Psalm 3 – the protection of God:
So tempting to turn this into a bland, condition-free promise of God’s protection. And quite a few people I’ve been speaking to over the last few days have been looking for that -’God’s in control; it’ll turn out OK in the end.’ No such promise: if there were, then there would be no famine, no war, no sickness. There are Christians in pretty much every country in the world. So no, God does not promise that your savings or your pension or your health will be preserved. Christians are just as likely to suffer from depression, dementia or cancer as anyone else; they are just as likely to be on the wrong end of a car accident as anyone else. To suggest otherwise would be unfair of me; to expect otherwise would be to fall for the temptation of Satan – the angels surely won’T let you fall. It’s why I’ve always been suspicious of those ‘I prayed, and didn’t get on the plane that was about to crash’ stories: what evil did the other people who did get on the plane commit? And wouldn’t it be kinder of God to fill the plane with Christians – who know they have eternal life – and to let the non-Xns get off? So reading Psalm 3 as that kind of promise would be unfair. And it wouldn’t help us deal with the hard bits.
So – as always, we need to start with context. The heading points us to Absalom’s rebellion, and that’s later on in David’s life, when Absalom, his son, turns against David. Whether the Psalm was written at that moment, or written bearing that moment in mind for David, or written later honouring that experience isn’t obvious, but neither is it important. What is important is that the subtitle gives us a context in which to make sense of the Psalm.
So we have David, surrounded by enemies out to get him. They intend to depose him, and supplant him. And, of course, to take his crown from him.
This is an attack not just on David, but upon his leadership of the nation. Made more complex in that it is Absalom – a son of David, but his son by Maacah, the daughter of a king off to the north. Not an Israelite, and certainly not the son through whom his lineage was to run.
God says four things to David:
Don’t become captive to fear; I am with you. I am greater than any enemy.
Don’t cease to trust me. Your future is safe in my hands – you can sleep easily, because I am sovereign.
Don’t start counting the enemy. Earthly reckoning doesn’t work faith. This message has come through Moses, and it will come again to Gideon, and to many others. If you start working out who is winning according to the numbers, then you will make foolish, faithless mistakes.
Remember that it isn’t simply about you – it’s about the people. David was so far from ‘righteous’. But God had a people he needed to care for.
And it would be easy to say the same things: God is bigger than our enemies; we can trust him with our future, no matter how grim the situation might look; for he is with his people.
And while that’s all true, it misses the point. It’s a great homily to be delivered in the synagogue. But this Psalm needs to come to us through Jesus. We’re not King David, you and I. We are not the protectors of a nation or the channel through whom a dynasty is preserved. How do these promises become ours?
They must become Christ’s first. He is great David’s greater son; he is the one through whom David’s line must pass. And the enemies are not our enemies; they are his enemies.
So all the promises of God to David are realised in God’s saving of Jesus. God frees him from fear, and Jesus is safe in God’s hands. God leads Jesus not around the Cross but to the Cross and through the Cross to a place of glory. That’s why I can say confidently that Psalm 3 doesn’t promise deliverance from tough times but deliverance through tough times – just like for Jesus.
Here’s the promise. Abide in Him, in Christ, and you will receive both the opposition, and the shield. In Christ, we can sleep, we can rest, we can be confident. This isn’t a sinecure, God saying ‘there, there. Everything will be alright.’ He says that to us – but he says it in Christ. It is true of us because it is true of Him, and it is true of us only in so far as we are in Him. We hear the promises of God to David through the experience of Jesus.
John 16:33 – “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble; but take heart! I have overcome the world.”