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Speaker: 
Jason Meyer
Date Given: 
August 22, 2015

 

O LORD, how many are my foes!
        Many are rising against me;
    many are saying of my soul,
        there is no salvation for him in God. Selah
    But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
        my glory, and the lifter of my head.
    I cried aloud to the LORD,
        and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
    I lay down and slept;
        I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
    I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
        who have set themselves against me all around.
    Arise, O LORD!
        Save me, O my God!
    For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
        you break the teeth of the wicked.
    Salvation belongs to the LORD;
        your blessing be on your people!—Psalm 3

Introduction

This is the fourth sermon in our Psalms series. We started in Psalm 1, and then we took two weeks with Psalm 2. Last week we obeyed the command to commit ourselves to the public reading of the Word, and we heard the Word together as Andy Naselli recited 1 Corinthians. It was a Psalm 1 and Psalm 2 moment together, meditating and musing upon the Word of God with a preeminent focus on the Son of God.

We took two weeks in Psalm 2 in order to show that the “today” of Psalm 2 is a reference to the resurrection. We took a fast fly-by tour of Romans 1 and Hebrews 1 in order to lay out the vast network of interlocking texts that highlight the supremacy of God’s Son as high king and high priest and supreme sacrifice. But if you forced me to only pick one text to prove that the “today” of Psalm 2 is the resurrection, I would go to Acts 13.

And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you.”—Acts 13:32–33

One of the things we are going to see again and again in this series is the perpetual relevance of the resurrection. It is the game changer of any lament. The resurrection is always relevant—always. I’ll say more on that later.

Keep that in mind that the whole tone of the Psalter takes a sharp turn in Psalm 3. Psalm 2 laughs about how the rebellious nations have no chance against the LORD and his Anointed. But the anointed king is not laughing in Psalm 3 when he looks at the rebellion. This is no laughing matter at all.

The reader goes through the double doors of Psalm 1 and 2 and steps right into many troubles. You should all immediately feel the relevance of this point. I don’t know anyone that looks at his or her life and thinks, “Everything worked out for me just the way I dreamed it would be. I am living the dream.”

The Psalms speak so powerfully to the situation that so many people in our culture face: the death of the Disney dream. Kids are raised thinking that if they just follow their heart or find the right person, they will have happily ever after—they will live in a castle, and all of life will be like one perpetual ball in which they are dancing and dining with the prince.

What do you say when that dream dies? In the middle of the mess—during or after the death of our dreams—one grand truth rises to the top. This truth is my main point this morning: salvation belongs to the LORD. This call to worship in the midst of the mess is the message of Psalm 3. This truth gives us confidence in crisis because we believe that God is for us and will save us. And if God is for us, then who can be against us?

1. Crisis (vv. 1–2)

O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
there is no salvation for him in God. Selah

We learn two things about this crisis: David has many enemies, and they are mouthy. Did you see the emphasis on the word many? The word occurs three times in just two verses.

How did the anointed king come to this crisis point? The superscription of the Psalm tells us plainly: “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.”

After reading about the rebellion of the nations against God and his king, we do not expect to find the king on the run from his own son. Why is he on the run? This psalm takes us back to a situation narrated for us in the book of 2 Samuel. David has committed adultery and is guilty of murder. He was confronted by the prophet Nathan, and he confessed his sin and repented to God. The Lord forgave him, but he still had to work through the consequences of his sin. He was told that evil or calamity would rise up from within his own family against him (2 Samuel 12:11).

It didn’t even take three chapters before David’s son Absalom was rising up against him, and the people were rising up with Absalom against David (2 Samuel 15:12). That word rising up is the same one that shows up in Psalm 3:1: “many are rising against me.”

Absalom won the hearts of the people, so David had to flee with whoever was still loyal to him. He went weeping and barefoot down the steep descent from Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron Valley, and then made his way up the Mount of Olives to the safety of the desert.

We also learn that these enemies are many and mouthy: “many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God” (v. 2).

