Psalm 3
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
In this case, as in others, the words which in our version form the title of the psalm are in the Hebrew its first verse. And they enable us, with less than the usual uncertainty, to fix on the historic occasion on which it was written. This is one of those psalms which come under those in the first division of the introductory homily. It is an historical psalm, and as such it must be studied and estimated, As an illustration of the way in which excellent men have turned aside from the obvious intent of a psalm to put fancied dogmatic meanings of their own into it, Luther's interpretation of this psalm is a choice specimen. By such a process, men not only proceed on insecure bases, but they lose very much of the instruction which the historical psalms are calculated to afford. The evangelical truth which they think they find here is abundantly taught elsewhere; hence nothing is gained; while very much is lost by their failing to note the fine shades of personal experience, emotion, and character with which these psalms are marked. We have here one of the many priceless specimens of an Old Testament saint's experience - struggle, prayer, victory, song. "As in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man." And it has brought comfort to many a struggling soul in the hard conflicts of life, to find how believers in bygone times have gone through trials even sharper than their own. We note in this psalm five stages of personal experience.

I. PERIL. (Vers. 1, 2.) (In order to introduce this psalm vividly to the people, a preacher should study closely the historic, incidents to which it refers.) The writer was

(1) compassed with foes;

(2) surrounded with plots and snares;

(3) scoffed at for his piety. There is no help for him in God. These who were plotting against him thought they had laid their plans securely, and that none could upset them. So it was with Daniel and with St. Peter. Note: If the people of God have to struggle hard with opposers and revilers, let them remember that they have had and shall have "companions in tribulation;" and that the experience of the saints of old, and of the course they adopted, is here recorded as a help for them.

II. PRAYER. (Ver. 4.) "I cried unto the Lord with my voice." The name of God . used by the psalmist is the revealed name of Israel's redeeming God, Jehovah. Of the vast meaning of this name the scoffing heathen knew nothing. And now, when the world scornfully asks, "Where is their God?" they do so in entire ignorance of the blessed throne of grace to which the believer can repair. "With my voice" - while their voice defies God, my voice shall address God. The blessed reality of inter-communion with the infinite and eternal God, through his own appointed way of sacrifice and mediation, is one of which the carnal mind knows absolutely nothing. None laugh at prayer who understand what it is. Those who know God know well that he is a Refuge and a Hiding-place in any time of trouble.

III. RESCUE. In God he has a Deliverer. In three forms is this expressed, each one full of suggestiveness.

1. A Shield. The word means more than this, even a protection which compasses one around.

2. My Glory. The believer can make his boast in God, even when men are scoffing at the great Name.

3. The Lifter-up of my head. One who enables me to rise superior to my troubles, and to smile upon them. All these expressions show not only what God was to David, but what he is to the saints still. Note: Whether we sink in trouble or rise above it will depend on our faith and prayer. We may fetch such help from God as will enable us to "smile at the storm."


1. In spite of all his foes, he could lie down and sleep. How many a wakeful night would have become one of sweet repose if the troubled ones did but thus hide in God! As the little child sleeps away his griefs on his mother's breast, so we can have sweetest repose when we make God our Hiding-place. The prophecy is, "A man shall be as a hiding-place from the wind," etc.

2. As he sleeps in holy calm, so he awakes in holy courage. (Ver. 6.) "I will not be afraid," etc. (cf. Psalm 26., 46.). The courage of David, Elijah, Jeremiah, Daniel, etc., may well be repeated in us. "Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?"

3. The answers to prayer already received strengthen his confidence for the future. (Vers. 4, 7.) "He heard me," etc.; "Thou hast smitten all mine enemies," etc.; and because this has been so, his faith in future deliverances is confirmed.

V. TESTIMONY. The psalmist had prayed to Jehovah; he now testifies for him, as the result of his experience.

1. Experience furnishes the best answer to the scorner. In ver. 2 David quotes the words of the heathen, "There is no help for him in God;" but he knows better. He has tried what prayer will do. He has asked for help, and help has come. So that in direct opposition to wicked men, and as the result of positive knowledge, he can affirm, "Salvation belongeth unto the Lord," i.e. (same Hebrew word as in ver. 2) "help" or deliverance. This, of course, would be true of salvation from sin, etc.; but that is not its reference here. It means deliverance or help in any time of trouble.

2. Experience warrants a confident statement of the truth. "Thy blessing is upon thy people." How rich this blessing (or favour) of God is cannot be told in words. Not even the Old Testament saints knew its fulness of wealth and glory. Not till such teachings as Romans 8:31-39 were known to believers was it possible that they should. Of this blessing it was then true, "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man, what God hath prepared for them that love him." And in Revelation 7. the double form of that blessing is given (see the present writer's homily thereon), viz. safe keeping now, while in the tribulation; and safe leadership out of the great tribulation, to the glory yet to be revealed! - C.

This psalm written by David at the time of Absalom's revolt, reminds one of the poet's lines -

"Most wretehed men
Are cradled into poetry by wrong;
They learn in suffering what they teach in song.


1. Caused by a tenderly beloved son. And yet David never mentions him; a sign how deeply he was wounded. The silence tells more than speech would do.

2. Not only his throne, but his life, was in danger. See the account of David's flight in 2 Samuel 15:3. His enemies charge him with being abandoned of God. As well as deserted by the people. His late sin with Bathsheba would make the charge plausible, and tend to shake his faith in God.


1. Inspired by his past experience. (Vers. 3, 4.) God had been his Defence, Inspiration, and Help in times past, in answer to his constant cries. "Shield" (Genesis 15:1). "Lifter up of my head." The head hangs down in trouble. "Holy hill:" Zion, where was the ark of the covenant.

