1, O Yahweh, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me;
2, many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.
3, But You, O Yahweh, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4, I cried aloud to Yahweh, and He answered me from His holy hill.
5, I lay down and slept; I woke again, for Yahweh sustained me.
6, I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
7, Arise, O Yahweh! Save me, O my God! For You strike all my enemies on the cheek; You break the teeth of the wicked.
8, Salvation belongs to Yahweh; Your blessing be on Your people!
Bible scholars believe David wrote this psalm in regards to his fleeing from Absalom, which is recorded in 2 Samuel 15-18. If we’re looking for some sort of life application to take from this psalm, I believe we can apply this to betrayals we’ve faced ourselves (for Absalom was David’s own son who tried usurping his throne), as well as those who experience anxiety. David’s enemies were not only militant and numerous, but they were also attempting to undermine his faith.
Every Christian experiences this at least once in his or her life. If it hasn’t happened yet, it will. We have enemies everywhere. They not only seek to destroy us (like ISIS), but also seek to undermine our faith (such as militant atheists like the infamous Richard Dawkins and self-proclaimed scientists like Bill Nye). They attempt to prove to us through their scientific whims that there is no God, and therefore no salvation in God (and, furthermore, no salvation for humanity, for humanity does not need saving).
They forget science is only capable of observing the finite (the material realm), not the infinite (the spiritual realm, i.e. God). Albert Einstein himself said, “The more I study science, the more I believe in God.” After all, Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork,” which we’ll get to much later as I continue this commentary series.
However, in spite of this war against us, like David, we have hope in the Lord’s presence and providence.
A shield gives us the image of a largely shaped, blunt object in front of one’s body as it absorbs life-threatening blows in hand-to-hand combat. Christ is our shield, for He took the blow of death for us, and we thus have hope in the resurrection of the dead (cf. Romans 6:3-7, 10-11).
Whilst in the midst of persecution, we recall this hope and call upon the Lord for deliverance. Indeed, He answers our calls as we trust and rely on Him, just as David did on numerous occasions. David’s confidence in the Lord’s providence enabled him to sleep in spite of his life-threatening predicament. When we face overwhelming worry, stress, and anxiety, we may at times suffer from insomnia. I have had plenty of nights when I’ve been unable to sleep due to anxiety. In this psalm, however—through David’s example—we are assured that the Lord can soothe one’s mind and provide sleep.
So, how do we know we can trust in His providence?
I think we can gain a better understanding by going back to the end of the second psalm at the end of verse 12, “Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” There is no distinction. I believe the key is just taking complete refuge in Him, which is totally trusting Him to take care of you, which is promised for all people who come to Him.
Because we have the hope in Christ who is to come again, we can experience a lack of fear in spite of our thousands of enemies. Anyone who is not in Christ is considered an enemy of God (James 4:4) and, therefore, our enemies also. Thus, we are literally surrounded by enemies, both known and unknown. But how many of us are actually afraid of this reality? Probably not many, unless you’re a Christian in a Muslim nation who kills the infidels.
We experience God’s providence either through Him preserving our safety in the midst of trouble or danger (like a mission trip), or by Him wiping out our enemies (such as President Trump wiping out ISIS). If we’re not serving in the military, or if we’re not living in a nation that’s hostile to Christians, most of us experience the former.
God has preserved my life many times when I was in the Army, but most of my experience in His providence has been in daily life and on mission trips. One case was on a mission trip when I fell through a ceiling and almost landed head-first on the corner of a metal furnace or the cement floor, but my leg got caught on something and I was able to get myself to safety. I suffered a severe injury to my leg, but if that hadn’t happened, I would’ve died or suffered permanent paralysis.
When we went back to the site of the accident the following day, there was literally nothing that could’ve caught my leg, so someone or something was there preventing my death/permanent injury. Before I had gone up into the ceiling, I prayed that God would keep me safe. After I finished prayer, my fear was gone and I trusted God to protect me. And He did. In fact, after we observed the site of the accident, someone confessed that he witnessed a bright light in the shape of a vine “zoom” through the door nearest to me, and when it got to me, I immediately stopped falling.
