Morning Pages: Psalm 3
Psalm 3 is a psalm of lament—a time when David is facing severe trials and crying out to the Lord for help. While we don't always know what is occurring in the psalmist's life, in this instance, it appears David wrote this psalm when his own son, Absalom, was conspiring against him and attempting to overthrow David as king.
Vs. 1-2 “O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.”
I love when I see words repeated—they cause me to pause and take notice. Here David repeats the word “many” three times: many are my foes, many are rising against me, many say of my soul. The repetition enables us to understand the gravity of David's circumstances better. Absalom had won the hearts and allegiance of many others, which may have even led David to wonder who he could trust. And evidently, his situation was so precarious that many believed there was no way he would be delivered. Suffering is hard enough when others are with you in it and speak words of life to you. It's adding insult to injury when they not only abandon you but even doubt the power of God to save you from imminent disaster. But this doesn’t deter David,
Vs. 3-4 “ But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.”
David doesn't see or define God in light of his circumstances. Instead, he sees his circumstances in light of who God is. In these verses, David uses three terms here to describe who the Lord is:
Yahweh is his shield. Shields are vital in battle—protecting from the blows and arrows of your opponent. To be without a shield would leave you vulnerable. David knows and believes that the Lord is before, behind, and beside him, protecting and defending him from the schemes of others.
Yahweh is his glory. David had conquered nations and seen enemy after enemy fall at his hands. And because of that, he had much reason to revel in his own glory. But David refuses to attribute this honor to himself. He knows his deliverance and ultimate victory are not only in Yahweh's capable hands but are Yahweh's victory alone.
Yahweh is the lifter of his head. This is a compelling phrase. The first time I read it, I thought of it more as a tender action, like a loving father lifting the head of his crying child and comforting him. But in the context of this section, it seems more likely that it is a military reference. David believes that the Lord is the one who placed him in a leadership position over Israel as king, so it is the Lord who will sustain his kingly reign. It’s a statement of confidence in the Lord, who is sovereign over David's kingly reign, leading to the following verses.
Vs. 5-6 “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.”
This is the result of trusting in the Lord. It almost reads like a mathematical equation. Circumstances + Yahweh = Settled confidence and peace. David’s faith in God is so absolute that he “lay down and slept.” To lay down and sleep leaves you utterly unaware of, vulnerable to, and defenseless against the danger around you. This is the opposite of strategy and control and hyper-vigilance. It is trust. David can do this because he believes that it was God who installed him as king; God who would defend his anointed; and God who would determine when and how to bring David's reign to an end.
But that doesn’t stop David from turning to the Lord in the midst of his circumstances,
Vs. 7-8 “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people!”
David trusts God, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t pray when he’s in need. He calls on God to be who he already is—his protector and his salvation.
This psalm is a reminder that faith in God doesn't mean you don't pray or cry out to him for help. It gives you the solid truth of who God is as something to cling to when your circumstances seem bleak:
The Lord is:
- My shield (my protection)
- My glory (my ultimate victory and my honor)
- The lifter of my head (the one who determines the course of my life and puts me where he wants me)
- My helper/defender (When I cry to him, I can trust he hears and will answer me.)
- My security and rest (I don’t have to be hyper-vigilant or try to control my circumstances because the Lord is always at work. I can lie down and sleep because the Lord doesn’t.)
- My sustenance (It is the Lord who provides and sustains)
- My courage (I can face times of uncertainty and suffering because I trust the Lord.)
- My vindication (I know the Lord will enact justice and strike his enemies.)
- My salvation (He is my source of life—both now and the one to come.)
What I love about the psalms is that they don’t deny or minimize suffering. They don’t take a Pollyanna approach or slap a spiritual band-aid on it. Instead, they look suffering squarely in the eyes, call it what it is, and then preach truth over it. This psalm gives us gritty spiritual truths to cling to when life is hard and our situation seems hopeless. We can, like David, say, “My circumstances are _______. But YHWH, you are ________. Therefore I can _______. So please ________.”
This is the pattern of lament based on hope rather than despair, hope that is based on the one who is always faithful.
Until next week,