The blow that pierces most deeply is the taunt that says that everyone is against you—even God. David’s enemies were telling him, “You are so guilty that God will not save you.” This fits the original story of 2 Samuel 15–16, where David had to endure taunting from people like Shimei (who was from Benjamin and still loyal to Saul) as he retreated.

“Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”—2 Samuel 16: 7–8

Shimei is saying that David is guilty—that he’s getting what he deserves. David’s mighty men were with him, and they wondered why David allowed such a man to curse him. One of them wanted to chop Shimei’s head off.  

But David kept entrusting himself to the Lord. He waited for the Lord to act. David told the soldiers that the Lord had allowed the cursing, so perhaps the Lord would now look with favor upon him (2 Samuel 16:9–12).

You may not have people making death threats on your life—though some Christians in our world do—but many of you still feel like your life is a battleground. Perhaps the cutthroat climate at work feels like an open war where everyone is trying to take down everyone else. Perhaps the weapons are not swords but rumors, lying, gossip, and misrepresentation. The world often calls this competition or survival of the fittest—dog eat dog.

Perhaps you don’t need many people against you to feel attacked—just one person will do. Perhaps it has happened within your own home, like it happened to David. Your children may have turned their backs on you in open rebellion, or they may speak mocking and taunting and cutting words against you and your character. Perhaps its is your spouse—the person you thought was an ally is actually your chief opponent. You are dealing with the death of the Disney dream. What do you do?

The next stanza marks a major mood shift. The One who is for David is greater than the many who are against him.

2. Confidence (vv. 3–4)

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

I read a great article this week in a book on the Psalms. In the section of this book about lament, one scholar wrote about various theories about why these extreme mood shifts from pain to praise occur in the psalms. Some scholars argue that there are examples in 1 and 2 Chronicles where kings would take confidence after hearing a prophet or priest get a word from the Lord telling the king that God was for them. Others argue that the Psalms look backward at a situation after the deliverance has already come, so they express confidence because they have the help of hindsight. The psalmists were not confident when the situation was happening, but they are now after the deliverance.

This scholar made a point that resonated with me completely. He said that context is king. To find the psalmist’s reason for confidence, we should look for clues that are present in the psalms. And we find that the reason for confidence is meditating on the greatness of God and God’s promises to be for us. This takes us right back to Psalm 1. Meditating on the Law of the Lord isn’t just musing upon his demands. It’s about remembering who he is and what he has promised.

The first image David meditates upon is that God is a shield. This image comes from the Law or Torah, the first five books of the Bible. God told Abraham that he was a shield (Genesis 15). This is so much better than normal shields. In fact, it is so much better than any shield ever made—even one made of vibranium like Captain America’s shield—because God is the shield, and he covers completely. It’s “a shield about me,” not just before me or behind me. This is complete protection and almighty armor.

What a rich theme of the Psalter! Listen to Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”—Psalm 91:1–2

The next two images probably go together: “my glory and the lifter of my head.” If the shield is a protection against fear caused by many enemies, then God is also David’s protection against shame. David does not derive honor from his accomplishments. He derives honor only from his relationship to God. And this relationship has not been severed. God is still his God. God’s promises are still true. God is still for him and with him. Therefore, God is the lifter of his head. God is David’s shield against the arrows of shame that his enemies have aimed at his very soul. God lifts the head that is weighed down with shame and guilt.

God proves that he is for us by the fact that he is a prayer-answering God. When his children cry for help, the Lord comes to the rescue. Notice where the answer comes from: the “holy hill,” a phrase repeated from Psalm 2:6.

The throne in the earthly Jerusalem seems empty. The king is off his throne, and he is on the run from his own son. But God still rules and reigns. David left the Ark of the Covenant in Jerusalem because he believed God still reigned there and would bring him back there (2 Samuel 15:25). Absalom cannot dethrone David without dethroning God. It can’t happen. God answers anywhere because he rules everywhere over everything.

