man, waiting for the right opportunity to work his evil plot. We read the tragic result – the repercussion of David’s lie – in 1 Samuel 22:18-19. That passage describes king Saul’s order to kill all the priests. The passage goes on to say, So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck them down. That day he killed eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod.  He also put to the sword Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.” David was remorseful and acknowledged that it was his fault that so many died.  But by that time the damage was done.  David, by his lying, had brought death on the priests of God. 
And, furthermore, he lied because he was initially afraid, which shows a lack of faith that God would protect him from Saul’s pursuit. It was only later, as we see in the 52nd Psalm, that David expressed the trust and faith in God’s protective power that should have been there initially when he came to Ahimelech.
Before we turn to Psalm 52, which serves as an inspired commentary on 1 Samuel 21 and 22, we read how Ahimelech gave David the consecrated bread, which normally would not be eaten by anyone but the priests.  Many of you may remember that Jesus used this incident as an example when He replied to the accusation of the Pharisees that His disciples picked grain on the Sabbath day and ate it. Jesus used this incident to teach that mercy triumphs over strict legalism; mercy surpasses the ceremonial law (Matt. 12:1-8).
David, having these loaves of consecrated bread and the sword of Goliath which Ahimelech had given him, fled from Nob to Gath. But meanwhile, Saul heard about David’s escape and also knew David’s whereabouts. So he called his officials together and had a conference with them in which he berated them for taking sides with David. 1 Samuel 22:7-8: Saul said to them, ‘Listen, men of Benjamin! Will the son of Jesse give all of you fields and vineyards? Will he make all of you commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds? Is that why you have all conspired against me? No one tells me when my son makes a covenant with the son of Jesse. None of you is concerned about me or tells me that my son has incited my servant to lie in wait for me, as he does today.’”
Enter Doeg the Edomite.  So far he has said nothing of what he witnessed in Nob.  But now the opportunity is ripe.  He can get in good with the king of Israel; he can make David’s life miserable, and as things move along, we see him take an evil joy in killing the priests of God at Nob, not only killing them, but “he put to the sword the town of Nob, the town of the priests, with its men and women, its children and infants, and its cattle, donkeys and sheep.” (1 Sam 22:19)
A Disgrace in the Eyes of the Lord
Psalm 52, as it serves as an inspired commentary on 1 Samuel 21 and 22, reveals the nature of evil in Doeg the Edomite. The Psalm begins by describing how boastful Doeg was, and how he was “a disgrace in the eyes of the Lord.” Verse 1: Why do you boast of evil, you mighty man? Why do you boast all day long, you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?”
The Hebrew word translated “boastful” goes beyond the usual thought of a boastful person. We usually think of boasting as the bragging of someone who sees themself as vitally important, the center of all attention, one who should receive the praise, respect and obedience of others. That characteristic of boasting is in direct contradiction to the humble attitude of the believer.  Paul put all our human boasting in clear perspective when he quoted from Jeremiah 9:24, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Cor. 1:31).
While Doeg had that boastful attitude and was “a disgrace in the eyes of God”, the Hebrew word for boasting also denotes a self-sufficiency. Doeg had no desire for godly people such as Ahimelech the priest, nor did he have any desire or love for the God Ahimelech served. After all, he saw himself as the center of all things, what need would he have for God? 
His attitude is what we call secular humanism today. Secular humanism teaches that man is the measure of all things.  Man by his wisdom has figured out the origins of the universe. Man has figured out, and continues to figure out, medical science.  Man has the solutions to all the problems of the world, we are told, and as time goes on humanity will continue to evolve, making the world into the ultimate humanitarian utopia.
But there is something in the way. There is something blocking us from going forward, secular humanism teaches.  What blocks the humanistic agenda?  It is those backward people who believe in God, the Bible and this Redeemer, Jesus Christ. 
The world, in its humanism with man as the measure of all things, hates the God whom Ahimelech served, just as Doeg did. There is hatred because not only do godly people slow the agenda of humanism, but they also teach that the humanistic attitude is sinful, totally misguided and certain to fail. The secular humanist, like Doeg of old, doesn’t want to hear that message. Jesus put it this way: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)
You see, Psalm 52, like all of Scripture, is contemporary. It speaks to us in our world today in the 21st century. And the events of 1 Samuel 21 and 22, although they happened about 1000 years before the birth of Jesus, are so relevant for us today. We see in Doeg, not only the attitude of secular humanism, but also that he loved evil and plotted the destruction of the righteous as he deceitfully used his tongue “like a sharpened razor” (2).
The description of Doeg in verses 1 to 4 could be a description of the enmity of the world against God and His people in any and every era of time. The Old Testament saints and prophets stood against the enmity of the boastful world of their day, as did the disciples and apostles of the first century, as does the persecuted church around the world today. 
And even in the United States, although we don’t face physical persecution yet, how many barbs are aimed at Christians and the God they serve?  How many plots are woven against God’s people? How many efforts are made to remove every semblance of Christianity from public life, and this in the United States, the nation whose coins declare “IN GOD WE TRUST”?
These verses describing Doeg (1-4), are an accurate description of those who oppose God and His people in every era, including our own. Humanity, apart from saving faith in Christ, loves evil and plots the destruction of the righteous, deceitfully using their tongue – words – “like a sharpened razor.
