Date: June 16, 2019
Speaker: Erik Raymond
Series: Summer in the Psalms
Scripture: Psalm 3:1–3:8
How can you tell if God is blessing you?
We naturally assume God’s blessing when things are going well. When we get the things we want then we say that God is blessing us. And this is certainly true; every good gift comes from the hand of God.
But should we assume that when things aren’t going well that God is no longer blessing us? Is the presence of unwelcome circumstances the evidence of God’s disfavor with you?
Remember the story of Job? His friends naturally assumed, in reaction to the string of tragedies in his life, that this was evidence of God’s judgment upon him. Instead of God’s favor, he was being cursed. They thought God’s blessings were far from him.
Is this how you think? Are God’s blessings tied only to your ease, comfort, success, and happiness?
Friends, while this is natural, we need to see it’s not biblical thinking.
This morning we’re going to look together at the 3rd Psalm. And we’ll see King David in the midst of a very bad time in his life. He appears to be abandoned by everyone - even his own family. But what we find is that in this season of difficulty, God’s blessings are not scarce. Perhaps this is a surprise to you.
I want to convince you to see God’s blessing whether or not things are going well.
In Psalm 3 we’ll consider it under three headers: there’s a problem in verses 1-2, remarkable peace in verses 3-6, and his prayer in verses 7-8.
We don’t have to look very far to find the problem here. It’s right in the opening verse. The author is experiencing intense conflict. Did you notice his repetition? What word does he repeat? It’s many, twice in verse 1 and once again in verse 2. His problem is intense opposition.
What’s the specific problem? We read in the inscription that this is “a Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son.” We can read the historical account of what happened in 2 Samuel 13:23-17:29.
Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, and let us flee, or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Go quickly, lest he overtake us quickly and bring down ruin on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.” (2 Samuel 15:14)
But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, barefoot and with his head covered. And all the people who were with him covered their heads, and they went up, weeping as they went. (2 Samuel 15:30)
What a scene this would have been. This is King David. The hero of Israel dressed as a mourner, on the run from his own capital city, to escape from the sword of his own son. And as he goes out, he walks up the mount of Olives and is mocked by the crowd.
This Psalm then is a lament. It is a song of mourning but with deep trust. You might look at this and say that you are not facing the same thing as David did. And, thank God this is true. But the example here in the Psalm shows you that while your circumstances might not be as bad your expectations for help should not be any less. In other words, you don’t need to experience David’s trouble in order to know God’s help.
Look at what the onlookers were saying in verse 2, “many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.”’ Generally speaking, salvation in the Bible refers to both physical and spiritual deliverance. Here the onlookers were talking mainly about the spiritual. They were looking at David and they saw the look of defeat. His slow procession out of the city, up the Mount of Olives, under the cloud of despair—they interpreted as rejection by God. They considered his circumstances and deemed him rejected.
But what we need to see here as this Psalm develops, things aren’t what we might naturally think. It’s different than we may expect. This is important for us to get. We need to see God’s blessing whether or not things are going well.
Did you see the contrast between verse 2 and verse 3? It’s really astounding. The contrast is between what people are saying and what God is doing. The tension is with the word “but” — look at it.
(v.2) many are saying of my soul, “There is no salvation for him in God.”
(v.3) But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
Now we begin to see the emergence of the buds of blessing. Like the first buds of spring after a long winter, the buds of blessing tells us there is hope on the horizon. David is not cast off after all.
What’s more, he has peace! In the midst of the utter turmoil, David has peace. Why is this? How is this?
The answer is simply this: God is his comfort and his strength.
God’s care has become his pillow.
Where do you go in times of trouble? Do you try to comfort yourself with the distractions of pleasure (recreation), leisure (Netflix or medicated scrolling), comfort (food and drink), working (do what is safe)?
Look at verse 3, and we’ll walk through this.
God is his defender. David writes, “you, O LORD, are a shield about me.” God defends his people. God protects his people like divine secret service. Notice the protection is “about me.” That is, all around. It’s not just on the front, or from behind, or the side, but all around. All-encompassing defense. One has said, “If the enemies destroy the church, it must be at a time when it is neither night nor day, for Christ keeps it day and night.” And we understand this defense is far more than protection in life, but also in death. God will protect his people in death. His promises follow us in death, extending beyond the grave. When we die we will see God’s defense of his people, buy his protection from death. For we understand “the body, they may kill”, writes Luther, “but God’s truth abideth still.” This is blessing through very difficult circumstances.
God is described as his glory. This phrase means that David is honored to serve God. In the midst of this difficulty, David feels and knows the weighty privilege of knowing and serving this God. Far from being cast off by God he is encouraged by God’s closeness to him, even to the point of this being an honor.
God is the source of his confidence. We read in verse 3 that God lives his head. What was his head down for? Why was he downcast? It was because he was mourning. He was sad. He was despondent. His circumstances were quite hard and difficult, but look, he has his chin lifted. What a beautiful picture here of God’s firm but the tender hand of compassion reaching out to David and lifting his drooping, head weighed down by intense grief. What is this if it is not blessing from the Lord?
When the Reformer Martin Luther was being threatened with persecution from the Roman Catholic church he replied, “If it’s Pope vs Luther, beware Luther. But if it’s Pope vs God, beware Pope.”
Not only this but, God is attentive to his desperate cries. In verse 4, Davide cried aloud to the Lord and he answered him. Imagine the tears that attended his grief. But note here, the Lord answered him. Against this dark backdrop of personal struggle, shame, and, uncertainty, there is the diamond of God’s favor to his people. And notice also that this answer came from God’s holy hill. It transcends or it’s above the present struggle. His kingdom and throne are out of this world!
