The Word Made Fresh
(A psalm David composed when he had to flee from his son Absalom.)
1O LORD, I have so many enemies,
and they are gathering against me.
2People are saying, “God is not going to help him.”
3But you, LORD, are my protector.
You are glorious. You are the one who keeps me safe.
4I cry out to you,
and you answer me from your sacred heights.
5So, I can lie down and sleep knowing I will awaken again,
because the LORD keeps my life.
6I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies surrounding me.
7Rise up, LORD! Save me, O my God!
Slap my enemy’s face! Break the teeth of the wicked!
8You, LORD, are the one who can deliver me and rescue your people.
Superscription: nearly half of the psalms are ascribed to David, and almost all of them in Book I (Psalms 1-41) are labeled “a psalm of David”. In many cases it is difficult to tell what the precise connection is – whether David wrote it, or it was written for him or about him, or later editors saw in the psalm some reference to a specific event in David’s life. Psalm 3 is introduced as a “Psalm of David,” and tells us that the psalm is related to the time in David’s later reign when he fled from Jerusalem during an attempted coup by his son Absalom (see 2 Samuel 15).
1-2: The setting is immediately recognizable as one in which powerful foes are being confronted, and indeed David’s problems with Absalom are an appropriate backdrop. Specifically, though, his enemies are challenging God’s support for him, and in this the psalm might apply to any number of events during David’s reign. We meet here for the first time the little word “Selah” (after verses 2, 4 and 8) which is not translated and is untranslatable. The best guess is that it is an instruction for the leader of worship in which the psalm is being used. Perhaps it signals a pause, or a musical interlude of some kind. Because we are not certain of its meaning, and because it does not seem to have any effect on the psalm other than a pause, some translations omit the term altogether.
3-4: David (or any of us for that matter) depends on God’s help and protection. He cries out to the LORD on high, meaning he has taken his complaint to the temple on Mt. Zion, God’s “holy hill,” or “sacred heights.” He has made an official plea to God for help.
5-6: Having placed his fate in God’s hands, he is able to sleep at night and cast off his fears during the day. What a great lesson we have here!
7-8: He petitions God for his protection and support and ends with a statement of faith that God will bring deliverance.
All of us face threats in life. Sometimes they are physical to our health and well-being, but they may be threats to our financial security, or to our general state of mind and body and spirit. Putting our troubles in God’s hand can indeed help us to sleep at night and awaken to the new day without distress.