Sometimes life can take some painful twists and turns that cause great pain. It is especially painful when people who are close to us, like relatives, friends, teammates, or coworkers turn against us.
Let’s say you are close to getting a promotion at work. Some of your coworkers get wind of this and soon they begin to torpedo your chances for getting that promotion. Rumors start passing around the office, papers are missing from your desk, and soon you find yourself passed over for that promotion. You wonder to yourself, “Why did they do that? I thought they were my friends.” It hurts.
Perhaps you volunteered to coach your son’s baseball team. The parents of that team Ð many of whom you know and consider to be friends Ð are so grateful when the season begins. But by midseason, they are complaining about you: how much you play your own kid and how little you appreciate the talent of their kids. Then the emails and phone messages start coming your direction, criticizing you for your coaching. It hurts. You thought they were friends and supporters. And this really wounds you.
Perhaps your last parent has died, and things have been divided between the siblings. Your brother, or sister, or perhaps even the whole family, is resentful toward you regarding something they thought they should have. They verbally attack you in a fit of anger and soon have the rest of the family siding with them. You find yourself out of the loop in family communications, and they are beginning to leave you out of the family get-togethers. You can’t believe it, and it really hurts.
When those who are close to us cause us pain, we can lay awake at night, fretting and worrying about how we are going to get matters fixed. What do you do? Where do you turn for help?
We have a song before us today from the Bible. It is written by a broken-hearted father whose rebellious son was trying to do him in. The father is King David. His son, Absalom, raised a national rebellion against his father, which drove David from Jerusalem and the throne. Absalom wanted him dead and out of the way.
Faithful advisors sided with Absalom against David. For fear of his life, David left the city of Jerusalem along with some of his loyal followers. A man by the name of Shimei saw David and began to throw rocks, calling curses upon him, telling him that God had forsaken him and that he was being punished for his awful ways. David rode out into the wilderness and just took the abuse from Shimei.
This may be a little sanctified imagination, perhaps, but that night I believe David wrote a song, which we find in our Bible in the book of Psalms. It is Psalm 3, and it is labeled as a lament. If it were put to music, I am sure it would be in a minor key, as sad songs often are, for David was experiencing a wilderness time of the soul. Psalm 3 has four verses to the song.
In the first verse David writes, “O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying to me, ÔThere is no help for you in God.'”
This is a verse of complaint. David is laying out his troubles. The key word here is many. “Many are my foes,” David wrote. Absalom, my supposed friends and followers, and Israel’s leadership have all become my enemies. And they are getting others to join this crusade against me. The opposition is growing against me being the king of Israel. Many are saying, “There is no help for you from God.” They are saying things like Shimei said, “God has forsaken you, David. He won’t help you.” David is spelling out that he is in deep trouble.
Notice who is being addressed: “O, Lord.” When you see that word Ð Lord Ð in the book of Psalms, it actually means in Hebrew, “Jahweh.” In English, people use the word “Jehovah.” It is an intimate term reminding those who use it that God is a God who keeps his promises. He is the God of the covenant. God had made a covenant with David that he would be the king of Israel and that God would bless him until his dying day as the king.
Referring to God as “Jahweh” is as intimate as when Jesus taught the disciples to address God as “Abba, Father” when he taught them to pray.
David, in this first verse, had a lot of troubles, so he turns to his Abba Father, his loving God.
In the second verse David goes on to say, “But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy hill. ” When David didn’t like the outlook, he began to use the “uplook.” He leaned on his theology. He put on his God-thinking cap and began to write of what he knew about God from his past experiences.
“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,” is military language. David was a warrior king. The shield was protection for the warrior. Lord, you have been my protection in all kinds of situations.
Perhaps David was remembering God’s protection while he was a shepherd, watching his sheep and protecting them from lions and bears. Or maybe he was thinking of when he took on the giant Goliath and God was his protector.
David also says, “You are my glory,” which is another military term. It means literally, my heaviness. When the soldiers of Israel would go out to battle, they went with just their weapons and came back heavy with the spoils of victory that God provided them. David was saying that God was not only his protector but also his provider. You have given me victory in the past and the spoils of victory.
