Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Psalm 3

We approach each psalm not quite knowing what it will give us on each reading. We know the basics, of course, but God alone knows what the Holy Spirit will bring into our hearts with this specific psalm at this specific time.

Like many psalms, Psalm 3 has an annotation. These annotations often tell us who wrote the specific Psalm and why. And sometimes we are told what musical ceremony the Psalm was written for and how the Psalm should be played.

In Psalm 3, we see that the Psalm is given to the overseer of the worship music (the chief musician) and we are told David wrote it when he fled from his son Absalom. You can read about the civil war between David and his son in the Biblical books of Kings, Samuel, and Chronicles.

When we read a psalm, we can decide if it is prophetic, historical, personal, communal or a combination of all four. Check out this post on otiumsanctum on how to read the Psalms.

For instance, this is a psalm about overwhelming trouble. We know David wrote it about his troubles with his son Absalom. But it could also refer to Israel and to the troubles that have overwhelmed Israel from the beginning of its inception. Or it could refer to something that will happen to Israel in the future. Or it could refer to the troubles of good people in the world.

We also are introduced to a new word that the translators left untranslated: Selah. As far as I know, no one is quite sure what it means but the general guess is that it means either "Pause" and/or "consider that." It might be a musical term for a break in the music. Or it might be a theological term.

Psalm 3

1Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.

Okay, in the Bible we always read of enemies, foes, those-who-rise-up, swords and the like. On the one hand they refer to physical enemies. David -- or whoever was writing the Psalm-- had personal foes. But on the other hand, Biblical talk of enemies and warfare often refers to spiritual enemies. The Bible says the last enemy to be destroyed is Death, but in addition to death man's other enemies are Sickness, Poverty, Sin, Conspiracy. A whole lot. In Psalm 91, we see God's promises about protecting us from many of these enemies but here we get the first glimpse of how the enemy simply overwhelms God's people!

2Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.

For the most part, we are usually not placed in a position where God is the only one who can help us. If we are, and if death doesn't surprise us -- accident, murder, etc-- then that is the only time we say, "oh God, I'm in a fix that only you can get me out of." Some of us, though, are in this situation. Mothers of disabled kids, folks with a mafia contract on their lives. Whatever the situation, sometimes the bank, the docs, the professionals, can't help. And even then, we come to God as the last resort because we have been trained by the world, the media, other christians, our denominations that God won't help us in certain situations. For instance, if one belongs to a denomination that believes the age of miracles is past, you probably have been trained to believe the doctor will bring about your miracle or that God will help you but only with the help of a doctor. Then when the doctor says he can't help, you have lost all hope. ALL HOPE. Then you may turn to God but honestly, you aren't really expecting him to actually help. And certainly most of the folks around you aren't.

So, here, the believer comes to God. The troubles that are arrayed against him are so many...only God can help him. Everyone knows this. People are saying, "Only God can help this dude now and God isn't going to help him! Our own fears tell us that although God is loving and powerful, we will not get our miracle. We hear the devil whispering fearful thoughts into our brains that tell us that even if God gets us out of one problem, certainly God will not get us out of all of our problems. In my life, it's hard for me to believe that God can remove all my problems. Can God prepare a feast in the wilderness? Let's face it, we have been trained to believer that we have a stingy God. We end up trusting in one miracle a lifetime but what if we need a thousand miracles? The so-called "spiritual" folks tell us: what if God wants you to endure suffering? You aren't being very spiritual, are you, trying to get out of what God has permitted to happen to you? ("If I were in your situation, I'd be stronger and more patience than you are.") The world is very good at equating enduring sickness and suffering with spirituality. But this is not what the Bible says. This is a big bane of contention with Christian folks, being blessed by God and being healed of all one's diseases or delivered from all one's afflictions. But I am convinced that the Bible tells us that God delivers us out of ALL our afflictions.

3But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.
4I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

The there is this feeling that this person's problems are so many that God in fact won't help or can't. Let's fact it: sometimes we see people become quite overwhelmed by life and we don't see God helping them. However, as Jesus warned his disciples --"IF I will that this happens with one disciple, what is that to you!" -- we aren't supposed to look at how God has supposedly failed others, we are to look at what God's character and what God has said in His word that He would do for us. Today the verse that jumped out at me is LIFTER UP OF MINE HEAD. When we're depressed or ashamed our head is turned down. Because of shame, we can't face other people, we can't face ourselves. Because of the hopelessness of the situation, we can't look up. It just looks bad all around. But then we look up to God who is our ONLY hope.

5I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.
6I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.

Like the man who can fear no evil while he walks in the valley of the shadow of death and the man who can sleep while surrounded by his enemies, this man is aware that God will protect him. He cast all his care on God because He trusts God to take care of Him. HE is determined not to allow fear -- one of the greatest of man's enemies-- to conquer him. Even though, on a totally human level and from human standards, he is way outnumbered.

7Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

8Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.

Nevertheless, he prays to God. Yes, he trusts God but he also remembers to ask God. We have not because we ask not. And when we ask, we must know the word to know what it is we're asking about. Then he proclaims his belief in what God has done. He says he knows that God has already destroyed all his enemies. He declares that God is able to save and bless those whom God considers his people.

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