Delivered by Yahweh
(H) A psalm of David when he fled from the presence of Absalom, his son. (1) O Yahweh, how numerous (are) my foes! How many rise up against me! (2) So many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” (3) But you, Yahweh, (are) a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. (4) With my voice I cry out to Yahweh, and he answers me from his holy mountain. (Selah) (5) I lie down and sleep. I awaken, for Yahweh sustains me. (6) I do not fear ten thousand people drawn up against me on every side. (7) Rise up, Yahweh! Deliver me, O my God! Smite my enemies on the jaw! Break the teeth of the wicked! (8) From Yahweh comes deliverance. May your blessing (be) upon your people! (Selah)
This is the first of many psalms specifically attributed to David. According to the heading (headings in the psalms are considered part of the inspired text), it emerged out of a particularly dark moment in the king’s life. Absalom, his dearly loved son, had rebelled against him and had forced him to flee from Jerusalem. Several important issues are stressed through repetition. Four times David mentions the huge number of those opposed to him. In the first verse he uses the words “numerous” and “many” (vs. 1). In the following verse we find the statement, “So many are saying” (vs. 2). Finally, David describes his enemies with a word which literally means ten thousand people, a multitude too large to count (vs. 6).
Twice David uses the same Hebrew word for “rise up.” First, he speaks of his enemies with the phrase, “How many rise up against me” (vs. 1). In a contrasting use of the same word, David calls on the Lord to “rise up and deliver me” (vs. 7). We also find a synonym of “rise up” used to speak of the care and protection of God who, David says, “lifts up my head” (vs. 3). Note the strong contrast between verses 5 & 7 where David is essentially saying, “If I am trusting God, I can lie down and sleep in full confidence that he will rise up to deliver me from my foes.”
Several other repetitions should be mentioned. Three times David speaks of “deliverance” or “salvation,” the Hebrew term from which the proper name Joshua or Yeshua (Jesus) is derived. David’s enemies taunt him with the words, “There is no deliverance for him from God” (vs. 5). David cries out for Yahweh’s deliverance (vs. 7) and then confesses his faith in God with words that function as the climax of the entire psalm: “From Yahweh comes deliverance” (vs. 8). Finally, we should note the repeated use of the names for God. Each verse in the psalm with the exception of verse 6 contains a reference either to “Yahweh” or to “God” (Elohim). Verse 7 uses both names so that altogether we find eight mentions of God’s name in the eight verses of the psalm. David obviously has his heart focused on God during this time of unprecedented adversity.
NOTE: This is the first psalm in which we encounter the term, “Selah” (vss. 2, 4, & 8), a word that appears 71 times throughout the Book of Psalms. Scholars are uncertain about its meaning. Most translations simply include the transliterated Hebrew word where it occurs. It may have been a musical term or an invitation to pause and meditate on the truths contained in the verses where it occurs.
Contrast #1 - Focusing on my enemies produces fearful anxiety (vss. 1 & 2) while focusing on God’s protection produces prayerful trust (vss. 3 & 4).
Contrast #2 - I can rest in perfect peace (vss. 5 & 6) if I have confidence that God will rise up to deliver me from my enemies (vss. 7 & 8).
Trusting in God’s deliverance in the midst of life’s severest threats frees us from our fears and furnishes us with peace and rest.
Just over 100 years ago, Cleland McAfee penned the words of a hymn that comes to mind when we consider Psalm 3: “There is a place of quiet rest / near to the heart of God; /A place where sin cannot molest / near to the heart of God. / O Jesus, blest Redeemer, / sent from the heart of God, / Hold us who wait before thee / near to the heart of God.”
David knew where to turn when life’s circumstances threatened to overwhelm him. Believers of all ages have learned the same truth, to draw near to the heart of God. The closer we are to him, the more our fears will dissipate in the light of his presence and power. When we are confident that God will rise up to defend us, we can lie down in perfect peace and find the rest that we so desperately need.