This is a psalm that should never have been written
How can I write that? How can I say that here is a passage in the Bible that should not have been written?
We must not read verse 1 and decide it was just another one of David’s moments of flight or fight. That will cause us to discard too much. This time the foes were Israelites. This time the foes were family even. More so those events had a poignant and unfortunate backstory. Interwoven through it was the permanence of the consequences of sin on the one hand and the permanence of God’s love on the other.
So David was in a moment of flight or fight, but it was different. This time David was on the run from his rogue son Absalom. David in his 60’s had been forced from Jerusalem by this son who was about half his age. This coup was but the culmination of a career of Absalom’s misdeeds that had included revenge killing, proud parades in Jerusalem, and sowing discontent among the people. Once David had been driven out this son he even slept his dad’s wives, publicly.
That is how bad things were in Israel. Things were bad in Israel because of the permanence of sin. Even so David wrote Psalm 3 as an expression of praise and a request for help from God.
Let’s rewind to a point some 20 years before the coup
In 2nd Samuel the bad deeds of David had been unfolding an in chapter 12 are be seen the foreboding words: “And the Lord sent Nathan to David…” David had had contempt for God in an illicit liaison with Bathsheba. From that union a child had been born. Traditionally it is held that Nathan the prophet arrived on the day of this child’s birth. The child died seven days later.
That was a sad day in the palace. The secret of David’s deceits was called into account by God.
The infamous event with Bathsheba was not a one night stand. That evening event degenerated into deceit, malice and murder. The cover up failed and a baby had arrived. Things were not good. When Nathan came he reported to David what God had seen. David had despised the word of the Lord; David had done evil before God; David had been ungrateful and other things. One of the splintering results was that God’s enemies had shown utter contempt for God.
Nathan told of the judgments God had pronounced
There were several judgments that were pronounced from this: the sword would never leave his house, another would sleep with his wives in broad daylight, and the child of this illicit union would die. That child died within 7 days. The permanence of these pronouncements though went on and on with family squabbles culminating in exile, violation of his wives, and the death of that other son Absalom.
There was permanence in the marks of those sins upon David’s household.
Here comes psalm 3
When David was a young man he had to run from Saul. Now David as an older man had to run from Absalom. God was David’s strength in both of these trying seasons. In David’s earlier runnings he was being prepared for the throne of Israel. In these later runnings David had been usurped from that throne. We read in Psalm 3 David’s petition to God for deliverance.
Psalm 3, though, never needed to be written, but it was and through it we see the remarkable character of God. David would had done well to have avoided contempt for God’s word. He did not though. By remembering that backstory important conclusions can be drawn about God and his forgiveness. Not only were the consequences of David’s sin permanent, but also God’s love and strength for David were permanent.
Consequences of sin have not destroyed the relationship between David and God
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. Selah 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. Selah 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! Selah (Psalm 3–ESV)
David knew God, but his enemies did not.
David’s own countrymen were lashing out against him and at their head was his son. A king always has factions who will stand against his initiatives and styles. David was used to that, but this time his foes had multiplied and were led by family. He had again become the minority in his country. Many stood against him and many were rising to join the chorus.
Not only were many rising against David, but those people were making bold statements about God’s involvement in the situation. There were those who would be so proud as do decide God’s take on the situation. They pronounced that this time God would not deliver David.
David had long before this time had repented of his sins. David had returned to his proper relationship with God. God had continued to be David’s strength and consistently so through the years, decades even, since Bathsheba. David was no closet-follower of God.
Those who pursued David did not have the same relationship. While David was not so bold as to rise against Saul when Saul was considered the Lord’s anointed these pursuers of David had been so bold. They had risen against David. These pursuers did not deny God’s reality, but they did not live submitted to it. They were saying, and perhaps to convince themselves, “God won’t deliver him.” Well, God did deliver him and it was not pleasant for those who knew not God. They were putting their own goals into God’s mouth, so to speak. That would not be successful.
God protected and heard David
David proclaimed the protection of God. David said this to the Lord. David was not saying this to his pursuers, that was beside the point. David knew throughout his reign that God was the one who had raised him up and put a crown of gold on his head. That was no different when he was on the run from his son. David did not need to now be downcast. David was still king and God was still God.
God could still be called upon in the time of trouble.
Note, when we have disobeyed we must not think that God has left. He is still there and is bearing us no grudge. He did not scorn David’s cry for help and neither will he scorn ours. Don’t forget though that David had repented. God will not scorn our cry for help, but cries for help must be coupled to repentance for our disobedience.
David could sleep. Like Peter asleep between the two guards the night before the expected execution David also slept on the nights he spent running from Absalom.
The reason that David woke was the pleasure of God.
He awoke without fear. The enemies were still there, but David was rested and God was on alert.
David finally got to the point in his psalm of reporting his call to God for deliverance. Deliverance came.
Rogues don’t get God’s blessings
Rogues do not have the charter of God. Rogues do not get a free pass any more that David did. David was not willing to kill Saul, but waited upon the Lord. David’s enemies should have recalled that motive, but they did not. They were in rebellion and pride. God does not immediately strike all such moments to the ground, but neither will he support them.
God delivered David. David was again brought to Jerusalem. David knowing himself to be blessed at the hand of God expected the same for the nation. As such he asked that God’s blessing would again fall to them.
What do we see about God here?
- God is very forgiving
- God does not cover his ears
- God is compassionate
- God is faithful
- God wants connection with us
- God is not quick to discard us
- Our sins, though an anathema to him, do not make us an anathema to him.
- God looks for ways to be gracious
- God is drawn to us
We discard others at the drop of a hat. Small spites can ruin great groups. We probably extend that approach to God figuring he is like us. God is not like us. He does not so easily discard us. Will we live that way? It is our responsibility to repent of our sins for we must never presume upon God’s forgiveness, but having repented we must live doing so in the grace offered.