Notes on Psalm 3: A Shield For Me

1 A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are those who rise up against me.

2 Many there are who say of my soul, “There is no help for him in God!” Selah.

3 But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

5 I laid me down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.

6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, who have set themselves against me round about.

7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for You have struck all my enemies on the cheek bone; You have broken the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the LORD: Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah.

 

The Third Psalm is the first psalm that has an explanatory note. It is a song of a father in distress; a man who is growing old and has learned over time to rise up in great faith in the midst of great troubles. David was in a terrible situation for any parent – being hounded off the throne by his own son, Absalom.

Indeed, this was perhaps the most heartbreaking episode in David’s life. When David prevails and Absalom is killed, his pained mourning is recorded for us, wishing that he had died in his son’s place. But his Psalm comes before that tragic day, and may have been composed as he was fleeing from the capital. In 2 Samuel 15 we read:

And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared himself chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called to him, and said, “Of what city are you?” And he said, “Your servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.” And Absalom said to him, “See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man appointed by the king to hear you.”
Absalom said moreover, “Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which has any suit or cause might come to me, and I would do him justice!” And it was so, that when any man came near to him to do him honor, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, “I pray you, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron. For your servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, ‘If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD. ‘” And the king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose, and went to Hebron. But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, Absalom reigns in Hebron…” And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.

And there came a messenger to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom.” And David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee; or else we shall not escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.”

The Third Psalm then comes at a time of great emotion in David’s life:

  • Betrayal: being betrayed by his son
  • Ingratitude: being betrayed by the people for whom he had done so much
  • Fear: fear of death and the destruction of the city of God
  • Discomfort: David was already becoming aged and to flee in this manner was not only dangerous but burdensome on him
  • Slander: David has been accused of being an unjust king, and it is now reported among the people that God will no longer help him

 

Having lived a lifetime with the Lord, David has learned, as we see in this Psalm, to quickly turn to God, rise up in faith, rise up in prayer, and trust God for a favorable outcome.

1 A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are those who rise up against me.

2 Many there are who say of my soul, “There is no help for him in God!” Selah.

3 But You, O LORD, are a shield for me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.

A. The Bible tells us in 2 Sam. 15 that the conspiracy of Absalom was a strong one and was growing in number continually. This gives rise perhaps to David’s mournful complaint which begins the Psalm – a recitation of how numerous his enemies are.

B. Not only are there many who are troubling him, they have actually taken the step of rising up against him. This is the flashpoint of rebellion. When resentments are nursed, they grow into plans and schemes. Eventually these plans are acted upon. Not only did many bother David, they actually took the step of acting against their king, committing high treason before God and man.

C. Not only this, it became, as we say, “personal.” Those who rose up against David said that God had turned against him, too. This might have been a way that people were recruited to Absalom’s cause. David’s sins are laid before us in the Word in a way that few people’s sins have been. We can only imagine the scandal that David’s failings had caused in the Kingdom of Israel. We do not doubt that there were many who considered David to be a sinner who had broken too many of God’s laws to be a good king – and that he had gotten off easy.

D. David now delivers the first “selah” in the Psalms. Selah is a word which notes a pause or a suspension and is found only in the Psalms and the Book of Habakkuk. It is thought to mean that there should be a pause for reflection in the song, or perhaps a musical interlude during which time the person will reflect before resuming the lyrics. We can see here that after David’s selah, he emerges on the side of faith. What he could see – the vast numbers of enemies, the danger to his safety, could not shake his faith.

E. God was his Shield – He would protect David. God was his Glory – He was what David boasted in and He would take care of David’s reputation. He was the lifter of David’s head: He would encourage David!

 

4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he Heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

5 I laid me down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.

6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, who have set themselves against me round about.

A. When David prayed, he sensed God had answered him, not just from Heaven but from His holy hill in Jerusalem. Although Absalom wanted Jerusalem, the God who dwelt at Jerusalem was listening to David’s prayers!

B. Another selah follows. Realizing that God is for him and has heard his cries leads David to speak by faith. He explains how he has slept without fear because God sustained him. He also rises up in courage, no longer afraid of even ten thousands of people surrounding him (round about).

 

7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for You have struck all my enemies on the cheek bone; You have broken the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the LORD: Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah.

A. Having received confidence that God is preserving him against trouble, David prays for victory. He reminds God that throughout his life, God has always destroyed his enemies. This is a violent image, but it may also have to do with God silencing slander.

B. David proclaims that salvation belongs to the Lord. It does not matter that David is surrounded by thousands of traitors and enemies out for his blood. Salvation belongs to the Lord, pure and simple, and God is well able to deliver him!

C. Finally, David places his trust in God, knowing that God’s blessing is upon His people. God will come through and deliver him because he belongs to God and God loves him.

D. We are asked at the end of the Psalm to take another “selah break” and reflect on the lesson of the song.

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Author: Nick

I’m a pastor, a writer, musician, and recovering lawyer. Blessed to serve the people of Harvest Time Church as Associate Pastor. In my spare time I enjoy losing to my wife in Words With Friends.

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