A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
 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! Selah
Today, the subject of my sermon is Psalm 3. My title is “Save Me, O God!” Now, if you look at Psalm 3 in your Bibles, you’ll see that it has a superscription—a sort of headline—over verse one. It says:
“A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom, his son.”
Now, that superscription, even though it’s not numbered along with the other verses is actually a part of the text of scripture, so we need to pay attention to it. This heading tells us about the context of this Psalm, that is, where it fits in the bigger picture. The prayer in Psalm 3 is directly related to the events in 2 Sam 15.
So to explain the background of our Psalm, I’m going to give you the condensed version of the story. David’s family life was, to put it shortly, complicated. I don’t have time to tell the whole story, but in 2 Sam 13, David’s son Amnon rapes and dishonors his half-sister—David’s daughter—Tamar. Absalom, Tamar’s brother, takes revenge by murdering Amnon and fleeing Jerusalem. David eventually brings Absalom back to Jerusalem, but he refuses to see Absalom. Their relationship is distant. For two full years, the King and his son lived in the same city and neither saw one another nor spoke to one another.
Now Absalom was a clever politician and he began to convince people that David was a poor king and a poor judge. Absalom convinced them that he would do a better Job than his father. Things got so bad for David that he was forced to flee Jerusalem. In 2 Sam 15:13, a messenger tells David, “the hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom. And that’s where we find ourselves in Psalm 3. These are the events we are supposed to keep in mind when we see:
“A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom, his son.”
So as we study Psalm 3, with these events in mind, notice first that as David begins his prayer, he is running from very real enemies—and a lot of them. He has been deposed of his throne and his life is in danger. Notice that in the middle of all this trouble, he stops to pray. David stops to pray. That’s the first point.
Second, notice in verses 3 and 4 that David maintains the utmost confidence in the Lord.
Third, notice that David trusts God so thoroughly that he lays down to sleep.
And finally, notice that David prays for salvation, recognizing God’s complete sovereignty—His complete control over David’s circumstances. Salvation belongs to the Lord, David says.
1. Despite real danger, David stops to Pray
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.
Absalom had turned so many people against David that he was required to flee Jerusalem. One theologian wrote that David had about as many enemies as he had subjects! And David was troubled by the words of his enemies. Furthermore, what must have been equally troubling for David is that he was fully aware that the dysfunction in his own family (that ultimately led to all of this) was a consequence of David’s own sin. In 2 Sam 12:11, Nathan says to David, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house.’”
In all of this, though, David turns to the Lord. David cries out to Him, “O Lord!”
Now you may never have been forced to abdicate your kingdom. But I’m certain that you’ve faced various trials. I’m certain that you’ve faced a situation or a circumstance that has been troubling and disheartening. Perhaps you’ve had enemies who have opposed you and mocked you. I don’t know what trials you’re facing but you know what they are.
First, you can be confident that if you belong to Christ—if Jesus is your Lord and Savior—then God is using this trial for your benefit. James writes in James 1:2-3, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” You can stand on those promises!
Second, Christian, you can be certain that God will hear you. What does the scripture say? 1 Peter 5:6-7: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Jesus says in Matthew 11:29-30: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” You can and you may bring your cares before God.
But perhaps you can also see yourself on the other side of the situation. Perhaps you’ve been one of the mockers. You also can be confident that you can be forgiven if you will confess your sin and repent of it. Remember that even thought David saw consequences from his sin God forgave him. God will forgive you too, if you humble yourself and repent of your sin.
2. David maintains utmost confidence in God
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
What a statement of confidence in God! David recognizes that his help is in the Lord. David stops to pray despite the many enemies that are around him. He even acknowledges that he is distressed by their words. But in verses 3 and 4, David shows that he fears God and not man. David does not measure himself by what these other men and women think of him. God is David’s shield, that is, David recognizes that God will protect him. Think of a military shield that prevents the blows from swords and arrows from damaging the one wielding it. God is David’s shield. Further, the Lord is David’s glory and the lifter of his head. God is the one who grants dignity to David.
What’s more, the Lord shows Himself to be faithful. Psalm 136 reminds us in its refrain that God’s steadfast love endures forever! David calls out to God and the Lord answers him.
How can you and I show this kind of confidence in God? We can show this kind of confidence in God by following his instruction. We can humble ourselves and call on God to help us. And we should. We can confess our sins and ask for his help to repent of them. And we should. And we can examine ourselves and search God’s word, and pray that God would help us to be joyful, even in the middle of our trials.
3. David displays his confidence in God by resting
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.
Perhaps the best way we can display this kind of confidence in God, is the same way David displayed it: by resting. Even during the middle of a political coup, in the face of death, David lies down to sleep. Just as he seems to expect, he woke up again. Why did he wake up? He woke up because the Lord sustained him. David then declares in verse 6 what he just displayed in verse 5. He refuses to be afraid of his thousands of enemies.
I don’t know about each of you individually, but I have a hunch that you all tend to worry occasionally. You see I have this hunch because I know that I can easily slip into the habit of worrying about so many things. It’s an issue for me, and I know it’s an issue for others in my own family. I have to actively remind myself not to worry sometimes. Worry, though, is the opposite of resting. If you want to display a high confidence in God’s care and provision for you, then rest in God. Cast your cares on Him. Don’t worry about all of the things you usually worry about. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul wrote in chapter 4, verse 6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil 4:6). I urge you to search the scriptures to see that God is always faithful. You can trust Him and rest in that.
4. David prays for salvation
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
Finally we arrive at the apex of this Psalm. David prays for salvation and puts all of his hope in the Lord. His prayer in verse 7 brings us back up to his prayer in verse 1. To counter the many enemies that are rising up around him, David calls for God to rise up and save him. David acknowledges that God defeats his enemies. He says the Lord breaks the teeth of the wicked. What vivid imagery! Breaks the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation, the psalmist writes, belongs to the Lord. I’d like to read you this short excerpt from an old theologian:
I… consider the natural and obvious meaning to be simply this, that salvation or deliverance is only in the hands of God. By these words, David not only claims the office and praise of saving for God alone, tacitly opposing his power to all human succor (aid); but also declares, that although a thousand deaths hang over his people, yet this cannot render God unable to save them, or prevent him from speedily sending forth without any effort, the deliverance which he is always able to impart.
Salvation is of the Lord. God is sovereign! This is why you can have absolute confidence in God. This is why you can trust him to save you, not only from your current calamity—not only from your current suffering, but also from your very sins.
So to sum up, David turned to God in the face of real danger. Second, he maintained supreme confidence in God. Third he displayed confidence in God. And fourth, he prays for salvation, revealing the reason for his confidence.
David was facing enemies: his son Absalom and others in the kingdom who wanted him out. You may be facing personal enemies like David, or you may be encountering faceless enemies like an illness. Remember, though, that you have someone in whom you can have utmost confidence.
Also, our suffering here and now should cause you to consider the eternal suffering that you and I both deserve because of our sin and rebellion against God. You and I both deserve an eternity in hell. But the fact of the matter is that Salvation belongs to the Lord. On the cross, Jesus took the penalty for the sins of those who trust him as their Lord and Savior. This psalm is calling you to rest in God’s salvation. Humble yourself and repent of your sin. Stop trying to save yourself. Trust in Christ to save you from your own sin and rebellion, and you can be confident that he will come through for you.
Preached 11 July 2009 at Springhurst Health & Rehab.