God preserves his life. It might not seem like much to close your eyes in the evening and awake in the morning. But it would if you weren’t sure you were going to wake up. If there were armies of trained killers breathing down your neck and your were huddled in a dark cave then closing and opening your eyes is not a guarantee. But here David rejoices because God has been kind to him to give him another day. They are saying there is no salvation for him in God, but these blessings are all demonstrations of the greater blessing of knowing God. He is on the run, but his God is there with him. I’ve had sleepless nights over far less than this. With 12,000 men on his tail, David sleeps on the pillow of God’s covenant blessings.
The matyr Ridley, before he was burned at the stake for his Christianity wanted to make sure he had a good sleep the night before so that everyone would see this is how a Christian can trust in God.
Remember Peter was in prison in Acts 12? James had just been killed by Herod’s sword, but yet he lay asleep in the prison cell between two guards. The angel had to wake him up in order to lead him out. God’s people can sleep on the pillow of God’s promises, even amid very difficult circumstances.
Look again at verse 5, “I lay down and slept and I wok again, for the Lord sustained me.” I mentioned earlier that our trials my not be of the same kind as David, but our hope is not less than his. I want you to think about this verse today dear believer in Jesus. Is this not true of you on your last day? One day our eyes will close for their final time, never to open again in this world. But, we will wake again, in the resurrection. The Lord will sustain you in life and in death, so that you awake in his presence.
Where is death's sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav'n's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
God also his protector. Little wonder then he is not afraid. What a statement. Though there are innumerable people who are intent to unsettle and harm him, he will not be afraid. Why? Because the Lord is his protector. How can David tell that God is blessing him? Is it the absence of difficulty? No, it’s the presence of God amid the difficulty.
God cares for his people. Even against such unlikely odds as a spark surviving in an ocean or a sheep among wolves — yet still he is with us. We have the lion of Judah as our great defender and protector.
One man with God backing him forms a majority against many thousands.
You would never know this blessing unless there was a sense of weakness.
Mark it down, the blessing is not a change of circumstances but knowing God amid all types of seasons (good and bad).
Do you know this confidence that David writes of? Do you have this peace?
You need to ask yourself about how you respond to difficulty.
How will you prepare for death?
See that one of the major blessings shown throughout the Bible is the fact that God promises, with certainty, to never forsake his children. He promises to be with us.
Do you know this?
Is it your experience?
Finally, David prays for the destruction of his enemies and the salvation of God’s people.
The first half of the verse is something that we would understand and likely feel comfortable praying, “Arise O Lord, Save me, O my God!”
But it’s the second half that might be a bit more difficult. He cries for God to judge and destroy his enemies. And he does so in vivid terms.
The imagery here is of a wild beast relentlessly pursuing his prey. How would you secure safety? You would have to break its jaw and smash its teeth. This is what David is praying, save me by rendering my enemy powerless against me.
Is this how we should be praying? That our opponents' teeth should be kicked in and their cheeks smashed?
Well, yes and no. Let me explain.
This Psalm has a context. David is the King of Israel. He is the one to whom God has made great promises. He has promised to bless his offspring and provide an eternal king who would rule righteously. God’s agenda is connected to David and his son. So even though David is not perfect (far from it, actually) he is the one to whom God has promised these things. And he is ruling as the king. So he has a unique position. In this sense, he is quite different than us. We are not kings. And we have not been promised to have a physical descendant reigning on the throne.
But there are similarities.
God’s promise to David culminates in David’s Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus is the eternal and righteous King. God’s promises to David are fulfilled in Christ. And, when we trust in Christ and become part of his body, we become recipients of his promises and his blessings.
So, in this case, it is entirely appropriate to pray like David. David prayed for the overthrow of those who oppose God’s agenda through his promised kingdom. We too now can pray the same way. All that opposes Christ’s rule of righteousness should be opposed. If people or organizations or nations oppose Christ we should pray that their plans are foiled and their assaults are defeated.
If the church or a believer is being oppressed for the cause of righteousness or otherwise treated unjustly, then it is right to pray that these opponents would be thwarted and their evil intent rendered powerless.
In short, it would be appropriate to pray like this in the cause of righteousness but not for our personal squabbles or political debates or something like that.
And so David prays with pulsing trust and confidence, salvation belongs to the Lord and blessings on his people.
This is a prayer for God to fulfill his covenant promises to his people. When David feels the pinch of this situation he prays for God to remember his promises and save his people.
This should be instructive and convicting. We are taught that we need to pray and convicted for our prayerlessness.
Why do we do this?
One of my favorite books is, When People are big and God is small by Ed Welch. The book shows how common it is for us to have a small view of God and a large view of man. Our view of God is deflated and our view of man is inflated.
Don’t you see here that David is quite the opposite? This is helpful for us to see.
I told you that I wanted us to see God’s blessing whether or not things are going well.
It helps to think about this in light of Jesus. You see Jesus had many of the same circumstances as David talks about here. Jesus was rejected by a close friend, betrayed, and condemned to death. He marched the lonely walk up the mount of olives and outside of the city. Upon the cross, his accusers decided that he was cursed of God and forsaken. And he was indeed. He was cursed by God - not because he sinned but because we had. And he bowed his in death. Why? Because the work was finished. The reason why David’s head could be lifted, the reason why your head could be lifted, is because Christ bowed his head in death. He crushed the teeth of death, he smashed the jaw of the grave. And now, though the enemies of our soul, even death itself should peer into the window of our lives, there remains an impenetrable screen standing between. The Lord Jesus Christ has conquered and given victory to his people. Salvation belongs to the Lord.
This transcends our circumstances. It is the ultimate victory. It makes us able to live trusting God, clinging to his promises and experiencing his blessings. Even when things don’t seem to be going well.