Meditations on the Psalms
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. (Psalm 3:1 ESV)
King David, the writer and co-author of this Psalm, was a man after God’s own heart. He was one of the few kings in Israel who truly sought God and did what was right in His eyes. God spoke to Solomon, David’s son, telling him to emulate his father and walk “in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked” (1 Kings 3;14 ESV; see 1 Kings 11:14, 15:3, 16:2). As closely as David walked with God he still sinned greatly, committing murder and adultery, coveting that which was not his and disobeying God’s direct commands. Confronted by his sin, David repented wholly, expressing his deepest mourning over sin in songs and words and deeds. His writings are considered prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, Messiah, who is descended from David (see Matthew 1:6, Luke 3:31).
Absalom, one of King David’s many sons, challenged his father’s place as authority over Israel. David fled from him for a time. There is more to the back story. Absalom’s sister, Tamar, was raped by his half-brother, Amnon, who was the eldest son of David. Amnon was the crown prince and stood to inherit the kingdom from his father. When Absalom learned of Amnon detestable crime against his sister and his family, he hated him with a deep passion. David, the father of all these children, heard what happened and did nothing. Absalom took matters into his own hands and avenged the rape of his sister by killing the rapist. Then Absalom fled from the king, his father. (2 Samuel 13:1-39.)
King David longed for his son and finally sent his general, Joab, to retrieve Absalom from exile. But the king refused to let his son into his presence. “‘Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence.’ So Absalom lived apart in his own house and did not come into the king’s presence” (2 Samuel 14:24 ESV). Absalom was handsome and well-liked by the people. He was a man capable of getting the attention he wanted in unethical ways. He finally manipulated Joab to convince the king, his father, to lift the banishment and see him. (2 Samuel 14:1-33.)
Next, Absalom, emboldened by his successes against Amnon, Joab and his father, conspired to take the throne through intrigue. His political acumen swayed the people to his side, and his posturing scared the king. David determined the best course for him and his loyal servants was to flee from Absalom. “Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, ‘Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword’” (2 Samuel 15:14 ESV).
As David was deserting Jerusalem, Shimei, son of Gera, cursed him from a place overlooking the road. Shimei hurled insults and accusations, revealing many of the sins David committed and from which he already repented. But actions done cannot be undone. His actions, which revealed the thinking of his heart, were cherry-picked by his enemies and used against him. What we do counts for now and for eternity.
When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.” (2 Samuel 16:5-8 ESV)
David’s response suggests he felt he deserved the rebuke and cursing falling upon his head from above. “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to” (2 Samuel 16:11 ESV). David felt God was no longer on his side but against him. Instead of cursing God, or complaining to God, David wrote a Psalm extolling God’s presence and His desire for intimacy.
Though all his circumstances look bleak and black, the king recognized God was still in control and would do that which He decreed. All of the Psalms written by David were inspired by the Holy Spirit while many of them revealed David’s intense love for God and desire to trust Him wholly no matter the circumstance.
Though Psalm 3 is written by David as a lament and a declaration of desperate trust in God, revealing the depths of pain felt in his heart, it is also a prayer of Jesus as He faced those who hated Him and wanted Him murdered. David experienced many things at the hands of those who hated him. As the distant father of Jesus, who is descended through the line of David, his writings are prophecies of the King of kings who is to come.