I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. Psalm 3:4, 5
In Flight from Absalom
Psalm 3 is a lament psalm ascribed to David. The superscription indicates a precise setting: the period of David’s flight from his son Absalom. This is one of the few psalm titles that ties a psalm to a specific incident in the life of David. The brief poem has four movements: 1. David’s opening lament, 2. His strong confession of trust, 3. his determined act of faith and 4. His continuing plea.
David experiences abandonment when he flees during Absalom’s rebellion his hope is restored by thoughts of God, and he knows a peace which frees him to rest. David describes his feelings of abandonment as the northern tribes proclaim Absalom king and drive him from Jerusalem. Yet, the memory of all God has been to David sustains him and he finds rest. David appeals to God for deliverance and finds comfort in remembering how God struck his enemies in the past.
No deliverance? (1:2) David had failed morally with Bathsheba before this event, and the sins of his own children led many to conclude that God had deserted him. David found courage in realizing what God was to and for him (3:3). The phrase “who lifts up my head” is a metaphor for strengthen.
3:1, 2 Many: At this point in David’s life there was one specific foe who troubled him greatly – his son Absalom. However, David’s friends had also become his foes because they were advising him that no one would help him, not even God.
1 A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son. Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. 2 Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah
3:3, 4 The phrase but You, O Lord changes the mood of the psalm from dejection to confidence. David says three things of the Lord: 1. When no one would help David, God was his shield. 2. When David had nothing to treasure God was his glory. 3. When no one would encourage him, God Himself would encourage him and lift his head. Holy hill is a poetic reference to God’s dwelling in heaven; the place of Israel’s worship was but a physical symbol of this dwelling.
3:5, 6 I lay down and slept: Given the stress that David faced, it is remarkable that he was able to enjoy a night’s rest. This was possibly only because of God’s sustaining power. God’s gift of rest may be given even in the most troubling times. I will not be afraid: When God is one’s protector, there is no need to fear.
3:7, 8 In the language of the lament psalms, David calls out for God to arise, to move on his behalf, to incline to his prayer. On the cheekbone: In the poetic imagery David uses, his enemies are like powerful beasts whose strength is in their jaws and whose terror is in their teech. God’s strike at the source of their strength means that they are no longer a threat. Salvation, in this instance, refers to deliverance from the immediate pressure that the psalm has already described. One meaning of the Hebrew word translated salvation is “room to breathe.” Your people: As is the pattern in Psalms, the experience of the individual becomes the template for the community.
7 Arise, O Lord; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. 8 Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah
3 1 A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son. Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. 2 Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah 3 But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
4 I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah 5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around. 7 Arise, O Lord; Save me, O my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly. 8 Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah