“Bible prayers: David prays”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.
Nothing like it had ever happened before. It was, after all, in the words of White House Counsel John Dean, “the worst political scandal of the twentieth century and the beginning of the end of the Nixon presidency.”
It all started back in January of 1972, when G. Gordon Liddy, Finance Counsel for the Committee on Re-election, suggested that they break into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., to take photographs of campaign documents and install bugs on their telephones.
And they probably would have gotten away with it, had it not been for a twenty-four year-old security guard named Frank Wills who happened to notice that someone had taped a door lock open in an underground parking garage. And when he removed the tape and someone, later, put it back on, that’s when he called the police.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Finally, in spite of threats, kidnapping, and coverups like, “I can say categorically that…no one in the White House Staff, no one in this Administration, presently employed, was involved in this very bizarre incident,” Nixon’s presidency ended in disaster.
He said: “To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time president and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.”
And he said, “Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.”
It’s amazing, if you think about it. One day, you’re one of the most powerful men in the world, surrounded by an entourage of Secret Service agents whose job it is to protect you at any cost. Your words are plastered on the front pages of newspapers around the world. Whatever you say can make the stock market shoot up or crash down.
You have a private jet, a helicopter, and a bullet-proof limousine, not to mention a big white house and a private retreat all at your disposal, seven days a week, twenty four hours a day.
But the next day, you resign in disgrace, with your presidency in shambles. And nobody cares what you say or think anymore.
So it was for a man named David. And though he had reigned as king for decades as one of the best and most powerful monarchs in all the world, extending Israel’s borders farther than ever before, becoming fabulously wealthy, living in a palace of breathtaking splendor with wives, concubines, and servants too many to count, and having absolute authority over the life and death of anyone, in a moment, in a heartbeat, it was gone.
And it’s all found here in the words of Psalm 3. As it says in verse 1: “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.”
Let’s step back for a moment to see what’s going on.
Nearly a thousand years before Christ, at the ripe old age of forty-two, David became king over Israel. And life was good! Since he was a “man after God’s own heart,” God blessed him and He blessed his nation of Israel.
But somewhere, sometime, something changed, for just as soon as he killed Uriah and took his wife, Bathsheba, God set in motion devastating consequences. Not only did their child die, but David’s oldest son, Amnon, assaulted his half-sister, Tamar. And then, to make matters worse, David’s other son, Absalom, murdered Amnon. Only after Absalom was in exile for several years was he finally allowed to return home.
But that’s when things went from bad to worse.
You see, Absalom was a real gem. At least he thought so. Even the Bible says so! Not only does it say he was the most handsome man in all of Israel, it says, “From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head, there was no blemish in him” (II Samuel 14:25).
And sure enough, whether it was simple pride or downright arrogance, he decided, by hook or by crook, to take his father’s throne.
Slowly and gradually, he curried and courted the favor of the people. And with a smile, a wink, and a nod, he made it perfectly clear that he was far more willing and far more able to help solve their problems, whatever they might be, than that silly old King David ever could.
He said: “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice” (II Samuel 15:4). Even worse, the Bible says, “Whenever a man came near to pay homage to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him” (II Samuel 15:5).
Such a guy!
Finally, when he was sure he had stolen the hearts of the people, (II Samuel 15:6), he made his move. He hopped onto his faithful steed and rode all the way up to the city of Hebron where, at the sound of trumpets, his secret messengers cried out and said: “Absalom is king at Hebron!” (II Samuel 15:10).
And with a considerable army behind him, numbering as many as twelve thousand men(!), he marched against his father in Jerusalem, leaving David with no choice but to get out of town, to flee his capital city immediately. And with no time to spare, King David, with all of his servants and all of their families, grabbed whatever they could and took off toward the wilderness.
And in utter humiliation, he followed along behind, barefoot, crying out loud, with his head covered in shame.
