BOOK ONE Psalms 1–41
In the previous psalm the royal dignity of the Redeemer was shown us through King David. Now Psalm 3 by the example of David in distress, shows us the peace and holy security of the redeemed. How safe they really are under divine protection. David, being now driven out from his palace, from the royal, holy city by his rebellious son Absalom makes his complaint to God. Yet he also speaks of the power and goodness of God and the safety and tranquility of the godly. Psalm 3
PSALM 3 – A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son
Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. Arise, O Lord; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah
Is any afflicted?
Henry says – The title of this psalm and many others is as a key hung ready at the door, to open it. When we know on what occasion a psalm was penned we know how to expound it. This was composed and offered up to God, when King David fled from Absalom his son, who formed a conspiracy against him, to take away, not just his crown but his life. The story can be read in 2 Sam. 15:1–16:14.
David was now in great grief and in his flight, he went up the Mount of Olives marching bare-foot. There he wept greatly, with his head covered and yet then he composed this psalm of comfort. He wept and prayed, wept and sung, wept and believed. This was sowing in tears. Is any afflicted? Let him pray and sing psalms. Is any afflicted with disobedient children? David was and yet that did not hinder his joy in God, nor put him out of tune for holy songs.
He renewed his repentance of it
He was now in great danger. The plot against him was deep, the party that sought his ruin was very formidable, and his own son at the head of them. Yet then he kept hold of his interest in God. Perils and frights should drive us to God, not drive us away from him. He had now a great deal of provocation given him by those from whom he had reason to expect better things, from his own son. His son whom he had been indulgent of, whom he had been so great a blessing to. Yet he was so far from any indecent expressions of indignation. He had a calmness enough for these acts of devotion which require the greatest fixedness of thought.
The sedateness of his mind evoked the Spirit to come upon him, for the Spirit chooses to move upon still waters. Let no unkindness, not of a child or a friend, ever be laid upon our heart as to disqualify us for communion with God. He was now suffering for his sin in the matter of Uriah. This was the evil for which God threatened to raise up against him out of his own house (2 Sam. 12:11). No doubt, he recalled and took the occasion to renew his repentance for it.
Patiently bearing, patiently waiting
Yet he did not cast away his confidence in divine power and goodness. Even our sorrow for sin must not hinder our joy or hope in God. He seemed cowardly in fleeing from Absalom, and quitting his royal city, before he had had one struggle for it. Yet, by this psalm, it appears he was full of true courage arising from his faith in God. True Christian fortitude consists in a gracious security and serenity of mind, in patiently bearing and patiently waiting.
In the first three verses he applies to God. Where else should we go but to Him when anything grieves or frightens us? David was now at a distance from the courts of God’s house, where he used to pray yet he could still find a way heaven-ward. Wherever we are we may have access to God, and may draw nigh to Him. David receives information of their plans against him, which he brings to God, not to his own advisory-board.
Yet there is help in God
David complained to God that his enemies were very many: Lord, how are they increased! Absalom’s faction had strangely gathered motion. He speaks of it as one amazed that a people he had in so many ways obliged should rebel against him. How slippery and deceitful are the many! And how fidelity and constancy are to be found among so few men! Christ, the Son of David, had many enemies. When a great multitude came to seize Him, the crowd cried, Crucify Him, Crucify Him. Even good people must not think it strange if the powers that threaten them grow more and more formidable.
His enemies concluded that because so many rose up against him that, There is no help for him in God. That God had deserted him and abandoned his cause, and so he was therefore to be looked on as a wicked man. They blasphemously reflected upon God as unable to relieve him: “His danger is so great that God Himself cannot help him.” They endeavoured to shake his confidence in God and drive him to despair: “They have said it to my soul.” Compare Ps. 11:1; 42:10. This grieved him worst of all, that they had so bad an opinion of him that they thought it possible to take him off from that foundation. A child of God startles at the very thought of persuading him that there is no help for him in God.
Get thee behind me, Satan
David comes to God, and tells Him what his enemies said of him, as Hezekiah spread Rabshakeh’s blasphemous letter before the Lord. They say to my soul, There is no salvation” (for so the word is) “for him in God. But, Lord, do You not say to my soul, I am Your salvation (Ps. 35:3) and that shall satisfy me, and in due time silence them.” To this complaint he adds Selah, which occurs about seventy times in the book of Psalms. A note commanding a solemn pause. Selah—Mark that, or, “Stop there, and consider a little.” As here, they say, There is no help for him in God, Selah. “Take time for such a thought as this. Get thee behind me, Satan. The Lord rebuke you! Away with such a vile suggestion!”