Dale Ralph Davis has some really helpful illustrations in his book on Psalms 1–12. He shares a story from the book Flags of Our Fathers. Here is how Davis summarizes the story:

In Flags of Our Fathers, James Bradley tells of the famous photograph of the Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima in 1945. It appeared in numerous papers, including a hometown Texas newspaper being perused by Ed Block, home on leave from the Air Force. His mother Belle walked by, glanced at the photograph, pointed to the marine thrusting the pole down in the ground and told Ed that was his brother Harlon. Ed refuted his mother: there was no side view, just the back of a marine; besides they didn’t even know if Harlon was on Iwo Jima; there’s no way she could know that that fellow was her Harlon. But Belle was sure; as she strode into the kitchen she simply said, “I know my boy.” Actually, that figure was identified as Henry Hansen. But Belle Block was still unmoved. Sadly, the family soon received word that Harlon had been killed in action on Iwo Jima. But in 1947, after additional testimony, they received notification of a correction: Henry Hansen had not been in the picture; the lad aiming the pole into the ground was Harlon Block. Belle Block was hardly surprised: “I know my boy.”

That is the sort of thing David is saying in verses 3–4. In the middle of the mess he is saying, “I know my God.”—Dale Ralph Davis, The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life, p. 43.

Christian, do you take the time to savor and ponder and meditate upon the greatness of your God and his promises to be for you and not against you? When others contradict your confidence, are you able to say, “I know my God”? Meditating upon our God gives confidence that creates a calm, a restful contentment, even the refreshing rest of sleep.

3. Calm (vv. 5–6)

I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.

These verses give the reason why many people in the history of the church have called Psalm 3 a morning psalm. We will see next week that many call Psalm 4 an evening psalm.

David was able to lie down and sleep and wake again, and he doesn’t take credit for it or chalk it up to chance. The Lord did it. David knows that he made it through the night because the Lord sustained him (v. 5). If this is in our hands, then we always have to stay up on our toes. But if this belongs to the Lord, then we can let go and rest.

Now the morning emphasis of this psalm comes into view. What a morning. David wakes up to the knowledge that many thousands of people are surrounding his soul like a siege. Will he face it with fear? No. He says, “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around” (v. 6).

David comes up with the right conclusion after comparing and contrasting. He says, “He who is for me is far greater than those that are against me.” He says, “My shield is stronger because my God is greater, my God is stronger, my God is higher than any other.” David’s confidence in the Lord leads to a call that will change everything.

4. Call (v. 7)

Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.

David’s lament boils down to a reversal. He tells God, “Many enemies have arisen against me and have said you won’t save me, so arise against them and do what they say you won’t do.” David knows what the Lord can do. The Lord strikes enemies on the cheek and breaks their teeth. David’s enemies are the wicked (or the faithless), and they are actually God’s enemies too. This is a serious prayer. But it is an appropriate prayer.

We should not forget that salvation can be a nasty, bloody business. The enemies of David are out for blood, so the reversal means that their blood would be spilled instead.

5. The Conviction (v. 8)

Salvation belongs to the Lord;
your blessing be on your people! Selah

What a sweet and sweeping statement! Savor the fact that salvation belongs to the Lord. We have reached the controlling conviction of the entire psalm. This is the rock-bottom conviction that holds everything else up and becomes the point offered up in praise.

Salvation belongs to our covenant Lord. It is his. He gives it as he pleases. His arm is not too short; no one is out of reach. It doesn’t matter how far away David has run—God’s arm is longer.

And save He did. God caused Absalom to listen to bad advice. Absalom waited to pursue David when he was most vulnerable. Absalom waited to launch a greater attack on David, and that gave David time to gather his forces and prepare for battle. In a battle in the forest of Ephraim, David’s army won a great victory. Twenty thousand people in Absalom’s army were killed, including Absalom himself. Salvation is a bloody business.