Let’s stop there for just a moment. Now I don’t know all that you’ve been through over your years of life, but can you imagine if your own child wanted to take everything that’s important to you, everything that’s yours, even your life, and bringing an army to do it?!
Think about it--everything that he had spent his life working for had suddenly come undone. Those whom he thought were allies and friends had abandoned him and sided with his rebellious son.
And if all that wasn’t bad enough, when an old man named Shimei saw him walking by, the Bible says he cursed him, threw stones at him, and shouted, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel, you good-for-nothing, you worthless man!” (II Samuel 16:7).
Suffice it to say, it was the most tragic, traumatic, and humiliating event David ever experienced in his entire life!
In the words of the eighteenth century preacher Charles Spurgeon: “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.”
So what would you do if you went through anything as tragic and traumatic as this? To put it another way, what do you do when your life falls apart?
Do you know what David did? He could have screamed, he could have shouted, he could have cried out demanding to know why God no longer loved him. He had every reason. No one would have blamed him.
Instead, do you know what he did? He prayed. Even though he was so full of anger, doubt, anxiety, and a desire for revenge, all mixed up with the fact that he still deeply loved his son, wonder of wonders, he turned it all--the betrayal, the emotional pain, and the fact that he was nearly killed--into a song of praise!
And that’s when he wrote the words of Psalm 3: “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.
“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and He answered me from His holy hill.
“I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (Psalm 3:1-6).
Jonathan Gibson is a pastor and professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, Pennsylvania. And he’s an author of articles and books like Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present, The Acrostic of Jesus, and The Acrostic of Salvation.
And seven years ago, back in March of 2016, after having one son, his wife was pregnant again, this time with a little girl.
But as it sometimes happens, she died just before she was born, causing them to enter, he said, into “a world of pain and sorrow that we had only ever heard of or imagined, but here we were in the midst of it, trying to navigate ourselves through it.”
His son, Benjamin, said, “Will mommy ever grow a baby that wakes up?”
He said, “Ben, I don’t know, but let’s pray that she does.”
“Why isn’t Leila coming home with us?”
“Because she’s gone to be with Jesus.”
“Does Leila not like us?”
“No, Leila does like us, she just likes Jesus more.”
Then he wrote a book, what he called The Moon is Always Round.
This is what he said: “When Dad told me I was getting a little sister, the moon looked like a banana. But Dad said, ‘The moon is always round.’
“When the crib was put together, the moon looked like a slice of apple. But Dad said, ‘The moon is always round.’
“When Mommy’s tummy began to look like a watermelon, the moon looked like a shriveled orange. But Dad said, ‘The moon is always round.’
“Even when I was told my little sister wasn’t coming to live with us after all the waiting, Dad said, ‘The moon is always round.’
“When I waited at the hospital to meet my little sister, and we left without her, I asked, ‘Why Daddy?’ he replied, ‘I don’t know why, but the moon is always round.’
“And when it was still just the three of us, and we went to the church to say good-bye, my Dad asked me, ‘What shape is the moon?’ I said, ‘The moon is always round.’
“And Dad said, ‘What does that mean?’
“I said, ‘God is always good.’
“For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever. And His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).
So what does all this mean for us? I’ll leave you with this--just as trouble came for David, trouble came for Jesus too. The thickest of trouble. Crucifixion. Mocking. Suffering. Death. Darkness all around. And just as David prayed, Jesus prayed: “How many are My foes! Many are rising against Me; many are saying of My soul, there is no salvation for Him in God” (Psalm 3:1).
But do you know what? Don’t forget the best word. Don’t forget the last word. And that’s verse 8: “Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be on Your people.”
In the words of a hymn: “O all-embracing Mercy, O ever-open Door, what should we do without You when heart and eye run o’er? When all things seem against us, to drive us to despair, we know one gate is open, one ear will hear our prayer.”
We thank You, Father, that Your ears are always open and that You are always ready to hear and answer our prayer. Grant us Your grace and Your peace as we rest in Your everlasting arms, for Jesus’ sake. Amen