Have you ever had “one of those days?” Days when everything seems all discombulated, out of kilter? You just can’t seem to get back on track? Yesterday was one for me. I had a lovely start to the morning, then got a phone call and the wheels came off! I glanced at the clock and thought I had 15 minutes to get ready and get to an appointment. I scrambled quickly, drove fast, and ran in the building. Ran, people. I do not run! Breathlessly, (very breathlessly) I announced myself. The receptionist glanced at her screen and informed me I was an hour early. Oh, brother! Fortunately, I was able to be seen right then, but what a day. Sometimes I guess I need to see if I’ve still got the ability to do something really ridiculous!
David has one of those days
I wonder if David had one of those days. Not a ridiculous, stupid kind of day, but a day where the wheels suddenly came off and things got really out of whack. One minute he is doing his King thing, the next he is fleeing for his life. From his own son! David must have had a really significant emotional response because several Psalms are believed to be a response to the incident.
The background is in 2 Samuel, chapters 13 to 15. Allow me to quickly paraphrase. These chapters tell the tragic story of Tamar’s half-brother, Amnon, luring her into his room and raping her. Tamar’s brother, Absalom, was furious. David, their father, couldn’t bring himself to address this horrendous act. Tamar was naturally devastated, even more so because no one would want her for marriage now. She would exist as an empty shell. The story continues because it wasn’t dealt with at the time.
When David learned of the rape, he was furious. By Israelite law, both Amnon and Tamar were to be publicly excluded. (Leviticus 20:17) But David did nothing about it. Perhaps because he loved Amnon. (1 Chronicles 3:1) Perhaps he couldn’t bear to exclude two of his children. Perhaps he felt like a complete hypocrite, given his own assault on Bathsheba.
No repentance from Amnon. No forgiveness by David, Absalom or Tamar. Not even by God who forgives, because no one asked Him to forgive.
David may have moved on, but Absalom could not. Absalom murdered Amnon after two years then fled. He waited three more years, seeking an audience with his father so they could work things out. David’s heart was broken again but David refused to see his son. Finally, David allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem, but still refused to see him for two more years.
Can you feel the bitterness building in Absalom’s heart? Seven years have passed. At long last, David agreed to see his son. But it was too late now. Absalom left the meeting and spent four more years courting citizens; he would give justice to people. Do you see what burned in his soul for so long? For eleven years! Eleven years after the rape, he believed he could safely pull off a revolt. David grieved but didn’t fully acknowledge the depth of anyone’s pain. Now David was forced to flee into the wilderness, fearfully on the move.
David fled for his life.
There, in the wilderness, David waits and wonders what the outcome will be. Will Absalom find him and kill him? There he uttered this heartfelt cry to God.
1 O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. 2 I have seen you in your sanctuary and gazed upon your power and glory. 3 Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! 4 I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. 5 You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. . . 6 I lie awake thinking of you, meditating on you through the night. 7 Because you are my helper, I sing for joy in the shadow of your wings. 8 I cling to you; your strong right hand holds me securely. . . 11 But the king will rejoice in God. All who trust in him will praise him, while liars will be silenced. Psalm 63:1-8, 11 (NLT)
The purpose of this blog
Make no mistake. Tamar’s story is tragic, heart-breaking, infuriating. The deaths of Absalom and Amnon add to the tragedy.
There is much that could be discussed in this story. As a woman, it is easy to ache for Tamar. I can’t imagine the agony in David’s heart as the saga continued. My purpose in sharing the background today is not to diminish the brokenness of Tamar, the anger of Absalom or the crime of Amnon, but to prepare us to understand the depth of pain in David’s heart because so many things were unresolved. He was a great king and military leader but a lousy father. That doesn’t mean he didn’t hurt deeply. Yet, God responded to him, even in this mess. God honored what David was able to acknowledge and restored his soul.
Please hear that, no matter what mess you have made, God waits to respond similarly to you.
Fleeing in the wilderness
Although David could not properly address all the issues for his children, he did know that the only place he would find help for his own battered heart was with God. Perhaps you can relate to David and his inability to appropriately address his children at all. Failure to address the situation cost David dearly. Two sons dead. Tamar now living in shame and without a care-giver. A very broken heart and intense loneliness. Fear for his very life and his kingdom.
Have you ever been in such an emotionally desperate situation? Or looked at the mess of your life and wondered if there was any hope at all? What will get you through it? I know what helped me. I pray God will lavish the same encouragement on you. (photo via pexels.com)
Calling out to God
In the first verse David addressed God twice, but with two different names. David acknowledged God is still the Creator, Ruler, King and Judge, and that God is mighty and strong.
David knew from experience that God was able to effectively judge the situation and deal with it, even if it meant dealing with David. He trusted God’s strength to keep his own soul while he waited.
Yet, he cried out to God, telling Him he desperately needed Him. He needed God’s help with his thoughts and emotions and his urge to quickly respond versus letting God deal with it all. He needed God physically as he fled and slept wherever he could. The wilderness lacked food and water; the very things needed to sustain him. Could the situation also deprive him of what sustained his soul? How did David turn to God with his pain?
Remembering who God is
David focused on who God is, remembering times of worshipping in the Temple, seeing God’s power and glory. He had seen God act when he was a shepherd boy. He had seen God protect him over and over when he fled from the previous king, Saul, who sought to kill him. He had seen God give him military victory in impossible situations. He chose to remember what God had done, to remember the love of God and to declare that knowing the love and kindness of God had been the best thing in his life.
Perhaps you can’t identify God in your life. Try this: I remember the morning this Psalm struck me so powerfully. I saw the abuse I was experiencing in a new way and sang. “I’m learning about and receiving Your love and it is the best thing I know. You satisfy me more than anything else I know. I choose to bless your Name and who You are. I choose to sing praises to You!” I agreed with David; simply acknowledging the love and kindness of God was the best thing in my life, no matter how life seemed.
Night time ramblings
Given the circumstances, both emotionally and physically, David couldn’t sleep, but he didn’t let his mind wander. That’s a sure recipe for negativity. David chose to meditate on who God is, what God had done before. He remembered God had helped him before. He chose to dwell under the protection of God’s wings, a reminder to the priests of all God said. David remembered what God said, and sang for joy, knowing God held him securely. He declared his trust in God with renewed confidence that God would take care of the rest.
For the next few moments
Perhaps you are going through something that is making you feel like you are in a place barren of soul sustenance. Like David and I can you recount what God has done for you in the past? Can you choose to focus on who He is and praise Him, knowing He loves you and cares for you so He will work it all out?
If you have never experienced that love and care before, never known God before, I urge you to call out to Him right now. He loves to answer a simple prayer: Help! The next time you are in such a place, you will have memories that sustain you. We will continue to explore those Psalms David wrote in response to this horrific event, and see what else can sustain us.
Carol Boggess, author and speaker at A Healing Journey
Carol Boggess © 2020
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts
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