“Deliver Me, My God” – Psalm 3

  • Jan 13, 2014
  • Series: President's Bible Study

The 1999 UEFA Champions League Final – the top soccer trophy for the best teams in Europe – was played between Manchester United of England and Bayern Munich of Germany. Both teams were filled with elite players, and both had won trophies earlier in the season in their own leagues. Now the Europe-wide showdown. Manchester United or Bayern Munich? Which was the top team in Europe?

It was largely a one-sided match. After just six minutes Bayern Munich scored from a free kick. Half-time and Bayern were still one goal ahead. The second half and the Germans dominated play. The minutes ticked away and the German supporters began to celebrate. Five minutes to go – no change. Three minutes. Two minutes. Still Manchester United could not penetrate Bayern’s defense. One minute. United fought bravely but could not get the ball in the German net. Then ninety minutes and time was up. The referee looked to the sidelines and got the sign for three minutes to be added on for injuries.

Manchester United surged forward and won a corner. David Beckham fired the ball across in front of the Bayern Munich goal. It landed at the feet of Ryan Giggs. His shot was weak, but Teddy Sheringham got it and hammered it into the net. One all!! United had equalized. Now everyone expected extra time.

But there was still a minute and a half to play. United won another corner. Sheringham headed it on, the ball came to the feet of Ole Gunnar Solskjær who shot the ball into the net. Goal! Manchester United had scored the winning goal with less than forty-five seconds to play. What a final. Trust me, someone today in Manchester, England, is still talking about that game.

Here’s the point. That match was all but lost. Manchester United were one down and time was up! People were leaving the stadium believing it was all over. But United didn’t believe that. In less than three minutes they scored two goals and won the game. What no one thought possible happened.

In Psalm 3 King David is losing. The game looks like it is completely over. No-one gives him any chance at all. But he will find victory. It won’t be because of his determination. It won’t be because of his battle skills. It won’t be because of his cunning. In David’s case, it will be because of the mercy and power of Almighty God.

Psalm 3

1 Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
2 Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
4 I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not fear though tens of thousands
assail me on every side.

7 Arise, Lord!
Deliver me, my God!
   Strike all my enemies on the jaw;
break the teeth of the wicked.

8 From the Lord comes deliverance.
May your blessing be on your people.


 

Before anything else, a few background points about this psalm.

This is the first psalm that carries David’s name, and is listed as referring to a specific period in David’s life, in this case running from his rebellious son Absalom.[1] It’s also the first of what are called the lament psalms, a term used for psalms that include a cry to God for help and rescue.

The historical background to the psalm lies in several chapters of 2 Samuel. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed (2 Sam. 11). David found forgiveness, but sin leaves consequences. David’s life and leadership nose-dived into deep trouble. Absalom, his son, rebelled and set out on a charm campaign to win the hearts of the people of Israel (2 Sam. 15). David saw that the people were turning against him, fled from Jerusalem and hid on the other side of the Jordan (2 Sam. 17). Day after day David kept out of sight, knowing his foolishness and sin had lost him his family and his kingship. It might lose him also his life. David was in a very bad place.

Psalm 3 is David’s lament at this wretched moment in his life.

There are lessons from David’s story for us.

1. For a time everything seemed hopeless.

David’s situation was very serious. As Absalom’s rebellion grew, the message David got was: “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom” (2 Sam. 15:13). It was when David heard that, he ran for his life.

Later, when the decisive battle came, David won. But twenty thousand on the other side died. That is a massive number, and it shows just how many had turned against him.

No wonder David laments.

“Lord, how many are my foes!
  How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
  ‘God will not deliver him.’”

(Psalm 3:1-2)

Three times in just two verses in this psalm David uses the word “many:”

      - Many are his foes

      - Many rise up against him

      - Many say God will not save him

It was a big thing to speak against the king. It was an even bigger thing to take up arms against the king. But perhaps neither of those damaged David the most. What hurt, and what sapped his soul, is that they said “God will not deliver the king.”

That’s what they believed. What was David going to believe? Had he lost God? Were his sins so bad, he had driven God away? Had the God who had been there when he stood against Goliath deserted him now?

The skeptics said ‘yes’ – he was abandoned by God.

What would David believe?

Years ago I knew Valerie well. She was a vibrant lady of more years than she cared to admit. She enjoyed being active and traveled a lot. She also enjoyed staying at home and doing a crossword. She laughed that she had never had a day’s illness in her life, and she looked forward to all the years ahead.

Then – with no warning – she had a stroke. And everything changed. Her speech was slurred. She could not concentrate. One side of her body was partially paralyzed and she needed people to move her around in a wheel chair. Her home was adapted with grab rails and even a stair lift. Physical therapists and occupational therapists gave as much help as they could. But none of it made much difference. Valerie had given up. The lady who had never been ill before surrendered now. She did nothing. She took no exercise. She went nowhere. “Why has God allowed this to happen?” she asked. It was all too much for her, and she slumped into a deep and dark melancholy from which she never recovered before she died.

In life, there are disasters and difficulties so serious that giving up is a real temptation. “Where is God?” we ask. “How can God be with me if this has happened?”

With no easy answers, we turn against God, brood on our misfortune, and believe life will never be better.

What would David believe?

2. He believed in a God who would redeem him and restore him.

In the moment of deepest darkness, when all his enemies were sure God had given up on the king, when it looked like the game was over, David believed God would still give him victory.

