Not about me
My time as a teacher was good. The principal and the school administration were on my side, my colleagues were easy to get along with, and the students were ok. But over four and a half years there were times of stress that messed with my thinking. There were times when l wished that my situation was different. Occasionally I irrationally thought that the world was against me. Happily these dark times were few, but during them I found myself driving to school singing Ps 3: ‘Oh Lord how are my foes increased, against me many rise.’
Now, this Psalm was undoubtedly written for the comfort of God’s people. It is for their peace and consolation. But the Psalm is NOT about me, and it is not about you. We may not apply this Psalm directly to ourselves.
That is what the title of the Psalm tells us, and it is important information. The Hebrew titles of the Psalms are as much the word of God as the Psalms themselves. The title of this Psalm tells us that the ‘me’ and the ‘I’ in this Psalm refer to king David, or more correctly, to the Lord’s anointed.
The word ‘anointed’ refers to the fact that, in ancient Israel, kings and priests, and sometimes prophets, had oil poured on their heads when they were given their job of king, priest or prophet. The Bible term for a person so anointed is Messiah or Christ. Jesus himself told his disciples, after he had risen from the dead, that the law, the prophets and the psalms were all about him (Luke 24:44).
This refers not only to the famous Messianic Psalms, like Ps 2, 8, 16, 22, 45 and 110, but in one way or another to all 150 Psalms.
So the Psalm is about the troubles and victory of the LORD’s anointed, the Christ.
The title tells us of David’s troubles. His son Absalom had staged a coup, a revolution. He has won the support of important high officials, he has stolen the heart of many of the people, and David and his few remaining followers had fled the City of Jerusalem. War is upon him. Ahithophel, David’s old friend and advisor, has gone over to Absalom and has counselled him to attack David immediately and kill him while his forces are still unorganised.
How my foes have increased… How many rise up against me.
David had had his share of enemies in the past. Goliath, king Saul, the surrounding pagan nations but they did not hurt like his new enemies. These new enemies came from his family, his friends and his people. These troubles came as a result of David’s sins of adultery and murder. God had freely forgiven David these terrible crimes, but told him plainly that serious trouble would come to him because of these outrages.
Trouble came. Absalom had become estranged from David when Absalom murdered his half-brother, Amnon. You see, Amnon had raped Absalom’s sister. After a half-hearted reconciliation with David, Absalom used the opportunity to plot against his father, over throw him, rape his father’s concubines, and then plot his father’s death.
How many say, there is no help for him in God.
People were saying that David was as good as dead. Even God, his God, could not or would not save him.
‘Could not’: If they meant this, it was a blasphemy designed to throw David into despair in an argument from his present circumstances.
All the power of the kingdom was now arrayed against him. David, from a human point of view, was as good as dead. No one, it seemed, could possibly rescue David from his plight, not even God. And, if David was lost, the few who followed him would be lost as well. If his followers were to be safe, David would have to win out of these troubles. Their hope was bound to David.
‘Would not’: This argument was to bring David to despair by considering his present troubles as God’s final rejection of David. It was as if his enemies were saying, ‘God had remove king Saul for his sins, so now God is removing David for his sins. God has abandoned him. David has no hope in God become God has withdrawn his love and protection. David is lost.’ (2 Sam 16:5-8)
Remember, if David is lost, abandoned by God, so are those who follow him.
‘But you are my shield and glory’. How could David say this?
First, God had spoken mercifully to him. In this darkest hour, God’s assurance — spoken in the past, but not revoked — was David’s hope. You, Lord, are the one who lifts up my head. You have kept me from despair. You have shown me mercy. The Lord was David’s hope despite present circumstances.
Second, because David was assured of God’s love to him, he could rely upon him as he had in the past. ‘You have always struck my foes’. David’s past victories in battle were due to God acting for him. God had disabled David’s enemies. ‘I will not be afraid of 10 thousands of people’.
This hope of David’s was also the hope of David’s followers. When God saves David, David’s people are saved too. In fact, David only had a people — he had only became King — because God had defeated Saul, David’s foe. God had subdue these people under David.
‘I lay down and slept, and I awakened, for God restored my life.’
These words indicate David’s confidence in the Lord. He could sleep peacefully in the midst of great trouble and danger, because God was for him. God was with him to save his life.
David and his follows were not disappointed in their trust in God. The enemy was defeated. David was restored to his throne. The Lord again had set his anointed on his holy hill (Ps.2).
Christ the Lord’s anointed.
We cannot leave Ps 3 there. Our Lord Jesus has told us that this Psalm and all the Psalms are about him. What is the pattern?
A king rejected by his own people. They had rebelled against him. ‘He came to his own and his own did not receive him’. They would not have Jesus rule over them.
A king crying out to his God —
- In the garden before his arrest ‘If it be your will, let this cup — this judgement — pass from me.
- on the cross… ‘Father forgive them’; ‘My God, why have you forsaken me’; ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit.’
- Hebrews 5:7-9 Jesus, ‘who, in the days of his fresh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong cryings and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard’.
A king betrayed by a friend. ‘Judas, one of the twelve, with a great crowd with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders’
A king surrounded by his enemies and thought to be as good as dead. This happened most clearly on the cross. ‘Save yourself, if you are the Christ, the son of God.’
A king suffering for sin, but in Jesus’ case, not for his own sins, but because he was taking responsibility for the sins of his people. ‘The son of man has come to give his life as a ransom for many’ … ‘By his wounds we are healed.’
A king who was as good as dead, who really lay down, not in sleep but in death. Yet this king was awakened — raised from the dead — because the Lord sustained his life.
By these things, our Lord Jesus Christ brought salvation to his people, by his death and resurrection he subdued his rebellious people to himself and saved them.
‘Salvation belongs to the Lord’ It is his alone to give or withhold. The Lord saves his anointed, and as he is saved, his people are saved too. ‘Blessing — or happiness; salvation!– be upon your people.’
Notice again that the Psalm is about the Lord’s anointed. His troubles because of sin, and his victory over sin and death. As the Christ wins, he saves his people and defeats his enemies.
We have nothing to do in this battle against sin and death but to trust ourselves to the Christ, the Lord’s anointed. Because he has won, we are saved.
Because we are saved, we may now live under the kingly rule of our Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ.