Tudor Price has provided the notes this week and today we are looking at Psalm 3.
In Psalms 1 and 2 we saw how God showed his justice and mercy as he distinguished between the wicked and the righteous, condemning the first and watching over the second (1:6). The truth however is that we have all sinned, and so while God calls us to reject the ways of the wicked (1:1), he equally declares ‘Blessed are all who take refuge in Him’ (2:12). While the wicked reject God and deny Him coming under His judgement, the righteous are called to follow and depend upon Him and find Him to be faithful. These truths now come to life in Psalm 3 as David recalls them and finds peace in God.
You will note the text at the top of the psalm, ‘A psalm of David. When he fled from his son Absalom.’ As such it is vital with this psalm to bear the narrative of 2 Samuel 15-17 in mind, as David fled from Absalom, along with the wider story. The story starts in 2 Samuel 12 as David’s sin of not leading the army snowballed, resulting in adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. Yet David repented and God forgave David completely and promised that he wouldn’t die for his sins (despite what the law commanded in Lev 20). However, God also said that as a result of his sin David would face calamity and the sword would never leave his house (2 Sa 12:10-12). This started with the death of his new-born child and went further with the vengeful murder of Amnon by his half-brother Absalom, because Amnon had slept with Absalom’s sister Tamar. After returning from exile Absalom gained popularity before conspiring and starting an uprising against David to make himself king. It is at this point, when almost all of Israel had joined Absalom, and David was forced to flee Jerusalem, that this psalm is based.
We can see in verses 1 and 2 that David was overcome by his foes. After all, almost all of Israel had decided to support Absalom against David. Furthermore, David was being surrounded by people taunting and raising doubts over whether God would deliver Him. We may not know what it is to be personally taunted by a whole nation, but I’m sure many of us have been personally hurt on some scale and so can relate. Perhaps more so, we are bound to face accusations from the great accuser, Satan (Rev 12:10), who argues that we are sinners unworthy of God’s forgiveness largely due to the recurrence of our sin and seriousness of it, consequently bound for hell. Perhaps the taunts even left David in some doubt, and it certainly affected David and his supporters as they wept on their way until stopping exhausted.
However, David overcame worries, accusations and taunts by depending upon God’s character, promises and experience. He trusted on promises which we also can, ones echoed by Jesus. As David says ‘you are a shield around me O Lord’ (v3), we can say ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a single penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your father. And even the very hairs of your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’ (Mt 10:28-31). David also noted that ‘you bestow glory on me and lift up my head.’ David’s own glory had been shattered when he was forced to flee his throne from his own son, and had been shamed by previous sins committed – perhaps it raises the question of whether we value positions, family or reputation above God. Yet David’s words echo Jesus own, ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Mt 6:21). He could recall God’s promise that he was forgiven and wouldn’t die (2 Sa 12), and he could trust in God’s character, that if he called out to God he would be heard (v4). As David sums it up in the final verse, ‘From the LORD comes deliverance’. Against his enemies David could ultimately trust in God, and against the accusation of sin we can trust in deliverance which comes not from ourselves but from the LORD. And so because of this David could sleep at night and not fear those who surrounded him.
Yet, what is truly remarkable is how David concluded the psalm, as is also reflected at the end of the rebellion in 2 Samuel. David did not seek absolute revenge but entrusted justice into God’s hand and sought for God to bless the same Israel which had rejected Him. It brings to mind how we can get bitter over small things and raises the question of how bad we are at forgiving others when God has forgiven us of so much, sin which he describes as ‘wickedness and rebellion’, to ‘despise the word of the LORD’, as well as to have ‘defied’ it. (Lev 16:21, 2 Sa 12:9, 1 Ki 13:21). I like the words of J.C.Ryle who writes that ‘These are indeed tremendous words, when we consider that they are written in the book of a most merciful God.’ Someone may have done serious evil against us, but even that is nothing in comparison. David called for God’s justice, but it is important that he entrusted it to God, and still sought Israel’s blessing. It reminds me again of Jesus words in Matthew that say ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ (Mt 5:44). How much more should we pray for our brothers and sisters?