1, O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me;
2, many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.
3, But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4, I cried aloud to the LORD, and He answered me from His holy hill.
5, I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
6, I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
7, Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For You strike all my enemies on the cheek; You break the teeth of the wicked.
8, Salvation belongs to the LORD; Your blessing be on Your people!
It is believed by theological scholars that David wrote this psalm in regards to his fleeing from Absalom, which is recorded in 2 Samuel 15-18. This psalm can therefore be applied to anyone who has experienced betrayal (for Absalom was David’s own son who tried usurping David’s throne), as well as those who experience anxiety. David’s enemies were not only militant and numerous, but they were also attempting to undermine his faith.
Every Christian experiences this at least once in his or her life. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will. We have enemies everywhere. They not only seek to destroy us (like ISIS currently), but also seek to undermine our faith (such as militant atheists like the infamous Richard Dawkins and self-proclaimed scientists like Bill Nye). They attempt to prove to us through their scientific whims that there is no God, and therefore no salvation in God. They forget that science is only capable of observing the natural, not the supernatural. There are few Christian scientists that properly see science as evidence of God. Albert Einstein himself said, “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” After all, Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork,” which we’ll get to much later in this series. However, in spite of this war against us, like David, we have hope in the Lord’s presence and providence.
A shield gives us the image of a largely shaped, blunt object in front of one’s body as it absorbs life-threatening blows in hand-to-hand combat. Christ is our shield, for He took the blow of death for us, and we thus have hope in the resurrection of the dead (refer to Romans 6:3-7, 10-11). While in the midst of persecution, we recall this hope and call upon the Lord for deliverance. Indeed, He answers our calls as we trust and rely on Him, just as David did on numerous occasions. David’s confidence in the Lord’s providence enabled him to sleep in spite of his life-threatening predicament. When we face overwhelming worry, stress, and anxiety, many of us suffer from insomnia. In this psalm, however, we are assured that the Lord can soothe one’s mind and provide sleep.
So, how do we know that we can trust in His providence?
I think we can gain a better understanding by going back to the end of the second psalm, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2, end of verse 12). There is no distinction. I believe the key is just taking complete refuge in Him and trusting Him to take care of you, which is promised for all people. Because we have the hope in Christ who is to come again, we can experience a lack of fear in spite of our thousands of enemies. Anyone who is not in Christ is considered an enemy of God (James 4:4), and therefore our enemies. Thus, we are literally surrounded by enemies, both known and unknown. But how many of us are actually afraid of this reality? Probably not many. I’m not afraid because of the hope I have in Christ, and from God’s providence in the past I know that He will continue to preserve me. This is only possible through the peace of the Lord (John 14:27), and I pray that you all experience this peace.
We experience God’s providence either through Him preserving our safety in the midst of trouble or danger, or by Him wiping out our enemies. I’ve experienced His preserving my safety multiple times, mostly when I was in the army, but He’s also preserved my safety on mission trips, such as when I fell through a ceiling and almost landed head-first on the corner of a metal furnace or the cement floor, but my leg got caught on something and I was able to get myself to safety. I suffered a severe injury to my leg, but if that hadn’t happened, I would’ve died or suffered permanent paralysis. When we went back to the site of the accident, there was literally nothing that could’ve caught on to my leg, so someone or something was there preventing my death/permanent injury. Before I had gone up into that ceiling, I prayed that God would keep me safe, which enabled me to trust Him that He would, and He did. In fact, after we observed the site of the accident, someone confessed that he witnessed a bright light in the shape of a vine “zoom” through the door nearest to me, and when it got to me, I immediately stopped falling. He looked away because the light was extremely bright, and when he looked back, I was standing on my one good leg. Why he was the only one who saw the angel, we don’t know, but what we do know is that God protected me because I trusted Him to do so. An extreme example, sure, but it just goes to show how far God will go to protect you if you just trust Him.
I suspect that there are many times in our lives when angels preserve our safety and we just don’t see them. The Bible says that God “will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:12). I mean, even Daniel was saved from hungry lions in the den only because “he trusted in his God” (Daniel 6:23). There are many other times when God preserves my safety, and yours, in every day situations, such as driving in bad weather. I may have suffered a severe injury, but by that injury my life was saved.
People use the existence of suffering as “evidence” of either God’s non-existence or that He is hateful or indifferent rather than loving. Such people ignore the evidence of His providence. Let’s use World War II as an example. The atheistic argument proposes that God allowed Hitler to reign; therefore God is either hateful, indifferent, or simply doesn’t exist. (It is hilarious that those who don’t believe in God presume to fathom His nature.) However, is Hitler still in reign? Did Nazi Germany win the war? Obviously not, for through the efforts of the Allied Forces, God preserved His people (Jewish and Gentile alike).
Since the human concupiscence is to sin since childhood (Genesis 8:21), we have the natural tendency to view evil as an absence of God, when God is always active. Evil is not the absence of God altogether; it is the absence of God’s love and good in the human heart. Just look at the Pharaoh in the book of Exodus. God was obviously present with Moses and His people, but Pharaoh’s heart was so hardened against God that God’s goodness was completely absent in him. God was absent in the evil heart of Pharaoh because he hardened his heart against God, not because God was indifferent about what happened to the Hebrew slaves; yet God was ever active in Moses, which led to the freedom of His people. Where evil is present, God is not inactive. Rather, it is where He is the most active, for no evil act lasts forever. In His timing, He destroys evil. Just because we can’t immediately recognize His presence doesn’t mean He’s not there.
David accentuates our hope in Christ at the end of this psalm: Salvation comes from God, which is effective through the works of Christ, in whom we have hope.
Psalm 3 Prayer
In the case that you fear for your safety, be it life-threatening or just from overwhelming worry, anxiety, or stress, here’s a prayer I’ve prepared for you all:
Father, please keep me safe. In Your mercy, preserve me. I trust in Your providence. If it be Your will that I come home to You, so be it. But if it be Your will that I continue to dwell amongst my enemies [or suffer through anxiety, etc.], I ask that You guard over me and grant me solace.
[Additionally, if you suffer with insomnia]: Father, like David, grant me Your peace so I may sleep, that I may battle this anxiety and continue my living tomorrow and each day that follows. Grant me rest, O Lord. Help me to be resilient so that I may win the battle of anxiety. Lord, thank You for Your providence, and thank you for Your salvation through Christ. In the name of Jesus I pray, amen.
Garrick Sinclair "Ricky" Beckett first started his Christian writing on a blog titled "The Lutheran Column" where he hires proficient Lutheran writers to convey biblical truth. Along with the blog, he also writes poetry, string quartets in music composition, enjoys doing photography, reading, and playing video games. Ricky is a graduate from Concordia University-Ann Arbor from the Pre-Seminary program with a major in Christian Thought and a minor in Theological Languages. Currently, Ricky is a seminarian at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis as he works on his Masters of Divinity to become a pastor in the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).
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