The next line shows that salvation is not simply an individual, private matter. God delivered David for the sake of God’s people. Do you see it? Salvation belongs to God. Who is he pleased to save? He saves his people: “your blessing be upon your people” (v. 8).

This is a grand truth. Listen to the way that Charles Spurgeon celebrates this truth as one of the grand truths of Scripture. In fact, he calls this phrase “the sum and substance” of the doctrines of grace.

Search the Scriptures through, and you must, if you read it with a candid mind, be persuaded that the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is the great doctrine of the word of God. . . . This is the great point concerning which we are daily fighting. Our opponents say, “Salvation belongs to the free will of man; if not to man’s merit, yet at least to man’s will.” But we hold and teach that salvation from first to last, in every iota of it, belongs to the Most High God. It is God that chooses his people. He calls them by his grace; he quickens them by his Spirit, and keeps them by his power.—Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David

Spurgeon then quotes Romans 9:16 to show that salvation “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”

Some may look at this and say it is a forced theological application. The Psalm is talking about physical deliverance from physical enemies, not spiritual deliverance. This observation misses the entire point of the Psalm.

How did David know that God was for him and not against him? He knew God’s heart for his people: “your blessing be upon your people” (v. 8). The psalmist (in this case the anointed king) does not merely have an individual confidence. He has a corporate confidence. God is for his people. God does not forsake them or leave them or desert them or fail them. The Psalmist knows God’s heart, and God keeps his promises.

We can take that confidence into any real life situation in which we feel like the crisis threatens to snuff us out or smother us. Where is our confidence? Is it in our own righteousness? Our own cleverness? Our own emotional resilience? No! We are confident in God’s faithfulness. We know his ferocious commitment to his people.

But how can we have that confidence? Psalm 3 is really an example of resting in the refuge referenced at the end of Psalm 2. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. How do we do that?

The first thing to note is that David is a picture here of someone greater, someone who never once sinned or doubted God’s goodness and power, someone who never once lacked confidence in God. Consider what great David’s greater Son did in Mark 4.

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”—Mark 4:37–40

The disciples asked Jesus if he cared that they were dying. What caused them to doubt? Sometimes the Psalms show the link between sleep and faith—the righteous can sleep because they have peace. At other times, the righteous lament because it seems like God is sleeping.

In Mark, Jesus sleeps in the stern of the boat on a cushion. He is so carefree that he looks careless. Don’t let the stunning fact of the incarnation escape you here. We have definitive proof that Jesus is fully man. He sleeps! Psalm 121 tells us that God does not slumber or sleep. Jesus is doing something that only humans can do. He was not faking it—he didn’t have one eye open. He was really sleeping. Because he is fully human, he can be the model of faith.

Psalm 3 shows that sleep is the result of faith. Jesus shows his disciples the same point. Jesus can sleep in a storm because his Father sustains him. Jesus kept his eyes on his Father at all times, and he knew his Father had his eyes on Jesus at all times. Jesus sleeping on a cushion is a faith-filled model for us to emulate. Our Father is a shield, a rock, a refuge, and a very present help in times of tumult and trouble. Jesus’ rebuke also shows us that this story is really about the need for faith: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (v. 40).

The story continues in Mark’s gospel to show that Jesus is not only the model of faith; he is the object of faith. He can be the model of faith because he is fully human, and he can be the object of faith because he is fully divine. He does what only God can do when he calms the storm (Mark 4:39–41). I’ll say more on how that applies a little later.

The second point to see is that salvation is a bloody business. In Psalm 3, salvation meant God sparing the king’s life and killing his enemies. In the New Testament, salvation was not sparing the King’s life—it was killing him instead of his enemies.

We see the beauty of that phrase in a more fuller way than anyone in the Old Testament did. Jesus modeled perfect faith in God, and he also died for all the times that we didn’t have faith. God’s war hammer should come and strike the mouth of all of God’s enemies, and that would include every sinner in the world. Yet even when we were enemies, Christ died for us. The war hammer of God’s wrath fell on him, not us.

Jesus had many rise up against him. It was not because he sinned like David; it was because he was dying for the sins of others. He endured the taunts that God was against him. He was forsaken by his Father for that terrible moment when the stroke of justice fell like lightning from heaven, but it was for us. It was in our place. We can be set free from guilt and shame because Jesus bore our sins. Our guilt is gone. Our shame is covered. He is now our shield and our blessed place of refuge.

Third, remember that we rest in the risen one of Psalm 2:7. This psalm does not promise that God will always give us immediate deliverance from all that is against us. We may die in our sleep, cancer may still ravage our body, and we may still lose the house or lose the marriage. Our confidence is that when people threaten our lives, we are in a no-lose situation because of the resurrection. We will either get a physical deliverance, and God will intervene and spare us from death, or we will get an eternal deliverance, and God will bring us through death to the place of eternal blessedness where there are no more enemies and no more death.

This confidence certainly did not come from the conviction that David had earned this deliverance. He was enduring the consequences of his sin. But he had gutsy guilt (as Pastor John Piper called it).

for the son treats the father with contempt,
the daughter rises up against her mother,
the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
a man’s enemies are the men of his own house.
But as for me, I will look to the Lord;
I will wait for the God of my salvation;
my God will hear me.
Rejoice not over me, O my enemy;
when I fall, I shall rise;
when I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be a light to me.
I will bear the indignation of the Lord
because I have sinned against him,
until he pleads my cause
and executes judgment for me.
He will bring me out to the light;
I shall look upon his vindication.
Then my enemy will see,
and shame will cover her who said to me,
“Where is the Lord your God?”
My eyes will look upon her;
now she will be trampled down
like the mire of the streets.—Micah 7:6-10

Meditate upon the greatness of God and his promises. He did not promise us that if God is for us, then no one will be against us. He promised the opposite. Many things will be against us—tribulation, distress, persecution, lack of food, lack of clothing, lack of protection from harm, danger, or sword.

The promise is that these things can pull us away from the vice grip of his grace. We know that all of our problems, even when we name them one by one, even with their combined might cannot even come close to our Lord’s Almighty grip of grace.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.—Romans 8:37–39

We know our God, and we know his vice grip of grace. He makes us glad. Because he lives, I can face the morning with all of its lesser foes. Because God has already defeated the only foes that could really have condemned me: sin and the sting of death. He drained the cup of death to the dregs so that we can lift up the cup of salvation and sing, “You are my shield, my strength, / my portion, deliverer,  / my shelter, strong tower, / my very present help in time of need.”

Closing Song: “He Has Made Me Glad”

Sermon Discussion Question

Outline

  • Crisis (vv. 1–2)
  • Confidence (vv. 3–4)
  • Calm (vv. 5–6)
  • Call (v. 7)
  • Conviction (v. 8)

Main Point: The lesson of the Psalm – the call to worship in the midst of the mess – is that salvation belongs to the Lord. This truth gives us confidence in crisis because we believe that God is for us and will save us. And if God is for us, then who can be against us?

Discussion Questions

  • How does Psalm 3 relate to both Psalm 1 and 2? 
  • How does the superscription help set the stage for interpreting the Psalm? 
  • What is the link between sleep and faith? 
  • How does the conviction of verse 8 control the movement of the entire Psalm?

Application Questions

  • Why is it important to meditate on the greatness of God? What practical guidance have you found helpful for meditating on the Lord so that you can say, “He who is for us is greater than all that is against us”?
  • What would you say to someone who is overwhelmed by a chaotic crisis? How does the structure of Psalm 3 help by starting with a focus on everything that is against the one in crisis? 
  • How do Christians read Psalm 3 in light of Christ as both the model of faith and the object of faith?

Prayer Focus

  • Pray for a grace to trust the Lord in the midst of crisis with the confident conviction that he is for us and not against us.
  • Pray for a grace to point others to that same grand conviction of God's greatness and faithfulness.

© 2017 Bethlehem Baptist Church