But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.” (Psalm 3:1-3 HCSB)
He had been there before. David retraces paths that he had traveled as a young man, on the run for his life from King Saul. Now, he is once more in peril—this time, from a rebellious son. The superscription of the Psalm gives the setting, “A psalm of David when he fled from his son Absalom.”
David was a desperate man. His circumstances were dire. But, most of all, he is desperate for God. The old king knows that he is outnumbered, and left to fend for himself, is to meet certain doom. But, he also recalls that God had been faithful to bring him out of the deathtrap of this wilderness before, and trusts that God will do it again.
Being desperate may seem like a bad place to be—and from a purely human perspective it would be. We would not choose it. But, God will choose it for us—and from His heavenly purpose, we discover on the other side of the difficulty, that it was good, for it drove us to God. To be desperate for God is a good thing, for that is where we find Him and tap into His grace.
God would later promise His people, who likewise came to a time of desperation:
“ ‘For I know the plans I have for you’--[this is] the Lord's declaration—‘plans for [your] welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11-13 HCSB).
The man or woman who is desperate for God is facing DISTRESSING TROUBLE, (v.1-2).
One thing is for certain, trouble will not leave us the same. It will be a lever to pry us away from the world, so that we may seek God intensely, or it will be a wedge to come between us and God, as we run from Him in disappointment, and into the world’s waiting arms. One thing is certain—we will not be unchanged by difficult times. Our response determines whether those circumstances make us bitter or better. We can’t change the reality that troubles will arise, neither the fact that we will be changed by them.
Measure carefully THE DIMENSIONS OF THE TROUBLE in which David found himself immersed.
“Lord, how my foes increase! There are many who attack me.” (v.1)
Where can we go but to the Lord? He is to be our first response, not our last resort (though thankfully, He is that too!). David uses the covenant name here. The LORD—Yahweh—had given him covenant promises and He appeals to this faithful God. God will not lie!
David had always had enemies. Those who follow the Lord will find we encounter foes. But the numbers had become greater, and their power to attack him had grown exponentially. In and of himself, he was no match for them. Perhaps you feel today that the immensity of your misery is overwhelming. But, remember, if God be for us, who can be against us?
Out of such dimensions of the trouble, David would wrestle with THE DISCOURAGEMENT FROM THE TROUBLE.
“Many say about me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’ Selah” (v.2)
Psychological warfare is employed by David’s enemies. The foe will try to get us to surrender without a fight. Discouragement is one of Satan’s favorite weapons. Indeed, if we believe God is with us, then who can be against us, but if we think God is not with us then what hope is there?
Why should David doubt that God would help him? His past could haunt him. His moral failing with Bathsheba, and his horrible crime in trying to cover it up, surely would rise like a specter from the mists of the past to indict his conscience once again, and cry, “Sinner! There is no help for you in God!” His present could taunt him. He is on the run from his son, his family life was a wreck, and the voice of the enemy would say, “If flesh and blood turn against you, why should God assist you?”
For the first time in the psalms, we find the word “Selah.” It may well be a musical notation—a “rest” calling on the singers and the congregation to pause and reflect on the message. There are times when we just need to stop—catch our breath—and sit for a spell, while we quiet our soul before the Lord. This was such a crisis for David. Maybe, your reading these devotional meditations will help you to get a grip, when you feel like slipping into despondency. Selah—think about it.
Here is the bottom line: David had not always been faithful to God, but God was always faithful to him. Even when God disciplines us (and what David was suffering was a part of that discipline) it doesn’t mean our destruction, but our deliverance. It indicates God’s direct involvement and not abandonment. The worst thing God could do is leave us alone. He will not fail to correct His children in love. This is meant to make us desperate for Him and that is the place where we find Him.
So the distressing trouble is intended to arouse DETERMINED TRUST, (v.3-6). Fear or faith—which do we choose to exercise when these tempests of trials come howling in our face?
Faith is expressed through COURAGE ROOTED IN GOD’S PERSON.
“But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain. Selah” (v.3-4)
David confesses his faith in God. The LORD will defend him. It won’t be a shield that David holds, but God as the Shield who holds him. He is the glory of David’s life—the one who exalts him and has enthroned him. God crowns us and places us in the position of reigning in life. We need not hang our heads—God lifts our heads.
Have you ever asked anyone, “How are you doing?” and their response was, “Alright, under the circumstances.” Well, what are you doing under the circumstances? God lifts our head above them and enables us to see from His eternal viewpoint His good purpose in the grave problems.
The pivotal moment that opens the gates of grace, for aid to ride out to our rescue, is the humble cry to God. This was a passionate prayer—fervent, intense and DESPERATE! That’s the kind of prayer God promises to hear—and David confesses that God has indeed heard.
This faith leads him to CONFIDENCE RESTING IN GOD’S PROVISION.
“I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. I am not afraid of the thousands of people who have taken their stand against me on every side.” (v.5-6)
David, doubtlessly, was physically exhausted, but sleep flees from those who are filled with anxiety. Yet, when he took his burden to the Lord—to the one who never slumbers nor sleeps, God gave him the gift of rest. Why should David stay awake, if the Lord was going to watch over him? No point in both of them staying up!
Remember as a child, being terrified and screaming, “There’s a monster under my bed!”? Some of us feel that way. What did you do? You yelled for your father! It’s still good advice! Dad’s comforting presence reassured you then. Rest settled down on you, and the morning light drove away the shadows. The dawn of a new day was a gift from God. So, whatever the circumstances of yesterday, God brought you through them—and now, here is a new day, and God will get you through—one day at a time. Read and reflect on Christ’s words in Matthew 6:25-34.
Distressing trouble can drive us to God and the expression of determined trust, as we anchor our faith on our Rock. Such faith is the victory that overcomes! “This is the victory that has conquered the world: our faith.” (1 John 5:4b HCSB) Therefore, David testifies of DECISIVE TRIUMPH, (v.7-8).
He points to THE SOURCE OF TRIUMPH.
“Rise up, Lord! Save me, my God!... Salvation belongs to the Lord…” (v.7a, 8a).
Only God can save us. We have no hope apart from Him, but His hope will not fail us. We won’t cry out in desperation for deliverance until we see how desperate the situation is. A man or woman can’t be saved until he or she first understands that they are lost! No one sits on a beach towel on the sand and cries to the lifeguard, “Help! Save me! I’m drowning!” It is when they are sinking beneath the waves that they lift their desperate cry.
So long as you strive to fix your problems, so long will you be removed from a real solution. As you try to play God and think you are smart enough and strong enough to deal with the tough times, then you are headed to abject disappointment. We are neither omnipotent nor omniscient—but we know One who is!
“You strike all my enemies on the cheek; You break the teeth of the wicked….may Your blessing be on Your people. Selah” (v.7b, 8b)
The enemy would be rendered powerless to harm them. The lion’s teeth would be broken! Instead of being bitten, they would be blessed. Rather than be devoured, they would be delivered.
David was the king and his blessing was tied up to that of his subjects. As God blessed the leader, He would be extending blessing to the people. Ultimately, those people belonged to God. Therefore, David had confidence that the King of kings would care for them.
As a father who loves his family, I am going to do all I can to protect them. But the fact is, I am an imperfect father who still struggles with sin, and so I will at times fail because of my selfishness. But, most of the time, grace triumphs and I want to care for them. Yet, I am not an almighty father. There are times I cannot fix what is wrong, no matter how much I would like to do so. None of these limitations are problems for our Father in heaven! He is perfect love and has absolute power.
Selah! Stop and think about that!