PSALM TALK ON PSALM 3
A MORNING PRAYER
(FAITH IN THE FACE OF GREAT DISTRESS)
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All of us have experienced a sleepless night after a day that goes very wrong. Maybe a day when we faced the consequences of our sins or the sins of others or maybe just a day when for some reason or another the world seemed to be against us and we felt utterly alone.
David faced such a day when he wrote Psalm 3. The bible chapter heading tells us that Psalm 3 is:
“A psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom”.
Why does this Psalm follow Psalms 1 and 2 which are introductory Psalms to all of the Psalms?
Most of the next 30 to 40 Psalms are David’s Psalms that I have entitled “Out of the Depths”. In these Psalms, we read over and over again of David falling into depths of danger and despair. However, David’s problems with his son Absalom come more towards the end of his life, so the Psalms do not follow David’s life but rather different things that happened in his life which were used be the inspiration for what the Jews saw as their book of Prayers and Hymns.
Psalm 3 is a prayer probably uttered on the second morning after David fled unexpectedly from Jerusalem from his rebellious son Absalom who had turned most of the people of Israel against his father David. The connection to Psalm 2 is the teaching in Psalm 2 that points out the opposition God’s anointed King has had and will always have (See Psalm 2: 1 – 3). This opposition of allegiance to the King of this world is so insidious it will even come from within God’s nation Israel and the anointed King’s very own family.
To get a real feel for what David was feeling and was up against when he wrote this Psalm we will read 2 Samuel 15 :1 – 4 and 2 Samuel 15 : 13 – 18
2 Samuel 15 : 1 -4,
“In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice.”
Absalom is David’s oldest Son and the rightful air to his throne but what is Absalom doing? He is rebelling against his father’s rule and is seeking to put his fathers rule down and establish himself as Israel’s king, in other words treason. What I would like to ask is, what is David doing? Letting his Son stand at the gate of the Capital and mouth words of treachery and civil unrest.
This all comes to a terrible head in 2 Samuel 15: 13 – 18,
“A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.”
Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword.”
The king’s officials answered him, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses.
The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace. So, the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at a place some distance away. All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king”.
So, David and his court and most of his family are on the run from his very own Son and two mornings later David writes Psalm 3.
This Psalm can be arranged into 4 stanzas of two verses each:
- DAVID’S CRY OF DISTRESS (1,2)
2. DAVID’S SURE HOPE (3,4)
3. DAVID’S COURAGE IN THE FACE OF HIS DISTRESS (5,6)
4. DAVID’S PRAYER OF DELIVERENCE (7,8)
- DAVID’S CRY OF DISTRESS (1,2)
David a large group of people are on the run, they have little food and probably no shelter. David is facing the death and destruction of his life, the life of his family and all the great things he has done for his Nation who he loves dearly. Is he in distress? My word he is and the biggest problem we have ever faced would be like nothing compared to the problem David now faces. 2 Samuel 15 seems to indicate that most of Israel had at this stage sided with Absalom and so David would have felt like a man that had just been kicked in the gut by the people he loved.
Would this internal family tension and problems have been a complete surprise to David?
No David was facing yet again the fulfillment of a prophecy he had been given years before by the Prophet Nathan.
We read of this prophecy in 2 Samuel 12: 7 – 12,
Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own. ‘This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ “
David of course, when he was a bit younger, sinned big time. He committed the two big ones, Adultery and Murder. Yet David turned in repentance and faith to the Lord and was forgiven but he would still face some of the consequences of his sins for the rest of his long life. Now his very own Son was in his palace, enjoying his home and seeking to kill him and his entire family.
Yes, David is in distress and yes, he now faced many enemies. Many might well say, “God will not deliver him”. But we will see that what the people might say is not true and so when we face the loud voices of opposition condemning us we to must have faith to say what they is not true and God will deliver us.
We now have the use of the term “Selah”, appearing for the first time in this psalms after verse 2. It appears to be an ancient Jewish notation for a pause for either reflection or more likely some kind of musical interlude strategically placed to help the singers or readers think more deeply about what has just been said.
2. DAVID’S SURE HOPE (3,4)
David has been on the run with the fear of loosing his life before. For many years the former King of Israel, Saul, sought to bring down and kill David. So, David had proven God mercy and love many times before in the face of great distress. Of course, when he was on the run from Saul he had not committed the sins of Adultery and Murder so how could he be confident that God would be a “Shield around him” and “Lift him up”?
David speaks many times in the Psalms of the kind of God he trusted and believed in. In Psalm 38: 18 – 22 he speaks of God and what he would do for him this way,
“I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin. Many are those who are my vigorous enemies; those who hate me without reason are numerous. Those who repay my good with evil slander me when I pursue what is good. O LORD, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior”.
