You think you’ve got problems? Consider what the author of today’s passage experienced all through his life.
The passage is Psalm 3. The author is David, who did indeed face many, many problems through his life.
Problems that began when he was still a boy. A problem with his family. A problem described in I Samuel 16.
At the time of I Samuel 16, God’s people had a king. The king was Saul. However, Saul had, by that time, begun to turn away from God, which caused God to begin a plan of succession.
God sent the prophet Samuel to the land owned by a man named Jesse. Jesse and his family were in the area of Bethlehem. God told Samuel one of the sons of Jesse was the one God had already selected to be the eventual new king. It was Samuel’s task to find out which son and then anoint that one.
When Samuel arrived at Jesse’s house, the news that one of his sons would become a king greatly pleased Jesse. He became very excited to learn which of his sons God had selected, assuming of course that the oldest son was the choice. That was not only because of the age of the son, but also his appearance. The oldest son was tall and handsome.
But “no,” said Samuel when he met the oldest son. “That is not the one.” Which was the same response when the second oldest met Samuel, and when he met the third and fourth oldest, and then the fifth, sixth, and seventh oldest.
Jesse had seven of his sons meet Samuel. He thought surely one of them was the one chosen by God to be the new king. But each time, Samuel said, “no.” Whereupon he asked Jesse, “Is this it? Is this all your sons?” It must have been a confusing time for Samuel, too, who at least thought he had heard God say where to go to find the eventual king.
Is this it? “Well,” Jesse said, “there is one more son I have. But he is the youngest.” That, I have read, is a description not just of his age, but also of the lack of respect he had from the rest of the family, including his father. “Youngest” refers to the least liked of all in the family. A lack of respect also evident in what he was doing at that time. All his brothers were at home, while the youngest son was out in field, watching the sheep. Apparently no one wanted David around the house.
“There is my youngest son,” Jesse said. The description of the son hints that Jesse was telling Samuel, “Do not waste your time with him.”
However, Samuel said, “Send for him because we will not sit - my business here will not be done - until I meet him.”
David was summoned. He entered the house. As soon as the prophet Samuel set eyes on him, the Lord said, “Arise, Samuel. Anoint this one. This is the one who will be king.”
You think you’ve got problems? David, the youngest in his family in age and in respect, endured lots of rejection from his own family.
And it went on from there. For quite a number of years, David remained at home. More likely he was in the fields, continuing to tend to the family’s sheep. It would seem the family, despite what Samuel had announced, still did not care much for David. Maybe jealousy made the relationship even more difficult.
But eventually David began to work in the court of Saul, the king he had been anointed to one day replace. Part of that work was playing his harp for Saul to help Saul through difficult times.
It was certainly a step up for David. A step from the sheep fields to the luxury of a king’s court. However, many days, things continued to be stressful for David. Stressful because of the jealousy felt by King Saul. By doing things in addition to playing his harp, David had a good reputation. He had some successes in the name of Saul that outshone the king’s accomplishments. At the same time, Saul was suffering from bouts of insanity, which often sent him into fits of rage, many of them directed against David.
Over and over again, Saul sought to kill David. Sometimes David just barely escaped.
Interestingly, there were times when David had opportunities to kill Saul. But each time, David chose to spare Saul’s life because it was God who had appointed Saul to be the king. David did not think it was his place to interfere with God’s plan.
You think you’ve got problems? Sometimes I think I’ve got problems? From the time he went to serve Saul until the day he became king of God’s people, David faced the anger and the jealousy and the retaliation of Saul. Each day held its own dangers and stresses.
As time went on, Saul became more and more insane. He many times turned away from God. Eventually God was done with protecting him. So it was that one day, in a battle against the Philistine enemy, an arrow found its way to Saul. The arrow hit one of the few spots not covered by the armor worn by Saul. Saul was badly wounded.
Not wanting to be captured alive because of the torture that would be inflicted upon him, Saul asked his armor-bearer to kill him, which the armor-bearer refused to do. Saul then took his own sword and fell on it.
Saul’s reign as king was over. With that, we would think things would have been good for David. However, that was not the case, partly because it took a while for David to establish his kingship. There were some others who wanted to be king, despite the fact God had chosen David. David had to work to be recognized as king.
David also suffered because of his own human nature. That included an incident in which David committed adultery.
David had lots of women he could have had with no problems at all. That was one of the perks of his position. But he noticed and desired and had a woman who was not his. A woman who was married to another man.
