A psalm of David, regarding the time David fled from his son Absalom.
O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!”
But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.
I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.
Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people.
Psalm 3 is a Psalm written by King David about the time, when he fled from his son Absalom who wants to take-over his father’s throne. The main theme is David’s confidence in God’s power to rescue him from overwhelming odds. This is best seen in his ability to sleep knowing that the Lord is watching over him.
This Psalm is comprised of four parts, each part contains two verses.
It describes an act of betrayal and represents a cry from a father’s heart to God asking for deliverance from his enemies. The anguish is all the more intense because his own son is leading the revolution.
To understand the background to this Psalm, you first need to read Chapters 12 to 19 of the second book of Samuel. I’ll present some of the highlights from these Chapters, in an effort to provide the backdrop to the first two verses of this amazing Psalm.
This Psalm is so packed with meaning that most of it’s value will be lost if at first you don’t spend some time looking at the context.
The genesis of Absalom’s revolt can be found back in Chapter 12, verses 9 to 13 (Nathan, as God’s messenger, is telling David the consequences of his actions): “Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife. From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own. “This is what the Lord says: Because of what you have done, I will cause your own household to rebel against you. I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view. You did it secretly, but I will make this happen to you openly in the sight of all Israel.”
Then David confessed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “Yes, but the Lord has forgiven you, and you won’t die for this sin …
Three points to remember from these verses, God tells David: one, that: his own household will rebel against him; two, that another man will go to bed with his wives. [This prophecy comes to pass in 2 Samuel 16:21-22: ‘Ahithophel told Absalom, “Go and sleep with your father’s concubines, for he has left them here to look after the palace. Then all Israel will know that you have insulted your father beyond hope of reconciliation, and they will throw their support to you.” So they set up a tent on the palace roof where everyone could see it, and Absalom went in and had sex with his father’s concubines.]; and three, the Lord has forgiven him and David won’t die for this sin.
In Chapter 15, we read about Absalom embarking on a plan to win the support of the people, by implying that if he had the judicial power he would ensure that judgments would be awarded in their favor. In 2 Samuel 15:6b: ‘ … and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel.’
Later, we read that after four years (the revolution has been carefully planned over a number of years) Absalom goes to Hebron to prepare the final phase of the revolt against his father, and, in verse 12, we are told that ‘many others also joined Absalom, and the conspiracy gained momentum.” Biblical historians believe that Absalom was about 30 years of age, at this time, and the revolt occurs early in the last decade of David’s 40 year reign.
Now, we move to another important piece of background information, see 2 Samuel 16:5-13: “As King David came to Bahurim (while fleeing from Absalom), a man came out of the village cursing them. It was Shimei son of Gera, from the same clan as Saul’s family. … “Get out of here, you murderer, you scoundrel!” he shouted at David. “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!”
When one of David’s supporter’s suggested to David that Shimei, should be killed – David said: “If the Lord has told him to curse me, who are you to stop him?”
Later on, we come to see that this curse did not come from God, David survives the revolution, Absalom is killed. Further on, David promises Shimei that he won’t take his life, but the punishment for Shimei’s sin, remains, as it was against Mosaic law to curse the Lord’s anointed. It finally comes to pass that David’s son Solomon; after he becomes King, executes Shimei, after he breaks an agreement with Solomon.
The revolt: In verse 2 Samuel 15:13-14, we read: “A messenger soon arrived in Jerusalem to tell David, “All Israel has joined Absalom in a conspiracy against you!” “Then we must flee at once, or it will be too late!” David urged his men. “Hurry! If we get out of the city before Absalom arrives, both we and the city of Jerusalem will be spared from disaster.” Later in this Chapter, we catch a glimpse of David’s trust in God’s judgment: “Then the king instructed Zadok to take the Ark of God back into the city. “If the Lord sees fit,” David said, “he will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle again. But if he is through with me, then let him do what seems best to him.”
David, I feel, has total confidence in God’s word; he remembers Nathan telling him that God has forgiven him, and he will not die for these sins (adultery and murder). Yet, he is constantly reminded – especially by the curses of Shimei – that he has blood on his hands; many are saying that God will not rescue him. Consequently, the Psalm opens with these desperate words: ‘O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” ‘
The next two verses: “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.” Confirms that David has placed his future in God’s hands – he has instructed Zadok, the priest, to take the Ark of God back into the city. He knows God is in control and sits on His throne on His holy mountain. He trusts that whatever happens – it’s God’s just and perfect will.
We know from reading the account of the revolution that those who support Absalom’s revolution number in the tens of thousands and that David becomes tired and weary by the pace of his urgent retreat. In 2 Samuel 16:14, we read: “The king and all who were with him grew weary along the way, so they rested when they reached the Jordan River.”
Even under these circumstances, David demonstrates not just hope but strong faith, to the extent that his faith is stronger than his fear, and that he is able to sleep – he is not lying awake worrying about what terrible things may happen to him – he can say: “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side.”
The final two verses foreshadow David’s victory over his son Absalom; and he clearly sees that it’s God who provides the victory, not the fighting ability of his men. “Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! Victory (deliverance) comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people.”
These verses echo throughout all the ages – it is God who is victorious – it is He, who delivers His people – It is through God that we are blessed. You would have to agree that this is one great Psalm, albeit only eight verses in length. David’s faith in God – is a faith that we too can share – it is a gift from God.
Reflection on Psalm 3
My Lord and my God, I often feel that there are many who walk past me.
They say, ‘who is this man, who claims that his Lord has set him free?’
I know my Lord, that You are the Holy One, it is You alone who saves.
I cry out to you, day and night; You comfort me; it is Your Word I crave.
At night, in the darkness of this world, you cover your servant with a blanket of love.
You are always by my side and Your presence keeps away the prowling lions.
Even in the depths of painful solitude; your Spirit descends on me, like a dove.
I’m never alone, You are my blessing. In You, I have victory over a rebel’s mind.
All Praise and Glory to our loving God.