David saw his God as a loving and forgiving God who would save him.
Even at the point of his utter despair and guilt, when Nathan had just revealed to him the terrible consequences of his sin of Adultery and murder, David pens a Psalm where he confessors his sin and looks to the certain forgiveness of God. Psalm 51: 10 – 17,
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”.
David had trusted God in the past for forgiveness and help and he had seen God deliver him before so he had faith that God would deliver him again. We have a much better and surer hope of deliverance than David because we have The Lord Jesus and his offer of forgiveness and help, won by his death on the cross. Paul writing to the Corinthians for a second time speaks of this hope of deliverance in 2 Cor. 1: 8 – 11,
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on ourbehalf for the gracious favour granted us in answer to the prayers of many”.
3. DAVID’S COURAGE IN THE FACE OF HIS DISTRESS (5,6)
In verse 5 David seems to indicate he had a good night’s sleep even though he
went to bed with so much distress and danger facing him. He sleeps and he wakes up safe because, “the Lord sustains” him, what great faith and courage David has in his God. He goes on to say that even though he faces great odds against him he has no real fear because he knows the great power and reliability of his Lord. Help soon comes along for David on that day. Samuel speaks of a man named Ittai, who has joined David to help him. Ittai is not even a Israelite, he is a Gittite, but when David tells him to leave him and go back to Absolom, he replies,
“As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”2 Samuel 15: 21.
This is an echo of the words of another God- fearing foreigner named Ruth speaking to her mother in law Naomi,
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me.”Ruth 1:16 -17.
Paul had this great confidence in the Love of God in the beautiful words of Roman’s 8: 35 – 39,
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.
4. DAVID’S PRAYER OF DELIVERENCE (7,8)
David now prays for his deliverance. He uses a strange expression,
“Strike all my enemies on the jaw, brake the teeth of the wicked”.
What the heck is he asking for here?
We need to see how this expression has been used before in the Old Testament times to find out what he is asking for. Job 16: 10 says ,
“Menopen their mouths to jeer at me; they strike my cheek in scorn and unite together against me”.
So from men’s mouths and jaws comes speech and of course from the mouth of his treacherous Son, Absalom came lies and rebellious words. Lam 3: 30 says,
“Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him, and let him be filled with disgrace”.
Here we see that being hit on the jaw or cheek was an insult and put down. So, David is asking for the destruction of his enemies who with their mouths and actions rebelled against “The Lords Anointed” and therefore God.
Finally, David makes a amazing call for deliverance from a God he knew was a delivering or saving God. He asks not for himself but for his people. Of course, he knew what kind of King his son Absalom would become and he would have spelt the end to the people of Israel. For his people David prays,
“May your blessing be on your people”.
This is an echo of Moses blessing for the people of Israel in numbers 8: 24 – 26,
“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
David had a loving heart for his people and he certainly practiced the essence of the 10 commandments which Jesus says is,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself” There is no commandment greater than these.”Mark 12 : 30 – 31.
In case you’re wondering how the story of Absalom and his rebellion against his father ended. Joab, David’s great general defeats Absalom and his army in battle and as Absalom fled from Joab men he got his head stuck in the low branches of some trees and Joab finds him and spears him to death. Do you think David is pleased by the ghastly death of his rebellious oldest son? Let me read to you his reaction in 2 Samuel 19: 1 – 8.
“Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom. “And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.” The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”
“Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, “Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from your youth till now
So, the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, “The king is sitting in the gateway,” they all came before him”.
Even though David’s Son Absalom had betrayed his father David, David still loved him but this love for his rebellious son should not stop David continuing to love and serve his people. We might face disappointment and difficulty in our families but we too must not let this stop our love and service for God’s family the Church.
3 NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF PSALM 3
- THE ROLE OF PRAYER IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE AND WHAT IT CAN DO FOR US
David faced an extreme distressing situation when he wrote Psalm 3. Psalm 3 is a prayer which helped David indicate he went to bed the night before his prayer, praying and trusting in God and giving him a good night’s sleep. The New Testament has much to say about prayer and what it can do for us as we face the trials and tribulations of life. I will now walk us through 3 famous passages on prayer in the New Testament and draw out what they have to say to us about the role of prayer in the Christian life.
- Philippians 4 : 4 -7
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”.
At the start of Philippians 4 Paul raises the issue of two women in the church a Philippi who were quarrelling and he begs them to reconcile and following this he tells them to rejoice in the Lord. He then goes on to say to them and the whole Philippians church to turn their anxiety into prayer. Conflict in life and particularly in the Church can be very stressful and can make life for those involved in it very miserable. Paul’s timely word of seeking to reconcile our differences, rejoicing not moaning or complaining and then turning our worries and fears into prayer is a very practical liberating experience.
