Suggested listen: Poor Bishop Hooper, Psalm 3
Read Psalm 3 in its entirety. Write down any parts that stand out to you or that you aren’t quite sure about. Pray for the Spirit to reveal His heart as we sort through these verses. Take a deep breath. Read again.
1 O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me;
2 many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God’
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill
5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around
7 Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;
Your blessing be on your people!
Take a moment to ponder and reflect on what stands out as you read.
- Do you have any emotional response?
- What is the knee-jerk reaction to these words?
- What portion of the text grips your eyes? Where do they pause?
Let’s walk through this together…
“A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his Son.” A sad story of David’s flight from his own palace, when in the dead of the night, he forded the brook Kedron (an arrow to Jesus before the Garden of Gethsemane – John 18:1) and went with a few faithful followers to hide for a while from the fury of his rebellious son. In the first two verses, you have David making a complaint to God concerning his enemies; he then declares his confidence in the Lord (3, 4), sings of his safety in sleep (5, 6), and strengthens himself for future conflict (7, 8).
As we look at the breakdown of the different points, it’s helpful to remember that this may not be a consistent, single thread of thought for David. Charles Spurgeon says, “As in our modern sermons, we divide our discourse into different heads, so is it in these Psalms. There is always unity, but it is the unity of a bundle of arrows, and not of a single solitary shaft.” Meaning, there’s a lot that went into the creation of these Psalms, in life and Spirit work. It’s very possible that David spent a solid bit of time dwelling in the first two “complaint” verses before he got to the rest. Maybe. Our goal and prayer though is that, through this practice of meditating and modeling our life after the liturgy of the Psalms, our spirits would quickly dominate our minds and remind us of who our God is and the truths we write on our hearts would become the anchor in whatever hardship we face.
Think about what your current habit is in seasons of pain/struggle/adversity. How long do you usually spend in the “complaint” phase? Is there an aspect of His character that you have a harder time being confident in? Reflect, pray, journal.
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.’
This feels so familiar, right? How many times have we been here in this place that David finds himself? I mean, hopefully, we’ve not experienced the heartbreak of having to flee from our own child because he wants to kill us, but we know that’s not unheard of. More likely though, we know this place of being completely overwhelmed with fear and grief. David fled in the middle of the night to save his own life (fear) knowing the command came from his son (grief). Absalom had the fullness of David’s army at his beck and call and they were all seeking to end David’s life. He felt surrounded and small and alone in the face of all that was against him. And even those on the outside were saying there was no hope for him. He was doomed and not even his God could save him. How could David possibly outrun or survive this manhunt? It just didn’t look possible in any way. He was sure to fall and everyone knew it.
Does this trigger a memory of a time/season/situation where you resonate with this experience? How does remembering feel? Do you have a physical response? Maybe you feel tears welling or tension in your chest or the ticking in your nose? How is your breathing? Let’s be aware of our bodily responses as it is a flashing signal to what is happening in our soul as we journey through this process. If you’d like to share or ask for prayer… we are here!
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.
In the truest context, the idea of the shield here is one that literally encircles. “A shield about me…”. A guard on all sides. Fully protected. No part of us is outside of His care. His shielding is not just a ring around us but is complete encircling armor from harm- above and beneath, within and without. For those of us who fear vulnerability or who feel the need to self-protect because we were left exposed at some point in our life and harm ensued, this might be a hard truth to accept. Lean in. Let’s let that one truth sink in. He is a shield about you. He has you covered. You are not without protection. He has fully enveloped you and guards you at every angle, which means He sees more than even you see for yourself!
Can we trust His protection? Can we sit still when the world around us feels like a tornado and trust that He is our Keeper? Can we rest in His care and love? What are some ways or beliefs you’ve allowed to creep in, or even intentionally developed, in the name of self-protection? What would it feel like to NOT continue that way? Reflect, pray, journal.
Let’s finish that thought…”But You, O Lord, Are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
What does David mean when he says that the Lord is his glory? Let’s not forget, that even though he’s on the run at the moment, he is still KING David. David, who killed a bear and lion with his bare hands. David, who defeated a creepy giant man with a slingshot. David, who was hand-picked and anointed by Saul to rule over Israel as God’s chosen. David who enjoyed all the grandiose pleasures of power… seems there is a lot that he could point to and claim as his glorifying achievements. But in this season, when all is very well lost, things have become a bit more clear for this man and he testifies that the Lord is most valuable, most brilliant, and the only part of him worth remembering.
The Lord is the lifter of his head. He is the lifter of our head. The visual is one I cherish! But it makes the most sense because of the next verse…
“I cried to the Lord and He answered me from His holy hill”
The ‘holy hill’ is the hill where the Temple stood. That is where God dwelled. He answers our cries from the place of his “withness”. He lifts our head because of his withness. He is our glory because of His withness. His indwelling presence gives us an upright posture before God and as we journey through all of life. And according to Psalm 2:6, God’s Holy Hill is also the place where Jesus was set to rule. It is the place of His Kingship. God’s answer is not always a direct alleviation of our troubling circumstances or clear wisdom on what to DO, but His answer IS always prefaced with His presence. He hears our cries and answers from His place of dwelling High above yet deep inside the heart of His people.
And because this truth of the Lord’s promised presence and sovereign shielding eye rooted deep, David is able to rest.
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 no small thing! Have you experienced sleepless nights because your heart and mind were so anxious and troubled? Or maybe you know the feeling of having to stay awake because falling asleep was too dangerous. Maybe you understand that fear of violence. The fact that David, while he was literally being hunted, was able to lay down and sleep is a massive indicator of the peace that stilled his soul as he remembered who His God is. Further… he made it through the night. He awoke again because the Lord sustained his life! David immediately knew that his life was shielded by the Sustaining King and it put to rest all the accusations from the enemy that God would not help him (vs 2). Surely God was still with Him, still sustaining his breath, still keeping him for His glory.
And because this truth of the Lord’s sustaining grace and protection rooted deep, David is able to see his situation from another foundation. Not of fear, but of expectancy.
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!
Here, David is leaning on what he has already seen God do to give hope for what he needed now. Knowing what God had done gives David confidence in what the Lord would do. He’s not just choosing violence or reverting back to freaking out. He is re-establishing in his own soul that God is the ultimate victor and that salvation will not only be for himself out of this immediate danger but for all of God’s chosen people. His salvation is comprehensive in scope. He determines and holds and gives salvation and has already won according to His plan and purpose of rescue. He is your shield. He is the lifter of your head. He is your Sustainer. ALL while in places of grief and fear and turmoil. He is no less present in those seasons or situations. His withness is His answer to all the accusations. Look at what He has already done!! His character, His love, His strength and sovereignty transcends all as He stands in power from His holy hill where He sees all and knows every detail. He is with you. Lay down and sleep. Salvation is His and He will sustain you while you rest in who your God is.
Father, there is constant grief and pain. Sometimes, it is so overwhelming it feels like there is no way out. Like there is no help to be found and no hope for anything other than more agony. But You know that about us. You’ve been about rescuing your people from the very beginning. You are so good and loving that not only do you hear every cry, but you answer with yourself. You are our complete shield. There is no part of us that is not under your protection. You have every inch covered, even in the attacks of our own minds. You are the answer that allows us to rest. You lift our drooping heads and remind us that You have already called us Your own and given us Your righteousness and glory. You give us strength to endure and we will see your victory! You have already crushed the enemy. Salvation is Yours. Thank you for blessing us with Your Spirit, our ever-present help and comfort. Thank you for making us Yours.