It’s a song written when he was in dire straights. A lament penned at the bottom of the cycle. Minor key chords composed from a valley experience. A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
David is on the lam. He has fled town to escape the fury of his insurgent offspring. David’s rule is in ruin. His family’s a mess. And his life is in danger. Can it get any worse? Yup. Because, at the root of it all there’s plenty of just cause for self-blame.
So many things he could have handled better within his family. He could have responded with a stronger hand after the rape of his daughter by his step-son, Amnon (2Sam. 13:14). But who was he to judge such lustful impulse? Every time he looked at Bathsheba, or remembered Uriah, or visited his newborn sons grave, he knew of his own moral failure (2Sam. 11, 12). Thus, he was paralyzed from dealing with sin in his house as he should have. And so, dealing with the situation was picked up by another son, hot-headed Absalom.
After two years of inaction on his dad’s part, Absalom murders Amnon. More family dysfunction. And David could have handled that better, too. He wavers again in dealing with a son . . . again for years. Sort of judges his son’s sin, but sort of doesn’t. He wants reconciliation with his son but imposes upon him a sort of in-house exile. Torn between dealing with Absalom’s murderous treachery and wanting relationship with him, David fuels the fires of revenge and ambition within his son. And the result is Absalom’s power play for the throne. Now, having suffered great loss, haunted by humiliating shame, and in grave danger, David is on the run.
And out of that experience he writes a song. And from the depths of this valley he looks up, way up, to the Lifter of My Head.
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. Selah But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. (Psalm 3:1-3 ESV)
In the midst of an out-of-control situation, with the voice of self-accusation ringing in his ear, over-whelmed, perhaps, by thoughts of “if I’d only . . . “, David cries out to the LORD (v.4). Confident that, even in current circumstances, God has his back . . . and his front . . . and his sides . . . that God is a all encompassing shield about him. What’s more, David firmly believes that the God who promised him the throne is a faithful God. That even now, the LORD hears from His holy hill and will, in His time and in His way, bring a future glory, though all David can see now is the present shame.
And from where does this confidence come? From knowing the God of heaven and earth as the Lifter of My Head.
Though David needs to be constantly looking over his shoulder, in those times when he stills himself before heaven’s throne, his eyes are directed upward. Though his outer man is bowed over with the weight of oppressive circumstance, his inner man is prompted by the Spirit to raise up his chin and, by faith, gaze into the face of Him who has promised never to leave him, nor forsake him. Though he knows the reality of the weeping which lasts for the night, his soul is lifted up as he knows that “joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5b).
Apart from dire straights, if there were no bottom of the cycle or valley experience, we wouldn’t know the truth, and we couldn’t know the touch, of the God who reaches down to be the Lifter of My Head.
What wondrous love. What amazing grace. To Him be eternal glory.