With a profession of his dependence upon God, Ps. 3:3 “But thou, O Lord! art a shield for me”. The more an active believer is discouraged from God, either by Godly rebukes or the reproaches of enemies, the faster hold he should take of Him and the closer He should cleave to Him. So David here cries out with so much more assurance, let them say what they will, I am sure You will never desert me, and I am resolved I will never distrust You.” God is to His people Safety: “You are a shield for me, a shield about me”, “to secure me on all sides, since my enemies surrounded me.” Not only my shield (Gen. 15:1), but a shield for me, which denotes a present benefit and advantage of that protection.
My spirit shall not fail
Those whom God owns for His are not only safe but also have true honour, far above that which those of the earth can bestow. David was now in disgrace, the crown had fallen from his head, but he will not think the worse of himself while he has God for his glory, Isa. 60:19. “You are my glory”, “this is what I aim for, that whatever my lot is, and whatever becomes of my honour—that I may be to my God for a name and a praise.”
“You art the lifter up of my head, You wilt lift up my head out of and under my troubles, so that I shall not be discouraged, nor shall my spirits fail.” In the worst of times, God’s people can lift up their heads with joy, knowing that all shall work for them for good. They will then accept that it is God who is the lifter of their head and gives them hearts to rejoice.
looking forward to a bright outcome
In singing and praying over Psalm 3, we should apprehend the danger we are in from the malice of our spiritual enemies, who seek the ruin of our souls by driving us away from our God. But we should encourage ourselves in our God, who owns and protects us. In due time He will crown His own interest both in the world and in the hearts of His people.
David stirred himself up from the irritations of his enemies and took hold of God as his God. In so doing he gained comfort in looking upward. Though if he looked around him all was discouraging. But in looking back at the benefit he had derived from trusting in God, he looks forward with pleasing expectations of a very bright outcome. This dark dispensation he was now under would shortly be brought to an end.
Care and grief so us good
David takes comfort in looking back on the communion he had had with God and of His favour to him. Either in some former trouble he had been in or through God’s goodness that had come through. He had been trained through many difficulties, often oppressed and brought very low, but still he had found God all-sufficient.
He now remembers that his troubles had always brought him to his knees. In all his difficulties and dangers, he had been enabled to acknowledge God and to lift up his heart and voice to Him: I cried unto God with my voice. Care and grief do us good and not harm when they set us praying, and engage us, not only to speak to God, but to cry to Him as one in earnest. Though God understands the language of the heart, when the voice is not heard (1 Sam. 1:13), yet, when the earnestness of the voice comes from the fervency of the heart, it shall be taken notice of.
Through Christ the Father always hears us
David had always found God ready to answer his prayers: He heard me out of His holy hill, from heaven, the high and holy place. David had ordered Zadok to carry back the ark into the city when he was flying from Absalom (2 Sam. 15:25). The ark of the covenant was in Mount Zion, and all the answers to our prayers come from the promises of that covenant. Christ was set as King upon the holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2:6), and it is through Him, whom the Father always hears, that our prayers are heard.
David had always been very safe and very at ease under the divine protection (Ps. 3:5): “I laid myself down and slept, composed and quiet; and awaked refreshed, for the Lord sustained me.” We ought to give thanks for these mercies every morning. Many have nowhere to lay their head or if they have they dare not lie down for fear of the enemy. But we lay ourselves down in peace.
We lie down and sleep in safety
Many lie down and cannot sleep, but are full of tossings to and fro till the dawning of the day. Either with pain of body, or anguish of mind, or the continual alarms of fear in the night. But we lie down and sleep in safety, even though we are incapable of doing anything for our own preservation. Many lie down and sleep, and never awake again, they sleep the sleep of death. But we lie down and sleep, and awake again to the light and comfort of another day. Any why is this? because the Lord has sustained us with sleep as with food. We have been safe under His protection and at ease in the arms of His provision.
David experienced a wonderful quietness and calmness of spirit, in the midst of his dangers. Having by prayer committed himself and his cause to God, and being sure of His protection, his heart was fixed, and he was at ease. The disloyalty of his son and subjects, the treachery of many of his friends, the fatigues of his march, and the uncertainty of the event, never deprived him of an hour’s sleep, nor gave any disturbance to his rest. For the Lord, by His grace and the consolations of His Spirit, powerfully sustained him and made him at ease. It is a great mercy when we are in trouble to have our minds stayed upon God.
His arm is not shortened
The teeth that are gnashed or sharpened against God’s people shall be broken. God had often broken the power and restrained the malice of his enemies, had smitten them upon the cheek-bone (Ps. 3:7). He silences them and puts them to shame, disabling them from doing the mischief they intend; for he had broken their teeth. Saul and the Philistines, who were sometimes ready to swallow David up, could not carry out their plans. When, at any time, the power of the enemies of God’s people seems threatening, it is good to remember how often God has broken it. His arm is not shortened. He can stop their mouths and tie their hands.