Boldly David says:

“But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
  my glory, the One who lifts my head high.” (v. 3)

God is not only there, he is around him.

God is not only there, he is lifting him up to a better place.

 

In all David gives five reasons in this psalm why he can look to God.

1)      Because he protects (v.3a). God is his shield. He had not defeated Goliath because he was strong or more skilled, but because God was with him, keeping him safe.

2)      Because he restores (v.3b). Like the lifeguard who raises a drowning child’s head above the water, so God would lift David’s head again and give him confidence for a new and wonderful future.

3)      Because he answers (v.4). Like a father listening for his child to call there is not silence from God but a loving response.

4)      Because he gives rest (v. 5). With God by his side David could lie down and sleep. The great sixteenth century reformer, Martin Luther, was subject to bouts of extreme despair. But one time, so it is said, he gave all his troubles to God with the prayer, “Lord, it’s your church, and I’m going to bed.” David would have identified with that.

5)      Because he goes to battle for him (v. 6). Like a child walking among bullies but perfectly safe because the tallest, strongest and most powerful student in that school is by his side, so even if surrounded by enemies, David is safe because God is with him.

None of this is because David deserved it. He had done dreadful wrongs. But not one of those erased God’s promises to David or changed God’s love for David.

Recently I was in an area flooded after weeks of heavy rain. Rivers had burst their banks and fields were now lakes. Buildings were under water. On news reports I have seen terrible scenes: floodwater pushing cars from a parking lot; bridges washed away; even a house lifted off its foundations and propelled downstream. Nothing could block the power of the water.

Nothing can block God’s love.

Not any sin.

Not any misfortune.

Not any bad decision.

Not any enemy.

Not any place.

Not any time.

Not any circumstance.

All obstacles thrust aside by the power, the commitment, the passion of God’s love.

Generations later the apostle Paul would write:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rom. 8:35, 37).

David, in his day, knew that too. God would redeem him and restore him.

No trial, no failure, no disappointment would ever be greater than the love God had for him, or for us. God redeems. God restores.

3. He called on God to bring deliverance.

David’s lament turns to a cry for help: “Arise, Lord!” “Deliver me, my God!” (v. 7) And he finishes the psalm with a plea for God to crush his enemies – nullify their power like an animal whose teeth are broken – and then to bring him deliverance and blessing for the people (v.8).

For a time David had been a victim. No more. Now God, David prays, now stir, now act, now go to battle for me. It is time these enemies are conquered.

Why not before? Why now? God alone decides so who can say? But perhaps God was ready long before this, but David was not ready. Maybe David had needed time to recognize how wrong he’d gone. Maybe it took until now for the full consequences of his sin to play out. Maybe David needed the solitude of his exile to bring him to a place where he could be restored, where he’d be ready for all that God had next for his life.

But now he is ready, and he calls on God to arise and deliver him.

Two final lessons for us:

1)      Timing

God takes no pleasure in our suffering, but the writer of Hebrews says God disciplines us because he loves us, because ultimately it is for our good (Heb 12:5-11).

We want instant answers and instant rescue. It seems to us we can’t wait another moment, can’t survive another struggle. But God wants all his purposes in our lives accomplished. He wants every ounce of change to happen. And when the moment comes, God will act and act decisively. Isaiah 60:22 “I am the Lord;in its time I will do this swiftly.”

2)      Power

Nothing can stop God when he goes to work or to war for his people. God is more than able to “arise” and to “deliver” us.

      - For years Israel suffered invasions by warring nations who killed the people and stole the crops. Then one day God spoke through angels to a frightened and ill-qualified young man called Gideon, and gave him just three hundred men to overturn all the invaders. And he did. (Judg. 6-7)

      - For years the nation was corrupted by the worship of false gods under King Ahab, and then one day God sent a solitary prophet with no mighty words, no special skills to pronounce judgment on Ahab and turn the people from Baal back to the Lord. And he did. (1 Kings 17-18)

      - For centuries men and women lived and died with only partial understandings of God and his mercy, and then one day God spoke to a teenage, virgin girl in Nazareth and told her she would conceive and give birth to the Savior of the world. And she did. (Luke 1)

When God arises, lives are changed, issues are resolved, people are delivered.

Struggles come, and life can seem hopeless.

Many years ago I taught myself to say something over and over when I was going through hard times. “It will not always be like this.”

          - I’m under unbearable pressure, but it will not always be like this.

          - I have no idea how to solve the problem I’m facing, but it will not always be like this.

          - There are many uncertainties about the future, but it will not always be like this.

          - I’ve let people down and upset them seriously, but it will not always be like this.

There will come a day in the future when I will look back on today’s troubles, and they will be only a memory. I know some things can’t be fixed or will never get better, but that’s not true of most things. I refuse to apply what’s true of 10% of life to the other 90% of life. Bring God into the picture, and there are unlimited possibilities for change.

David was crushed, and could not at the time of this psalm have had any idea how life could get better. But – with God’s help – he knew his life would not always be like this.

We have our own failures, our own struggles, our own unresolvable issues, but we have the same God as David. “Arise, Lord!” we pray – and he will – and with his power life will not be like it is now.

 

[1] In total thirteen Psalms have a superscription: Pss 3, 7, 18, 34, 51, 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 63, 142