Our reading today begins with the assembling of David’s personal militia. His family joins him in hiding (22:1). Then, those who are disillusioned with life in the kingdom for various reasons join themselves to him (v. 2). In verse 3, we see that David leaves his parents with the king of Moab to keep them safe. This is not only because Moab was at war with Saul – now also David’s enemy – but because Jesse has Moabite ancestry. In verse 5 we are introduced to the prophet Gad, who will advise David for years to come. Here, he advises him to go to the land of Judah.
Meanwhile, Saul hears rumors that David’s whereabouts are known (v. 6). He tells the people that anyone who covers for David is a co-conspirator against Saul (vv. 7-8). Note though that neither David nor anyone else has conspired against him. Doeg the Edomite is among those present, and tells Saul that he has seen David, and that the priest Ahimelech aided him (vv. 9-10 – see 21:7). Saul then indeed counts Ahimelech and all the priests as conspirators against him (v. 13). Ahimelech explains his innocence: David has always served the king and Ahimelech had no reason to believe it was otherwise when he helped him (vv. 14-15). Saul is not appeased, and he commands one of his soldiers to kill the priests, but none of his men are willing (v. 17). We see the irrational state of Saul in his condemnation of the priests of God. Saul then commands Doeg to kill the priests, which he does (v. 18). The priests of God were devoted to destruction by the evil king (v. 19). His sword was against his own people, those he was to be the Godly leader over, rather than those God commanded he destroy (see 15:3).
One priest, Abiathar the son of Ahimelech, escapes and finds David (v. 20). Upon hearing of what Saul had done, David blames himself (v. 22) and offers protection to Abiathar. We see again the drastic differences between Saul and David. Saul has not been wronged in any way, and yet sins against God and his own people. David has done nothing wrong, yet has been wronged in every way, but remains faithful to God and to his people. Saul is like unbelieving Israel. David is like the true Israel, Jesus Christ.
Psalm 142 is believed to have been written by David when he reached the cave of Adullam safely (1 Sam 22:1). David arrived there all alone and on the run for his life. So he sought mercy from God (142:1). We again see that God wants us to bring to Him our every trouble (v. 2). David is still fully reliant on God (v. 3), indeed is the only One on Whom David can rely (vv. 3-4). God is David’s refuge, and He is also David’s reward, even in this life of suffering (v. 5). David humbly submits Himself to God, and trusts Him for salvation (vv. 6-7).
Psalm 17 is believed to have been written by David after hearing about the slaughter of the priests in Nob. David is not like Saul. His cause is just. He is honest. He is obedient and righteous (17:1-2). God knows David’s heart (v. 3) and his actions (v. 5). David humbly credits his obedience to the Word of God (v. 4). David is confident that God will deliver him because God shows His steadfast love (חֶ֫סֶד) to those who, like David, seek refuge in God alone (vv. 6-7). David calls himself the apple of God’s eye (v. 8) – a title ascribed to Israel by Moses (see Deut 32:10). He asks to be hidden in the shadow of God’s wings – imagery also used by Moses (Deut 32:11). David is calling for God to remember His promises to His people. In verses 10-12 David describes Saul, but note that in verse 11, what Saul is seeking to do to David, he is really trying to do to God. Therefore, David calls for God to fight for him (v. 13). David’s enemies are wicked – they may have good in this life, but they go to the grave empty (v. 14). But David is righteous before God. He will see Him face to face in the resurrection (v. 15).
Psalm 35 is also believed to have been written by David during his time as a refugee after the incident in Nob. Similarly to Psalm 17, David calls for God to fight for him (35:1-3). David pronounces curses on his enemies (as in, Saul). David will not take vengeance on Saul, but he trusts God to judge justly. In verses 5 and 6, David calls for the angel of the Lord to mete out judgment. As we have seen, the angel of the Lord is Christ. David calls for Christ to dispose of them like chaff, the image of righteous judgment invoked by John the Baptist about Jesus (see Matt 3:12). David calls for Christ to pursue them on a dark and slippery way – imagery used later by the prophet Jeremiah to describe judgment (see Jer 23:12).
David again asserts his innocence in the matter (v. 7, 12), and prays that God would let Saul lead himself to destruction instead of David (v. 8). This is exactly what will happen. David will then credit God with salvation (vv. 9-10). Not only has David done no wrong, but he has only done good to those who pursue him (vv. 13-14), yet they seek only his hurt (vv. 15-16). David then ends with a poetic call for justice (vv. 19-26). Saul has wrongly made David an enemy, hating him for no reason (v. 19). He speaks unjustly against him (vv. 20-21). And God has seen the injustice, and justice demands that He act in righteousness (vv. 22-24) and judge the wicked (vv. 25-26). God is great in His righteousness, and worthy of praise (vv. 27-28). This more than a prayer. This Psalm reveals the very character of a just and holy God. David can only rest in his faith that God is just.