Holiness after Absalom

Reading Psalm 3 by my two remaining orange poppies this morning, I noticed a theme that’s caught my eye a great deal in recent years: the holiness of God as something that abides through every betrayal.

Psalm 3 is attributed to David when he’s fleeing his son Absalom, who has killed his brother Amnon for raping their sister Tamar. Not exactly healthy dynamics in the royal family! None of it ends well, for Absalom is eventually hung by his hair when it gets tangled in some trees while he’s trying to flee his father’s men on a mule.

Perhaps Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey in part to remember and in part to reverse the energy of this traumatic flight of Absalom.

In any case, debasement and grandeur all comb through the life of David, who is at best a tragic hero–having also had a man put to the front lines of battle (where he died) so that he could possess that man’s wife, Bathsheba. Repentance at least ensues in this case, and indeed, it seems only David’s testimony speaks loudest and longest in all these family affairs. Though their feelings are made known, Tamar is rendered silent and isolated; Amnon and Absalom are killed

Where is God’s presence, except in judgment, in the story of Amnon and Abasalom and Tamar?

One place as witnessed in Psalm 3:3-4:

“But you, YHWH, are my protection, my glory, the One who helps me hold up my head. I cry aloud to you, YHWH, and you
answer me from the mountain of your holiness.”

What is the mountain of God’s holiness? Where is it? Is it the Temple on Mt. Zion? Is it the domain of heaven?

The image evokes a sense of God as unable to be marred by all the fault lines in our lives together–even our lives as bound up in covenant with God and one another.

Nor is YHWH indifferent. When we cry from our own depths of defilement and fear and abandonment, God answers from the depths of God’s holiness.

That holiness protects us amid every defilement, every terror. And thankfully, it is a holiness we access precisely by calling to God out of the length and breadth of the truths in our lives–not by escaping or erasing them.

Out of the lineage of David’s betrayals, and out of the lineage of God’s holiness in covenant with us . . . Jesus comes to us from both of these combined.

Surely it is not God’s will that Amnon rape his half-sister Tamar, or that David claim Bathsheba for himself. But perhaps it is well within God’s will that Jesus the Anointed One comes to us not from a wholesome ideal family line, but from a sullied heritage.

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

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