This is the third in the series of what the Holy Spirit shared with me concerning the Psalms.
We may tend to forget how dire were the circumstances faced by the real people of the Bible. Here in Psalm three, David is in fear for his life, as even his own son Absalom has risen up against him. And Absalom had many with him, those he had craftily stolen away from his father, king David. David shows his real fear and concern for the situation in his cry to God:
3:1“O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!”
Who among us has not felt overwhelmed by our own foes, be they human, spiritual forces of darkness, or from among the many trials of daily life in this dangerous world in which God has placed us? Yes, we can easily identify with David.
3:2“Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’ Selah.”
Things are so bad that David’s enemies think they have him; his downfall is almost within their grasp; even God will not help him. He is theirs.
But hidden within this cry of David is a secret of strong hope. For this statement of his enemies, that God will not deliver him, betrays their front of false courage. For it is an admission that in the past God has indeed helped David and that right strongly: It is what has made him king and enabled him to defeat all his enemies. There is a strong undercurrent of fear in their hearts as they rise up against one with a history of being blessed and protected by God. To allay their fears, they say their words with bravado, that although God has protected and helped him in the past, such help and protection is now just that, a thing of the past. God has withdrawn his favor and will no longer deliver David from his enemies.
But David dares to proclaim otherwise. He ends his statement with the word Selah, which some translators believe is best rendered as a command to sing. David trusts God so much that he dares to sing a song of praise to God and a song of victory in the midst of his trials, at the very moment when things look darkest. He is not the only one to find comfort and reassurance in the God in whom he trusts, when all looks hopeless and one is surrounded by enemies. When Paul and his helper were in prison, they too sang in their distress:
“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. Upon receiving such orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:22-25).
“About midnight . . .” When the night seems darkest, at the midnight hour, that is the time not to give up hope but to strengthen it. And one of the best ways to strengthen hope is to sing, sing praises to the God of all hope.
But there is more to this than just encouraging ourselves in times of trial. Notice that the passage describing Paul and Silas in prison says that while they were singing, the other prisoners were listening to them.
We never know who is watching or listening to us in our lives. God has put us here on this earth to be witnesses to him. One of the common ways we do that is by looking to him when times are tough. But if that seeking him is only internal, in our hearts, no one else will see that we look to God. But if we sing out loud, they hear us turn to God for help–and God is glorified. But, of course, for us to do this, to sing in the midst of our difficulties, two things must be in place. First, we must trust God enough to sing that song of victory before that deliverance arrives. And second, we must humble ourselves before others and God, not being afraid to admit that we are frightened and weak and incapable of rescuing ourselves. We must be honest and true in our humility before God and man, not caring how we look to others in the sense of ego or standing, but caring that God be glorified no matter how we appear to others.
However, we should not put on a false front of bravery, pretending we are super-Christians and not bothered by the frightening situation we are in; but neither should we be embarrassed to show our weakness. We should just be real and genuine: real human beings who sometimes become afraid but who also know who can calm our fears and brings us out to victory–our Lord and God.
3:3-4“But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah.”
The head that was bowed in sorrow, grief, and fear now is raised in hope. David is so sure of his deliverance by God that he cries out loud, just as Peter and Silas did. Why out loud? So that others can see and hear the source of their hope. It is not their own strength or skill that will save them but God in whom they trust. But if that hope and faith is kept silently within, how will others know that it is God in whom they trust? Hence David’s words end here also with the command to sing out loud. Selah.
3:5” I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.”
Now he can rest. No longer does the threat of his foes keep his mind in turmoil and restless and without sleep. He has publicly delcared that God will deliver him–and this has brought peace. He need not be troubled even if he is not conscious and alert to defend himself, for he is trusting the Lord to defeat his foes and to sustain him in the process.
“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you” (2 Chr. 20:17).
Today, all seems hopeless. But tomorrow . . . tomorrow is another day, and you shall awake and the Lord will be with you against your enemies. This promise is not a guarantee that those who trust in God will never experience defeat, in human terms, in battle with those who oppose God and those who believe in them. But it does mean that even if these enemies seem to win the battle, they will lose the war. Many a man and woman of God has felt pain and injury, even death, in battling the forces of evil in this life. Hebrews chapter 11 is a reminder that some are delivered from suffering and some are not–at least not in the way we weak human beings want to be delivered, meaning that we suffer not at all. No, the victory is not that we never suffer but that whatever happens we can rest in the Lord and sleep well because he is always watching over us and ultimately he will get the glory and we will be honored by having been allowed to be a soldier in the battle, whether we live through that battle or die there.
“For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Rom. 14:7,8).
And that is all we need. Knowing this, we can sleep and rest and then rise and eat–all in the very presence of our enemies.
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” (Ps. 23:5).
We are to rest in peace in the One who watches over us, “without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved–and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Ph. 1:28,29).
God will ultimately deliver all who believe in him, whether he preserves them in the battle or allows them to suffer and die in the battle. Either way, they are the Lord’s and not the enemy’s. The enemy can not touch their soul, only their body–and that only as the Lord allows.
“‘Skin for skin!’ Satan replied. ‘A man will give all he has for his own life. But stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.’ The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life'” (Job 2:4-6).
3:6: “I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side”
Whether one enemy or thousands, the one who trusts in God will not fear. God can defeat a thousand as easily as one. Therefore, call out in faith for God to show himself strong on your behalf when you are surrounded by the enemy.
3:7:” “Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.”
The psalm ends with David’s reiteration of his complete trust in the Lord for deliverance and an allusion that he is not requesting deliverance from God solely for himself but, because he is the leader of God’s people, he requests this also for their sake. He knows that whatever happens to him will be seen by the people and they will either be discouraged or encouraged by God’s response to his cry for help.
3:8:” From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.”
O that all of God’s people would have this attitude, that when troubles come their way, they would think not only of how it affects them but seek good to come out of it for all God’s people, so that the whole world will see that we love God and that he loves us.
“The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (Jn. 14:31).
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).
God’s blessing has indeed come upon God’s people, just as the psalmist prayed in this psalm. It has come through our blessed Savior Jesus Christ.