Thursday, September 8, 2016

8 September 2016
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
​ Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
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. Selah
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.
Arise, O LORD!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people! Selah  
                                                Psalms 3:1-8 (ESV)

            Good morning, welcome. Today we consider Psalm 3, the first Psalm that refers to a specific historical event. The phrase ‘a Psalm of David’ could also mean a Psalm belonging to, or a Psalm about, or a Psalm collected by, David. For our purposes here we will assume it was written by David or someone very close to him during the period when he was hiding from Absalom.
            That story actually begins with David and Bathsheba and is told in 2 Samuel 11-18. David committed two offenses which carried the death sentence-adultery and murder. God spared David the punishment, but not the consequences. Speaking through the prophet Nathan, God said “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. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” (2 Samuel 12:10-13; ESV). And that is exactly what happened.
            The violence began when Absalom’s sister Tamar was raped by David’s son Amnon. After a time Amnon, whom David did not punish, was murdered by Absalom, who then fled to Geshur. David’s advisor Joab convinced David to allow Absalom to return; but David had no contact with his son. After two years Joab convinced David to forgive Absalom. Through treachery Absalom won over the hearts of the people of Israel; eventually he went to Hebron, where he declared himself king. David and his supporters fled Jerusalem; in his absence Absalom “…pitched a tent…on the roof [of David’s palace]. And Absalom went in to his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel.” (2 Samuel 16:22-23; ESV). Absalom sent an army out after David; David was victorious, Absalom was killed. Everything God said to Nathan had come to pass. The story makes the Psalm all the more remarkable. David had been judged by God; yet in the midst of the (dire) consequences he could say ‘I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me”. David knew God and that was enough.
            There is relevance here for us as well, and for the same reason. We may not have the enemies David had but we have fears, or worries, or problems, and they can be overwhelming unless we face them the same way David did, keeping our eyes focused on God. Remembering past graces He has shown us we cry out and expect an answer. And, even if nothing comes, we trust He is with us, protecting us because that is what divine love does. Sometimes this is how God chooses to grow our faith; He is bringing us to the place where simply being in His presence is enough.
            I had a personal experience with this about a year ago. I was facing outpatient surgery; not life-threatening but one which would require several weeks of recovery. The night before, I simply asked God if it would be ok if He would just hang out with me, if we could just be together. His answer was a deep peace that fell over me and stayed with me all night and throughout the next day-my blood pressure just before the surgery was actually lower than it had been in years. The surgery was successful and the recovery was shorter than expected. This is what Paul is saying in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (NRSV, Italics mine).
            Psalm 3 is a good one to become familiar with. This is the advantage of scripture memorization-the Psalmist’s words become our words. This is what God desires for us; it is one way, as I have said, His words return to Him having accomplished their purpose. This is not so much about using scripture as it is about becoming scripture; rather, letting scripture become part of us. When God’s word lives in us God lives in us as well.

May the LORD bless you and keep you this day. JRG

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