Saturday, December 21, 2013

Tom Lowe

Psalm 3


Title: A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.

1 O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! 

2 Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." "Selah" 

3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.  4 To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. "Selah" 

5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 

6 I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. 

7 Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. 

8 From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. "Selah"





This psalm, by using the example of David when he was experiencing distress, shows us the peace and security of the redeemed, under the divine protection of Almighty God—how safe they really are, and how safe they think they are. David, after he was driven out of his royal city by his rebellious son Absalom, is described as doing five things:

1.       He complains to God about his enemies, specifically that there are so many of them (vv. 1, 2).

2.      He confides in God, and is encouraged as he is reminded of His protection and blessings (v. 3).

3.      He recollects the satisfaction he had in the gracious answers God gave to his prayers, and the joy he experienced because God had been so good to him (vv. 4, 5).

4.      He expresses his confidence in God’s ability and willingness to protect him from his enemies. (v. 6).

5.      He asks the Lord to rise up against his enemies and strike them on the jaw and break their teeth; give him victory over them (v. 7).

6.      He gives God the glory and takes comfort of the divine blessing and salvation which are sure to come to all the people of God (v. 8).


David here speaks of the power and goodness of God, and of the safety and tranquility of the godly.





1 O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! 

2 Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." "Selah" 


This Psalm is said to have been written by David on the occasion of him escaping from his son Absalom. The details of this event are recorded in 2 Samuel 15-18, but the heart of the matter is recorded in this Psalm.

When he wrote this Psalm David was in a great deal of trouble. His own son led what seemed to be a successful rebellion against him. Many of his formerly close friends and associates deserted him and joined the ranks of those who supported Absalom. Absalom must have been very popular with the people of Israel, for we read in 2 Samuel 15:13, “A messenger came and told David, ‘The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.’”  David knew that Absalom was a ruthless man who valued power over principle. He didn’t want the city of Jerusalem to become a battleground, so he fled the city.

David’s situation was so bad that many of the Israelites felt he was beyond God’s help. It was not that they believed God was unable to help David; they probably felt that God was unwilling to help him. They looked at David’s past sin and figured, “This is all that he deserves from God. There will be no help for him coming from God.” Hushai was an example of someone who said that God was against David and he was just getting what he deserved—“Hushai said to Absalom, ‘Why should I? You are the one the LORD has chosen. These people and all of the men of Israel have also chosen you. I want to be on your side. I want to stay with you’” (2 Samuel 16:8). This thought was the most painful of all for David - the thought that God might be against him and that there is no help for him coming from God.

The glorious teaching of these first two verses lies in the fact that, "Trouble drove David to God in prayer, and not away from God in disbelief." When disaster threatens and everything seems to have gone wrong, it is never a time for falling into a spirit of bitterness, depression, and unfaithfulness, but a time for prayer and for casting ourselves upon the mercy of God.

Charles Spurgeon, when writing about this verse said “If all the trials which come from heaven, all the temptations which ascend from hell, and all the crosses which arise from the earth, could be mixed and pressed together, they would not make a trial so terrible as that which is contained in this verse. It is the most bitter of all afflictions to be led to fear that there is no help for us in God.”

"Selah" appears in many of the Psalms; but, the meaning of this word is very unclear. It is supposed to have marked certain pauses, or rests, when the Psalms were sung, or occasionally to have indicated certain special points of emphasis.


3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. 

4 To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. "Selah" 


He was under attack by a cunning and ruthless enemy, and though many said God would not help him, David knew that God was his shield—they couldn’t shake David’s confidence in God, because he knew God loved him and would come to his aid. This wasn’t a prayer asking God to protect him; this is a strong declaration of fact: You, O Lord, are a shield around me.” “God,” said David, “is my shield.” This expression brings to mind a soldier preparing for war, and implies David’s sense of his own danger. Centuries earlier, God told Abraham in a vision that He would be his shield—“Some time later, Abram had a vision. The LORD said to him, "Abram, do not be afraid. I am like a shield to you. I am your very great reward." (Genesis 15:1).

