1st October 2006
Psalm 3: God’s protection.
A Psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom. (See 2 Samuel 15-18)
Stanza 1: Is there any hope?
O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him."
Stanza 2: A ring of confidence.
But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift [b] up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.
Stanza 3: Rest in the Lord.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.
Stanza 4: A certain victory.
Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.
a. Selah: A word of uncertain meaning, occurring frequently in the Psalms; possibly a musical term that means pause and reflect.
b. Or O LORD; my Glorious One, who lifts up my head.
To understand this Psalm it is helpful to understand why it was written. The story goes back to the time when David’s guard was down and he saw Bathsheba bathing naked. He was filled with lust and as a result committed adultery with her. The prophet Nathan exposed his adultery and pronounced God’s judgement that he would experience problems from within his own family. It was one of those problems that inspired David to write this Psalm. It was written whilst under great stress and difficulty. Read the account in 2 Samuel 15-18 and you will see that Absalom who was David’s son instigated a military coup. David had to go on the run fleeing for his life, whilst in hiding he cried out to God. It was during this time that the Psalm was written.
Psalm 3, which is closely related to Psalm 4, is the first of the Psalms to be credited to David. It is often referred to as the morning Psalm due to the words of the third stanza where David speaks of having slept and been kept overnight by God’s safe keeping. Psalm 4 is known as the evening Psalm.
So as David begins a new day:
Is there any hope?
Apparently long ago a submarine had sunk to the bottom of the sea, trapping the sailors inside. A rescue team came to the vessel and heard a tapping from within. The Morse code message simply said, “is there any hope?” This is something of David’s problem but there is a hint within his words that he had not given up.
The first thing that we can observe is the way that David addresses the Lord. As we have said before; our English versions are not always helpful the verse structure often hinders the free flow of the text. Another problem is that the words translated often lose the powerful meaning that was first intended. This is the case in this first stanza. David when addressing God uses the personal and holy name of God, the same name as was revealed to Moses at the burning bush; “I am who I am” or Yahweh in Hebrew. Whenever Yahweh is used in our English translations the translators use the word LORD but to differentiate between the common use of Lord bestowed upon kings and those in authority the word is always capitalised. Therefore David is saying at the beginning of the Psalm; O Yahweh; or O my God. He is speaking in relationship and trust in God. The thrust of what he is saying is; “O my God is there any hope?”
The second thing to observe is the way David’s enemies speak of God. They are using the impersonal name and merely give lip service to God. They are in effect speaking out of turn and making claims that are false even if at that moment they seem to be substantiated. They are speaking from a position of apparent power but are without God’s authority. We have seen similar claims throughout history. It seems that every nation even to the present day claims God to be on their side. The temptation is to believe that to be the case with those who are more powerful or even have won the battle. Bob Dylan wrote his song “With God on our side” as a parody of such thinking where all people and nations claim God to be with them. There was nothing further from the truth for Absalom and his “mighty” army. They believed contrary to God’s declared word that David was a spent force! God had promised that His purposes would be fulfilled through David and his son Solomon; not Absalom!
David was going through great difficulties brought on by his own personal sin but even so God was on His side. David even though discouraged and hurting because it was his own family that was attacking him knew that God was on his side because he knew God personally.
Do you have the same confidence?
A ring of confidence.
People say that history often has a habit of repeating itself; this week we have seen that to be true again. The supposed great adverts and the products that they heralded in the 1970’s have returned. I don’t suppose the Colgate toothpaste advert of that era will be re-incarnated but it is helpful to us today. Remember the ring of confidence that came around those who cleaned their teeth with Colgate! You were acceptable to all because your breath smells good and your teeth are white. David’s ring of confidence was of a much higher order. His confidence he declared was in Yahweh. Yahweh surrounds him and even though he is “banged up” hiding in a cave God’s glory is upon him. Even though the circumstances that he finds himself in are due to his earlier adultery God had not forsaken him nor had He removed His glory from David. There is much to learn here for us as Christians today. It is easy to believe that God is only blessing us when everything is going well according to our estimation. To David although everything seemed to be desperate; in God’s economy everything was under control, it was in order and going according to God’s will and purpose.
