“A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.
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.’ Selah”
Psalm 3 corresponds well with the events surrounding the treason of David’s son, Absalom. Luther and Augustine observed an even closer correspondence with the Passion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Luther is said to have lived in this psalm when he was summoned to the Diet of Worms in 1521 by the emperor to answer for his alleged heretical teachings. More broadly, this is a psalm in which every Christian at times may live.
(“Though devils all the world should fill”2)
A Christian has no shortage of devils in this world. On June 17, 2015, nine men and women in Charleston, South Carolina, were slaughtered inside a church in which they were engaged in a Bible study. On November 5, 2017, twenty-six men, women and children in Sutherland Springs, Texas, were murdered in the middle of a church service. Christians in Egypt and other countries live under a daily threat of being murdered in their own homes and churches.
But our foes also have an array of non-physical weapons with which to war against us in our everyday vocations:
- Have you ever tried to navigate a career at a company where greed, dishonesty, gossip, discrimination or other evils are promoted or tolerated?
- What does a Christian face who seeks political office in a system where dishonesty, bigotry, corruption and character assassination are the norm?
- How does a pastor remain faithful to the Word of God in a congregation where its members are inundated with aberrant theology from radio, books and the internet?
- Can a Christian discharge his family responsibilities where his spouse, children or parents deride his beliefs as narrow minded, unloving, primitive, or stupid?
- Can a Christian stand in faith where his own flesh tempts him daily with unbelief from depression, disease, lust, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, greed, violence, etc.?
“Yes,” a Christian can and must live in the world full of devils, under constant spiritual or physical affliction, but not without many crosses.
“O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me” (Ps 3:1)
Our foes rise against us in two different ways. First there is the gang mentality that often takes place when a Christian sins or experiences failure. The cowards, the jealous and the resentful often burst into the open to publicly mock and celebrate when a Christian or church is suffering.
Second our foes rise within us when, tempted by unbelief, we despair of our foes or circumstances instead of clinging to Christ and His salvation. We can focus on the Canaanites until they appear to be the size of Nephilim, or we can focus on Christ and His Word with the result that our foes will appear as grasshoppers, as they actually are by comparison.
“many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no salvation for him in God.’ Selah” (Ps 3:2)
The greatest lie that Satan whispers is: “There is no salvation for him in God.” Even the lie of “There is no God” is not as bad, because if there is no God, then we are no worse off than our neighbors when we die. But imagine the sheer horror and terror of hearing that there is salvation in God, but you are not included, that God has forsaken you in particular.
This was the lie David heard from Shimei as he fled Jerusalem: “The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.” (2 Sam 16:8) So also Jesus from the cross: “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” (Matt 27:43)
“3 But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
4 I cried aloud to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah”
(“A mighty fortress is our God, a trusty shield and weapon”3)
In light of David’s history, one could easily imagine David thinking: “The roosters have finally come home to roost. God is now punishing me for my adultery and murder of Uriah.” But instead of despair, David confessed his trust in what is only visible to faith: that the Lord is a shield, his glory and the lifter of his head, no matter what the Lord was orchestrating.
Regarding the cursing of Shimei, David said to his men: “Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” (2 Sam 16:11-12)
And Christ, knowing that His enemies were rising against Him and that His disciples would soon abandon Him, nevertheless confessed his confidence in His Father: “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)
“But you, O LORD, are a shield about me” (Ps 3:3)
Everything that the Lord accomplishes for us comes through faith in Christ and His cross. Paul calls it “the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Eph 6:16). Christ has called us into His kingdom under His governance. In His kingdom, He grants us reconciliation with God and eternal life.
At Golgotha, Jesus defeated sin, death and the devil. Before His arrest, He comforted His disciples with the following words: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Jesus has overcome the world!
Thus, Jesus is our impenetrable shield against all devils. To the world and our own flesh, we will suffer as though we have no shield at all; but “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)
Therefore, we must not judge based on appearances or worldly values; but must train our eyes and ears on the Word of God, which teaches the true nature of things to those with faith. And this shield of faith believes that no matter who or what threatens us, we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who loves us. Amen.
Next week we will pick up Psalm 3 in verse 3 where David confesses the Lord to be his glory and the lifter of his head. Amen.
1 Concordia Publishing House. Reading the Psalms with Luther. 2007. Print. p. 14.
2 A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, Martin Luther, v. 3.
3 Ibid., v 1.