A Psalm of Lament
A psalm of David
when he fled from his son Absalom
Trust in all phases of the battle.
The psalmist is surrounded by enemies who threaten his life and deny the possibility that the Lord will come to his rescue.
Against such taunts, the psalmist hopes that the Lord will answer his heartfelt prayer, even managing to boast that the Lord will give protection in life’s most vulnerable moment.
He prays that the Lord, like a warrior, will defang the enemy. The defeat of his enemies constitutes a public vindication of the psalmist.
A peaceful statement of praise is uttered after hearing the oracle of salvation promising rescue. The “salvation,” or rescue, that the enemies denied.
I am safe in the Lord's keeping.
2 How many are my foes, O Lord!
How many are rising up against me!
3 How many are saying about me:
"There is no help for him in God."
4 But you, Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, who lift up my head.
5 I cry aloud to the Lord.
He answers from his holy mountain.
6 I lie down to rest, and I sleep.
I wake, for the Lord upholds me.
7 I will not fear even thousands of people
who are ranged on every side against me.
8 Arise, Lord; save me, my God,
you who strike my foes on the mouth,
you who break the teeth of the wicked!
9 O Lord of salvation, bless your people!
Athanasian Grail Psalter 1
Excerpts from St. Augustine's 'Exposition on Psalm 3'
The words, “I lay down and slept, the Lord preserved me to rise again.” lead us to believe that this Psalm refers more to the Passion and Resurrection of Christ than to David’s flight from the his rebellious son. And, since it is written of Christ, "his undutiful son" refers to that disciple who betrayed Him more than it does to Absalom.
Absalom, in Latin 'patris pax', means a 'father’s peace'. Even while at war with his son, David lamented his death crying out, “O Absalom, my son, would God I had died for thee!” Absalom is called a 'father’s peace', because David possessed God's peace, and Absalom did not.
It may seem strange, whether in the history of the kings when Absalom carried on war against his father; or when Judas was the betrayer of our Lord; how a “father’s peace” can be understood. When Judas abandoned the Power and Wisdom of God, the Devil wholly occupied him and "entered into his heart". Truth fled from his mind and ceased to enlighten him. Yet, even then, in his rebellion, Jesus loved him. In the utmost irony, Judas betrayed God's annointed Son with a 'kiss of peace' - a peace he refused to possess.
“O Lord, how they are multiplied that trouble me!”. So multiplied were they, that even one of His disciples was added to the number of His persecutors. “Many rise up against me; many say unto my soul, There is no salvation for him in his God”.
If they had any idea that Christ would rise again, had they comprehended His words, certainly they would not have slain Him. To this end are those speeches, “Let Him come down from the cross, if He be the Son of God;” and again, “He saved others, Himself He cannot save.”
“With my voice have I cried unto the Lord”; that is, not with the voice of the body, but with the voice of the heart, which to men speaks not, but with God sounds as a cry. By this voice Susanna was heard; and with this voice the Lord Himself commanded that prayer should be made in closets, that is, in the recesses of the heart.
God out of His justice heard. For it was just that He should raise again from the dead the Innocent who was slain, and to whom evil had been recompensed for good, and that He should render to the persecutor a meet reward, who repaid Him evil for good. For we read, “Thy justice is as the mountains of God.”
“I slept, and took rest” “I,” signifies that of His own Will He underwent death, according to that, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” These things are prophesied as yet to come; but in the knowledge of those who prophesy they are already viewed as done.
“I will not fear the thousands of people that surround me”. . It is written in the Gospels how great a multitude stood around Him as He was suffering, and on the cross. “Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God”. .
“Since Thou hast smitten all who oppose me without a cause, Thou hast broken the teeth of the sinners;” that is, the words of sinners cursing the Son of God. The teeth of sinners can also be taken as the chiefs of sinners; by whose authority each one is cut off from the fellowship of the godly. Let no man presume on himself, seeing that it is the Lord who saves from the death of sin; for, “Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” But do Thou, O Lord, bless Thy people, who look for salvation from Thee. 2-6
This psalm speaks of David and of Christ. David is betrayed by his son Absolom. Christ is betrayed by Judas. David is surrounded by enemies who threaten his life. Christ is nailed to the Cross. David's enemies deny the possibility that the Lord will come to his rescue. The Jews chant, "Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him." David is assured of the Lord's protection. He sleeps on the battlefield. Jesus hears the words, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased". He rests in the tomb. David is rescued. Christ is resurrected. David's faith is vindicated. Christ's obedience saves the whole world.
Against the taunts of his enemies, David’s confidence was in Lord. He entered the battle with a heartfelt prayer. He prays that the Lord, like a warrior, will defang his enemies. Jesus prays, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will.” David knows that his deliverance and vindication comes from the Lord alone. Jesus is "the way and the truth and the life." David was safe in the Lord's keeping. Jesus ascends to the Father: Mission Accomplished!
Trust in all phases of the battle. 2-6
An active believer, the more he is beaten off from God, either by the rebukes of providence, or the reproaches of enemies, the faster he will take hold, and the closer will he cleave to Him. A child of God startles at the very thought of despairing for help in God. He knows what God is to his people, what He will be, what they have found in Him.
Care and grief do us good, when they engage us to pray to God in earnest. David had always found God ready to answer his prayers. Nothing can force a gulf between the communications of God’s grace and the working of his grace in us; between his favour and our faith if we live in communion with Him. David is safe under God's Divine Protection.
It is a great mercy, when we are in trouble, to have our minds stayed upon God. Behold the Son of David composing himself to his rest upon the cross, that bed of sorrows; commending his Spirit into the Father’s hands in full confidence of a joyful resurrection. 'Behold this, O Christian: let faith teach thee how to sleep, and how to die; while it assures thee that as sleep is a short death, so death is only a longer sleep; the same God watches over thee, in thy bed and in thy grave'.
David’s faith became triumphant. He began the psalm with complaints of the strength and malice of his enemies; but concludes with rejoicing in the power and grace of his God, and now sees more with him than against him. Salvation belongs unto the Lord; he has power to save, be the danger ever so great. All that have the Lord for their God, are sure of salvation; for he who is their God - the God of Salvation. (Revised from: Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary) 5