Psalm 3: Explained in Detail
Psalm 3 is a psalm of personal thanksgiving to God for answering the prayer of David when he fled from Absalom his own son who wanted to kill him so he could reign on the throne, according to 2 Samuel, Chapters 13-18.
David was not only deserted by his own son, but he was also turned against by his own subjects. He needed to be delivered from his enemies. Therefore, he turned to God for help.
Psalm 3 has only 8 verses, but it is packed with spiritual guidance for those who need it the most just as David did. The short psalm can be divided into two distinct parts.
"Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!"
David did not beat around the bush. He gets right to the point and tells God what's troubling him.
According to 2 Samuel 15:13, the reality of David's problem is that the people of Israel had turned against him and were on the side of his son, Absalom. David is astonished about the sudden revolt that included not only the common people but his own counselors and many of his chief captains.
"Many are saying of me,“God will not deliver him." Selah
To make matters worse, David's enemies doubt that God will deliver him from this terrible situation. Not only is David down and out, but his enemies tell him that God has cast him aside. The enemies believed his situation was so bad that they told him he was beyond God's help.
This is the first of three selahs in this short psalm. Selah is a musical pause that should not be read aloud.
"But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high."
There is a shift in this verse. David takes his eyes off of his enemies and focuses on God. In spite of what the enemies say about God not helping David in Verse 2, the psalmist begins this verse with "But." He declares to God that he is a shield all around him who protects him from his enemies so much that he can lift his head high with confidence.
"I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain." Selah
This is David's affirmation. Notice, the verse is in the present tense which means it was not what the king did in the past. It is an ongoing act. "He calls out to the Lord." Then God answers. Again, that is an ongoing act. "He answers David."
This is the second Selah in the psalm.
"I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me."
Even though David is running for his life, he is able to lie down and sleep because he knows God is watching over him and protecting him. Whether he is asleep or awake, he knows God is sustaining him.
Sleep is a blessing that came to David even though he was under great stress because of Absalom's rebellion against him. Waking is also a blessing because sometimes people sleep a lot when troubled.
"I will not fear though tens of thousand assail me on every side."
David knows that God is with him whether there is one against him or ten thousand enemies are after him. Numbers mean nothing against the power of God. The king remembers that as a young boy tending sheep he declared that the Lord was his shepherd who protected him just as earthly shepherds protect their sheep.
"Arise, O Lord! Deliver me, my God! For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly."
"Arise. O Lord!" is a military phrase that calls on God to defend Israel. Moses used this expression in Numbers 10:35 when the children of Israel disobeyed in the wilderness.
Breaking the jaws and the teeth is a metaphor showing what God had already done to David's enemies. It was not a request from David to harm his enemies, but it was an illustration of what God had already done to his enemies.
"From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people." Selah
David realized his deliverance would come only from God. The psalmist did something that most people refuse to do. He asked God to bless his enemies who were making his life miserable.
This is the third and final selah in the psalm.
Selah is a word used 74 times in the Old Testament. It is used seventy-one times in the Psalms and three times in the Book of Habakkuk. It is a musical pause in hymns and in the reading of the psalms as an indication to stop and listen.
The Amplified Bible translates selah as "pause, and think of that." In other words, when you see it in the Bible, you should pause momentarily and reflect on what you have just read.