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Absalom was David’s third son. His second son, Chileab, is never mentioned after reference to his birth and the assumption is that he died early on. David’s first-born son was Amnon. The story of how Amnon died is a sordid one. Amnon raped his half-sister, Tamar, and Absalom, Tamar’s brother, swore revenge. It took two years but finally Absalom arranged for Amnon to be killed. Fearing punishment, Absalom went into exile for three years. When he finally returned to Jerusalem, David refused to see him. Two more years passed before David and his son were reunited (although, even then, they were not reconciled).

Absalom’s plot to take the throne from his father probably emerged gradually. He began by currying favor with the people (2 Sam. 15:1-6). He portrayed himself as one who was interested in people by telling them he was far more capable of helping them with their troubles and securing justice for their complaints than was David. According to 2 Sam. 15:6, “Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel.” Once he felt secure in his position, he made his move. He went to Hebron, assembled his followers, and had himself anointed king (2 Sam. 15:7-12). With a considerable army behind him, he marched against his father in Jerusalem and forced David to flee (2 Sam. 15:13-17). Following a shameful period of absence from his throne, the armies of David eventually prevailed. Absalom was killed, contrary to his father’s express wishes, serving only to intensify the latter’s pain.

What an amazing scene: David, driven from his throne, subjected to indescribable humiliation, not by a pagan Gentile king but by his own son! Absalom’s treachery and rebellion must have crushed David’s heart. Here is the important point: it was while David was fleeing the armies of Absalom, broken by the spiteful betrayal of his own child, that he sat down and wrote the words of Psalm 3. It wasn’t while he sat on a golden throne with servants at his beck and call. It wasn’t while lying on satin sheets and a soft pillow knowing that all was well with his family and among his people. Rather, it was in the midst of his most devastating and desperate hour that he penned these words.

A.            Vv. 1-2

·          His adversaries were primarily from among his own people! Those once closest to him, those in whom he had once placed his confidence and trust, are now among those whose accusations are most bitter and hateful.

·          One of the primary tactics of such enemies is to undermine your faith in God to help you: “If God is so good and so great, how come we’ve got the upper hand? How come you’re on the run, David? Where is your God now, when you need him most?”

·          Perhaps they began to throw David’s sin back in his face: his relationship with Bathsheba, the murder of Uriah, his failure as a father to Amnon and Absalom, etc. “God’s not going to put up with that sort of thing, David. He’s abandoned you for sure!”

“If all the trials which come from heaven, all the temptations which ascend from hell, and all the crosses which arise from earth, could be mixed and pressed together, they would not make a trial so terrible as that which is contained in this verse (v. 2). It is the most bitter of all afflictions to be led to fear that there is no help for us in God” (23).

·          Yet, in the midst of such affliction, accusation, and abandonment, David’s cry is for the “Lord” = YHWH = the covenant-keeping God (v. 1).

B.            V. 3

David obviously knew that the hypnotic and paralyzing power of the enemy is broken only by turning one’s gaze back to God (Deut. 1:28-30). So he encourages himself by recalling three things about God:

·          First, God is a shield about him. See Pss. 18:2,30; 28:7; 33:20; 84:11; 91:4; 115:9-11. Shield = protection, all around, each side is covered. However, the fact that God is a shield does not prevent one’s enemies from continuing to shoot their arrows. Yet such an attack is fruitless in cutting us off from the security of God’s love. Said Tozer:

“What we need very badly these days is a company of Christians who are prepared to trust God as completely now as they know they must do at the last day. For each of us the time is coming when we shall have nothing but God. Health and wealth and friends and hiding places will be swept away and we shall have only God. To the man of pseudo faith that is a terrifying thought, but to real faith it is one of the most comforting thoughts the heart can entertain.”

·          Second, God is his glory. If the shield implies protection, glory implies power. David has been driven away in shame and humiliation and weakness, his pride broken and his reputation slandered. Yet, notwithstanding all this, God is his glory! See Ps. 34:4-5.

·          Third, God is the one who lifts his head. David left Jerusalem not only defeated but dejected, despondent, depressed. He hung his head in shame (see 2 Sam. 15:30). But he is confident that God will lift up his head and restore his hope.

When people are shy or ashamed or unsure of themselves or insecure, they rarely look up or make eye-contact with you. David was probably having doubts about himself: about his worthiness to be king, about his abilities, about his manhood. God alone can give him (you) both reason and strength to walk with his (your) head up. This isn’t arrogance or presumption but humble assurance that God can do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. People often say: “I just can’t bear to look anyone in the face after this.” But God will make you able! See 1 Sam. 2:7-8; Ps. 27:4-6.

C.            Vv. 4-6

One of the first things that leaves us in times of despair is sleep. Insomnia is common among those in depression (usually they either sleep too little or too much). Yet David knows God sustains him (v. 5b). He went to sleep confident and awoke ready to face another day . . . all because of the God who sustains him. As Spurgeon said, “There is a sleep of presumption: God deliver us from it! There is a sleep of holy confidence: God help us so to close our eyes” (24).

D.            Vv. 7-8

David does not seek vengeance on his own. He calls on God to act as judge and to vindicate him.

It is important to remember that, notwithstanding David’s faith, Absalom died while yet in rebellion. “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son” (2 Sam. 18:33). Sometimes our circumstances don’t turn out for the better. But no matter what transpires, of this we may be sure: God is a shield about you. He is your glory. He is the one who will lift your head!