Today we’re heading back to the Old Testament and, as it’s been a while, we’re going to take a look at one of the Psalms. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I really like to use this series as an opportunity to look at passages from all over the Bible; considering and studying verses and stories from the variety of different genres and styles this incredible book has to offer.
So with that in mind, I invite you to turn in your Bible to Psalm 3, as that will be the focus of our study today. To keep things simple and organized, we’re going to split it into three sections; the Three Ps of Psalm 3, as it were.
Problem (vv. 1–2)
1 Lord, how my enemies have increased!Psalm 3:1–2 NASB
Many are rising up against me.
2 Many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
The third Psalm is the first in the book to include a title with it, telling us that it is “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.” When it comes to preaching and teaching on a Psalm, I’m a huge fan of chapters that have direct, noted connections to a piece of narrative elsewhere. Each part paints a picture by itself, but when brought together, the great depth of the story is revealed. In this case, the story being referred to takes place in 2 Samuel 15–18.
As per usual, I encourage you to read the story for yourself, especially 2 Samuel 15, to truly get the picture of what is going on. But the main points that are key for today’s Psalm are that Absalom had gained the trust and approval of the Israelite people (many of whom were becoming convinced that the LORD’s favour was no longer on David), he made plans to take control of the throne, and thus David and his loyal subjects fled from Jerusalem to spare their lives.
Understanding these details brings a whole new light to David’s words in the first verse of this Psalm. Indeed, his enemies had “increased” as it became clear just how many people were in opposition to him. It’s one thing to have your own son betray you—but to have that son also turn the hearts of the people against you? I’d say that “I can’t even imagine what David must be feeling”, but because of his writing here, we get a glimpse into his mindset.
Notice the attention given to just how outnumbered he is: “my enemies have increased“, “many are rising up against me”, “many are saying of my soul . . .” (emphasis mine). The odds are against him, and he knows it. And in case he somehow missed the memo, the people are clearly making sure he gets the message, as we see in verse 2. The NLT translation hits hard here:
So many are saying,Psalm 3:2 NLT
“God will never rescue him!”
It can be so hard to be hopeful in times of difficulty, but what makes it even worse is when others feel the need to acknowledge or remind you just how hopeless your situation is. This verse is the one that primarily drew my attention to this passage today, and it’s one that we will be returning to at the end. But for now, let’s move on to the next section.
Pronouncement (vv. 3–6)
3 But You, Lord, are a shield around me,Psalm 3:3–6 NASB
My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
4 I was crying out to the Lord with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah
5 I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.
When people talk about how inspirational the Psalms are, statements like this come to mind. Despite being on the run for his life, being betrayed by his people, and having a son that is after his head (or a the very least, the crown that sits on it), David declares with all certainty that his hope is in the LORD.
In verse 4 he reminds himself, and in turn, us as the readers, that God has been his protector before. We remember his confrontations with so-called “hopeless” situations in the past—Goliath and Saul just to name two. His prayers do not go unheard, and he is confident of that. What an important reminder for us, when faced with times of difficulty, to remember God’s prior provisions.
Verse 5 points to the absolute peace granted to David, allowing him the comfort to sleep (cf. Phil. 4:6–7). It also reminds that our first waking breath each day is a blessed gift from the LORD, and no matter what comes our way, we can be thankful for his sovereignty. Then in verse 6 he makes a declaration, emboldened by his trust in his sustainer.
It’s possible that he actually believed this statement, and was, through God’s strength, released from the captivity to his fear. It’s also possible that his words here are a form of affirmation, reminding himself of a truth he knows, even if he doesn’t feel it (we talked a bit about this idea on our podcast on Psalm 61). Trusting in God doesn’t always mean our fears miraculously vanish. But our faith in the truth of the One who is unchanging, the God who cannot lie, allows us to face into those fears with a certainty of hope that would otherwise be lacking.
Petition (vv. 7–8)
7 Arise, Lord; save me, my God!Psalm 3:7–8 NASB
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheek;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;
May Your blessing be upon Your people! Selah
David closes the Psalm with a prayer, petitioning the God he trusts to come through and rescue him once more. Again he references the ways that the LORD has defeated and ashamed his enemies in the past—a truth that reassures him in his requests. What an interesting and difficult acknowledgement that undergirds this statement through the understanding that his son, his own flesh and blood, now qualifies as enemy and wicked.
To make very clear the foundational truth of this whole passage, David says that “Salvation belongs to the LORD”; a statement found in numerous places throughout the Bible (Jonah 2:9, Rev. 7:10; 19:1. cf. Ps. 61:2). He then requests God’s blessing for the people, which serves as a reminder that whether they are safe or in danger, following or fleeing, obedient or wayward; God is God, and they are not. It is his blessing they need, not that of other people, the king, or the nations.
Why Does it Matter?
I’m guessing I don’t need to say too much else to convince you why this passage is helpful for us today. While we may not be hunted down by our own children as they seek to supplant us, we all know what it is to face into hardships and fear. This short Psalm demonstrates what it looks like to remain faithful and hopeful in the almighty God who is sovereign over all things.
But I also said I would go back to verse 2, and it’s here that I want to make clear an important truth from this text. “Many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God'” or “So many are saying, ‘God will never rescue him!'” Whichever translation you are reading from, it is clear that David’s opponents are making known their opinions on his status before the LORD. We live in a world chock-full of opinions. More than ever, it seems, people feel the need to have them, share them, correct them, and defend them—with our without actual truth to back it up.
But as David proclaims in verse 8, “Salvation belongs to the LORD”. What people have to say is not as important as what the LORD says. And this doesn’t just apply to salvation (whether using the term as physical rescue or eternal spiritual state or anything in between). This also goes for your identity, your personhood, your ambitions, and your morality, just to list a few. Knowing, understanding, and believing what God has to say on a subject is far more important than anything that anyone else says or believes. David knew that his life was not truly in the hands of Absalom or the people, but in the hands of God, and that is what gave him the comfort and reassurance to persevere.
In rare instance today, allow me to conclude with a question for you to contemplate in light of this discussion: Is what you believe about yourself (your life/identity/circumstances/salvation/anything) based on what people say or what God says?