The Third Psalm bears the description: “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom, his son.” This psalm tells of King David’s thoughts and reflections as he evacuated Jerusalem and was pursued by his own son, his son who was rebelling and attempting to usurp the throne of Israel for himself.
“Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.” (Psalm 3:1)
Absalom was a very charismatic man and was well-liked by the people of Israel (2 Samuel 14:25). When he decided to start an insurrection against his father, a great many of the nation joined him. 2 Samuel 15:12 tells us:
“…And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.”
Absalom had amassed a great army and had even drawn David’s own top adviser, Ahithophel, over to his cause. Those who had so recently been David’s friends quickly turned against him.
“Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.” (Psalm 3:2)
Of all the insults and curses that his enemies could have hurled against the man after God’s own heart, perhaps none would sting as much as this. David was far from perfect, but he lived his life with a passion for God unmatched by all but a few, if any. David’s critics taunted him with the notion that his God had abandoned him, that the Lord of Heaven had turned His ear away from the king’s prayers and pleas for help.
Worst of all was the abiding realization that this rebellion was being permitted by God, as the Prophet Nathan had warned him so many years earlier. His adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah, had angered the Lord and prompted Him to declare:
“Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house…” (2 Samuel 12:11)
David knew that God had not ultimately abandoned him, but he was also aware that he was suffering judgment for his sins. As Shimei stood and cursed King David, throwing rocks at him and calling him a “bloody man”, David forbade his men from defending his honor by killing the man (2 Samuel 16:5-11). Though Shimei thought David’s hands were blood-soaked because of his conflicts with the former king of Israel, Saul (Shimei’s relative), David knew that it was the blood of Uriah that was being avenged upon him.
“But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” (Psalm 3:3)
Even in the face of judgment, David knew that his help would come from the Lord. He looked to God as his shield, the One Who would protect and defend him.
“I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.” (Psalm 3:4)
David had fled for his life and had left his beloved Jerusalem, that holy hill of Zion. He now cried unto the Lord Who speaks words of blessing and Salvation from the same (e.g., Psalm 128:5, 134:3, and 135:21). David prayed to God for rescue and was confident his prayer was answered.
“I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.” (Psalm 3:5)
This psalm has been called “a morning psalm.” In fact, this psalm very likely has its origins in the heart of David the morning when he awoke to finally face the armies of Absalom in the woods of Ephraim (2 Samuel 18:1-18). How remarkable it is to think that, knowing what the next day might bring, David slept soundly, trusting that God would see him through. The same Lord Who sustained him through the night was capable of sustaining him in battle. What a blessing it is to sleep soundly, regardless of what trials and dangers we face, knowing that it is God Who protects us!
Confederate General Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War was once asked by one of his men about the source of his courage in battle. He answered:
“Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me….That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.”
King David, likewise, felt safe in all circumstances knowing that his life was in the hands of the Lord.
“I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.” (Psalm 3:6)
“Ten thousands” in the Hebrew is a poetic way of saying “a great multitude” or “a countless horde.” Whether David was to face 10 0r a million soldiers, it didn’t matter to him. With God as his shield, no number of enemies would frighten him! And though the enemies might come at him “round about“, David knew that God would shield him from attacks made from every angle.
“Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly” (Psalm 3:7)
With bruised cheek and shattered teeth, no more would the enemies of the man of God be able to metaphorically “bite” at him nor would they be able to spit their accusations and curses. In his youth, David had killed lions, bears, and all other wild animals who attacked the flock of sheep his father had charged him to shepherd (1 Samuel 17:34-37). I wonder if this is not the same imagery he is painting here of his own Shepherd, striking down his encircling enemies and smashing their teeth to where their jaws were no longer a danger.
“Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.” (Psalm 3:8)
In the closing verse of the psalm we have that great, sublime truth that Salvation belongs to the Lord. Whatever men may argue about predestination, election, and all things pertaining to Calvinism and Arminianism, at the end of the discussion the fact remains that Salvation is the work and act of God. David, of course, has no such theological conundrums in view here, for the salvation to which he primarily refers is that of the body. Yet the application to spiritual Salvation remains just as true. The Lord Jesus Christ, our great Shield and Glory, the Lifter of our heads, is the One to Whom Salvation belongs.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
Larry (a.k.a. Loren)
*Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible