The opening line to this Psalm sets the context for everything that David says here. Notice that he says this is a Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son. The Israelites would have actually sung these words in their weekly gathering. Sounds like a great, light and fluffy song for the lineup in our church gatherings doesn’t it?
PSALM 3 – A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son 1 O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; 2 many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah. 3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. 4 I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah. 5 I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. 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. 8 Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Selah
All of the popular artists are out there just searching for the lines of this song. Especially the opening line! There’s just something about that opening line that causes my heart to feel all ooey and gooey and good about being in a church gathering. Don’t you agree? I’m obviously being sarcastic here. But I want to point out that in the Hebrew language this opening line is actually treated as the first verse in the Psalm and it helps to set the tone of what David says afterword.
The Day When All Hell Broke Loose For David…
Think about it. David is a father and he is running for his life from his son. His son Absalom is literally trying to murder him. Sounds like a great way to open a worship gathering doesn’t it? Now there’s context to all of this in 2 Samuel 13 – 19. There’s a background story behind the story of Absalom trying to murder his father David. David was the king of Israel and Jesus refers to him as a man after God’s own heart but he wasn’t a perfect man by any means.
In fact, for all of the great stories we have of David, he was still guilty of horrendous evil. Even though he killed lions and bears and giants with his bare hands while other men hid out in their cowardly corners David also used his authority as a king to excuse his sexual affair with his best friend’s wife Bathsheba. Many commentators refer to this as political rape. No different then the stories we hear of famous, powerful and even political people today using their positions of power and influence for personal gain. And that’s not the end of the horror. David even had his best friend, Bathsheba’s husband, murdered to cover up his political rape.
The consequence for David’s sin was the death of the son that was born to he and Bathsheba. And then there were further lasting consequences after that. David’s family was marked from that point forward by chaos, rebellion, cowardice and more horrendous evil. One of David’s sons, Amnon, actually raped one of his own sisters, Tamar, and it appears that two years later David had still done nothing to discipline his son Amnon for his sin against his sister.
So Absalom his other son (the one that is now hunting him down) after nursing Tamar back to health for two years actually planned and murdered his brother Amnon because of the rape of his sister. So this is part of the background behind the opening line of this worship song.
Makes me wonder, how is this song supposed to help me worship God? Why would I want to sing a song that has this kind of evil as the backdrop?
Consider more of the story with me too. After Absalom murders his rapist brother there appears to be a wedge between David and his son Absalom. David should have been the one to do something about the rape of his daughter but he didn’t which lead Absalom to murder his brother instead. And David appears to be comforted by Absalom’s revenge against his brother but Absalom seems to be angry because his father didn’t do what his father should have done.
So Absalom’s anger against his father grew and his bitterness against his father caused him to construct a conspiracy to dethrone his father through murder. And now David is running for his life because his own son wants him dead.
So that’s the context behind the opening line of this Psalm. The context is all out war. All hell is breaking loose against the king and he’s running for his very life from one of the people that he loves the most. Can you imagine this day? Can you imagine the day when all hell breaks loose and the person or the people you have loved the most turn against you?
The Day When All Hell Breaks Loose In Your Life…
When your closest friend turns on you. When someone you love betrays you. When the person you trusted with your heart turns out to be a liar. When someone you’ve cared for deeply, rejects your counsel and runs towards sin instead of righteousness. When your comfort bubble gets popped by a day or a month of days of horrific evil. When the chaos of sin erupts and proves once again that you control nothing and comfort in this life is a fleeting dream.
When they mischaracterize you, ridicule you, plug their ears and ignore you, talk about you behind your back, disrespect you, trample on all of the investment you’ve made in them, abandon you and commit unspeakable evil against you. These are the days when all hell breaks loose.
These are the days when you feel the most afraid and the most alone. These are the days when rebellion leaves a mushroom cloud in the sky that is too big to see through. These are the days when it seems like the bodies of those whom you love the most are littering the battlefield of life around you and you can’t get to the edge of the blast radius fast enough to survey or repair the damage.
What do you do on these days? Where do you turn for help on these days? Where do you find comfort on these days? How in the ever-living heck do days like this help you to worship God? Look back at this worship song again with me and notice the movement of David’s heartbeat in the midst of all hell breaking loose.
#1: David Complains To God (1 – 2)
I can hear the fear and the pain and the anxiety in David’s heart as he says “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.” That last word “Selah” is a word that means to “stop and reflect on this.”
Reflect on this. David isn’t glossing over or downplaying or ignoring his emotions here. And I don’t think he’s over exaggerating his predicament, as many of us are prone to do. He’s not playing the victim because his sensibilities or his snowflake feelings got hurt. He’s bringing his honest complaint before the Lord.
Reflect on what it looks like for you to bring your honest complaint to the Lord.
Reflect on the word “many”. David complains that he has many enemies. His son was running around behind his back organizing a posse of supporters to help him overthrow his father. Later in verse 6 it appears as though Absalom had thousands of people rallied behind him. He had convinced thousands of people that David was their enemy and that he wasn’t fit to lead them anymore. Many people rose up against him and many people spoke evil of him. They even questioned whether or not he actually belonged to God anymore.
A day like this can only be described as a day when all the powers of hell broke loose. Where do you go for confidence on a day like this?
#2: David Found His Confidence In God (3 – 4)
In the midst of David’s complaint I can hear where finds his confidence to get through a day like this. He says “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” Selah. Reflect on this.
Reflect on where you find confidence in your days of trouble. When the chaos of sin erupts into a mushroom cloud of toxicity. When you realize that you’ve done everything you can do to change the circumstances but the war is still raging on. Where do you find confidence on that day?
David finds his confidence in the Lord. Reflect on how significant this is for a guy like David. David was the king of a mighty nation. He was a very successful warrior. He had taken on the lion, the bear and the giant that every other man in the nation was hiding from. He beat his enemies with a flimsy leather strap and a rock. He beheaded the giant with own sword. David was mighty warrior. He was also the leader or military general over thousands upon thousands of the nations fiercest fighting men. I’m not so certain that Absalom’s army was any match for David and his military fighting skill.
But David doesn’t find confidence in his accomplishments or his skills. David finds confidence in the Lord. He rests in the truth that even though people were questioning his salvation and rising up to overthrow him he was secure in God. He trusted that God would not only shield him from the full frontal assault that was happening but that God himself would be a shield all around him to the extent that even his blind spots and weaknesses would be covered by his Savior.
David found confidence that his enemies would not crush his neck. They would not cause his head to hang. God himself would lift his head in confidence. He knew that if he cried out to the Lord that the Lord would hear him. On the day when all the fury of the power of hell broke loose, David found confidence in God.
What’s the natural result of finding confidence in God? The answer is comfort. True comfort. Not the momentary comfort that we find by medicating our pain with new relationships or old sinful habits. I’m talking about the eternal comfort that is found only in the presence of the living God.
#3: David Found His Comfort In God (5 – 6)
He says “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.” Please hear this…
The supernatural result of finding our confidence in the finished work of Christ at the cross is true eternal comfort.
The momentary comforting effects of Southern Comfort will wear off and leave you with a headache in the morning. The momentary effects of that new relationship you found will leave you empty and lonely the next day. The momentary comfort of accomplishing something through overworking will not help you sleep any better the next night.
Momentary comforts never satisfy us. You’ll only live with a fearful realization that someday this too might all fall apart and you might not make the next deadline and the whiskey or the drug or the pornography or whatever it is that you use for momentary comfort will not outlast the enemies of Satan, sin and death who are seeking your destruction.
You see, even though the first night of David’s flight from Absalom was sleepless because he was crossing a river, he still found some space for a holy nap. And one author reminded me that the God who sustains us never sleeps. This truth helps me to sleep at night. I struggle with sleep for sure. And sleeping pills are helpful. But at the end of the day I sleep the best when my heart is at rest in confident comfort in the Lord.
When my complaining is done, when I find confidence in the Lord, when comfort begins to emanate out of my trust in the Lord, then and only then, on those days when all of the furious power of hell is breaking loose, I cry out to the Lord for justice and salvation and blessing. And I’ve learned from David that God is faithful when we cry out to him in our day of trouble.
#4: David Cries Out To God (7 – 8)
He cries out “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! Selah.” Selah. Reflect… Reflect on David’s crying out to the Lord.
Now you have to get the sense of this cry just right. This isn’t the emotional weeping of a beaten man. Emotional weeping has its place. Most of you have heard me weep emotionally. That’s not the kind of crying that is happening here in these final verses.
When David cries out to God “Arise, O Lord! Save me, O My God!” he’s echoing the war cry of Moses in Numbers 10:35. In Numbers chapter 10, Moses lead the people of Israel with the Ark of the covenant down from Mount Sinai through enemy territory to the Promised Land. This is the cry that is coming from David’s mouth in this song. It’s a war cry that reminds us that our God goes before us in the battle against the furious powers of hell.
In this war cry we are reminded that every person who continues in rebellion against the true King has a day coming where God will strike them on the cheek and he will break their teeth. The mouths that once uttered hatred and slander and laughter at the Lord and his people will be left full of broken teeth.
And yet there is hope for the rebellious. There is an invitation for the sinful. There is mercy for the wicked. Every one of us has acted hatefully towards the Lord and yet David reminds us in his war cry that God does indeed save his enemies, they become his people and he blesses them.
And that’s exactly the model that David sets back in the story of his flight from Absalom. At some point God takes Absalom out of the picture and all of the people who were following him in opposition to King David were pardoned. Completely forgiven. Restored as citizens of the kingdom they once were enemies of. (2 Sam. 19:16-43) When David cries out to God here he’s uttering a war cry of both justice and salvation and blessing through pardon.
What a picture of the good news of the gospel right? On the day when all of the furious power of hell breaks loose in our lives we can complain to God and we can find confidence in God and we can find comfort in God and we can cry out to God trusting in the message of the gospel. Doesn’t that give you something to sing about now? Doesn’t this move your heart towards worship?
Ultimately this entire Psalm is a foretaste of what would happen at the cross and empty tomb of Jesus. The day of Jesus’ death was a day when all the fury and all the power of hell broke loose against the King. They mocked him and they ridiculed him. They questioned if he could even be a godly man. But they knew not what was really happening because behind the scenes in the spiritual realm a cosmic battle was being raged and the forces of hell thought they had won the war.
But Jesus trusted his Father with his life and his death and on the third day the stone was rolled away and he got up out of that grave and he walked away in complete and final victory over his enemies and for his enemies. On the day that he died Jesus cried, “It is finished”. And on the day that he rose again he proved that he is the only Savior of wicked men.
There is only one place to leave our complaints. There’s only one place to find our confidence. There’s only one place to find lasting comfort. There’s only one place that gives true power to our cries. There’s only one place to hide on the days when all of the fury of the powers of hell break loose in our lives.
That place is a hill called Golgotha where an instrument of torture became an instrument of pardon and death became no more permanent than a short nap. The only hope for rebellious people like you and I is to trust in the very King we have betrayed. He is faithful to hear. He is faithful to act. And he is faithful to save.
When all the fury of hell breaks loose in your life you can complain to God, you can find confidence in God, you can find comfort in God and you can cry out to God. And when you cry out to God you can unleash a war cry from the shadow of a bloody cross in the doorway of an empty tomb.