Psalm 3 is a typical song of sorrow over the difficulties of life. Though set in a specific historical context, God has preserved this psalm (and all others) in such a way that it may be applied to our own circumstances and that it may guide our thoughts and prayers and help us walk in faith.
In this psalm David is surrounded by enemies and is threatened by their power. But he learns to put his trust in God for present peace and future deliverance. Using his words and meditations in this psalm, we can do the same when we are threatened by adversities in life, and so take hold of hope while still in distress. Let’s walk through the main thoughts of this psalm and accept David’s advice for our own lives.
The Problem of Adversity (1-2)
“How they have increased who trouble me… many say ‘There is no help in God for him!”” When difficulties come to us they can seem overwhelming. Often our struggles take center stage and tend to blur out any of life’s encouragements. David asserts that his enemies seem to continually increase until it becomes overwhelming. He is truly at his wit’s end. We are inclined to magnify our troubles in our own minds. We can’t see a way out of the fog. This is human nature, and it challenges our faith. To make matters worse, we hear voices taunting us that “there is no help from God this time!”
Fittingly, the psalm begins this way because this is often how we initially experience trouble. The challenge is real. The challenge is before us. But the issue is how we are going to deal with it. Let David’s example in this psalm be your counsel. It’s okay to experience this challenge to your faith. It’s not okay to cower in fear and refuse to respond biblically.
The Protection Offered by God (3-4)
“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me… you lift up my head. I cried to the Lord and he heard me!”
God’s protection is certain for those who apprehend it by faith. It’s as if a strong shield is handed to you to guard you from the arrows of the enemy, but in order for it to be useful you must take hold of it by faith.
Faith is always the link between God’s promise and the actual experience of it. This psalm encourages us to be like David and make statements of faith that will lay hold of the protection that God offers. His power and purposes are sure regardless of your trust, but your trust is necessary if you are to be included in those purposes, as well as a recipient of that power. Like the psalmist, express your trust in God’s protection explicitly. Tell yourself the truth and so include yourself in the grace.
The Peace of Trusting in God (5-6)
“I lay down and slept, I awoke for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people.” An active faith in God provides an inner peace that gives a sub-conscious health to body and soul. The troubles are still present but the devastating side-effects are not. The person of faith is able to experience an incomprehensible tranquility when general experience seems to demand otherwise. We lay our troubles on the Lord’s shield and we are free to focus, not on the threat of danger, but on the serenity of God’s grace. This gives us true rest in body and soul. Night terrors are impossible for those who have turned all terror over to God in faith.
Here David gives us a great example of “the peace of God that passes understanding” and which “guards the heart and mind” (Phil. 4:7). There is a clear disconnect between the external turmoil and threat in David’s life and the internal peace and tranquility in his spirit. This is the great benefit of appropriating this psalm (and the many others) in your life’s trials. Each night of peaceful sleep is a gift of God. When sleep is unexpected but graciously given we, like David, praise God for it.
The Prayer that Makes it Real (7-8)
“Arise, O Lord. Save me, O my God!” Here is where the transaction takes place. This is the prayer of David where he petitions the Lord’s mercies. In his prayer he overtly clings to the future deliverance as he claims, “You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone, you have broken the teeth of the ungodly.” Although their destruction is evidently yet future, David claims it as a present reality which fuels his worship and adoration of the God of heaven who is certain to give him ultimate victory.
We should be sure, not only to know the promises of God and trust in his faithfulness, but to prayerfully articulate this faith in a purposeful and deliberate way. God gave us the Psalms to aid us in doing just that. These prayers and meditations are a storehouse of spiritual guidance that awaits our diligent study and personal application. These are the prayers of godly men of old that are just as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago. The Lord of the Psalms is the unchanging God who gives his unchanging promises that sustain us in a world of ever-changing struggle. We need a firm foundation. And in the God of the Psalms—and Jesus Christ, his son—we have it now and forever.