2 Samuel 13: 24 – 17: 29; Psalm 3.
The Psalms can be expressively charged, at times eliciting a remarkable degree of transparent honesty before Yahweh. The psalmists knew that it was pointless to cloak their deepest sensitivities from God. One such is Psalm 3, written by King David when he fled from his son Absalom, who had usurped his throne (2 Sam 15). Generally, strong emotions are either suppressed or are irrepressibly vented, and either way, they are rarely conveyed comfortably. As believers, we see a unique demonstration of how a king coped with his abject fears of being hunted down by his own son and elements of his army. The Psalm is divided into three segments: David’s personal testimony of eventually securing peace in his heart (vv. 4 to 6), sandwiched between his conversations with God (vv. 1 to 3 and vv. 7 to 8). David’s anxieties and incapacitating worries were indelibly recorded: not only was he facing a threat to his physical integrity but his identity as one who was faithful to God was also under attack (Ps 3:1-2; c.f., 2Sam 16:5-12; 2Sam 17:15-16); not to mention the dangers accompanying those who followed him into exile. The level of lethal intimidation, eliciting intense fear and helplessness, was sufficiently material to be considered traumatic for David and some of the 600 men.
Often our black-and-white attitude excludes the reality that God will never allow us to traverse adversity, and if we did so, it represents the withdrawal of His protective safekeeping. This incident refutes that mentality. Under the circumstances, King David alluded to God as a protective shield that surrounded him (viz., possibly referring to a full body length shield normally used in defensive positions; Ps 3:3; c.f., Gen 15:1), despite the pain, apprehensions and an impossible responsibility for 600+ faithful followers in tow. In the midst of troubled times, when we obey God and follow in His footsteps, His Presence protects us as He walks us through uncharted ways, often stripping away from us any dependencies we have apart from Him. To suddenly lose his identity as a peerless sovereign was absolutely devastating, but to have a large proportion of his people turn against him and losing his throne to his son was certainly humiliating. David looked deep into his own psychological anxieties and fears and concluded that he had misplaced his security; he saw through his own errant significance in himself and his earlier victories over the Philistines to secure his kingdom. Finally, he admitted that his own glorious achievements meant nothing, for Yahweh was his only glory and the One Who was proud of him, warts and all (Ps 3:3).
He then candidly confessed his transgressions to God, submitting himself and his predicament to Him, and had his first good night of sleep since leaving Jerusalem. And when he awoke, his fears were gone (Ps 3:4-6). Being obedient to God can be challenging but it is determinately always the safest route to follow!
In a remarkable turn that sounded more like the King David we knew, he confidently called on God to judge his enemies and to bless his people (Ps 3:7-8). David spent his whole political and military life campaigning, with God’s enabling and design, against the powers that be in the Near East to gain freedom for his people, and now, he wasn’t going to allow Absalom to destroy God’s endeavours. He was fully aware of his son’s capacity towards degeneracy and ruthlessness, and neglect of his subject’s welfare (2Sam 15:1-12; 2Sam 16:15- 17: 4). Rather than initiating a plan himself to dethrone Absalom, he trusted God to do it for him and His nation. David’s love for his people in a small way mirrored Yahweh’s, and his perennial desire to obey his God endeared Yahweh to him (Acts 13:22; 1Sam 13:14). Having regained his throne, David continued to focus on God’s purpose for His community (c.f., Gen 12:1-3; 2Sam 7:8-16; Matt 5:14-16; Rev 21:22-27).