Reflections on Psalm 3

Today I’m doing a Bible study on the third chapter of Psalms, which is probably one of my favorites. This work of poetry speaks of the time when King David, the author, was forced to flee for his life when his son Absalom revolted and claimed the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 15-19). David’s life had turned upside down overnight. Just like in the days of his predecessor Saul, David was once again a fugitive (1 Samuel 21-30), rejected by his closest friends (Psalm 41:9; 55:12–14; 2 Samuel 15:12), and even cursed by his own people (2 Samuel 15:5-13).

You can imagine how David felt. You can feel the emotional turmoil which must have wrought his heart in those dark times. David portrayed powerful word-pictures of his suffering. And yet, David also found resolution and peace in his loving God. Psalm 3 is an excellent example of this dynamic.

In the following post, I’m going to really break down this passage, with the intention of stirring up the same confidence within us, trusting that God is everything we need (Ephesians 3:20). I’ll be quoting from the New American Standard Bible.

Verses 1-2

Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me. Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” Selah.

Join me in visualizing Psalm 3 as we read. The scene depicted here is most certainly hopeless. You can see the crowd of enemies gathering, you can sense their vehemence and mockery. David’s enemies claim that not even God can save him from this ruin…

Verses 3-4

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,

Although chaos surrounds him, David knows God is working on his behalf. Imagine a protective barrier arising: an unbreakable wall of iron and stone. His enemies can no longer touch him; in fact, the very threat they represent is out of sight. His protection is both bullet-proof and sound-proof!

My glory, and the One who lifts my head.

Can you see the loving hand of the Father reaching down and gently lifting his head and restoring his confidence? The Message translation renders “My glory” as “You ground my feet”. God places David’s footing on solid ground and draws him out from wallowing in shame.

I was crying to the Lord with my voice,
And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.

David was very intentional of voicing his grievances. He called out loudly, he weeped, he cried bitterly. God did not chastise him for expressing himself, but instead answered his hurt personally. From “His holy mountain”, lofty and mighty, God answered and came down.

Verses 5-6

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.

I find this profound. Just a minute before, amidst a sea of enemies hurling insults, at a place of dejection and shame David was at his worst state. But as God intervened, not only was David brought back to former strength, but he was so enveloped in the peace of God, in that divine comfort, that he was able to sleep! I certainly couldn’t sleep were such harrowing circumstances surrounding me. But to David, God’s protection and life-giving presence completely overshadowed his fears.

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about.

David has recovered his senses, he’s no longer freaking out. His anxiety and fear are replaced by his faith–his unwavering trust in God. No matter what may come, God is bigger. For if God be for you, who can be against you? (Romans 8:31)

Verses 5-6

Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God!
For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek;
You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.

David need not avenge himself, for God would answer the threats of his enemies. God is the avenger (Deuteronomy 32:35), God is the judge (Isaiah 33:22), and God will make all things right again (1 Peter 5:10).

Salvation belongs to the Lord;
Your blessing be upon Your people! Selah.

Restitution was in God’s hands. David recognized that his personal salvation, and his people’s, was found in God. Peace amidst trouble and hope despite bleak circumstances could be found when a person looked to God as their ultimate source. The Message paraphrases this last verse as “Real help comes from God. Your blessing clothes your people.”


David suffered much in his lifetime but he also experienced great joys. David truly lived the Valley of Death experience; but more importantly, he also found refuge in the House of God. The life experiences of King David are woven into the poetry of the Psalms. His heart is laid bear for us to witness and compare to our own vulnerabilities, anxieties, and unanswered questions.

Although we face much uncertainty in this life, David assures us that we can find safety in God: we are surrounded by God’s all-encompassing protection, we are tenderly brought out from our anguish and into the light of his promises. Even at out most hopeless moment, God is present to give us the best of himself. And that’s the best place we can be.

Closing Prayer

Father God, thank you for the truth revealed to us in Psalm 3. We are so blessed and encouraged to know that you’re peace within us can stand the test of any circumstance. We choose today to stand in the truth of your promises, in the grace, power, and peace you’ve provided through your son, Jesus Christ. Amen!


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