Series on the Psalms, Text: Psalm 3, Title: Nearness and Repentance


Psalm Three presents an astounding contrast to Psalms 1 & 2. In Psalm 1 we have a major theme in Hebrew poetry, the importance of God’s law in the life of the believer because He is the sovereign lawgiver! In Psalm 2 we have another vital theme in the Psalms, God’s kingship as exemplified in David and fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. These two Psalms take us to the heart of the whole Psalter. So, we have just read about the triumph of the king as God’s representative on earth. He is God’s viceregent, indeed His son. Though this applies chiefly to the Messiah, Jesus, David’s kingship was in its time a precursor to the Messiah and as God’s representative he had a right to expect victory over his enemies. From the heights to the depths we go. Psalm 3 is clearly identified as the king’s lament and expression of confidence in the Lord on the occasion of Absalom’s rebellion against his father David. So the triumphant king is humiliated by his own sin but he has a deep trust in God. Up to this point in Psalms one and two we have had a clear distinction between the righteous and the sinners. Now we are confronted with sin and failure in the life of a believer. This is a theme that will occur over and over again in the Psalms and it is one of the things that make then so important to the Church. One of the greatest cures for an unbiblical perfectionism in Christianity is singing the Psalms. We come to understand that what God desires is honesty, confession of sin and repentance. Nearness to God is not measured so much by the absence of sin as it is by the way in which we deal with sin in our lives. As we look at this Psalm let us discern three movements in it. First there is the complaint, then there is the expression of confidence, and finally there is call to courage.

I The Complaint

David says,  O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” The account of David’s situation is in II Samuel 15: 10 and 11, Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’ Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. This was a carefully choreographed rebellion, and David had to flee for his life. In doing this brave souls accompanied him over his protest because he didn’t want to put the lives of others in jeopardy unnecessarily (ii Samuel 15: 19). They carried the ark of the covenant with them, but David sent it back and said, If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and show me both it (the ark) and his dwelling place, but if he says I have no delight in you, here I am, let him do to me as it seems good to him. In this we discern the nature of David’s complaint. There are all kinds of complaining and much of it is proud murmuring against the Lord. David’s complaint is made in the spirit of penitence. He realizes his own failings and sins, and if there is to be anything good that comes out of this situation it will be the Lord’s mercy. So we ought to bring our complaints to God in a spirit of deep contrition for all the ways in which we have betrayed Him. Specifically in the case of David he had committed his terrible sin with Bathsheba including the murder of her husband, Uriah the Hittite. This is the reason David’s enemies claimed God would not deliver him. They were hypocritical to be sure, but David’s sensitive conscience was seared. The fact that his enemies could point to his own failure and claim that God would not protect him was the cruelest thing of all. It is often so with us.  In II Samuel 16 this is emphasized. Vss. 7-13, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!” Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.” But the king said, ‘What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’’’ Spurgeon says, “All the trials of heaven, all the temptations of hell, and all the crosses of earth could not make this trial any worse than these words, ‘Many are saying of me, God will not deliver him.’” This is about as low as you can get. And in spite of that fact David still trusts in God. But I want you to understand that his trust in God does not mean that David foresees only good, What he foresees is God’s will and God’s glory. This is the kind of complaint that drives a man to the Lord not away from the Lord. Thus David expresses his confidence in the Lord.

II Confidence in the Lord

Now matter what our failures, God is a refuge for his people. Our heads like David’s can be lifted over any circumstance no matter how bad as we read in verses 3-6, But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. David was truly repentant according to II Samuel 12:11-13. If we repent then we can have personal confidence in the Lord no matter what others say. David realizes this in the midst of his complaint and boasts of the protection of the Lord. The essential element here is the affirmation that God is with him. First he says God is his shield. This means God is like a wall around him. The he says God is his glory. The glory of God was in his temple, but David sees that glory as being with him. Indeed he says God has heard from his Holy hill. Though David is removed from that appointed place of worship he is not removed from God. He can lay down and sleep in peace which is the ultimate affirmation of trust, and he will not be afraid of his enemies no matter how numerous. As believers our worse doubts do not come from our sinful failures themselves, but from a failure to confess them and get right with God.

III A Call  upon the Lord

Thus it is that David can call upon the Lord for help in verses 7 and 8, Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. God will not allow David’s enemies to gnash and bite. But this is not a selfish cry for aid. It is the ungodly whom God will ultimately punish. The aid we receive is related to the righteousness of our cause regardless of our own sinful failings. The fact that salvation or deliverance belongs to the Lord is related to his blessing his people. Not just David, not just you or me, but God’s people. It is the Lord’s purpose that is uppermost here. It is as if David prayed Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. David prays in the light of grace, that is, God’s mercy which is his distinguishing, discriminating,  infinite, eternal, immutable love for his people.

Summary of Psalm 3

Psalm Three teaches us that even God’s chosen people fail. Yet, no matter how much we have contributed to our own troubles, God never forsakes his true children who are penitent. He always sustains His people against every enemy because in the conflict He is glorified by delivering  those whom he has chosen. Our fears will end when we have assured our hearts by confessing our sin and committing our cause to the Lord no matter how great the trial.