Not only was David confident of God’s protection in difficult days he was also sure that God hears and answers prayer. There had been no miraculous change overnight, the situation was just as it was before but David was confident.
What difficulties are you struggling with? Be encouraged by David’s story. When Nathan revealed his sin to him, David came to God in repentance (see Psalm 51) and even though sin does have an effect God never leaves or forsakes those whom He loves. Just come to Him as David did and then as with David your confidence in Yahweh will be restored and strengthened. You will know that even though circumstance are difficult God is with you and that He is pleased from His holy hill in heaven to answer you in the way that He knows is best!
When you know that you will be able to:
Rest in the Lord:
It doesn’t matter how tired you are, when in great danger it is almost impossible to sleep. When you lie down and close your eyes it seems to trigger imaginations that frighten us to death. David was afraid for his life but yet he was able to say that he could lie down and sleep. That is a confident man as we have already discovered. He is blessed because not only is he confident in Yahweh and believes that Yahweh hears and answers prayer but also because Yahweh is sustaining him. What David needed most then was to rest his body for the battle of the next day. David recognised that his good nights sleep was a gift from Yahweh. He was learning the principle that God will not allow anyone to be tested beyond what they can bear. The fears of the night before are in the past and David awakes with an even greater confidence that he is on the victory side. Even though the enemy seems vast David was not afraid; he had God on his side!
This is the great heritage of the believer; even though all seem to be against us we need not fear. One of the most distressing books to read is Foxes Book of the Martyrs. At first it seems glorious sad but by the time you get half way through it becomes monotonous in that the accounts all seem to follow the same formula. The victims are arrested, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death for blasphemy unless they recant of knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour. They are then executed as heretics usually by burning them at the stake! The one thing that Fox always brings out is that each martyr died knowing; (even though the enemy was great) that they were on the victory side.
Are you resting in the Lord? We have said before that Wesley’s Methodists were commended because they died well; but a mark of the believer is that he can sleep well. I do not mean that he will not have sleeping problems but that his sleep will not be ruined because of fear that God might not be on his side! We sleep well because we know that one day there will be:
A certain victory.
The mark of a great commander is that he can inspire his troops when needed. Remember Winston Churchill’s great stirring speeches during the Second World War and how they raised the spirits of the British nation not to give up in what at times seemed to be certain defeat! What David did in verse 7 seems to be almost blasphemous. He called on God to arise and fight the battle. We have been warned much in the past as to what is the acceptable way to approach God remembering His character. We must not approach Him just as we wish, but David came boldly to Him demanding that God fights on His behalf. The reason for this is that David knew with absolute certainty that what he was asking was within God’s purposes. Absalom was claiming that he was God’s appointed man BUT he was wrong! God had set David apart and Absalom was not a part of David’s plan for Israel! God will not allow another to usurp His authority; He will always glorify His name. Therefore David’s prayer was simply “Deliver me, O my God because it is only you Yahweh who can deliver and You will do so in order to bless Your people! David understood what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews would later teach in Hebrews chapter 4:16 “let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive grace to help us in our time of need.” David was certainly in a time of great need and so he approached the throne of grace confidently knowing that what he asked was God’s purpose for both Himself and Israel.
As Christians we must always treat the things of God with utmost respect but God has given great and mighty promises in His word. We often do not take them as the absolutes that they are and so we pray timidly. It is a wonder that God can ever interpret what we are asking of Him. That certainly was not the case with David! He wanted the enemy destroyed and God’s name to be glorified. There are many around us today attacking Yahweh and His authority, it is offensive to Him and so it should be to us. Are we as bold as David was? Dare we ask that the enemy of our God be defeated knowing in confidence that God will be pleased to answer that prayer?
So what do we learn from this Psalm? We can be like David who whilst in distress was confident in Yahweh resting in the belief of certain victory. We have reason to be even more confident, we can rest assured that the enemy of our souls has been defeated through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ and so we know that we are on the victory side as are all who trust in Him. He has commanded that we destroy the works of the evil one in the power of God that rescues people from Satan’s stranglehold. Our weapon of war is the gospel, we have it in our hand we must boldly use it for the glory of God.