Psalm 3:1-8 NET
1 A psalm of David, written when he fled from his son Absalom. LORD, how numerous are my enemies! Many attack me. 2 Many say about me, “God will not deliver him.” (Selah) 3 But you, LORD, are a shield that protects me; you grant me honor and give me renewed strength. 4 To the LORD I cried out, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Selah) 5 I rested and slept; I awoke, for the LORD protects me. 6 I am not afraid of the multitude of people who attack me from all directions. 7 Rise up, LORD! Deliver me, my God! Yes, you will strike all my enemies on the jaw; you will break the teeth of the wicked. 8 The LORD delivers; you show favor to your people. (Selah)
The Bible is the most relevant literature that you and I will ever read. God speaks to us through it, because it is his word. But we sometimes have problems hearing what God is saying. Expository sermons can help. We are beginning a series of expository sermons on the Psalms today. Each Sunday, we are going to take you on a tour of a psalm. We want to serve as reading assistants. We will walk you through the process of discovering what is there.
Today I’m going to try to help you discover what is in Psalm 3. I will also be talking about the discovery process a lot, because you will find that it can help you in your own study of the Bible.
Why do I start at Psalm 3? If you look at Psalm 1, it is — more or less– instructional. It’s an example of what the scholars call a Torah psalm. It instructs us on the right way to live. Psalm 2 would be classified a royal psalm. It focuses on praise for the king, and predicts something about the Messiah. Psalm 3 is an individual lament. That’s where I want to start because I want to show how our praise can flow from our present problems.
When I’m studying a text, one of the first questions that I ask is the BACKGROUND question. What things do I need to know so that I can hear the words of this psalm just like the original hearers heard it.
That’s an important question because there a lot of barriers that keep me from understanding this psalm. Time has gone by. I live in a different culture that the psalmist and his original audience. We live different lives and have different experiences.
The more I know about the background and history of the words, the better I can understand them.
Psalm 3 gives us some help with the background question. It tells us that the author is David, and that he wrote it “when he fled from his son Absalom.” For the full story, read 2 Samuel, chapters 13-19. The short story is this: Absalom decided he would be a better king than his father, and organized a civil war. He succeeded in forcing David to flee Jerusalem. While regrouping, David wrote this psalm.
I think this feeling of betrayal that David expressed here is also the reason for this psalm being placed in book one. You might have noticed that the Psalms are divided into five books. These books correspond to the first five books of the Bible, so Psalm 3 is placed in the Genesis section. That section highlights the fact that we are God’s creatures, and we need him.
Now that we have a little bit of background, let’s proceed to the WORD STUDY question. Are there any words in the text that are unusual words that we might need to clarify their meaning?
Yeah, here’s one: What is a psalm? A psalm is a formal song. The psalms were the songs sung in the temple worship, and later in the formal religious ceremonies of the Jewish families and in the synagogues. Some of the psalms did not begin as liturgy. Psalm 3 began as the heart cry of David after his son betrayed him, and thousands were trying to kill him. The message of the psalm goes back to that original context, so anyone singing or praying it after that needs to make sure that they stay true to David’s meaning.
Like Psalm 2, many of the psalms also contained allusions to a future Messiah. Because of this, Psalms is one of the most quoted books in the NT. So we can also find Jesus in the psalms.
There are verbal clues to the STRUCTURE of this psalm. We do find “selahs” at the end of verses 1,3, and 8, but I think they are serving more for musical purposes. There are four shifts in subject: from the enemies (1-2) to the LORD (3-5), to David (6), then back to the LORD (7-8).
So, now we are ready to summarize the message of this psalm.
1 A psalm of David, written when he fled from his son Absalom. LORD, how numerous are my enemies! Many attack me. 2 Many say about me, “God will not deliver him.” (Selah)
David had been betrayed, and was in danger of being destroyed. He was overwhelmed with his problems and his own insufficiency to solve them. Have you ever felt that way? I have. Some people think that God keeps us from having problems. That was not the way it was for David. Not for us either. Our problems serve as a gate through which we enter his presence for worship.
