David wrote: “But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.” Psalm 52:8 (KJV)
This particular psalm or song is David’s response to an event that could have caused a lot of trouble for him, including the loss of his life. In truth, lives were tragically taken, but God intervened to protect the future king. Two passages in Scripture, 1 Samuel 21 and Psalm 52 tell the story…
In 1 Samuel 21, we read that David has fled from the presence of King Saul to the town of Nob, near Jerusalem, where Ahimelech, the priest, lived. It was here that the Tabernacle was kept, for as yet there was no Temple. David is running for his life, because Saul in jealousy wants to kill him. Yet David did not tell Ahimelech why he was alone and in a hurry. Instead he told the priest he had urgent and secret business at the request of the King. So Ahimelech helped David. In the background listening was a man named Doeg.
Doeg’s story is also told in 1 Samuel 21 and 22. While David was gathering supplies from Ahimelech the priest, Doeg, a servant of Saul, was there too. Doeg was a traitor to David, knowing full well that King Saul would want to hear this bit of news.
When King Saul heard Ahimelech had betrayed him by helping David, he called Ahimelech and all the other priests to come to him in Gibeah in Ramah. Ahimelech stood up for David, reminding the King of David’s faithfulness and the fact that David was also the King’s son-in-law. The King was not appeased. In anger, he instructed Doeg, who was waiting, to slaughter all the priests, their families, and their animals. Only a son escaped. His name was Abiathar. He promptly went to David with the news. When David heard what King Saul had done, he knew Doeg had caused the deaths of the priests by telling Saul how they had helped David. Terribly grieved over these deaths, he wrote Psalm 52 to tell about Doeg and his treachery:
“1Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually.
2 The tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.
3 Thou lovest evil more than good; and lying rather than to speak righteousness. Selah.
4 Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue.
5 God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah.
6 The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him:
7 Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.
8 But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever.
9 I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints.”
In this psalm David describes the character of Doeg, noting the sinful heart and tongue that caused so much trouble, even the deaths of all the priests except Abiathar. He also compares himself to Doeg, noting the differences in character, because he trusts God and Doeg didn’t know God.
David said in the Psalm that he is like a green olive tree. Let’s compare what we know about David to olive trees to understand why he believed this:
* Olive trees often live for hundreds of years. They have strong roots that spread outward and down into the soil over four feet deep.
David was strong even into old age. David was also soundly rooted in his love for God.
* The olive tree symbolizes wisdom.
David was wise as we can discern from his writings in the Book of Psalms. He also showed much wisdom by constantly seeking the Lord for direction and guidance.
* Olive trees prefer poor conditions such as sandy soil and low temperatures.
David too did well in the poorest of circumstances out in the wilds with the sheep, running for his life from King Saul, and even in battle. He was willing to endure what he must for the Lord.
* Olive trees are strong with the ability to regenerate.
David served the Lord well into his old age. David never quit, even when times were difficult. David endured many things in his lifetime, but never did he give up on God.
* The symbol for peace is an olive branch.
How ironic that a man of war like David fought so hard for peace and safety for his people. Many would say David was not a man of peace since he fought in wars. However wars are sometimes necessary to maintain peace. David was truly like a green olive tree because he sought peace by destroying the enemies of his homeland Israel which included Judah.
Copyright by Linda Hull, 2020