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Peace in Distress

Have you ever had a night when you could not get to sleep because of burdens, fears or worries? Peace of mind simply would not come. Although we may pillow our heads in exhaustion, we may not be able to sleep because we are thinking of something we have done wrong and tomorrow the truth is going to come out. Or maybe it has already come out, and we are wondering what the consequences might be and how our lives might suffer.

It could be that we cannot sleep because of the concern we have for someone we love who is in a distressing situation. Our brother or sister may have done something that has hurt the entire family, or our child is making a shambles of his or her life by poor choices and we cannot seem to help. Or maybe we cannot rest because we are facing trouble for which we did not ask, and things are beyond our power to control. Such situations seem to be a part of being human. At that point, what would you give for a good night’s sleep, troubles forgotten?

In Second Samuel 15, we are introduced to a father whose family was falling apart and the struggle he had in finding peace and a solution. David’s children had defiled and killed one another, and now one was trying to take David’s position and his life. In Second Samuel 15:1-6, Absalom had it in his mind to supplant his father and take the throne of Israel by force. He took advantage of David in six ways: (1) He put on an impressive show for his countrymen. He rode in a chariot pulled by horses, the first mention of royalty doing so; David rode on a mule. In addition, Absalom had fifty runners to precede him in something like a motorcade. (2) He worked very hard by rising early and greeting the people who had suits to settle as they came through the gate, “pressing the flesh,” as we might say. (3) He showed personal interest in each who passed by, inquiring after their city and the nature of their case. (4) He flattered each litigant by expressing confidence that their claim was right and just. (5) He put on a show of being down-to-earth, not treating them as a prince to a commoner, but shook each hand and gave a kiss of greeting on the cheek. He presented himself as just one of the common folk. (6) He discredited his father, the king, in the eyes of the people, insinuating that the king was derelict in duty, as there was no one to hear the litigant’s case. He even suggested what a good thing it would be for him to be king so that he might render justice with honor. With these six strategies, he “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Sam. 15:6). [James Smith, Old Testament Survey Series: The Books of History. (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996), 365-366.]

Once Absalom had transferred the affections of the people from his father to himself, he then schemed to remove his father (2 Sam. 15:7-12). Under the guise of going to worship in Hebron, Absalom requested to be excused from Jerusalem. Parents should want to encourage piety in their children, so it is no surprise that David told Absalom to go. However, Absalom betrayed his trust.

When Absalom reached Hebron, he was not there to worship, but to destroy his father. He sent spies to announce how the rebellion would actually commence, and even took advantage of soldiers from Jerusalem who did not know what they were supporting. As time passed, the forces of conspiracy swelled.

What would you do if you had to flee for your life from your own family? David learned what Absalom had planned and immediately took flight (2 Sam. 15:13-23). Think about this for a moment. You just had someone come and tell you that a member of your family is coming to kill you and steal your home. “He what?” And then you try to get away, hoping that you and others you love will be safe, all the while wondering, “What is going on?” That is David. There were supporters who were willing to flee with David when they could have stayed. That would be a comfort, but how do you make sense of this chaos? Every mile that they traveled was a mile David would spend wondering what happened and how this could have come to be. As the shock diminished somewhat and the people sized up these developments, their hearts must have been hurting greatly. Tears were certainly flowing (2 Sam. 15:23)! What does it take to make a man cry? How about a man of power—a king? What a terrible sight it must have been to see a ruler weeping over the actions of his own son and running away. That is what the people saw in David (2 Sam. 15:30).

If you were fleeing and finally reached a point where you would be safe for the night, could you sleep? What would it take for you to put this away from your mind and rest? I do not know how long David lay awake, but I do know the answer came to him and he managed to rest. What was his secret? Can I learn so that I can rest, even when it seems my world has just fallen apart? David tells all what made the difference for him, allowing him to cope.

In Psalm 3, we have a text written by this very man concerning his flight from Absalom. It is the prescription for finding confidence and hope in the midst of trying circumstances. In the first two verses, David’s Distress, we see what he is feeling as he scrambles for his life. His enemies are amassing, all wishing to do him harm. There are those saying that he is alone and that even God is now with him. This certainly applies to the curses and insults hurled at the king by Shimei, who supported the cause of Saul’s house against David. It is worth commenting on the fact that David does not hide from his troubles or deny that they exist. This is because he is not only conscious of trouble, but conscious of God and the Divine presence.

The second section, David’s Confidence, is in marked contrast to the first. While people are opposing him, God is standing with him. There is the confidence that God will bear him through. When David cries out, God hears. He is not alone, forsaken. He is mindful of God.

When this realization hits, then we see the consequences. First, there is David’s Rest (Psa. 3:5-6). What allows him to sleep and rest in the midst of such turmoil? Knowing that the Maker of heaven and earth is with him. God rules in the kingdoms of men. Desperate situations do not have to be faced alone. With this truth, he is courageous, ready to address what is before him.

Second, Psalm 3:7-8 reveals David’s Salvation. When accounts are settled and vindication accomplished, God will save His people who live for Him. David is willing to do what is right in God’s sight in the face of struggles, and expects that he ultimately shall be delivered.

This can be summed up by recognizing that when David lay down, his world was in turmoil; and when he awoke, his world was still in turmoil! What was different? Not the situation—Absalom was heading into Jerusalem and David was in flight. No, the difference was in David—how he thought, how he looked at the entire picture. He remembered God and that he was not alone. He was renewed in confidence and resolution. Psalm 3 is about renewal.

How can we lie down and rest in confidence?

(1) Remember that our Father is over all, and He brings salvation and blessings to His people.

(2) Remember that we can prevent the anguish of lamenting over our sins by following God away from Satan’s temptations. Satan gives fear and suffering; God gives hope and peace. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”

(3) We should also remember that we can be a source of light and influence to those we know and love.

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