The story of David’s son Absalom is a rather messy one. His story begins in 2 Samuel 13, with the tragic rape of his sister Tamar by his half-brother Amnon. Amnon went unpunished, while Tamar was forced to live with her shame. And so hatred burnt within the heart of Absalom. Hatred blossomed into murder and upon completion of the foul deed, Absalom fled the country.
David loved Absalom, and eventually brought him back to Jerusalem, with a single condition: Absalom was to never enter the presence of David. For two years, Absalom lived in Jerusalem without laying eyes on David. But Absalom longed to see his father, and forced his way into David’s presence. Despite his disobedience, David welcomed Absalom with a kiss.
Yet Absalom conspired against his father, stealing the hearts of the men of Israel as to usurp his father’s throne. David, receiving word that the conspiracy was coming to fruition, fled Jerusalem. Psalm 3 was borne out of the treachery of Absalom and Israel and David’s desperate flight to safety.
The story of Absalom raises many questions. Why did David not punish Amnon? Was Absalom’s response justified? What drove him to conspire against his father? Who was at fault for the breakdown in their relationship? And let us not forget the words of Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:10-11: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house…”
The consequences of sin are far-reaching and deadly. The words of Nathan would have haunted David as he fled. God himself had decreed that evil would fall upon David out of his own house. And so it came to pass. But David did not curse God for the evil that had fallen upon him. Instead he acknowledged God as his salvation – as his shield, his glory and the lifter of his head. Even as his enemies pursued him intently, God would shield him from harm. Even as the people shamed David for the loss of his throne, God would be his glory. And even as David felt dejected and downhearted over his son’s betrayal, God would lift up his head.
Living on our side of the cross and resurrection, we see that this is but a glimpse of the full salvation of God that came through Jesus Christ. Jesus is our shield, our glory, the lifter of our heads and more. He has disarmed our enemies at the cross. He has made us more than conquerors through him, subjecting our enemies to our good. He has given us the right to become children of God. He has promised that we will share in his glory. He shall glorify us on that final day. He has lifted from us the weight of our condemnation. He has set us free from the deadly slavery of sin. He is the joy of our souls.
David rightly recognised that salvation belongs to the Lord (v.8a). This is an eternal truth. Because it belongs to him, he is free to give it to whoever he desires to give it to. And he desires to give it to those who genuinely ask for it. Jesus will never turn away any who come to him for salvation.