3 But you, LORD, are a shield that protects me; you grant me honor and give me renewed strength. 4 To the LORD I cried out, and he answered me from his holy hill. (Selah) 5 I rested and slept; I awoke, for the LORD protects me.
David gets his eyes off his problems, and turns them on his deliverer. He sees God as his battle shield, who protects him as he fights. He remembers how he has found times of rest when he faced struggles in the past (Goliath, the Philistines, Saul). So he decides to trust God for protection, honor and strength now.
6 I am not afraid of the multitude of people who attack me from all directions.
Here is a lesson for all of us – a lesson in courage. True courage is not channeling our inner Chuck Norris, and saying “bring it on, I can handle this.” True courage is looking squarely into our impossible situation and saying “I am not afraid because God is with me.”
Please note that David’s situation had not changed. He was still being attacked by “a multitude of people” who were coming “from all directions.”
7 Rise up, LORD! Deliver me, my God! Yes, you will strike all my enemies on the jaw; you will break the teeth of the wicked. 8 The LORD delivers; you show favor to your people. (Selah)
This psalm does not end in a resolution, it ends with a petition. The psalm is not all about the problem, it is about David getting his eyes off his problem, and back on to God. I cannot promise you that prayer is going to solve your problems. I can promise you that prayer can help you to refocus on your deliverer.
We are not reading Psalm 3 today because David found a way to overcome a civil war and won back his throne. We are reading Psalm 3 today because it was a prayer that God answered.
The apostle Peter gives us the New Testament corollary to this psalm:
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV
Now we are ready for the big idea:
OVERWHELMING PROBLEMS ARE OPPORTUNITIES TO TRUST GOD TO DELIVER US.
I don’t know what your overwhelming problems are. But if you are experiencing them right now, I can assure you that God wants to be your shield and strength. Let the rest of us pray for you.
Father, we want to intercede for those in our fellowship today who are experiencing overwhelming problems. LORD, they are being attacked, and we want to stand with them. But we also want them to know that You are standing with them, and you are going to provide all the help they need. These problems are opportunities for them to trust you for deliverance. Be very real to them right now, and make your presence known to them. Help them to stay close to you as they wait for your deliverance.
Maybe you do not feel overwhelmed by problems right now. That’s OK too. But this psalm speaks to you too. The reason David could trust God in troubled times is that he never forgot where his victorious times came from. Cultivate your relationship with him now, so that when the attacks are coming from every direction, you can draw strength from that relationship.
LORD, we thank you for our brothers and sisters who are experiencing your strength and deliverance right now. Help them to cultivate their relationship with you, so that they can stand in faith and confidence in you when the trying times come.
I have one more prayer. But first, let me explain why we need it. God has a purpose for everything that happens to us. His ultimate purpose is to bring us into a relationship with him, because he wants us to be his adopted children for eternity. He actually gives us difficulties as a gift, because they can lead us to him – to that relationship. Maybe you are here today, and you are not really sure that you have a relationship with God. You can come to him at any time. You do not need to feel anything special, and you do not need any miraculous signs. All you need to do is recognize that you need God in your life permanently. You can get that relationship for free; all you have to do is ask.
But just because you can get it for free does not mean that it comes cheap. For any human being to have an eternal relationship with God is absolutely impossible, because we are all born sinners. Our ancestors rebelled against God and plunged us all into a depravity that we cannot change. All our righteousness is as filthy rags to God. So, what we could not do because of our sin, Jesus did for us. He came as one of us, lived a sinless life, and died a sacrificial death on the cross. That death was God’s judgment on our sin. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we celebrate God’s grace in accepting Christ’s death instead of our own.
If you are here this morning, and you are without Christ in your life, I invite you to accept him into your life by taking of the symbols of his death. The bread symbolizing his broken body, and the cup symbolizing his shed blood. Do this as an act of faith. All you need to know is that his death was for you. The rest of us do it for the same reason. We are celebrating God’s grace.
LORD, for all of those who do not really know if you are there to deliver them or not, I pray that this day is the day they find Christ. You want to deliver them from their present problems, and you want to give them eternal life. Come into their lives as their ultimate deliverer today. May they celebrate your grace today.