Theme: Psalms 52 and 54
In this week’s lessons we learn how David approached God in prayer when he experienced the terrible situation of being betrayed.
Scripture: Psalm 54:1-7
It is not always possible to trace a connection between psalms, but sometimes it is, and that is the case with Psalm 54 and those that surround it. Psalm 54 follows nicely upon Psalm 53. The earlier psalm was about people who act as if “there is no God,” the moral and spiritual “fools” of this world. In Psalm 54 the psalmist is surrounded by just such people. He speaks of them as “ruthless men…men without regard for God” (v. 3). The earlier psalm ends with “the faith of the saints,” that is, the faith of believers living in just such a world. Psalm 54 is by one of those saints, by David.
Psalm 54 is about betrayal, and that links it not only to Psalm 52, which describes David’s betrayal by Doeg the Edomite, but also to Psalm 55, which speaks of David’s betrayal by a close friend.
Psalm 52 and Psalm 54 are also intertwined historically since, according to their titles, they come from the same period in David’s life. It is the time when David was fleeing from King Saul.
You will recall that David had fled suddenly on advice from his close friend Jonathan, Saul’s son. He had gone to the priestly city of Nob and had been given food and the sword of Goliath, which had been stored there since the day he had killed the great Philistine champion. An evil man named Doeg was present when David arrived, and sometime later, when Saul was feeling sorry for himself because it seemed to him that no one would tell him what was going on in regard to David, Doeg revealed that David had gone to Nob and had been helped by the chief priest of Nob whose name was Ahimelech. Saul turned on Ahimelech, demanding his death, and when the soldiers refused to lift their hands against God’s priest, Doeg obliged the king by killing not only Ahimelech but his entire family and all the other priests and families of Nob. In all, eighty-five priests were killed, and the inhabitants of Nob were massacred. Only one man, Abiathar, a son of Ahimelech, escaped to tell David what happened.
David confessed to Abiathar, “That day, when Doeg the Edomite was there, I knew he would be sure to tell Saul. I am responsible for the death of your father’s whole family” (1 Sam. 22:22). It was one of the darkest moments of David’s life.
The immediate background for Psalm 54 picks up at this point. According to 1 Samuel 23, the Philistines were attacking a Jewish border town called Keilah. David asked God if he should attack the Philistines and rescue the citizens of Keilah, and when God gave him leave to do so, he drove the Philistines off and rescued the endangered city. Keilah was a walled city. So when news came to Saul, who was still pursuing David, that David was in Keilah, Saul marched his armies south to capture David in the city since, he said, “David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars” (v. 7).
Fortunately, Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech who had escaped to David after the massacre of the priests of Nob, had brought the sacred ephod with him. The ephod was used to discern the will of God in specific situations. David used it to ask whether the citizens of Keilah, whom he had just rescued, would deliver him over to Saul if Saul surrounded the city and was told that they would indeed surrender him to Saul. So David slipped out of the city before Saul arrived and went further south into the hills of the inhospitable desert area of Ziph.
How are Psalms 52-55 connected?
Read 1 Samuel 22:6-23:29. Review the historical setting of Psalm 54 and note the number of times David dealt with betrayal.
What was the “sacred ephod” used for, and what did David discover from it?