God was more than David’s protector; as David put it, “you bestow glory on me and lift up my head (raises me from despondency).”  He was the one who put David on higher ground, lifting his head and showing him glory. He had fled from the capital in great humiliation, with his head covered, as a sign of mourning, [“But David went on up the Mount of Olives. He was sobbing as he went. His head was covered, and he was barefoot. All of the people who were with him covered their heads too. And they were sobbing as they went up” (2 Samuel 15:30).] but God would reverse his sorrow, restore his glory, and lift up his head. There was nothing glorious or head-lifting in David’s circumstances, but there was in his God. God had raised up David to the throne (2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 5:3), and prospered him in his wars (2 Samuel 8:1-14), and exalted him above all the other kings of that period, so he was well able now, if he so willed, to restore him to his former place and re-establish him king in Israel. Men find glory in all sorts of things—fame, power, prestige, or possessions. David found his glory in the LORD. “Oh, my soul, hast thou made God thy glory? Others boast in their wealth, beauty, position, achievements: dost thou find in God what they find in these?” (Meyer)

“To the LORD I cry aloud,” that is, “I cried out to the Lord.” “Surely, silent prayers are heard. Yes, but good men often find that, even in secret, they pray better aloud than they do when they utter no vocal sound.” (Spurgeon) The idea here is, “I will cry, and he will undoubtedly hear me.” But, as we see from verse 6, God did not prevent tens of thousands from coming against him.

David cried out to the Lord for help, “and he answers me from his holy hill.” Though David is now in exile at Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:24), his thoughts revert to Jerusalem, to the holy hill of Zion, and the ark of God, which he has there "set in its place" (2 Samuel 6:17); and he knows that God, who "dwelleth between the cherubim" (1 Samuel 4:4), will hear him, though he is so far off. Others said that God wanted nothing to do with David but he could gloriously say, “He heard me.” Though Absalom took over Jerusalem and forced David out of the capitol David knew that it wasn’t Absalom enthroned on God’s holy hill. The LORD Himself still held that ground and would hear and help David from His holy hill. His holy hill is Zion [“He says to them, "I have placed my king on my holy mountain of Zion" (Psalm 2:6).] where God had recorded His name and where, in time, the temple would be built and serve as His visible earthly residence. There is a noticeable similarity here to the prayer of Jonah who also mentioned God's answer as coming from the temple—“When my life was nearly over, I remembered you, Lord. My prayer rose up to you. It reached you in your holy temple in heaven” (Jonah 2:7).

Thus David, in the midst of his dangers and distress, quiets his mind by calling to remembrance the power, and love, and faithfulness of God, and he trusts in Him.

5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 

6 I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. 


David is so certain that Yahweh had heard him that he could settle down to sleep. And in the morning he awoke, aware that he was still safe because Yahweh was sustaining him. With that knowledge he would not be afraid of anyone, even ‘ten thousands’ of people (a great army), even though they had surrounded him and were set against him.

“I lie down and sleep; I wake again”: David used both of these as evidence of God’s blessing. Sleep was a blessing, because David was under such intense pressure from the circumstances of Absalom’s rebellion that sleep might be impossible, but he slept. Waking was another blessing because many wondered if David would live to see a new day.

He could rest in the knowledge that his sins were pardoned. So why shouldn’t David have laid down and slept? He had passed through two years of anguish and of heartache. Now, since he had confessed his sin, and sought and found pardon, he naturally laid himself down and slept. He had found peace, perfect peace.

Now, I will ask you a question, if I may: why shouldn’t we also lie down and sleep? Our sins are washed away, our sins are gone. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace." Even though there is no rest for the wicked; even though the wicked are like the sea with its waves dashing, and they cannot rest; but we cannot be like them, because our sins are forgiven. When Christ entered into our troubled heart, He said: "Peace, be still," and there was a great calm.

Some believe that what David said in this verse about laying down and going to sleep has a much higher meaning than we have given it, more than merely falling asleep on our bed. They suggest that the words picture Jesus laying in the grave, and his glorious resurrection that followed. And certainly it is a beautiful idea, well deserving to be kept in view in this Psalm. Because it was said with confidence by the spirit of prophesy that Jehovah would not leave Christ's soul in hell neither suffer his Holy One to see corruption. (Psalms 16:10)

David could say, I laid down and slept, instead of spending the night in useless anxiety, because I cast all my cares and fears upon God, and relied upon his help.  I awoke in due time, after a sweet and undisturbed sleep, still safe and secure, not yet delivered into the power of my enemies; because the Lord sustained me. David was confident that the hand of Almighty God was upholding him, and this fact gave him his calm assurance in the midst of dangers. What else but great faith could make him forget his danger; that while he slept a disloyal army was at his back, hunting him!

As soon as David had found rest in the Lord, He was fully awake to his new opportunities for service. He had said: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."

