John T. Willis

Monday, March 03, 2014

The Lord is My Shield--Psalm 3

Some unknown thinker added the superscription to Psalm 3, attempting to connect this psalm with the event in 2 Samuel 15:13-23 which says David fled from Absalom as David's son Absalom and his army advanced from Hebron to Jerusalem coming north. It would be a major mistake to try to connect this event with Psalm 3. This brief psalm reads in the New Revised Standard Version:

      O Lord, how many are my foes!
           Many are rising against me;
      many are saying to me,
           'There is no help for you in God.'
      But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
           my glory, and the lifter of my head.
      I cry aloud to the Lord,
           and he answers me from his holy hill.
      I lie down and sleep;
           I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
      I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
           who have set themselves against me all around.

      Rise up, O Lord!
            Deliver me, O my God!
      For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
            you break the teeth of the wicked.
      Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
            may your blessing be on your people."

Thus, Psalm 3 falls into two parts.

I. The psalmist trusts in Yahweh and is not afraid of his enemies. Psalm 3:1-6.
    a. Throughout the psalm, the poet addresses Yahweh. He addresses him "O Lord" three times (verses 1, 3, 7) and "my God" once (verse 7). Three times, the psalmist emphasizes that his enemies are "many." And his enemies rail against him, saying, "There is no help for you in God." 3:1-2.
    b. In response to the taunt of his enemies, the poet turns to Yahweh and honors him with three positive terms. 3:3.
        1. Yahweh is "a shield around me." When enemies attack a person or a people, a major protection is necessary. Yahweh himself is a shield. This is a common term throughout scripture to emphasize that Yahweh is our protection and defense. See, for example, Genesis 15:1; Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalms 7:10; 18:2, 30, 35; 28:7; 33:20; 59:11; 84:11; 144:2.
        2. Yahweh is "my glory," a common term for Yahweh because of his splendor and majesty. See for example, Psalms 8:1; 24:7-19; 29:1-3, 9.
        3. Yahweh is "the one who lifts up my head." When Yahweh lifts up a person's head, he places him in an important, advantageous situation or position or office. A good example of this is the account of the cupbearer who Pharaoh put into prison and later Pharaoh replaced him in his office. Genesis 40:13.
   c. The psalmist, surrounded and threatened by his enemies, "cries aloud" to Yahweh, and Yahweh answers him "from his holy hill." This same term appears in Psalm 2:6; 15:1, which means Zion or Jerusalem. Yahweh chose Jerusalem as his dwelling place, and thus Jerusalem is "the city of God"--Psalms 46:4; 48:1-2; 76:2, which sits on several hills, one prominent of which is Zion. 3:4.
   d. Confident that Yahweh surrounds him as a shield, the psalmist can lie down and sleep and after several hours of sound sleep wakes again, "for the Lord sustains me." 3:5.
   e. Against the threats of his enemies, the psalmist serenely declares, "I am not afraid" of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around, returning to verses 1-2. 3:6.

II. The composer beseeches Yahweh to defeat his threatening enemies. Psalm 3:7-8.
     a. "Rise up, O Lord" is a very common term throughout scripture to cry out to God to "swing into action" and demonstrate his power. See for example, Psalm 7:6; 9:19; 10:12; 17:13; 74:22; 82:12; 132:8. The prayer "Deliver me" is also very common in critical situations--see Psalms 20:9; 22:21; 28:9; 31:16; 54:1; 69:1; 106:47. Yahweh faithfully and consistently strikes all his enemies on the cheek, and breaks the teeth of the wicked. 3:7.
    b. Deliverance does not come from horses and chariots, from large armies, from powerful nations, but belongs to the Lord. Thus, the psalmist prays that Yahweh's blessing will be on his people. In this general context, the poet may be a king or a commander in chief of the army of Israel. 3:8.

Share YOUR thoughts and anxieties and insights and beliefs and failures with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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