David then says, And God, you are the one who lifts my head. You’ve always lifted my head. The picture is of someone whose chin is practically dragging on the ground and needs his spirit lifted. David is feeling quite humiliated at this time, and he needs God to lift him up and raise his spirits.
In the book of II Samuel, David welcomed his son, Absalom, back into the home after another situation in which Absalom had caused great pain. Absalom put his face to the ground before his father, who leaned down and kissed his son. David had to lift Absalom’s head to welcome him home and let him know he was still loved.
David says, God you are the One who lifts my head and lets me know that you love me. You raise my spirits. And you answered my cries from your holy hill. David remembers that God has been a God who answers his prayers.
David put on his theology cap, and it made all the difference. It can for us as well! When we’re not liking the outlook in our lives, when we feel like nobody likes us and everybody hates us, we can look up and know we have a heavenly Father who is a protector and a provider, who will lift our head with his love and answer our prayers for help.
David goes on to the next verse. He says this is what looking up has done for him: “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me. I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.”
This is another way of saying, I am sleeping at night peacefully, because I have learned I can hand it over to God who cares for me. He’s the one who sustains me through all of life’s situations, and now I am not afraid. Even if ten thousand set themselves against me, I have the Lord to support me. The Lord’s protection is all around me. I am doing okay. David says that he has a God who gives him peace that passes all understanding as he hands over his troubles to Him in his cry for help.
And here is David’s prayer (verse four of the song): “Rise up, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Deliverance belongs to the Lord; may your blessing be on your people!”
Rise up is a battle cry the Israelites would use as they went into battle against their enemies, following the ark of the Lord. Rise up, O Lord, against those who are rising up against me (verse 1). David asks God to deliver him from those who say that God has forsaken him and will not deliver him because He doesn’t even like David anymore. Show them, Father; slap their cheek and break their teeth. Slapping the cheek is a Hebrewism that really means to humiliate them, put them in their place. And break their teeth means to disable them, take away the bite of their attacks.
And then David proclaims, “Deliverance belongs to the Lord!” This is a statement of faith. It means help, salvation.
Finally, David prays for his people: “May your blessing, Lord, be upon your people.” David knew that his restoration as king was for the good of the people of Israel, for God had given him that promise.
The song ends with David leaving everything in God’s hands. He didn’t like the outlook so he took to the “uplook.” He believed in the promises God had made to help him. And so he handed it all over, even though he was still on the run from his son, Absalom, who wanted to get rid of him.
This is a song of faith, even in a bad time. It leads us to wonder what happened to David? How did it turn out?
You can read this story in II Samuel 15 and 16. The story turned out well, for David was delivered from that rebellion. However, it was painful for him because Absalom was killed in battle, and David wept for him. The throne was restored to David, and the kingdom was restored. Peace once again reigned in the land as the rebellion came to an end. David’s prayer was answered.
Now, I am not a king, but I am a child of God. And like David, I have some promises in my back pocket. Therefore, this psalm, Psalm 3, is mine to use in faith, knowing that there is just One to whom I can turn when everyone else seems to be turned against me: God, my help.
The human mind, though, is a curious thing. We sometimes find ourselves questioning if God can really help. Maybe you are at that place in your life. Let me pass on another story.
This story is about another king who could well have sung the same song with a lot of
feeling. He lived it, you see. He had conspirators plotting against him who did not like him or want him around. Many even said God was against him. However, if he did in fact pray this song, he did not receive a positive answer to the petitions for God to rise up and deliver him. You see, God did not protect him. Instead this King was nailed to a cross. He suffered and died with a mocking sign over his head that said, “King of the Jews.”
However, it was for your sake that he was not helped. It was so you and I could be helped. He was unblessed so that we might be blessed with forgiveness and a restored eternal relationship with our heavenly Father. God raised that King up on the third day and gave him victory over sin, death, and the devil; and in that victory we share all the blessings.
So, as you find yourself wondering at times if this God, the God David is writing about, is your help, remember King Jesus hanging on the cross for you. That is how much your Father cares about you.
The message of this Psalm today is simply this: when you feel like nobody likes you and you’re standing all alone, remember that God is your help, child of God. Trust him. Hand over your worries to him, because he cares about you. Amen.
Rev. Steve Kramer