Here we go. Psalm 3 introduces us to two methods which the psalmist will use throughout this entire book of the Bible. The first is the method of using introductory remarks to set the context of the psalm. Let’s be clear, in some Bibles you will have short phrases that summarize what will come next in the Scripture. For example, before the Lord’s prayer there might be a title above the paragraph which reads: “Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray”. It is important to note that these summaries are at the liberty of modern translators and are not in the original texts. They simply are not a part of the Bible. But that is not the case with the Psalms. We find the introductory sentence: “A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.” This is in the original Hebrew and is supposed to set the context for the psalm which we read. This is in the Bible and this is important. Scripture contains contextual information so that we can understand what the psalmist is saying and why he is saying it. It might be helpful to read the passages in the Bible that depict Absalom chasing King David in II Samuel 17 and 18. Some have called this the darkest, most difficult days of David’s life. You can probably imagine what you would write or say as you are going through the most difficult time in your life.
Let’s set the stage for David. Absalom is David’s son and is planning on overthrowing his father. The story ends in II Samuel 18 with Absalom being killed and David is unconsolable. The drama, tragedy, and intensity of this story cannot be overstated. David is distraught as he recognizes that he is paying for his sin with Bathsheba in the death of his son Absalom. The sins of the father have certainly come back to destroy the son. David now realizes this as he writes the psalm. Think of this story as you read this psalm.
Another method to which we are introduced is the refrain which is called Selah which is a Hebrew word that could mean that a break should take place in the singing of this psalm at this time. As our music sometimes contains the word (chorus) interjected in various points in songs and we know what it means, we are to repeat the chorus, so in this instance the word Selah could be a musical term which means that a break in the music and the song take place so that potentially the Torah or other books of the Hebrew Bible could be read. (Wow, I just read through this sentence and it is really long, but I don’t want to change it) So, now you know that when you get to a Psalm and it says Selah, and you don’t know what it means, that’s okay, no one else really does either.
Okay, back to the content of Psalm 3. David does seem to express his desperation in terms of enemies which are pursuing him and surrounding him, just like his real life situation dictated. But notice the flow of the psalm. We begin with David lifting up a problem: my foes are against me and my advisors are telling me there is no hope. But somehow in the recesses of his mind David remembers that God is our shield, God is our glory, God is the one who lifts up our head. He hears God’s response in his supplications. So even in the face of insurmountable odds, even in the face of what others might see as hopelessness, we find that God sustains us, we will not be afraid because deliverance belongs to the Lord.
Is it okay to not be a huge fan of certain verses in the Psalms? I’m going to say yes. So, for me, vs.7 is one of my least favorite in Scripture. I really don’t want God to break the teeth of my adversaries, but then again, I’ve never had my son, or daughter, pursuing me to kill me. But what if we were to find ourselves where our life is in danger, would we ask God to strike our enemies and to break their teeth? I would hope that the pacifist nature that has been nurtured in me would say no, there has to be another way.
But David’s point in this entire psalm is that even if those around you say that God is not there and you have no hope, we have to remember in those times that God is absolutely there and will always rise up to deliver us. God does not sleep on us. God does not abandon us. God never, ever leaves or forsakes us. I love the Psalms, I need to hear that more often than I think.