When the affair with that woman resulted in a baby being conceived, David worked it out that the woman’s husband be killed in battle. That meant the sin of murder was added to his sin of adultery.
Adultery and murder were the only two sins sacrifices could not cover. David was in big trouble spiritually until he admitted his sins, repented, and asked God for forgiveness.
Many years later, there was another problem. A problem with David’s third son Absalom, who had a number of issues with which he dealt.
One of the problems we know about began when another son of David attacked Absalom’s sister Tamar. The attack upset the whole family. However, David, for whatever reason - maybe he was too caught up in the work of governing to deal with a family issue or maybe he had trouble disciplining his sons - did not punish the son who attacked Tamar.
For two years, Absalom brooded about what had happened to his sister. After that, Absalom arranged to have the attacker killed. Finally vengeance was his.
After the killing, Absalom fled the scene. But while away, he began to consolidate some power. Power built on his perception of himself. It at least appeared he had been the favorite of his father during his growing up years. He was quite handsome. He liked the royal lifestyle. He was sly enough to know how to manipulate people.
For some reason, Absalom turned against his father David. Maybe it was his own ego that did that. Maybe he was upset David had not punished the one who had attacked Tamar. But Absalom turned against his father. With his appearance and his skills, he was able to convince quite a few other people he could be a better king than David. With that, Absalom began an attempt to overthrow David.
You think you’ve got problems? I think I’ve got problems? The overthrow attempt soon became so strong - Absalom drew so many people to his side - David had to flee the capital city of Jerusalem just to survive since Absalom’s goal was not just the overthrow of his father, but the killing of David.
Imagine what it must have felt like for David to be rebelled against by his own son. The other dangers he had faced from his childhood family and from Saul and from his own human nature were severe enough. Now he was threatened by his own son.
The danger David faced was so severe that one day, he was almost overrun. He was fleeing and could have been overtaken by his son’s army. However, with the help of a servant of David, Absalom was convinced not to attack that day, but to prepare for a major battle that would come. That gave David just enough time to regather his army. An army that turned out to then be ready for a major battle. A battle that ended with Absalom and his army being completely defeated.
So defeated, Absalom himself was killed. What happened to him was this. As his army was being defeated, Absalom was riding his animal into a forest, I assume trying to escape. As he rode under a giant oak tree, his hair, which was very long, got tangled on some of the lower branches of the tree. The animal went on, leaving Absalom hanging from the tree by his hair.
That had to have been very painful. It also left Absalom defenseless. A short time later, Joab, one of the commanders of David’s army, came across Absalom. The commander threw three darts into Absalom’s heart. Absalom was then struck by ten others, whereupon he died.
Once again, we think we’ve got problems? What about David, who faced father and brother problems and threat problems from the king he would one day replace and human nature problems and then problems from his son? Talk about problems. David knew all about them.
But listen to how he handled the problems he faced, which he wrote about in Psalm 3, during which he was fleeing from his son. And by the way, remember Absalom was killed, so David did maintain his leadership role as king. But what a troubled time it was as he wrote Psalm 3.
David began with these words. “O LORD, how many are my foes!” Again, several have been described in this message. No doubt there were others he experienced as well. It must have seemed over time that the number of foes - the number of problems - he faced were at least getting close to being overwhelming.
But notice David knew to whom to go for help. He went to the LORD. “O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me.” What made it even worse is that many were saying of him, “There is no help for him in God.”
That, by the way, is a pretty dangerous statement. The statement of the foes doubting God’s help. Of course, it must have seemed God did not care for David. Otherwise, it could have been assumed, he would not have faced and be facing so many horrible problems. I wonder if David felt the same way. That God must have abandoned him.
But again, David went to the LORD with his concern about having so many foes. What a challenge that is for us when we go through whatever problems we have. When we are faced with whatever foes we have. It is to God we are to go. Problems are never to drive us away from God. Problems are to drive us to God, who, as David realized, is the only one who can be a constant source of help.
And consider this. David no doubt had found it easy to pray when he had been in Jerusalem. That is where the Temple was, which was a common place for prayer. At the time of Psalm 3, he was away from the place he usually prayed. He prayed anyway.
Again a challenge, this time for us to pray wherever we are. It is not the place that is important. What is important is that we pray.
