We’ve already studied Psalms 1 and 2 which together form the introduction to the psalter. In Psalm 1, the psalmist contrasted the righteous and the wicked. The truly righteous person is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ; but we are declared righteous in God’s sight through faith in Christ. And therefore we are blessed by God, because we’re no longer under condemnation, but have been pardoned by God and have been promised eternal life. The Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked — warns the psalmist — will perish.
In Psalm 2, the wicked have risen up against the Lord and his anointed King. However, the Lord laughs, because the wicked cannot overthrow the Lord’s anointed King, whom God has installed in his holy hill. And indeed, the Lord calls on the wicked to submit to his King. Well, Jesus Christ is God’s anointed King; and after his death — when a wicked world plotted together to kill him — the Lord raised the Lord Jesus from the grave and exalted him to heaven where he now sits enthroned as King of kings and Lord of lords. He now rules as God’s anointed King over all; and he commands all people everywhere to submit to him.
As I’ve said, those two psalms form the introduction to the psalter and they make clear that God’s anointed King and all those who side with him will face opposition from an unbelieving world. Nevertheless, the Lord’s anointed and all who who belong to him will ultimately triumph. And so, the Lord’s people — all who are righteous by faith — ought to look to the Lord and to his anointed King, Jesus Christ, for help and for salvation.
Today we come to Psalm 3, which is a psalm of lament in which the psalmist cries out to the Lord because he’s in trouble. It’s the first psalm which has a title. The title tells us that it’s a psalm of David and that the psalm relates to the time when David fled from his son, Absalom. You can read about Absalom’s rebellion in 2 Samuel 15. After David had defeated his enemies and had settled in Jerusalem, his son rebelled against him and turned the hearts of the people away from David and towards himself. After conspiring against David for four years, Absalom went to Hebron and declared himself king. When David heard the news, he fled from Jerusalem for safety. And we read how he went up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went. He covered his head, and he was barefoot, signs of mourning and sorrow and humiliation.
So, in 2 Samuel 15 we can read what happened to David. But in Psalm 3, we read what David felt and what was going on in his mind at that time.
The text And the psalm begins with David’s prayer to the Lord. He said:
O Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying about me,
‘God will not deliver him.’
His own son had turned against him; and so many of his people had turned against him too and had become his enemies. Instead of loving and serving him — as they should have done since he was God’s anointed king — they were in rebellion against him and they wanted to kill him.
And see how David emphasises how numerous they were:
how many are my foes….
how many rise up against me….
Many are saying of me….
And then, in verse 6, he refers to tens of thousands who were drawn up against him.
And these many, many people were mocking him for his faith, because they were saying:
God will not deliver him.
There’s no point trusting in the Lord, they were saying, because the Lord will not save you. He’s forsaken you and left you on your own.
And so, here’s David’s lamentation. He’s crying to the Lord because of his enemies who have risen up against him. However, then we come to verse 3 which begins with that wonderful word ‘But’. Many are my foes, many are rising up against me, many are mocking me, but…. But what? But the Lord is a shield for David. In other words, David knows he can trust in the Lord to protect him. That’s what a shield is for, isn’t it? It’s for protection. When the enemies are firing their arrows, you need a shield to hide behind. And the Lord is a shield all around David, providing protection at every side, so that no matter what direction his enemies come, he knows he’s safe, because the Lord has surrounded him.
The Lord’s a shield around him. Furthermore, he trusts in the Lord to bestow glory on him and to lift up his head. When David left Jerusalem, his head was covered in shame and sorrow. But he trusts in the Lord to cover him with glory once again and to raise his head, which means he will be exalted once again. Instead of being bowed down and humiliated, he will be raised up over his enemies.
So, right now, many enemies have risen up against him. But he trusts in the Lord and is hopeful that the Lord will come to his aid. Right now, many enemies have come against him. But he trusts that the Lord will hear his cry and will answer him. Right now, he looks out and sees all his enemies, surrounding him. But then he looks up to heaven and remembers the Lord, who is a shield for his people; and he’s no longer afraid. That change of direction is so important, isn’t it? When we look around us, we see all the things that trouble and hurt us. But when we look upwards, we see the one who can help us.
And look at verses 5 and 6 now. We can perhaps imagine David waking up in the morning and praising God, because despite all the trouble he faced, and despite all the turmoil of the day before, he has been able to sleep soundly and safely through the night. The day before, he cried out to the Lord for help and protection. And the Lord had answered him — hadn’t he? — because the Lord had kept him safe in the night. And since the Lord had helped him that night, he knows he doesn’t need to fear the tens of thousands who have risen up against him. He doesn’t need to be afraid of them, because the Lord is with him to protect and help him.
And in faith he calls on the Lord to deliver him in the future and to strike his enemies down in the days to come. The Lord has already helped him; and he knows he can trust in the Lord for final deliverance. From the Lord comes deliverance, he says in verse 8. And the Lord will bless, not just him, but all his people.
And so, we see once again that life in this world is a battle between the righteous and the wicked. But the righteous are able to rely on the Lord to help them against the wicked.
Christ the Anointed King
David was God’s anointed King at that time; and he points us to the Lord Jesus, who is God’s anointed King for all time. And what we read in this psalm about David reminds us in many ways of what happened to the Lord Jesus.
Think of the many who opposed the Lord Jesus: that great crowd of people in Jerusalem who called on Pilate to crucify him; and all those who stood near the cross and mocked him for trusting in the Lord. There were so many who rose up against the Lord Jesus.
And just as David turned to God in prayer, so in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord Jesus prayed to his Father in heaven. And according to Luke, on the cross, right before he died, he called out with a loud voice to his Father in heaven, saying:
Father, into your hands a commit my spirit!
In the psalm, David speaks of lying down to sleep and waking again in the morning. Well, the Lord Jesus laid down his life on the cross and, in a sense, he slept in the tomb for three days. But his heavenly Father sustained him and woke him from death and raised him up to resurrection life and exalted him to heaven, far above all his enemies. And the day will come when he will come again with glory and power to destroy his enemies once and for all, all those who refused to submit to him. He will destroy them for their wilful rebellion; but he will give his people eternal life in his presence.
And so, what we read about David in this psalm speaks to us of Christ our Saviour. But it also speaks to us of what will happen to us, because we who have been united to Christ through faith will also one day lie down and die. But we know that the Lord will waken us from death and give us everlasting life in the world to come. And in the world to come, there will be no one to disturb us or to hurt us, because all of Christ’s and our enemies will be destroyed. So, there will be no one to hurt us or to harm us or to upset us in any way. And we’ll enjoy perfect peace and rest. And until that day comes, and while we continue to live in this world — where we face many enemies, because not everyone has faith; and where the Devil comes at us with his wicked schemes — while we continue to live in this world, we can trust in the Lord to be a shield around us and to protect and help us. And while we go on living in this world, we see many things that trouble and hurt us. There are many things that frighten us and that upset us. And so, we need to do what David did, and what the Lord Jesus did: we need to look upwards, to heaven, to our heavenly Father, and look to him to help us. We’re to look to him, and to Jesus Christ our Great King, because from the Lord comes deliverance.