• Steve Hatter
Man on top of a rock with hands out wide

I need not remind anyone that we are living in difficult days. The stress and pressure of a global pandemic, and now an utterly divided culture exploding in unprecedented ways, is impacting all of us. People are fearful, on edge, and in conflict ….and for good reason, at least in terms of temporal circumstances. We want stability, and it seems as though we do not have it at any level right now.

Yet, the wonderful blessing of God’s Word, and perhaps especially as it is given to us in the Psalms, is perspective on real life, perspective on circumstances like we have in America 2020, perspective on real emotions and authentic pain in crisis circumstances.

John Calvin said that mankind’s two greatest needs are a true knowledge of self and a true knowledge of God. And we can see how profound his observation is when times get tough, can we not?

We need a true knowledge of self—that we are sinful, helpless, and desperate—because such knowledge spurs us to know God. “We cannot seriously aspire to Him before we begin to become displeased with ourselves,” said Calvin.

Furthermore, we need a true knowledge of God because it is only in knowing Him that we are rescued, as Calvin also said, “from our desperate estate.”

The Apostle Paul, as recorded in Galatian 4:9 says as much:

“But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you   turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?”

Pastor and Author Joel James believes the Psalms specialize in teaching a true knowledge of self and a true knowledge of God. I agree with him.

The Psalms “get real” with the human experience. They peer into the reality of people, made in the image of God, but living in a fallen creation. The Psalms express the feelings and emotions of life uniquely and beautifully, where, as Joel James would say, “in one Psalm you stand on a mountaintop praising God; in the next, you are cast into a bottomless pit of despair.

Psalm 3 is about King David who takes us from “pit to peak,” in just eight short verses. This marvelous passage describes three realities of navigating difficulty in life that you, as a believer, should understand, so that you will choose to depend on the Lord and trust in Him alone for deliverance.

As you read, consider how David transitions in his poetic language from desperation in disaster, to dependence on God, to trust in as assured deliverance that can only come from God. Notice also how God is the central character of the Psalm. He is always the rescuer and hero, just as He is in every passage or Bible story!

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O Lord, how many are my foes!

Many are rising against me;

many are saying of my soul,

“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, 

my glory, and the lifter of my head.

I cried aloud to the Lord, 

and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

I lay down and slept;

I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people 

who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O Lord!

Save me, O my God!

For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; 

you break the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the Lord; 

your blessing be on your people! Selah

We peer into David’s disaster, which is the circumstances the Psalmist describes in verses 1-2 that have him emoting in such desperate terms: “O Lord, How many are my foes!” The foes were an insurrection army led by David’s son, Absalom. As David laments, you can almost physically feel the stress and pressure of the walls closing in on the threatened king. Imagine! David’s own son was leading an insurrection against him. Absalom was the third son of King David by his wife Maacah and was a man who seemed to have everything going for him. However, like other tragic figures in the Bible, Absalom attempted to take what was not his—kingship over Israel. Absalom’s story is one of pride and greed, about a man who tried to overthrow the overarching redemption plan of God. Instead, his life ended in a violent downfall.

Next, we see David’s dependence on God as his only viable solution in the circumstance, in verses 3-4. When David is out of ideas and resources, in his desperation, he wisely remembers God as available and compassionate, as sovereign and powerful, and as the gracious rescuer. Here we see David shift from uncertainty to certainty, from his weakness to God’s strength. David acted on a true knowledge of himself and a true knowledge of God in turning to the Lord he knew. And David’s true knowledge of God included the incredible covenant promises made to him. As David looks outside himself in his desperate moment, to the supernatural sovereign of the universe, who is eternal, immutable, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, just, gracious, holy, and righteous, he is also remembering that God is, among all of His amazing attributes, a faithful promise-keeper as well. The throne of Israel would not pass from David because God promised it would not. God promised the true and eternal King Jesus would be a legitimate Son of David, God’s chosen king.

But the really big idea of this Psalm comes in the final verses 5–8, and that idea is this: God owns deliverance, and He graciously shares it with those who, like David, faithfully depend on Him. Faith is the means to deliverance, now and forever. “Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people!” says the Psalmist.

There is ultimately no hope in men, but there is every hope in God, who is the triune God— Father, Son, and Spirit.

Absalom came to a very ironic and unforeseen end and his armies did not overthrow King David.

Only a wholly sovereign God could orchestrate mighty Absalom’s hair becoming entangled in a tree, rendering him helpless. He died in a humiliating way, run through by David’s men. 

We know so much more than David did of deliverance, this side of the cross, as we live in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, the true King.

Hold on to your faith in Jesus for your deliverance!