Down but not out

Psalm 28 shows us that David is aware of Absalom’s actions and intent to disturb David’s peaceful relations with his neighbors. David said to the LORD, “Draw me not away with the wicked, and with the workers of iniquity, which speak peace to their neighbor, but mischief is in their hearts. Give them according to their deeds, and according to the wickedness of their endeavors” (Psalm 28:3-4).

The word David used to describe Absalom’s behavior, mischief or ra‘ (rah) in Hebrew is derived from the word ra‘a‘ (raw – ah´) which means to spoil (7489).

The word ra’ combines together in one the wicked deed and its consequences. It generally indicates the rough exterior of wrongdoing as a breach of harmony, and as breaking up what is good and desirable in man and in society. While the prominent characteristic of the godly is lovingkindness (2617), one of the most marked features of the ungodly man is that his course is an injury both to himself and to everyone around him. (7451)

David uses the concept of sowing and reaping to convey his belief that Absalom’s attempt to usurp David’s power would not end well for him. David prayed, “Give them after the work of their hands; render to them their desert” (Psalm 28:4). The word translated desert, g’muwl means treatment (1576) and is derived from the word gâmal (gaw – mal´) which refers to a weaned child and the ripening of grapes (1580). David is implying that Absalom should be treated as an adult and the fruit of his actions should show forth the result of his intentions. Absalom’s effort to steal the hearts of the people was based on deception and the lie that David no longer cared about them.

David was hurt by the fact that his own son would turn against him, but he was not naïve enough to believe that Absalom deserved leniency because he was still a young man. David said, “Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell: for wickedness is in their dwellings, and among them” (Psalm 55:15).

It was probably difficult for David to justify Absalom’s actions because David had shown Absalom mercy when he invited him back into the city of Jerusalem after Absalom had killed Amnon. One of the things David knew from personal experience was that mercy should produce repentance and a change in behavior. David said, “Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God” (Psalm 55:9). There was no evidence that Absalom was any different after returning from Geshur. If anything, he had become hardened by David’s kindness and Absalom no longer respected David’s authority.

David’s final words in Psalm 55 indicate that his retreat from Jerusalem was not a sign of defeat, but a means of getting out of God’s way so that the LORD could deal with Absalom’s disobedience. David said, “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: He shall never suffer the righteous to be moved. But thou, O God, shall bring them down into the pit of destruction: bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days; but I will trust in thee” (Psalm 55:22-23).

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