The Defending God (Psalm 3)
By Lee Jones
I need to confess that I constantly struggle against the urge to make the Bible about myself. It’s a human impulse I suppose, especially when facing difficulties, to insert ourselves into biblical narratives or poetry and use it to figure out our next steps. But reading a psalm like this is an opportunity to remember that the Bible is primarily about YHWH and his faithfulness to his covenant people.
This psalm is prefaced as a psalm of David escaping from his son Absalom. That story, found in 2 Samuel 15-16, grounds us in the history of David’s life and prevents us from making the words of the poem about ourselves.
You might ask “what’s the sense in me reading it then?” I’d say all the sense in heaven and earth. YHWH is entirely unchanging, and when we read about who he is and how he defends David in his suffering, we get familiar with the character of our God.
King David is in a pickle. His son Absalom began a smear campaign against David in an attempt to supplant his father, and he managed to get a lot of people on his side. (Side note: politics has always been dirty and cruel, no matter the country or century.) The situation became so hostile, with Absalom developing a fighting force, that David had to flee Jerusalem.
He recounts the scoffing against him in the first two verses of Psalm 3, returning again to his isolation and suffering, crying out to YHWH in nights of restlessness (verse 5).
Rather than continue listing his pressures, David turns to praise. He describes YHWH as a shield (an item he desperately needed at that time) and also his “glory and the lifter of my head.”
When David cries out to YHWH, he answers. He not only lifts David’s drooping head, but he wakes him in the morning with strength for another terrible day, and with the determination to not fear the army coming after him.
Verse 4 is incredibly important, especially for those of us who struggle with consistent prayer. David took his petition to God, even audibly, saying in Verse 7, “Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God!” God hears the prayers of his people and answers them, sometimes in ways we don’t understand or even recognize at first. But the act of crying out to God in prayer is helpful also in preaching to our own hearts to rely on God and wait for his answer. That feeds our praise.
David then ends his psalm with a true banner of a verse, “Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be upon your people!”
I don’t want to leave this psalm without a little application. We have here the foundational truth that God’s salvation is concrete and entirely his to grant. He blesses his children richly. But when the trials come, we can remind ourselves what God has done for us in the past and ask for what we need right now, and look to the future end of our trial with the same knowledge that God loves us.
One last note is the helpful heading found in the NASB, “morning prayer of trust in God.” When we wake from difficult sleep, the troubles facing us become our morning mediation. Follow this psalm and make God’s faithfulness our first thought upon waking.
Glory to God alone.