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Psalm 3

Trust in God under Adversity

A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.


O L ord, how many are my foes!

Many are rising against me;


many are saying to me,

“There is no help for you in God.” Selah



But you, O L ord, are a shield around me,

my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.


I cry aloud to the L ord,

and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah



I lie down and sleep;

I wake again, for the L ord sustains me.


I am not afraid of ten thousands of people

who have set themselves against me all around.



Rise up, O L ord!

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 L ord;

may your blessing be on your people! Selah

Sacred history teaches that David was not only dethroned, but forsaken by almost all men; so that he had well nigh as many enemies as he had subjects. It is true there accompanied him in his flight a few faithful friends; but he escaped in safety, not so much by their aid and protection as by the hiding-places of the wilderness. It is therefore not wonderful though he was affrighted by the great numbers who were opposed to him, for nothing could have taken place more unlooked for, on his part, than so sudden a rebellion. It was a mark of uncommon faith, when smitten with so great consternation, to venture freely to make his complaint to God, and, as it were, to pour out his soul into his bosom. 3838     Il a ose venir familierement faire sa complainte a Dieu et comme se discharger a lui. — Fr. And certainly the only remedy for allaying our fears is this, to cast upon him all the cares which trouble us; as, on the other hand, those who have the conviction that they are not the objects of his regard, must be prostrated and overwhelmed by the calamities which befall them.

In the third verse he expresses more distinctly, and more emphatically, the pride of his enemies in deriding him as a castaway, and as a person whose circumstances were past hope. And he means, that their boldness increased hereupon, because they were confident he had been rejected by God. Perhaps, in these words also, their ungodliness is indirectly referred to, inasmuch as they made no account of the help of God in preserving the king whom he had chosen. And this second view is the more probable, for Absalom did not flatter himself with the hope of the favor of God, but, entirely disregarding him, hoped for victory from his own power. David, therefore, expressly introduces both him and the rest as speaking after this manner, to show that it was by a monstrous and outrageous contempt of God that they were driven to such fury against him, as if they made no account whatever of the fact of his having been often wonderfully delivered from the greatest dangers. The ungodly, when they rise up to destroy us, may not openly break forth into such daring presumption as to maintain it to be impossible for us to derive any advantage from the favor of God; yet, as they either ascribe every thing to fortune, or hold the opinion that a man’s success will be in proportion to his strength, and therefore fearlessly rush forward to gain their object, by all means, whether right or wrong, as if it would be equally the same, whether God is angry with or favorable towards them, it is evident that they set no value whatever upon the favor of God, and mock at the faithful as if it would avail them nothing to be under the care and protection of God.

The translation of some, Many say OF my soul, does not give the true meaning of this passage. The letter ל lamed is indeed sometimes used as meaning of in Hebrew, but David here intended to express something more, namely, that his heart was in a manner pierced with the mockery of his enemies. The word soul, therefore, in my opinion, here signifies the seat of the affections. And it has a corresponding meaning in a passage which we shall meet with in another Psalm, (Psalm 35:3,) “Say to my soul, I am thy salvation.” David thus teaches us by his own example, that although the whole world, with one voice, should attempt to drive us to despair, instead of listening to it, we ought rather to give ear to God alone, and always cherish within us the hope of the salvation which he hath promised; and as the ungodly use their endeavors to destroy our souls, we ought to defend them by our prayers. With respect to the word Selah, interpreters are not agreed. Some maintain it is a mark of affirmations and has the same signification as truly or amen. Others understand it as meaning for ever. But as סלל Selal, from which it is derived, signifies to lift up, we incline to the opinion of those who think it denotes the lifting up of the voice in harmony in the exercise of singing. At the same time, it must be observed, that the music was adapted to the sentiment, and so the harmony was in unison with the character or subject-matter of the song; just as David here, after having complained of his enemies for shamefully laughing to scorn his hope, as if the protection of God would be of no avail to him, fixes the attention on this blasphemy, which severely wounded his heart, by the use of the word Selah; and as a little after, when he has added a new ground of confidence with regard to the safety of his person, he repeats the same word.

