I often discusses weighty matters – the future of the church, social trends, significant ethical issues, Christian apologetics, personal growth.
Every now and then I like to step back and simply remember and celebrate the God whose existence and goodness is the assumed given behind all that is written. Here I would like to do this by reflecting on a 3000 year old testimony – one which King David writes when in the middle of one of the many crises which made up his life. You find it in Psalm 3 when David is facing a coup d‘etat instigated by none other than his greatly loved son, Absalom. It is a shattering period, and this Psalm is written in the midst of it, when the outcome was unknown but the smart money was on Absalom.
When we view it as David’s story or testimony of how he experienced God in the midst of great sadness and chaos, we catch a glimpse of how God comes through for people. Because it’s a single story, we mustn’t turn Psalm 3 into a rule book. It doesn’t always happen this way. This is a particular story and this is how David experienced God at that time. But as narrative theory reminds us, every story is simultaneously like every other story, like some other story and like no other story. See if there are some intersections between this story and your own.
Four Ways David Experiences God
There are four significant ways in which David encounters God in Psalm 3: The Lord my Shield (v3); The Lord my Sleep (v5); The Lord my Security (v6); and breaking the alliterated S’s, The Lord my Deliverer (v8).
1 – The Lord My Shield
I like the shield image. A shield protects, but it doesn’t mean you don’t feel anything. If an arrow hits your shield, your life is spared, but the impact shakes you whole body. While you are relieved, you are not untouched. A shield removes the poisonous destructive edge from an attack. It reduces it to a level where we can cope with it. That’s been my experience of God as well. A shield – not because nothing destructive ever comes my way, or that it is not unsettling, but because at a deeper level I know I am protected. I have some responsibility (to keep holding the shield) but the bulk of it does not depend upon me. The One who protects me is stronger than what it thrown against me.
2 – The Lord My Sleep
If I like the shield image, I love the sleep one. David calmly notes that he lies down to sleep and wakes up again. You don’t take that for granted in the middle of warfare. I’m reminded of Jesus sleeping in the disciples boat while the storm raged. In panic and exasperation they wake him, “Don’t you care if we drown” – and He then issues some quick instructions and the storm stops. It certainly didn’t cost Jesus any sleep (Mark 4:35-41). Or remember Peter in prison, due to be executed the next day, sleeping so soundly that when the angel comes to rescue him, he has to strike Peter on the side to wake him up (Acts 12:7). That’s a pretty deep sleep Peter was in – not the restless tossing you would expect from a man soon to be beheaded. It speaks to the calm that the people of God often find in difficult times. It’s a kind of “Yes, it’s difficult, but I’m not sure it is worth losing sleep over” response, and it helps us to be at our best, for sleep is indeed a great friend when we face testing times.
3 – The Lord My Security
The Lord my security is an important reminder of the biggest of all pictures. The Lord is my life. My times are in God’s hands – which is another insight from David recorded in Psalm 31:15. If the Lord is my security I do not have to approach life with a defensive posture. While it is not an invitation for me to be reckless, it is a reminder that I do not need to be afraid. I can dive into all I believe God has called me to, for as David writes, “I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” Fear comes when we forget where our security lies. It assuredly does not lie in my skill or strength, but in the overwhelming and trustworthy love of God.
4 – The Lord My Deliverer
In verse 8 David issues his statement of faith: From the Lord comes deliverance. That’s it. He didn’t know what the outcome of this battle was going to be, but he was very confident of where his faith lay. At that stage he did not know if God was going to deliver him through life or death (for death can be a deliverance) – but David was very confident about where deliverance comes from.
Critics may of course push back – but I know people who don’t have that experience. Or they may validly note that it didn’t finish that well for David. Yes, he was restored as king, but his son (his greatly loved son), Absalom, was killed. It was a hollow victory. True, but I can then hear David reverting back to Psalm 3:3 “But you, Lord, are a shield around me…” A shield – I do indeed still feel the arrows strike, but they do not destroy, and I find the strength to carry on.
Why not mull over these images – the Lord my shield, my sleep, my security, my deliverer? Perhaps they will ring true for you this week.
Article supplied with thanks to Brian Harris.
About the Author: Brian is a speaker, teacher, leader, writer, author and respected theologian who is founding director of the AVENIR Leadership Institute, fostering leaders who will make a positive impact on the world.
Feature image: Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash