Read through Psalm 3
Have you ever felt alone? Have you ever felt sad, broken, and confused? Have you ever felt so heavy from the weight of life that the only gasp of air that you could muster is for a cry? You ever felt so vulnerable in the world that you did not want to step outside the confines of your house and deal with others? Well, then you would understand what it means to lament. The psalms can teach us this lost art of lamentation. To cry out and become undone by our pain and sorrow. To let out that which wants to burst forth. And God wants that. God wants to hear your lament because He cares so deeply for your heart. These words of lament are meant to empty out our hearts so that there is room for God to fill them with His peace and joy.
The first part of the Psalter is less a book of praises than a book of prayers for God’s help. Psalm 3 is this prayer of help. Psalm 3 has elements that make up the structure of a lament psalm: the complaint (vv.1-2), the confession of trust (vv.3-6), and a petition (v.7). This psalm also ends with a closing benediction or blessing (v.8).
The psalmist opens with the complaint (vv.1-2), which are words from his adversaries. There are “many” adversaries (v.1) and they declare negatively of the psalmist that “God will not deliver him” (v.2). This assumes that either God cannot or will not help the psalmist in the midst of trouble. Either God does not have the power to help or that God has no fidelity (relational covenantal faithfulness) to the psalmist. Either claim is an arrogant presumption against God (i.e., claiming to know what God does) and an attack against a fellow human. The adversaries are attacking the psalmist’s source of hope.
Verses 3-6 are a reassurance of the character of God and a confession of trust in his source of hope. The poem shifts at verse 3 with the words “But you” and the psalmist begins his counterargument of the negative assertion that “God will not deliver him” (v.2). Verse 3 gives three titles to God: “a shield around me”; “my glory”; and “the One who lifts my head high.” All these titles show that God protects His loved ones and shows them honor and respect. Verse 4 states that God will answer “from his holy mountain.” This is a reference to God’s faithfulness to His people in the past on Mt. Sinai. And then the psalmist moves from God’s past fidelity to what He is doing in the present and what he will continue to do in His faithfulness. He will “sustain” His people (v.5), therefore we ought not to fear “tens of thousands” (v.6). This is a reference back to verse 1 on the “many” who assail the psalmist.
The petition (v.7) and benediction (v.8) stems from the above confession of trust in who God is (vv.3-6). The petition, “Arise, LORD! Deliver me, my God!” is a reversal of the enemies original claim (v.2). After confessing who God is, the psalmist can trust that the enemies are wrong in what they say about God and that God will indeed deliver His people. The psalmist ends his lament with a confession of what he believes of the LORD (contra the enemies) and then invokes God’s blessing on the people (v.8). In the trouble of life and against the attack of enemies, the psalmist finds true faith and trust in the faithful God of Israel.
Prayer: Father, we pray that in the midst of our trouble we can find deeper, faithful expressions of your character. We pray that our cries of lament can be transformed into laughs of joy and praise you. I pray that we receive your strength in the turmoil of life. Show us more of yourself.
Read through Psalm 3