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Destructive Words


When David was fleeing from King Saul, he came to the sanctuary city of Nob and asked Ahimelek, the priest, for help. Ahimelek assumed David was still working for Saul and assisted him with provisions. One of Saul’s servants, Doeg the Edomite, overheard this and denounced the priest to Saul who ordered that Ahimelek and 85 other priests be put to death (1 Sam. 21:1–8; 22:6–19). Today’s reading represents David’s lament over this tragic turn of events.

David addresses Doeg directly in the opening of the psalm, “Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?” (v. 1). He denounces Doeg for his deceit. In a vivid image, David describes the deceitful tongue as a razor that brings destruction (v. 2). Words can do incredible damage. These destructive words come out of the heart of a person whose values are skewed. “You love evil rather than good, falsehood rather than speaking the truth” (v. 3).

In verses 5–7, David reminds his adversary that God is aware of what he has done and will bring judgment (v. 5). While it might look like the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer, that would not be the case forever. One day, “the righteous will see and fear; they will laugh at you, saying, ‘Here now is the man who did not make God his stronghold’” (vv. 6–7). David contrasts himself with the wicked. Drawing from the image of the righteous as a flourishing tree in Psalm 1, David declares, “But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God” (v. 8). Instead of putting his faith in his own achievements, David trusts in the Lord’s “unfailing love” (v. 8). Instead of deceit, his lips will pour forth praise to God (v. 9).

>> Today’s reading describes the power of words. You can boast, deceive, destroy others, or praise God with them. Ask the Lord to help you use the gift of language wisely today. As Paul reminds us, “each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully” (Eph. 4:25).

BY Ryan Cook

Dr. Ryan Cook has taught at Moody Bible Institute since 2012. He earned his bachelor of arts in Bible and Theology from Moody and his master of arts in Old Testament from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He has worked in Christian education and served as a pastor in Michigan for seven years. During his time as a professor at Moody, he earned his doctorate from Asbury Theological Seminary. He now lives with his wife, Ashley, and their three children in the Chicagoland area.

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