The copulative and should be resolved into the disjunctive particle but, because David employs language full of confidence, in opposition to the hardihood and profane scoffings of his enemies, 3939     L’audace de ses ennemis et risee accompagnee de sacrilege. — Fr. and testifies that whatever they may say, he would nevertheless rely upon the word of God. It besides appears that he had previously entertained an assured hope of deliverance, from the circumstance of his here making no mention of his present calamity as a chastisement inflicted upon him by the hand of God; but rather depending upon the divine aid, he courageously encounters his enemies, who were carrying on an ungodly and wicked war against him, seeing they intended to depose a true and lawful king from his throne. In short, having acknowledged his sin before, he now takes into consideration only the merits of the present cause. And thus it becomes the servants of God to act when molested by the wicked. Having mourned over their own sins, and humbly betaken themselves to the mercy of God, they ought to keep their eyes fixed on the obvious and immediate cause of their afflictions, that they may entertain no doubt of the help of God when undeservedly subjected to evil treatment. Especially when, by their being evil entreated, the truth of God is opposed, they ought to be greatly encouraged, and glory in the assurance that God without doubt will maintain the truth of his own promises against such perfidious and abandoned characters. Had it been otherwise with David, he might seem to have claimed these things to himself groundlessly, seeing he had deprived himself of the approbation and help of God by offending him. 4040     En l’offensant. — Fr. But being persuaded that he was not utterly cut off from the favor of God, and that God’s choice of him to be king remained unchanged, he encourages himself to hope for a favorable issue to his present trials. And, in the first place, by comparing God to a shield, he means that he was defended by his power. Hence also he concludes, that God was his glory, because he would be the maintainer and defender of the royal dignity which he had been pleased to confer upon him. And, on this account, he became so bold that he declares he would walk with unabashed brow. 4141     De la procede l’asseurance dont il fait mention puis apres qu’il marchera hardiment la teste levee. — Fr. From this proceeded the confidence of which he makes mention a little after, that he will boldly walk with unabashed brow.

4. With my voice have I cried unto the Lord. He here informs us that he had never been so broken by adversity, or cast down by impious scornings, 4242     Par les mocqueries malheureuses des meschans. — Fr. By the pitiful scornings of the wicked. as to be prevented from addressing his prayers to God And it was an infallible proof of his faith to exercise it by praying even in the midst of his distresses. Nothing is more unbecoming than sullenly to gnaw the bit with which we are bridled, and to withhold our groaning from God, 4343     D’esloigner de Dieu nos gemissemens, et les luy cacher Fr. To withhold our groanings from God, and to conceal them from him, if, indeed we have any faith in his promise. Nor is there a redundancy of expression in these words, I have cried with my voice David distinctly mentions his voice, the better to express that how much soever the ungodly might rage against him, he was by no means struck dumb, but pronounced, in a loud and distinct voice, the name of his God; and to do this was a difficult matter under so grievous and severe a temptation. He also particularly mentions his voice, in order to show that he opposes the voice of prayer to the tumultuous outcries of those who either blame fortune or curse God, or give way to excessive complainings; those in short, who with passionate confusion pour forth their immoderate sorrow. But David’s meaning appears to me to be principally this, that amidst the blasphemies of his enemies by which they endeavored to overwhelm his faith, he was not put to silence, but rather lifted up his voice to God, whom the ungodly imagined to have become his enemy. He adds that he cried not in vain, to encourage all the godly to the like constancy. As to the expression, from the hill of his holiness or, which signifies the same things from his holy hill, it is improperly explained of heaven, as has been done by some. Heaven, I indeed confess, is often called, in other places, God’s holy palace; but here David has doubtless a reference to the ark of the covenant, which at that time stood on Mount Sion. And he expressly affirms that he was heard from thence, though he had been compelled to flee into the wilderness. The Sacred History relates, (2 Samuel 15:24,) that when Abiathar the priest commanded the ark to be carried by the Levites, David would not suffer it. And in this the wonderful faith of the holy man appears conspicuous. He knew that the Lord had chosen Sion to be the dwelling place of the ark, but he was, notwithstanding, willing rather to be torn from that sacred symbol of the divine presence, (which was painful to him as if his own bowels had been torn from him,) than make any innovation not sanctioned by the will of heaven. Now, he boasts, that although he was deprived of the sight of the ark, and notwithstanding the distance to which he was removed from it, God was near him to listen to his prayers. By these words he intimates that he kept a due medium, inasmuch as he neither despised the visible sign, which the Lord had appointed on account of the rudeness of the times, nor by attaching a superstitious importance to a particular place, entertained carnal conceptions of the glory of God. Thus, he did not idly scatter words which would vanish into air, as unbelievers are wont to do, who pray also but are in doubt to what place they ought to direct their speech. David turned himself directly towards the tabernacle, whence God had promised to be merciful to his servants. Hence the confidence with which he prayed; and this confidence was not without success. In our day, since there is fulfilled in Christ what was formerly shadowed forth by the figures of the law, a much easier way of approach to God is opened up for us, provided we do not knowingly and willingly wander from the way.

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