Time and again, David found himself in the valley of the shadow of death. While a shepherd lad, he did hand-to-paw combat with a lion and a bear. Still a stripling, he faced the giant Goliath with only a slingshot. David went on to become commander of King Saul’s troops, leading them into battles. Then he was on the run for thirteen years from the jealous, deranged king. After ascending the throne, David often went to war.
So David, throughout his life, had times of living in the valley of the shadow of death. But none of his valleys was as dark as the one he went through the night his traitorous son usurped the throne.
Surprised by a message that Absalom was heading to the capital with a revolt, he fled the palace. Brokenhearted, “David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot; and all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went” (2 Samuel 15:30 NRSV).
This event could have moved David to write the Twenty-Third Psalm with its ever-comforting promise, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4 KJV). Maybe he penned it then, maybe not. But there is little doubt about Psalm 3, whose superscription states that it is a psalm of David when he fled from Absalom.
During that dark valley of knowing his son desired not only his throne but also his life, David wrote: “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head” (Psalm 3:3 NRSV). David again mustered up confidence in God.