If you, dear brother or sister, are a child of God, you can say along with David, "The Lord sustained me" and strengthened me. Such is always the case. First, forgiveness; then, rest and testimony, a new power in service, and a new victory in temptation. This was Peter's experience. When he was forgiven he was restored to service, and strengthened to a new task. Thank God, we are not left in any depleted and weakened condition when we are restored from our backslidings. Following forgiveness, the Lord gives power. We find His grace is sufficient to meet every need.

God sustains us in our sleep, but we take it for granted. But think of it: you are asleep, unconscious, and dead to the world—yet you breathe, your heart pumps, your organs operate. The same God who sustains us in our sleep will sustain us in our difficulties.

The picture painted by David’s words perfectly fits his circumstances. David is in the camp, supported by his men, his faithful private army, together with others who had accompanied them, faced with the possibility of an approaching army of Israel surrounding the camp in order to destroy them, but no longer afraid because  Yahweh sustained him. “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people:” With God sustaining him, David could stand against any foe. Before the Apostle Paul took pen in hand to write it down, God knew the truth of Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

David had plenty of reasons for this NEW SENSE OF ASSURANCE he had; for example:

1.    "Perfect love casteth out fear." “I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.” All fear of the enemy had passed. A new assurance had caused David to lift up his head. Even Absalom's treachery, and his trained army seeking to destroy him, gave him no fear. He believed in God and was not afraid. It is always the case: when we have a commission from Heaven and we are walking in fellowship with a victorious Christ, we take His victory. We know there is nothing too hard for the Lord, and we know that it is a conquering Lord who fights for us.


2.   "One shall chase a thousand." There came into the mind of David, in the hour of his great trial, remembrances of past days. He remembered how, as a ruddy youth, he had gone out unarmored, with only a sling and five smooth pebbles, to meet the giant Goliath.


3.   He remembered how, in the early days, after he had been crowned king, God had given deliverance upon deliverance to his armies from every foe. With all of this before him, and with the promises of God ringing in his mind, he cried out: "I will not be afraid of ten thousands." And why should we be afraid? Our God is still able to deliver. .


 Here is the promise which God left with us. "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." There is no task too great, no call of God too difficult, for the conquest of an unwavering faith. Our Lord said: "All power is given unto Me." Then He promised that power unto us, and told us to "Go."

How perfectly wonderful are both of these verses! Ten thousands opposed to one poor man become a mighty army! But millions against us, when God is on our side, are as nothing. Oh! For faith in the Lord, and in the power of his might. See a beautiful illustration of this doctrine in 2 Kings 6:15-17—“The servant of the man of God got up the next morning. He went out early. He saw that an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "My master!" the servant said. "What can we do?"  "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."  Elisha prayed, "Lord, open my servant's eyes so he can see." Then the LORD opened his eyes. He looked up and saw the hills. He saw that Elisha was surrounded by horses and chariots. Fire was all around them.”

7 Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. 


This verse reminds me of a boxing match between God and David’s enemies, with Moses at ringside shouting encouragement to the Almighty. I had a pastor, years ago, who liked to say, “Your arms are too short to box with God.” How true!

Now, let’s break this verse down—

Arise, O LORD!

These words are reminiscent of Numbers 10:35, where Moses used this phrase as the children of Israel broke camp in the wilderness—“So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: ‘Rise up, O Lord! Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You’” (Num. 10:35). It was a military phrase, calling on God to go forth to both defend Israel and lead them to victory. God is figuratively represented as asleep to denote His apparent indifference—Arise, O LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. (Psalm 7:6). Psalm 68:1 gives the impression that if God will arise and go forth all His enemies will flee before Him: “Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered; Let those also who hate Him flee before Him.” God will arise to defend his people and defeat their enemies in response to their faithful prayers. Moses knew this, and therefore he ordered the priests, whenever the ark was moved, to say, "Rise up, Lord.” Commanders must pray before they lead their forces into battle.

Deliver me, O my God!

Arise, O Lord, save me—don’t wait any longer, but let them see thou hast not forsaken me. “O my God”—you are mine by our special relationship and covenant: Lord, save your own. Deliver me from these my rebellious subjects, whose strategy and power I am unable to withstand without your assistance.

Strike all my enemies on the jaw.

“Arise, O Lord . . . For You have struck all my enemies”: David’s mind was both on what he trusted God to do (Save me, O my God) and on what God had done (struck all my enemies . . . broken the teeth of the ungodly). Knowing what God had done in the past gives David confidence in what the LORD would do.

