Trust in adversity – Psalm 3

Psalms of David

Psalms in Book 1 (Psalms 1 to 41) are mostly personal songs, so I will be looking at how they apply to us personally. Social and communal aspects of life and work do not come in until the later books of psalms.

This is the first psalm to be attributed to David, it sets the scene for David’s psalms to follow. It also is the first appearance of the Hebrew word Selah. The meaning of Selah is unknown, some think it is a musical or liturgical direction, some for a time to reflect on the words and others a musical interlude. These are not mutually exclusive.

A post with the sticker "Refugees Welcome."
Photo by Markus Spiske on

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
    there is no salvation for him in God. Selah

But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah

I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all round.
Arise, O Lord!
    Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
    you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
    your blessing be on your people! Selah

Psalm 3 ESVUK

The psalms are songs of worship. There are songs for all situations, even when your life’s in a pickle.

David was in a pickle. His son Absolom had taken over the palace in Jerusalem in a popular coup, even showing his disdain for David by openly having sex with David’s wives on the palace roof. Centuries earlier Reuben, son of Jacob had lost his inheritance as eldest son by having had sex with one of his father’s wives. But we are not talking about the sin of Absolom here.

David has in a sense brought this on himself. It started on another roof. David saw a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, bathing on a rooftop and had her brought to him where she became pregnant. To cover it up David had Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, moved to the front line of battle where he was killed. From this point on David’s reign was troubled. Absolom was popular, the people supported Absolom and rejected David.

David knew he was being judged by God. It would be understandable if David in his lament had complained to God about his judgement, he was hiding for fear of his life and his wives had been raped. But he does not turn on God and blame him, instead he writes a song of trust in God. God is not at fault.

David has already written his song of repentance, That is Psalm 51, in the 2nd book of psalms because of the way the psalms are arranged thematically, this song, Psalm 3, is about trust, trust in a God who takes sin seriously. David has repented of his sins, and Absolom is living in his. Absolom must repent or be judged.

David is not praying that he will be able to take revenge on Absolom, David is asking for God’s mercy and Justice.

Psalm 3 is a song of prayer and a song of worship. We can use these prayers of david to guide our prayers. An example of how I do this is below:

It is six months since Russia invaded Ukraine. The people of Ukraine are fighting an invading army, are living in fear of their lives or are living as refugees, having fled for their lives. The people of Russia are kept in the dark, the news being heavily censored. For both of them I pray the same prayer, that the God of mercy will give them mercy.

For the government of Ukraine and the government of Russia, I pray the same prayer, that the God of justice will give them the justice they deserve.

< Psalm 2 | Psalm 3 | Psalm 4 >
Psalms of David | Next >

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