Theme: A World of Foes
In this week’s studies we learn how David overcame his adversaries by committing himself into the Lord’s protection.
Scripture: Psalm 3:1-8
A second reason for taking the title of the psalm literally is that the images of the psalm are military, which fits the situation in 2 Samuel well.4 Both the examples of military language as well as the general correspondence between the psalm and the condition of David described in 2 Samuel 15 and 16 suggest strongly that the title, “When he fled from his son Absalom,” should be taken literally. In fact, it might be possible to be even more specific. H. C. Leupold suggests that the psalm was composed the second day after the rebellion was staged or, if written afterward, was at least meant as a reflection of David’s thoughts at that time.5
So the psalm is not speaking of some vague problem or disappointment but rather of a specific danger David faced that specific morning.
I am sure that many people can identify with that. Perhaps you are one. You may not be facing an imminent military battle when you wake up most mornings, but you are facing a battle. The climate in the department of the company for which you work is one of open warfare. Everyone is trying to defeat everyone else. The conditions are cutthroat. The weapons are rumors, lying, gossip, misrepresentation, even violence, bribes or stealing. A friend told me how he had gone on a vacation, leaving his business in the hands of his partner. When he came back after only two weeks the partner had managed to steal it away, leaving him with significant debts. How can any honest person survive in such a jungle?
Again, you may not be facing thousands of enemies, as David did. But how many enemies does it take to make life miserable and possibly lead even to the loss of your job? One will do, if he or she is determined enough. And you probably have more than that; in fact, the more prominent you are, the more enemies you will have and the more vulnerable you will be to them.
Or what about bureaucracy? Bureaucracy is a formidable enough enemy for anyone, particularly if you work in a government agency. Or again, you may not be attacked by soldiers commanded by your Son, as David was attacked by Absalom. But your children may hate you or may have betrayed what you stand for. For that matter, your husband may have done it, or your wife. You thought he or she was an ally, but the person has become part of that frightening force arrayed against you. It may even be that some of your foes are saying, as they said of David, “God will not deliver him” (v. 2). Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, “It is the most bitter of all afflictions to be led to fear that there is no help for us in God.”6
I want you to think about whatever distress you may be having, or danger you may be in before we go on, because it is in the midst of precisely that danger that God will appear to you and deliver you. The text urges us to do this when it interrupts the poem at this point by the word selah.7
What is another reason for taking the psalm title literally?
Though most of us do not deal with the kind of military situation that afflicted David, what are some of the battles we face instead?
Reflection: What dangers or distresses or fears are you facing right now? How can this psalm help you? What are you learning about the character of God that you perhaps would not be learning if you were not going through the difficulty?
4Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), p. 71.
5H. C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1969), p. 59.
6C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. la, Psalms 1-26 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 23.
7There is no universal agreement about what selah means, though it occurs seventy-one times in the psalter and three additional times in the psalm which ends Habakkuk. It usually occurs at the end of stanzas, but sometimes it occurs at the end of a psalm (as here, in verse 8), and it can even interrupt a stanza. One thing that is certain is that it is some kind of musical notation, probably indicating a pause for reflection. The great Hebrew grammarian Gesenius believed it to have come from the Hebrew verb selah (“to be still” or “silent”), and thus took it to imply a “pause” in the singing, perhaps for an “instrumental prelude.” Delitzsch believed it to have come from the verb salal (“to raise” or “lift up”). He saw it as an indication to modulate to a higher key. See Peter C. Craigie, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 19, Psalms 1-50, pp. 76-77; Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 1, trans. Francis Bolton (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, n.d.), pp. 101-104.