Psalm 3 - Trusting in the Lord during trials and when life falls apart...
This is a Psalm of David that he composed when his son Absalom started a "coup" to overthrow his father and take over the kingdom. Like most of the Psalms, there is a contrast. Here, it is one of lament, meaning despair, anguish, and struggle as well as confident praise and peace. A hope in the midst of fear and hopelessness can be had for us if our focus is in the right place. David is fleeing for his life, as his son Absalom, a young man of contempt and malevolence, seeks what is not his and seeks to take his own father's life. Yet, all David could do is pray that his son's life be saved anyway, and modelled for us trust in the Lord, even in times of dire stress and chaos.
Those of us old enough to remember the Watergate scandal recall the stunning, unprecedented resignation of President Richard Nixon. Whether you agreed or not with the man politically, it was a sad spectacle to watch. It must have been terrifically shocking, depressing, and humiliating for Mr. and Mrs. Nixon to endure.
One day, you are one of the most powerful men in the world. You are always the centre of attention. You are always surrounded by a cadre of Secret Service agents whose job is to protect you at risk of their own lives. Your words are plastered on the front pages of newspapers around the world. At press conferences, reporters try to parse the nuance of your every sentence. What you say can make the stock market shoot up or down. When you give orders, a bunch of underlings jump to make it happen. You live in a mansion with servants attending to your every need. You have a private jet, helicopter, and limousine, plus a private retreat, at your disposal as you carry out the nation’s business.
But the next day, you resign in disgrace, your presidency a shambles. You leave the public eye. You move out of the White House. Nobody cares anymore what you say or think, unless you’re ready to confess your guilt in the scandal. Life changed drastically on that fateful day for Mr. and Mrs. Nixon!
But the resignation of President Nixon was not nearly as traumatic and humiliating as the events that hit King David when his son Absalom led a revolt against him. David had reigned for decades as one of the most powerful monarchs in the world. His military prowess was legendary. He had extended Israel’s dominion far beyond its borders. He had become fabulously wealthy, living in a palace of breathtaking splendour with his many wives and servants. He had absolute authority of life or death over everyone with whom he had dealings. No one dared to get on his bad side.
But then David sinned with Bathsheba and ordered the death of her husband, Uriah. Although David subsequently repented when the prophet Nathan confronted him, David’s sins set in motion a series of God-ordained devastating consequences. David’s oldest son, Amnon, raped his half-sister, Tamar. Tamar’s brother, Absalom, took revenge by murdering Amnon. Absalom fled into exile for several years, but later was permitted to return. But after his return, David refused to see his wayward son for two years. The resentment built and Absalom began to court the disgruntled people in the kingdom, offering himself as a more sympathetic leader than his powerful father was.
Finally, Absalom pieced together a strong conspiracy. David realised that to survive, he had to flee the capital immediately with all of his supporters and their families. All of his servants and their little ones hastily grabbed what they could and took off towards the wilderness. David followed them, weeping, and walking barefoot with his head covered in shame. To add insult to injury, a man named Shimei, from the family of David’s predecessor King Saul, came out as David passed by. He cursed at David, threw stones at him, and accused him of being a worthless man who had brought about his own downfall by being a man of bloodshed (these events are described in 2 Samuel 15 & 16).
It was David’s most traumatic, humiliating experience in his entire life. Everything that he had spent his life working for had suddenly unravelled. Many whom he had thought were allies and friends had abandoned him and sided with his rebellious son. And the most painful wound of all was the treachery and betrayal of Absalom. It brought home to David his own failure as a father. One son was murdered, a daughter was raped, and the murderer was now after his own father’s life in addition to his kingdom. Life was falling apart for David.
What do you do when life falls apart? Few of us have gone through anything close to the trauma that David was experiencing. But in lesser ways, you’ve probably had times when you could identify with David. Perhaps you thought that things were fine at work, but you suddenly got called into the boss’ office and were fired under false allegations brought against you by those you had trusted. You were out of work and the firing made the prospect of finding another job look bleak. You didn’t know how you would provide for your family. Life fell apart.
What do you do when life falls apart? David wrote Psalm 3. He wrote a psalm! Maybe that’s why he is called a man after God’s heart! Some scholars call Psalm 3 a morning psalm, and Psalm 4 (which may have been written at the same time) an evening psalm. Perhaps David wrote Psalm 3 just after he crossed the Jordan, awaiting the inevitable battle with Absalom's forces. Verse 5 hints that he wrote it after waking up safely after a good night’s sleep. Psalm 3 shows us that…
When life falls apart, you can experience God’s peace by laying hold of Him in believing prayer.
David trusted in God’s power to save because he realised that “salvation belongs” to Him. Without the LORD there is no salvation to be had. He was not asking anything from the LORD that the LORD had not already promised. God has always exalted the lowly and humbled the proud.
So the Psalm ends looking beyond David to God’s “people” and beyond David’s rescue to God’s “blessing.” God’s people will not only survive but be delivered; we will not only be delivered but be victorious; we will not only be victorious but be eternally blessed.
David turned this horrible experience of betrayal, emotional pain, and nearly being killed into a song of praise. This teaches us that God can use our worst trials to deepen our trust in Him and to produce praises that will encourage His people. When life falls apart, you can experience God’s peace by laying hold of Him in believing prayer. When He answers, He gets the glory, you get the joy, and God’s people get the blessing.