That is what David did. “O LORD, how many are my foes!” At that time, not only his own son, but just about all the people of God were joined together with Absalom in fighting against him. “Many are rising against me. many are saying of me, ‘There is no help for him in God.’”
However, in the face of all the foes and all the sayings against his relationship with God. “You, O LORD, art a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”
A shield. That represents safety. Yes, he was being attacked every which way. There were dangers all around. But he was shielded. Shielded by God, whom he still trusted.
Glory. That represents honor. And yes, David had been forced to flee from his throne and his city. Yes, many spoke against him. But he continued to rely on God, who is never disgraced. It was God David relied on for his worth.
The lifter of my head. That represents joy and deliverance, which could be a statement of confidence God would see him through to victory over his enemies or a statement of belief that during his times of trouble, God would help him to keep his head or his spirits up so he could rise above being so discouraged he would give up.
What a challenge there is in those words. No matter what we face with our families, with our human nature, with any foes we have, with any making fun of us, we, too, are to know God will shield us. That our worth in based on Him rather than what others say about us. That He can keep us from getting down and discouraged.
How did David accomplish all that? How did he remember all that? How can we remember and accomplish all that?
He wrote, “I cry aloud to the LORD, and He answers from His holy hill.” David remembered to pray and he knew God’s answers. Answers from the Lord’s holy hill, which is Heaven.
Do we pray - do I pray as often as I should - when faced with problems? If we do, we will have our prayers answered, which we are to remember so we can be encouraged to pray again when another problem or another foe comes up.
David added, “I lie down and sleep.”
Think of the significance of that, especially if you have trouble getting to sleep because there is too much on your mind. I rarely have trouble getting to sleep, but I will admit to having some weirdo dreams from time to time, sometimes based on what I guess is on my mind.
David did not face sleepless nights or weirdo dreams. Despite his problems, he was able to lie down and sleep well. Why? Not because he did not care about his problems, but because he was able to trust the LORD for the shielding and the worth and encouragement he needed.
In fact, David felt so good - he was so happy he was able to lie down and sleep well - that when he woke up each day, listen to what he did. He acknowledged it was the LORD who had sustained him through the night.
David again expressed his trust in God. He wrote, “I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about.”
I have to say, that, to me, is very amazing. I mean, I do not handle even one or two enemies at a time very well. David faced tens of thousands. And yes, he might have been concerned how he was going to handle the foes he had. There might have been a bit of a concern what might happen to him before the LORD gave him victory. But again, he was confident he would survive.
A confidence he did not take lightly. He prayed to have that confidence. “Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! For You smite all my enemies on the cheek.” That refers to slapping, which is an action of reproach, as if God is saying to the enemies, “You should be ashamed of yourselves.” If the slapping is strong enough, it can break the jaws of the enemies, hindering their speech.
“You break the teeth of the wicked,” he added, which makes the enemies harmless.
Then verse 8. The final verse of the Psalm. Remember how Psalm 3 started? David pointed out how many foes he had, how they were still rising against him, all the insulting things they said about his relationship with God. after reminding himself of the help God had and has available, David was, by the end of the Psalm, totally relying on the LORD. “Deliverance belongs to the LORD,” he wrote. “Your blessings are upon [let them remain upon] Your people.”
Do you have some enemies you are facing? Again, they might be foes in your family, or disobedient children, or people who insult our relationship with God.
Maybe you are facing some financial foes or medical enemies. There are also all the political and social issues we know about. Islamic terrorism. A culture that at least seems to be drifting more and more rapidly away from the teachings of God. Maybe you are fighting yourself.
We can very easily cower before whatever foes we face. Or we can do what David did. We can acknowledge the problems we face, remind ourselves of God’s safety, glory, and encouragement, speak our confidence in the LORD’s help, and trust in His deliverance.
Let’s do all that, even as we sing today’s closing song. The chorus A Shield About Me, the words of which are taken from Psalm 3.
Thou, O Lord, are a shield about me.
You’re my glory, You’re the lifter of my head.
Thou, O Lord, are a shield about me.
You’re my glory, You’re the lifter of my head.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah,
You’re the lifter of my head.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah,
You’re the lifter of my head.
Problems. They are all around us, just as they were all around David a few thousand years ago. Lt’s be like David, shall we? Fee to acknowledge the difficulties we face, but having a willingness to rely on God for the help we need. May that give us confidence that we, like David, will be delivered. Amen.