I’m up to my elbows in busyness this week, so I’m posting a few chapters from my new book, Deep Roots, which I’ll publish later this year. I’m in the middle of the final rewrite, so please give me any feedback which can make these chapters better.
Haunted (Psalm 3)
It is scary how the ghosts from our past come back to haunt us. I’m not talking about the mysterious apparition of your great aunt Sally that appears at the top of the stairs on dark and stormy nights (if that’s you, then you need to call the Ghostbusters). I’m talking about the poor de-cisions from the past that caused pain—the hurtful things we said or did that ruined a relationship or destroyed a reputation. Every time we see or think about that person, the guilt rushes back. The questions race through our minds:
“Why did I say those things?”
“How could I have approached the situation differently?”
“Can I ever make things right?”
Sin will come back to haunt us.
One of the reasons I’m convinced the Bible is from God and not merely the work of men is the way it portrays its “heroes.” They aren’t portrayed as perfect people with perfect lives who did no wrong and who always saved the day. Instead, the Bible portrays them with brutal, raw honesty. They are people with personality flaws and moral failures. In many cases, their ghosts return to haunt them.
Psalm 3 reveals the emotional state of a man haunted by his past. Psalm 3 is King David’s cry to God concerning his enemies, namely his son Absalom. Handsome, athletic, persuasive, manipulative, and evil, Absalom was both every father’s dream and nightmare. He murdered his half-brother. He ran a grassroots political campaign that would make any third-party candidate jealous. He raped members of his father’s harem in broad daylight in public view. He rebelled against his father to take the kingdom for himself. He nearly succeeded, but his ambition lead to a violent death.
What is so tragic is David should have known what Absalom was doing. Even if David did know, he did nothing about it. David was a great king, but he was a terrible husband and father. David’s weak parenting skills contributed to Absalom’s rebellion. In Psalm 3 David reflects on the rebellion while it was in process. David’s terrible fathering skills and his ignorance of Absalom’s subversive activities came back to bite him. David was haunted. Yet, in spite of the dire circumstances, David writes this in Psalm 3:3,
“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me.”
Shields have one purpose: to protect from enemy attacks. In ancient times, a soldier without a shield would have been as good as dead, vulnerable to whatever his opponent threw at him. In a spiritual sense, David called God his shield—his protection. Even though David was par-tially responsible for Absalom’s rebellion, David knew God would protect and forgive him. Eventually, God allowed David to return from exile and reclaim the kingdom.
Like David, each of us has ghosts from our past that occasionally haunt us. Satan uses those ghosts to inflict guilt, shame, and regret.
In the midst of spiritual warfare, when Satan throws everything at us, we can take refuge in God’s mercy. We can trust in His protection. Jesus’ death and resurrection secured the final victory over Satan, sin, and death. Our guilt has been removed. Our shame has been erased. Our regret has been forgotten. Even though the enemy continues to fight with guerilla tactics and even though there are battles to be fought, we can take refuge in God’s protection because the war is already over.
Our ghosts have a way of scaring us when we least expect it. A song, a scene from a movie, a location, a person—anything that reminds us of the past—can stir memories and dredge up remorse for what we did. But with God as our shield, our protector, we no longer have to fear. We can trust in God’s protection and forgiveness no matter the circumstance we find ourselves. Sometimes, knowing God is our shield is the only thing that keeps us sane and gives us hope. Other times, when Satan’s attacks have ceased for the time being, we can look back and see God’s protection. It may have come through a scripture we meditated on, an encouraging word from another follower of Jesus, time spent with our church, or even something as simple as a brief, silent moment. No matter what He uses, we can in hindsight see God working to protect us in the midst of Satan’s barrage. We can say what David did in Psalm 3:5-6,
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Rest easy. Your ghosts don’t have to haunt you any longer.
 Absalom’s story is found in 2 Samuel 14:25-19:8.