David had many good old soldiers about him, such as the Cherethites, Pelethites, Gittites, and others that would stick with him—“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” (2 Samuel 15:18). These were mighty men of war, and they were angry and itching for a fight. David himself was a great man of war from his youth. The Lord promised to make him great and gave him the victory over his enemies—“Now then, tell my servant David, 'This is what the LORD Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel” (2 Samuel 17:8). He was not used to being vanquished; yet he flees to God for deliverance, and pleads for Him to remember the covenant—“Save me, for I am yours . . .” (Psalms 119:94).

Break the teeth of the wicked.

 “Break the teeth of the wicked is a vivid metaphor which is also used in Psalm 58:6: “Break the teeth in their mouths, O God; tear out, O LORD, the fangs of the lions!”    It speaks of the total domination and defeat of the enemy. David looked for protection in this Psalm, but more than protection—he looked for victory. It wasn’t enough for David to survive the threat to the kingdom. He had to be victorious over the threat, and he would be, with the blessing of God.

“The teeth”, is a reference to the enemy’s strength and the instruments of their cruelty. Thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly is evidence that David is thinking about the Lord’s deliverance from danger he faced in the past. “Help me now as You did then; do not leave me now; but deliver me from this army that surrounds me, just as You delivered me from other powerful enemies when I called on you in the past. Though he is currently in a situation where escape is humanly impossible, he is able to encourage himself by recollecting his former experiences, where God intervened on his behalf and graciously saved him from his cruel enemies, who had frequently attempted the destruction of his person and kingdom. He compares those enemies to savage beasts, which tear their prey with their teeth, and grind them up with their jaws, an image which, in a country abounding with ravenous creatures, was familiar to all and very expressive.

The use of “jaw” and “teeth” represents his enemies as fierce, like wild beasts ready to devour [“When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall” (Psalm 27:2)], and smiting their cheekbone [“Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. "Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?" he asked” (1 Kings 22:24)] denotes violence and insult. Breaking the teeth of the enemy would deprive them of the power to injure.

Some, however, understand this psalm differently from how it is related here. They believe that the former verses provide David’s state of mind during his flight from Absalom, and that he is expressing his thankfulness for his deliverance, which he ascribes entirely to God’s power and goodness.


8 From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. "Selah"

From the LORD comes deliverance.

David understood that salvation, both in the ultimate and immediate sense, was God’s property. It isn’t the property of any one nation or sect, but of the LORD God. In order to be saved, one must deal with the LORD Himself.

David placed his confidence in the Lord, and he could say, “I don’t expect to be saved by my forces or the advice of my wise counselors, but by your aid, power, and favor alone.”

His confidence came from personal experience, for God had often broken the power of his enemies and restrained their wickedness, he had smitten them upon the cheek-bone (v. 7), silenced them and stopped their speaking, defeated them and put them to shame, disabling them by breaking their teeth, so that they were no longer a threat. Saul and the Philistines, who were sometimes ready to swallow him up, could not accomplish what they sought to do. The teeth that are clenched, sharpened and bared against God's people shall be broken. When, at any time, the power of the church's enemies seems threatening, it is good to remember how often God has broken their teeth, and that their arms are too short to box with God. He can stop their mouths and tie their hands.

May your blessing be on your people.

 This showed David’s heart in a time of personal calamity. He wasn’t only concerned that God’s hand would be upon himself, but upon all God’s people. He didn’t pray for preservation and victory over Absalom just for his own sake, but because it was best for the nation. He appealed to God for “Thy blessing—that it be upon thy people — Either upon my friends and followers, who alone are thy people, the rest being rebels and your enemies as well as mine; or upon all thy people Israel, to preserve my friends, to convince and convert my enemies, and to save the body of the nation, which, without thy mercy, are likely, by this civil war, to be brought to utter ruin.”

David prays for his rebels, as Christ and Stephen afterwards would pray for their persecutors and murderers, but he prayed especially for those who remained loyal to him, and would shortly fight for him. David knew that victory is of the Lord, and must be got by prayer. The people understood this, and therefore persuaded David not to take the field with them, but to stay at home and pray for them—“But the men said, "You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won't care about us. Even if half of us die, they won't care; but you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better now for you to give us support from the city” (2 Samuel 18:3). It is better, they say, that you stay in the city; your prayers will prevail with God for our assistance.

What a blessed joyful conclusion! What could open more gloomy and discouraging than this Psalm did! What can end more triumphant and joyful! But do not fail to trace the turnaround to its source: Salvation is of God.