The Justice and Mercy of God
Psalm 52 would be a sad Psalm, as it reflects on the tragic repercussions of David’s lie and Doeg’s evil destruction of Nob, if it ended at verse 4. But fortunately, it goes on to teach about the justice and mercy of God. Verse 5 to 7 teach that God, being the just and righteous God, will destroy those who do evil and do not repent. Describing Doeg, David writes:
Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
    He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
    He will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see and fear;
    they will laugh at you, saying,
“Here now is the man
    who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
    and grew strong by destroying others!”
We don’t read about Doeg again in the Scriptures. We don’t know how he died or what type of calamities came upon him.  But we do know, from these verses as well as from Scripture as a whole, that “God is not mocked.  A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Gal. 6:7b-8).
We see that God is not mocked even in the death of Ahimelech. He was a descendant of Eli of whom the Lord had decreed that none of his descendant’s would live to an old age. In 1 Samuel 2:30b-33 we read: “The Lord declares: ‘Far be it from me! Those who honor me I will honor, but those who despise me will be disdained. The time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house, so that no one in it will reach old age, and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel, no one in your family line will ever reach old age. Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and sap your strength, and all your descendants will die in the prime of life.’”
We don’t know the true condition of Ahimelech’s soul; we don’t know whether he just served the Lord outwardly as a descendant of Eli, or whether he had true saving faith in the Lord. But we do know from his sudden death that God is true to His warnings of judgment, just as He is true to His promises of salvation.
Scripture is clear that those who do evil, and do not repent and put their faith in Christ, will face judgment and an eternity in hell. Did you notice the “word pictures” in verse 5? “God will bring you down to everlasting punishment...” “snatch you up...” “tear you from your tent...” “uproot you from the land of the living...”
On the last day, no one will be able to say that they never knew a Day of Judgment would come. Even those who have only a little knowledge of the Bible know that truth, for it is woven throughout the Scriptures. And even those who have not heard the Word of God have no excuse. God’s identity is clear from what He has made, leaving humanity without excuse. God has also given human beings a conscience, which enables us to know instinctively right from wrong. (Rom. 1:20; 2:14-16).
But Psalm 52 also assures us that God forgives and restores those who seek Him in faith. After describing how Doeg, and so many others through history “did not make God his stronghold but trusted in his great wealth and grew strong by destroying others”, David goes on to write in verse 8, But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.”
An olive tree is a special tree.  It is a hardy, long lasting tree, able to withstand drought and produce an abundance of olives. Olive trees were vital to Old Testament Israel, for their oil was used in the lamps in the temple, as well as many other uses from anointing kings to healing cuts and abrasions. To liken one’s self to an olive tree is to say that you are truly blessed. It is only because David trusted in the Lord that he could make such a statement.   
Because David loved the Lord and was richly blessed by Him, it is surprising that he who is described as “a man after God’s own heart” could be so sinful. His sin is so obvious, not only with his lie to Ahimelech which led to many deaths, but with his sin with Bathsheba, the arranged death of her husband, and the sin of taking the census, which also led to the deaths of many.
But we should not be surprised.  Are we any different or better than David?  By God’s grace, if we have saving faith in Christ alone, we are also men, women and children after God’s own heart.  He has put His Spirit in us and we are new creations in Christ. But how quickly we sin!  How quickly do thoughts of rage, or lust, hate, greed or apathy course through our minds and hearts?
Yet all those sins are forgiven for everyone who looks in saving faith to Christ. David looked in saving faith to the greater David, the Messiah yet to be born in the flesh. By doing so he was imputed – credited – with the righteousness of Christ, just as we are.  He was simultaneously, as Luther put it, both justified and a sinner. It was because he was justified by faith in the Messiah to come that he could write with great confidence in verse 8, But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.”
How are we to respond to both the justice of God, that He will judge and punish the unrepentant evil doers of this world and yet also justify freely all those who by His grace put their faith in Him? Our response is to be the same as David’s in verse 9: “I will praise You forever for what You have done; in Your name I will hope, for Your name is good I will praise You in the presence of Your saints.”
We should stand in awe that God, in justice, will pronounce judgment on all those who oppose Him and His people without repentance. And how thankful we should be that through faith in Christ we are saved, as was David, from all our sins – and from the just and proper wrath of God against sin, which Christ bore for us as He sacrificed Himself on the cross of Calvary.  Amen!
Bulletin outline:
I will praise You forever for
         what You have done;
in Your name will I hope,
       for Your name is good.
I will praise You in the
       presence of your saints. -  Psalm 52:9
                 “Praise for the Justice and Mercy of God”
                     1 Samuel 21:1-9; 22:6-23; Psalm 52:1-9
I.  David is a type of Christ in that when he was on the run he had
     no place to lay his head.  Unfortunately, he is also a son of
     Adam in that he lied to Ahimelech (21:2) which led to many
     deaths (22:18-19), which David acknowledged was his fault
II. Psalm 52 is an inspired commentary on 1 Samuel 21 and 22 as
     it reveals the nature of evil in Doeg the Edomite, who represents
     humanism with its hatred for God and His people. Doeg:
      1) Was boastful, a disgrace in the eyes of the Lord (1)
      2) Loved evil, and plotted the destruction of the righteous as
           he deceitfully used his tongue like a sharpened razor (2-4)
III. Psalm 52 also teaches the justice and mercy of God:
      1) God will destroy those who do evil and do not repent (5-7)
      2) God forgives and restores those who seek Him in faith (8)
IV. Our response: Praise God for both His justice and mercy (9)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2012, Rev. Ted Gray

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