Having put himself under God’s protection his fears were all stilled and silenced, Ps. 3:6. He defies the impotent attempts of his enemies! “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that either in a foreign invasion or an intense rebellion set themselves, or encamp, against me round about.” No man seemed less safe (his enemies are numerous, ten thousands) and yet no man was more secure: “I will not be afraid, they cannot hurt me, and therefore they shall not frighten me. I will not disquiet myself, distrust my God, nor doubt of a good outcome in the end.” When David, in his flight from Absalom concluded, like a humble penitent, Here I am; let Him do to me what seems good to Him, 2 Sam. 15:26.
His faith brought triumph
But now, like a strong believer, he speaks confidently, and has no fear concerning the event. A cheerful resignation to God is the way to obtain a cheerful satisfaction and confidence in God. His prayers were quickened and encouraged, Ps. 3:7. He believed God was his Saviour, and yet prays, Arise, O Lord! save me, O my God! Promises of salvation do not supersede, but engage, our petitions for it.
His faith became triumphant. He began the psalm with complaints of the strength and malice of his enemies, but concludes it with exultation in the power and grace of his God, and now sees more with him than against him, Ps. 3:8. He builds his confidence and fetches comfort from the fact that salvation belongs to the Lord. He has power to save, however great the danger; it is His prerogative to save, when all other helps fail. It is His pleasure and His promise to those who are His, whose salvation is not of themselves, but of the Lord.
He has pronounced blessing
Therefore all that have the Lord for their God, according to the new covenant, are sure of salvation. His blessing is upon His people. He not only has power to save them, but He has assured them of His kind and gracious intentions towards them. He has, in His Word, pronounced a blessing upon His people. Even though there may be no visible effects of it, we are bound to believe that the blessing rests upon us. And so we may conclude that God’s people, though they may lie under the reproaches of men, are surely blessed of Him, who blesses indeed.
In singing and praying this Psalm 3 we must own the satisfaction we have in depending upon God and committing ourselves to Him. Let us encourage ourselves, and one another to continue still hoping and quietly waiting for the salvation of the Lord.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
I cry to the Lord I cry out to the Lord. In quietness my heart is still. I listen and He answers me From His holy hill. When my cry goes up to Him Inwardly I can rejoice and sing For His answers to me Are an on-going thing. To Him we are very special Of exceedingly great worth It is as though each of us Is the only one on earth. By the late Andrew Feakin [passed away 16th March 2019]
Prayer for the Day
Father, I come to You. Forgive me where there has been unkindness in my heart. Let me not ever be disqualified from communion with You. Convict my of my sin yet let it not hinder my joy or hope in You. Let me not ever cast away my confidence in Your divine power and goodness. May I have true Christian fortitude patiently bearing and waiting in serenity of mind.
Forgive me when I have gone elsewhere to other listening ears instead of to You when something has aggrieved me. Whenever I am tempted to believe there is no help for me. Prompt me to reply with ‘get thee behind me, Satan. Away with such a vile suggestion!’ May I be as one who when discouraged from You, I take a faster hold of You and the closer I cleave to You. For You are safety to me: “You are a shield for me, a shield about me”.
I declare that You are the lifter of my head out of and under all my troubles. I know that all shall work for good for me for I love You. Help me to take hold of You as my God and so gain comfort in looking upward. As I look back I see the benefit in trusting in You so I can look forward with pleasing expectations of a bright outcome.
Though I may often be oppressed and brought very low, still I shall find that You are all-sufficient. Thank You for cares and griefs for I know they do me good and not harm, for they cause me to pray in earnest and cry out to You. Remind me to give thanks to You for new mercies every morning. For You sustain me with sleep as well as with food. I am safe under Your protection and at ease in the arms of Your provision.
When I am in trouble help me keep my mind stayed upon You. For by Your grace and the consolations of Your Spirit You will powerfully sustain me in Your great mercy. Help me remember how often You have broken the power of the enemy. Teach me to have a cheerful resignation to You and so obtain a cheerful satisfaction and confidence in You. You alone have the power to save.
You not only have the power to save me, but You assure me of Your kind and gracious intentions towards me. In Your Word, You have pronounced a blessing upon Your people. Even though there may be no visible effects of it, I am bound to believe that the blessing rests upon me. In singing and praying this psalm help me to own the satisfaction I have in depending on You and committing myself to You. Let me encourage myself and others to continue to still hope and quietly wait for Your salvation. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.