This is the first time the word “Psalm” is used in the book of Psalms, the first time a Psalm is attributed to David in the Psalms, and the first prayer in the book of Psalms. Although not used in the NIV translation, this is the first time the Hebrew word “selah” is used and it is used here after verses 2, 4 and 8. “Selah” occurs 71 times in the Hebrew editions of the Psalms and 3 additional times in the Psalm or hymn recorded in Habakkuk 3. General speculation is that it had some musical meaning but what exactly that was, has long been lost.
The ancient rabbis gave the setting in which David wrote this Psalm as, “When he fled from his son Absalom.” II Samuel chapters 15-18 detail that event.While the Psalm itself does not give specific details of either Absalom’s rebellion or the response of some of the people to him, the historical context set forth by the early rabbis seems more than adequate to place the writing in that setting. Realistically none of us will ever face a situation the same as that but all of us have faced and will face situations in which it may seem like everyone, or everything, is against us. The message of Psalm 3 reminds us that we have a God to whom we can turn for help.
Read Psalm 3:1-2. The very first word is “Lord.” One of the characteristics of our self-sufficient mentality is that we assume that there is nothing we cannot handle and so we turn to God when all else has seemingly failed. Critical situations call for us to pray while the rest of the challenges we think we can handle ourselves.
This Psalm is classified as a “lament Psalm” because it details the pouring out of one’s heart to God in a particular situation in which, from a practical perspective, there is little or no hope. When our lives are touched by situations that seemly have no hope apart from God, we certainly should seek His help and strength in a special way. But we must not limit our dependence upon God to those situations. Nothing is either too big or too small to take to Him in prayer.
David’s enemies were telling him that if God had ever been on his side, God had now abandoned him. They declared, “God will not deliver him.” He heard them but didn’t really listen to them because he knew God’s promises to provide and protect.
Verse 2 is particularly interesting because of the attitude of those who reject God too often display today. They declared, “God will not deliver him.” That is the declaration of those who, for all practical purposes, are atheists. They may outright deny the existence of God, or they may select one of several approaches that deny God’s ability or willingness to help us when we are in trouble. Some suggest that if God created, He then left creation to its own end and does not control it or interact with it any longer. A more common form of denial is that God cannot or will not help us when we need Him because we are not worthy of His help. This is one of Satan’s favorite arguments. It suggests that God may help a Billy Graham, but we are both insignificant and to impure to expect Him to help us.
The idea of God deliverance of him can easily be missed. The word used here is Yeshua, which means helper and one who saves. It is the equilivent of Joshua and Jesus, who came to be our Savior. The God who offers us help in times of trouble is the same one who loves us enough to offer us eternal salvation in Jesus from the penalty and power of sin. Read Psalm 46:1 in respect to today. Read John 3:18 in respect to eternity.
The Psalm goes on with verses 3-4 expressing David’s confidence in spite of the apparent seriousness of the situation. David was certain that that God would hear his prayer and certain that God would be his shield and restore him to the place God had set for him. Read verse 3. The psalmist noted three things that he can count on. God is his shield, gives him glory and then lifts his head up high.
The first is easily understood, although often forgotten. By declaring God to be his shield he was declaring that God was his protection or defender. Every soldier in his day was protected by a smaller shield that was used for hand-to-hand combat and protected him when the enemy got too close. That was the shield referred to here. The enemy may get close, but God is the shield that protects at that time. Read Genesis 15:1 on God’s promise to Abraham. Read Ephesians 6:16 on Paul’s challenge to Christians.
The second assurance that David declares is that God will be his glory. Generally, when we think of glory, we think of God’s glory but here is it glory that God gives to His children. Read Psalm 62:7. We reflect the glory of our creator when we are living as God would have us live and doing that which He has called us to do.
The third assurance David trusted in was that God would “lift his head up high.” We often tell our children after they have failed at something to “hold you head up high.” It is easy to feel despondent at times, especially at times of seeming failure, but God enables us to find encouragement. David knew that God would help him to keep his head held high.
Read verse 4.That God answered him comes as no surprise. God has promised to do that. The Hebrew wording for “I call out” denotes an audible prayer. It was not just an inward petition but one that he vocally called to God. That gives us some sense of the urgency of his prayer. See Matthew 26:34. There are times when we can express ourselves better if we pray audibly.
The phrase “from his holy mountain” is a reference to Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. The Ark represented the presence of God. David knew God was not contained in the Ark, but the Ark reminded the people of the promise of God to be with them. One of the challenges we face as Christians is to balance our understanding of God, keeping in perspective both His transcendence, that is His eternal glory and power as found in heaven, and his imminent presence, that is His presence with us here and now in the real world.
Read verses 5-6. Contrary to what one would expect given his situation, David was able to lie down calmly, sleep, and rise the next morning invigorated. Too often when we are troubled, we take our troubles to bed with us and toss and turn all night instead of giving them to God. The old saying “When you can’t sleep at night instead of counting sheep, talk to the shepherd” is all too true.
David slept well and woke up refreshed and renewed in confidence. God had kept him safe all night and the fact that God gave him another day meant that God was not finished with him. Do we face each new day knowing that God has something more for us to do? If that were not the case, we would have gone home during the night.
Read verses 7-8. The Psalm closes with David calling on God to rescue him by disarming or rendering harmless his enemies as He had done on other occasions. Verse 7 begins withDavid’s call to God to rescue him. It reads Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! The call to arise is an Old Testament way of asking God to act. David did not think God was sleeping.
Verse 7 goes on, “Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.” That request has to be put in the context in which it was written. To strike someone “on the jaw” or literally in the Hebrew “on the cheek” was a way of saying “shame on you.” The imagery of “breaking the teeth” came from the idea of pulling out the teeth of a wild animal in order to make it harmless. Put together David was asking God to declare the rebellion against him shameful and to disarm it.
The last part of that verse is what is interesting, David asks God for His “blessing on your people.” David did not pray that God would bless him but the people. The people he wanted God to bless included those in rebellion against him as they too were Israelites. It is easy to ask God to knock the teeth out of those who offend me, but hard to ask God to bless them.
Psalm 3 reminds us that in the world we will have difficulties and the enemies of God will in some way come against us. When that happens, we have an all-powerful, all-loving, all-caring Father in heaven who will defend us. Because we know that, we should be able to sleep at night and wake up in the morning ready for whatever God has for us that day.