He looked away because the light was extremely bright, and when he looked back, I was sitting down in a chair that one of our mission leaders had swiftly brought over. Why he was the only one who saw the angel, I don’t know (it could have something to do with his mental disability), but what we do know is that God protected me because I trusted Him to do so. An extreme example, sure, but it just goes to show how far God will go to protect you if you just trust Him.
I suspect there are many times in our lives when angels preserve our safety and we just don’t see them. Scripture says God “will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:12). Even Daniel was saved from hungry lions in the den only because “he trusted in his God” (Daniel 6:23)!
There are many other times when God preserves my safety, and yours, in everyday situations, such as driving in bad weather. Or even when I’m daydreaming for at least 5 minutes whilst driving on the highway, and once my mind returns to reality I wonder, “How the heck am I still alive?” I know I’m not the only one who’s wondered this. All joking aside: I may have suffered a severe injury on that mission trip, but by that injury my life was saved, and my leg fully healed.
Before I end this commentary, I want to say a little bit about anxiety. I’m no expert on anxiety, but I do suffer from social anxiety, which is only symptomatic of a more underlying problem I won’t share here. A large part of my social anxiety are lies I tell myself, “I shouldn’t have said that; I should’ve said this… My friends don’t really like me; they find me repugnant… I used the wrong facial expression there… No woman can love me because of these reasons…” etc. etc. As part of my anxiety, I live mostly inside my own head, and I constantly replay conversations and social interactions in my head and heavily critique them with things I should have and should not have said and/or done.
This often keeps me up at night. I convince myself that I am so repugnant and unlovable that I’m not worth having any friends or pursuing a girlfriend. I haven’t completely “gotten over” my anxiety, and I probably never will. Improvements can certainly be made, but anxiety—and self-hatred particularly—will always be the demon that haunts me. It’s really hard praying for yourself in the midst of your anxiety. You actually don’t even want to. Sometimes you think your anxiety is too big for God to handle, which is absurd because nothing is bigger than God.
I’m still improving upon my anxiety, but I do want to share at least something positive for those of you who also suffer some form of anxiety. This Sunday (July 15, 2018) I’m preaching on the assurance we have in our adoption through our Baptisms (I’ll be posting it on here some time on that same day or afterwards). One of the things I talk about in the sermon is our status before God as His child. That in our Baptisms, God has personally cleansed us from our sins, has looked upon us, and has essentially said, “You. Are. Mine. You belong to Me.”
Consider that for a moment…
By the virtue of our Baptisms, you belong to God. I belong to God. Just as God cares for the birds of the air and clothes the lilies of the fields, how much more will God certainly take care of you and me (Matthew 6:25-34). It is in this same passage in which Jesus says not to worry (i.e. have anxiety), for not only will it not add a single hour to our lifespan, but also because we are in God’s providential care—the care of our Father, our Abba. So, for me, whilst I’ve been trying to find worth in myself through my high expectations, my ultimate worth comes from God. This worth is found in my Baptism, in which God has adopted me as His child, calls me His own, and has given me and promised me the inheritance of eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Anyway, I share that because the reality of our Baptism has been really encouraging in my anxiety, especially as I researched and wrote the sermon. When I preach it, I’m preaching it to myself as much as I am to the congregation.
Thus, David’s end of the psalm is fitting for those of us who suffer with anxiety. David accentuates our hope in Christ at the end of this psalm: Salvation comes from God, which is effective through the works of Christ, in whom we have hope.
Psalm 3 Prayer
In the case that you fear for your safety—be it life-threatening or just from overwhelming worry, anxiety, or stress—here’s a prayer I’ve prepared as a guide:
Father, please keep me safe. In Your mercy, preserve me. I trust in Your providence. If it be Your will that I come home to You, so be it. But if it be Your will that I continue to dwell amongst my enemies [or suffer from anxiety, etc.], I ask that You guard over me and grant me solace. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
[Additionally, if you suffer with insomnia]: Father, like David, grant me Your peace so I may sleep, that I may battle this anxiety and continue my living tomorrow and each day that follows. Grant me rest, O Lord. Help me to be resilient so that I may win the battle of anxiety. Lord, thank You for Your providence, and thank You for Your salvation through Christ. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.