Psalm 3 is the first psalm that comes with a title: “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.” This places this psalm firmly in the days of Absalom’s wicked rebellion against David, his father, King of Israel (II Samuel 15 f.).
In the opening verses of Psalm 3, David exclaims in amazement that “many” (1, 2) had turned against him and that they have “increased” (1). The narrative in II Samuel also lays great emphasis on the huge scale of the rebellion against Israel’s rightful king (II Sam. 15:6, 10-13; 16:15; 17:11; 18:6-7; 19:8-10). David’s own flesh and blood, Absalom, led the coup and most of the nation had gone over to him. Ahithophel, David’s friend and chief counsellor, defected (15:12, 31) and there was Shimei, Saul’s relative, to curse David, whom he called a bloodthirsty son of Belial, and throw stones at him and his men (16:5-14). These are the “many” who have “increased” who “trouble” David and “rise up against” him (Ps. 3:1). “Many there be [not just among the surrounding pagan nations but in Israel, which professes to be the people of God, the only true church!] which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God” (2).
Notice what David does not do. He does not give way to despair and blame God. Indeed, David understood that Absalom’s rebellion was divine chastisement for his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah the Hittite (II Sam. 12:9-12). Instead of responding in unbelief and rage, David turns to Jehovah, the God of all comfort. He is the psalmist’s “shield” to protect him and “the lifter up of [his] head” to encourage him (Ps. 3:3). Indeed, David calls the Lord “my glory” (3) for “the sweet psalmist of Israel” (II Sam. 23:1) glories in God, even in these most trying of circumstances!
After confessing his love of Jehovah (Ps. 3:3), King David prays and is sure of an answer: “I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill” (4). David has been forced to leave Jerusalem, fleeing before Absalom’s advancing forces (II Sam. 15:13ff.), but he still has access by faith in the coming Messiah to God’s “holy hill” (Ps. 3:4) in heaven to which Israel’s lofty, earthly capital pointed.
With the rich consolation of Jehovah’s covenant friendship (3) and the assurance of answered prayer (4), despite the threat of assassination or attack, David was able to do three (ordinarily mundane) things in peace and safety: lie down, sleep and awake (5). How was this, David? Israel’s king tells us: “for the Lord sustained me” (5).
Rising next morning, many miles from his palace bed, David is physically and spiritually strengthened. Out of the holy fear of Almighty God, he is able to confess over against Absalom’s rebellious hordes: “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about” (6).
As David stirs himself from sleep, he beseeches God, as it were, to do the same: “Arise, O Lord” (7)! Show that Thou art awake and fully engaged in the deliverance of Thy beloved servant! “Save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly” (7)!
But what has all this to do with Jehovah’s almighty, uncommon grace? We are coming to that now. Notice the psalmist’s concluding summary: “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people” (8). God’s blessing is upon His people, not the pagan Gentiles nor the unbelieving in Israel!
Notice David’s reasoning. Salvation is God’s sovereign prerogative (8a) and God’s salvation of David involves His destroying of David’s “ungodly” “enemies” in Israel who had rebelled against him (7). Thus David adds, “thy blessing is upon thy people” (8b).
Absalom was not one of God’s people. Aside from his cold-blooded murder of his half-brother Amnon (II Sam. 13:19-29), he had rebelled against his father, the king, and seized the throne. This was not only an egregious breaking of the fifth commandment; it was a frontal assault on the man after God’s own heart (I Sam. 13:14) who ruled over the Old Testament form of the kingdom of God and typified the coming Messiah, David’s son and Lord. As far as he was able, Absalom attacked the future Christ and His kingdom!
Ahithophel did not truly belong to the people of God either. His base treachery against his friend, David, is famous (cf. Ps. 41:9; 55:12-14), as is his wicked suicide when this proud man hanged himself because he could not bear it that for once “his counsel was not followed” (II Sam. 17:23). Ahithophel is the Old Testament equivalent of Judas, “the son of perdition” (John 17:12), who betrayed Christ (his professed friend), hanged himself and went “to his own place,” hell (Acts 1:25).
As the apostle explains, “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6). Some in ethnic Israel were carnal seed or “children of the flesh;” while others were the spiritual seed or “the children of the promise” (8).
In His love and mercy, God sovereignly bestows His “salvation” and “blessing” upon His true, spiritual people (Ps. 3:8), whereas the “ungodly” in Israel are destroyed (7). Though Absalom and his rebels possessed the (physical) throne of David, the (earthly) city of Jerusalem and the ark of the covenant in its tent, and though (outwardly) they were members in the visible church (Israel) as those circumcised and instructed in God’s law, none of these good things were blessings to them. God’s “blessing is upon [His] people” (8), His true spiritual people who are “Israelite[s] indeed” (John 1:47) and “are of a clean heart” (Ps. 73:1). This is God’s sovereign, omnipotent, saving, uncommon grace in Jesus Christ which shields, and lifts up the heads of, the elect (Ps. 3:3) and punches the cheek bone and smashes the teeth of the “ungodly” reprobate (7).
Philip the evangelist once asked the Ethiopian eunuch, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” (Acts 8:30). Likewise, we ought to know the meaning of the inspired Psalms which exhort us, “Sing ye praises with understanding” (Ps. 47:7). The current News on Psalm 3 and last month’s News on Psalms 1 and 2 enable us to do just that, as we extol our covenant God for His matchless and efficacious uncommon grace through the crucified and risen Christ.
- Volume: 12
- Issue: 8
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851