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Psalm 3: Learning How to Process & Approach Life
Psalm 3 is one of my favorites. Today’s reading (I’m praying through the Psalms in 2 month cycles this year) brought me to Psalm 3 again. I love this psalm because its structure brings order to my often disordered life. I want to process and approach life the way Psalm 3 teaches me to do it.
Maybe it would help you to think and pray through Psalm 3 with me today? Below are the names I give to the different parts of the psalm and a few reflections.
1 O LORD, 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.
David begins with sight. David the psalmist begins this prayer with what’s right in front of him–with what he can see, his circumstances, with what hurts and threatens. David doesn’t pretend. David reports. David is honest before God about the pressure, pain, and fear. David has enemies. And these enemies are “many.” Three times the text repeats the “many-ness” of the threat David faces.
David is in trouble. This is what David sees in front of him. This is where David starts. David pours out his trouble to the LORD.
What do you see? What enemies, what troubles, surround and threaten you? Start there. Tell God all about it. Avoid the temptation of processing and navigating the trouble by yourself. This Psalm calls you out of your self-sufficiency. The opposite of the Christian life is the self-sufficient life.
3 But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
David starts his prayer with the circumstances he sees and feels, but this is just the start. This is just verses 1 and 2. We have 6 more verses.
Verse 3. Now David interrupts sight with belief. David quickly transitions from what he sees to re-confessing the belief he’s built his life upon. David knows when to insert a “But.” “Life is very hard. But…”
David’s “But..” leads to belief. David’s “But…” leads not to belief in a creed, but belief in a Person. David is talking to the LORD. He knows the LORD. There is a relationship here. David tells the LORD (and reminds himself) who he believes the LORD to be. David speaks 3 images of who he believes the LORD to be: “shield,” “my glory,” “the lifter of my head.”
David’s enemies are “many, many, many.” But David’s God is “shield, glory, lifter.”
What do you believe? What do you believe about the LORD? Have you applied that belief to the trouble you see and face today, or are you keeping that belief on a separate shelf? Remember the relationship you have!
The LORD is your shield. He’s not your shield in theory. You have a relationship with a shield that shows up and protects you in the midst of today’s battle. Do you believe this? The LORD is also your glory. He’s also the lifter of your head. Belief is being able to see through your circumstances to a deeper reality. Do you believe the LORD can lift your head, even today? Do you believe resolved circumstances are the lifter of your head, or is the LORD the lifter of your head? If no enemies and perfect circumstances are the lifter of your head, you’ll be looking down most of your life. If the LORD is the lifter of your head, you can face anything.
4 I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill.
5 I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
Now David remembers. Remembrance changes everything. David remembers the enemies he faced in the past, the prayers he prayed in the past, and the help God gave in the past. He remembers how his Shield worked in his life in the past. He remembers protection that enabled him to sleep soundly.
David remembered the many Goliath’s God had delivered him from in the past. David remembered that this same God was the one hearing these new prayers and cries.
What do you remember? Remind yourself today of how you cried to God in seasons of desperation in the past and of how he answered and took care of you. God hasn’t changed. Your circumstances and cries and have changed, but God is still God. God hasn’t forgotten you. He remembered you in the past. He remembers you today. Will you remember Him today? Build your faith through remembrance.
And will you remember this tonight when you stumble into bed? Will tonight be another night of sleeping in fear, or will you sleep like a Christian?
6 I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Sight–>Belief–>Remembrance–>Resolve. This is David’s movement as he teaches us how to process and approach life in this world.
David couldn’t have moved directly from verse 2 to verse 6. If all we had were verses 1 and 2, David should be very afraid. But verses 3-5 changed everything. Now David is operating from a different center. Now David is surrounded by a shield, he’s enjoying a glory that he can’t lose, his head has been lifted high, he remembers God’s track record, he knows a good night of sleep awaits him.
So, David resolves. David makes a decision. David considers the evidence of his circumstances and the evidence of his God and he makes a decision to not be afraid. The word “many” shows up again. It doesn’t matter anymore. Even if he has to face “many thousands” of enemies who have set themselves against him “all around,” David knows the LORD his shield surrounds him all around.
This is faith. Faith is resolve. Faith is making a decision. Faith is being able to take a long look at your circumstances and a long look at your God and deciding that God is bigger.
What did you decide this morning? What was your resolve? Either you decided that because God is bigger than your troubles you would not be afraid, or you decided to once again let your circumstances, problems, and enemies decide how much fear you will feel today. David decided to say “I will not fear” because he decided to believe in God more than he believed in his enemies. Who do you believe in more? What “I will not fear…” sentence do you need to write today?
7 Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Now David prays. He’s been praying the whole time, but now he makes requests of God for the first time. David makes two requests: “Arise…” and “Save me.”
As I’ve been reading the Psalms recently I’ve concluded that all the prayer requests in the Psalms boil down to one word: Help! This is what David is saying here. “Help! God, help me! LORD, do something! Help me! I can’t help myself. Arise! Stand up. Take action. Only you can do this. Save me!”
David’s prayer request isn’t fancy. Nor is it shy. David just shouts: Help!
What are your prayer requests today? Jesus calls his people to live life with childlike faith. Childlike faith isn’t fancy. Childlike faith isn’t shy. Childlike faith simply says, often and loudly: Help! The older I get, the more troubles I face, and the more Bible I read, I’m finding that the word that comes out of my mouth most often to God is: “Help.”
8 Salvation belongs to the LORD;
your blessing be on your people!
David ends his prayer with praise and assurance. David proclaims that salvation (victory/deliverance) belongs to God and that blessing is sure to come from God. The whole situation that started this prayer, verses 1-2, David leaves in the LORD’s hands. The praise that David gives God (“Salvation belongs to the LORD”) is one and the same with the assurance he gives himself (“Salvation belongs to the LORD”).
Who will you let salvation (victory/deliverance) belong to today? Is it up to you? Do you really want to carry that burden? Or will you realize and rest in the reality that salvation belongs to the LORD? He sees your verses 1-2. He knows what He is doing.
Psalm 3 gives us a grid for processing and approaching life in this world: Sight–>Belief–>Remembrance–>Resolve–>Prayer–>Praise/Assurance.
I want Psalm 3 to mark my life. Wouldn’t it be great if our approach to each new day looked like 2 verses of Sight and 6 verses of Belief, Remembrance, Resolve, Prayer, and Praise centered on the LORD?