In verse 7 Paul tells us that anxiety turned into prayers will give us peace and not just superficial peace but
“The peace of God that transcends all understanding”.
This is the kind of peace David seemed to have as he faced the distress of his murderous and treacherous son who had forced him to be on the run with his family and close friends.
2. Ephesians 6: 18 – 20
“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should”.
In the early part of this chapter Paul points out that, as Christians we are not struggling
“Against flesh and blood, but rather against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of the heavenly realms”,verse 12.
Up against such unbelievable powers he advises us to put on the whole armor of God. This armor is only effective when we put it on and use it in an attitude of dependant prayer. Pray is the engine room of the Spirit of God in our battle with spiritual forces. Paul says our prayers should be for and about everything and it is obvious that through prayer we are linked to the spirit of God who will uphold us all in life’s battles.
Paul even asks for prayer and his prayer request is for success in the proclaiming of the Gospel message even though at the time of writing he was locked up, probably under house arrest.
3. James 5: 13 – 18
“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James always has very practical advice for Christians in his one and only letter in the New Testament. Here he talks about what we should do if we find ourselves in trouble and stress. He seems to have sicknesses in mind and of course, he to says like Paul we should turn our trouble’s and worries into prayers and says the result will be some kind of healing. I have known many Christian friends over the years who have been healed of all kinds of sicknesses and even those who have not received physical healing prayer has given them incredible ability to cope. One of my former ministers died of cancer a couple of years ago and he wrote a daily journal of his final months of life and you can see the power of prayer helping him as he slowly moved from this life to the greater life to come.
2. THE SOURCE OF A CHRISTIANS HOPE AND COURAGE
David faced his distressful situation with prayer inspired by his great hope and faith in God. Paul also shows us how having faith and hope in The Lord Jesus Christ can give us great ability to cope. A great example of this can be found in his writing to the church in Thessalonica and his very descriptive prayer for them in 1 Thessalonians 1: 2 – 10,
“We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore, we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath”.
The little church in Thessalonica faced great opposition and persecution yet Paul points out that their faith and hope in Jesus Christ and his Gospel made them a model church that was a powerful witness throughout the whole of the area in which they lived. We to should learn to face the distress we might face with same confidence in God David, Paul and the little church in Thessalonica had.
3. HOW WE SHOULD PRAY FOR THE CHURCH OF GOD LIKE DAVID AND JESUS DID.
At the end of Psalm 3 David prayed for his people Israel and asked that God bless them. Near the end of Jesus life (on the night he was betrayed) Jesus prayed for his people in John 17: 20 – 26,
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
Note how Jesus prayed for his people, all of us who trust and believe in him. We to must lift our eyes off our own problems and difficulties and pray for the wider world- wide Christian family and in doing so find the peace and assurance God has for us as we join through prayer with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Do you pray each morning?
David certainly did and I think Paul would have to. To start the day with God means we might have a better chance of finishing it with him as well. David writes in Psalm 55: 22,
“Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you, he will never let the righteous fall”.
That’s how God wants us to face the challenges of a new day, in prayer, in Christ with faith and hope.
A MORNING PRAYER
(Inspired by what I learnt from Psalm 3)
I go to sleep at night looking to my God above,
Knowing that he is a God of Love,
And in the morning God comes and helps me.
Even though my enemies look down on me,
Even though they try to put me down,
God always comes and rescues me.
Yes in the morning I know I’m heaven bound.
During the day my enemies say words that are unkind,
And I go to bed with their words on my mind.
But in the morning God comes and helps me.
Helps me know that I am free,
Helps me see their words have no power,
For God is always with me.
Yes, in the morning I realize he’s with me every hour.
I wake up from the darkness of the night,
Knowing that my God is the God of light.
Yes, in the morning God comes and helps me.
For in his death for me is victory.
Victory over death and endless night,
Victory that has surely set me free,
Yes, in the morning through God’s word I see his light.
Even in the night I am not afraid of death,
For it is my God who gives me life and breath.
And in the morning God comes and helps me,
For no man can really get at me.
For my God has the keys to death and life,
For in his death his made the key,
That opens up the door to endless life.
Lord I know that life is not always easy and at times I will face many kinds of difficulty. Help me to remember you are always with me even to the ends of the earth and that I can turn to you and ask for your help and guidance. Help me when I wake up each morning to have the faith that David had, the faith that led him to acknowledge your great love and power despite his desperate situation. Help me to know your love and power in my daily walk with you. In Jesus name I pray this, Amen.