2. Inspiring a present sense of peace and security. (Vers. 5, 6.) The Divine arm was his pillow, and he slept; the Divine hand raised him up, and he woke with such a sense of security that he was not afraid of the thousands that were encamped against him.

III. A PASSIONATE CRY FOR HELP AND VICTORY IN HIS PRESENT STRAITS. Urged again by an appeal to the past. "Thou that didst save me from the teeth of the lion and the bear, and didst destroy mine enemies on every side, rise up now for me against them that rise up against me." "Help me, O God!" This is his courageous answer to the mocking exultation of his enemies when they say, "There is no help for him in God. He replies, "To Jehovah belongeth help, or the victory; help, not in this strait only, but help for the needy in all times and in all places.

IV. A NOBLE PRAYER FOE HIS MISGUIDED, REBELLIOUS SUBJECTS. He thought of the horrors of a civil war, and he forgot himself in his anxiety for the welfare of his people. This is royal and generous - when we in our utmost danger can cherish a deep concern for the safety of others. David reminds us of St. Stephen, who, with the spirit as well as the face of an angel, cried, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge;" and preeminently of him who said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." - S.

I. THE SORROWS OF THE NIGHT. The darkness without images the darkness within.

1. There is the consciousness of danger. Enemies are numerous. Thrice are they called "many." They are also strong and merciless - wild beasts that make the night hideous with their roaring.

2. Worse still, there is the feeling of helplessness. Friends are gone. Solitary and forsaken, all seems lost. There is no star of hope to break the gloom. The piteous cry of onlookers is echoed by our own hearts, "No help!"

3. But worst of all is the sense of sin. If conscience were clear, if we could say that trouble had come upon us without fault of our own, this might help us to be brave and patient. If all were right within, we might dare the rage of our enemies, and defy the babble of an idle world; but alas! it is otherwise. We have been foolish and disobedient. We have obstinately persisted in our own way, and have not set the Lord before us. Hence the heart sinks. At such a time the peril is great. We are on the brink of the gulf. Well for us if in our misery we turn to God.

II. THE JOYS OF THE MORNING. As the true light shines, we see things more clearly. We gain more self-control, and better thoughts arise. As from a troubled dream awaking, we look back with shame at our weakness and our fears. If the "many" are against us, "God is for us." This is enough. Therefore we put on the armour of light, and gird ourselves with invigorated strength and hope for the work of a new day.

1. Refreshment. "Slept." Body and soul have been benefited. We feel that virtue has come to us. It is of God. He giveth sleep.

2. Renewed hope. Another night is gone, and we are not only spared, but saved. If there is work to do, we have now the will to take it in hand. If there are difficulties before us, we have now the heart to face them with resolution. Our enemies may shoot at us, but God is our Shield.

3. Anticipated victory. (Vers. 8, 9.) We rise to a better conception of God. So far as we are in sympathy with him, we are in the right. So far as we are on the side of God, and fighting for him, we are strong and must prevail. His honour is concerned for our defence. What he has promised, he will surely perform. Alleluia! But let us take a word of caution. While we seek the destruction of evil, let us work for the salvation of our enemies. Also a word of encouragement. Relief does not always come, or does not come in the way we wish. The grief that saps the mind may be ours, the burden of care and trouble may lie heavy on our souls. The morning, which brings joy to others, may leave us still in gloom. Our very trials may be enhanced by contrast. The light once sweet to the eyes may now be bitter. The music and the flowers and the beautiful things of earth, that once brought us delight, may only aggravate our wee. Our interest in others may falter, and our capability for the duties of life may fail. But still let us hope in God. The morning cometh, and also the night; but for God's people there is the sure hope of the morning that will usher in eternal day. - W. F.

We have heard of the vox regis, and in these last days we are threatened with the equally dangerous and delusive vox populi. Let us consider -

I. NUMBERS DO NOT DETERMINE THE QUESTION OF RIGHT. There is a tendency with many to shirk responsibility. They look to others. Surely what the many say must be right. But this is folly. God has given us reason and freedom. We must judge for ourselves. Only what we know to be true can be truth to us; only what we feel in our consciences to be right can be binding upon us as duty. Besides, we see how often in the past the few have been in the right, not the many. Noah by his faith condemned the world. Elijah stood alone against the priests of Baal. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego dared the fiery furnace rather than bow with the multitude before the golden idol. Only when the people are all righteous can they be all right.

II. NUMBERS DO NOT DETERMINE THE QUESTION OF SUCCESS. No doubt there are times when numbers prevail. The few are crushed by the mere weight and force of the multitude. It has been said that "God is on the side of the biggest battalions;" but this is true in only a limited sense. Suppose the battalions are undisciplined or badly commanded, defeat may come instead of victory. But in the nobler fields - in the strife of truth and falsehood - how often has the victory been with the few, instead of the many! Besides, the question, in the deepest sense, is not - What wilt succeed? but - What is right?

"He is a slave, who will not be
In the right, with two or three." Further, we must not measure success by the poor standards of this world. What seems failure to us may be victory in the sight of the holy angels and of God.

III. NUMBERS DO NOT DETERMINE THE QUESTION OF HAPPINESS. It is hard to stand alone. It costs a struggle to dare to be singularly good. But better far have peace within than sacrifice conscience to convenience, and freedom to popularity. St. Peter was happier shut up in prison than when, in fear of men, he denied his Lord. St. Paul was infinitely more calm and joyous when he stood before Nero than when, with all the authority of the Sanhedrin, he set out on his fierce crusade against the Christians. Better be true than false; better be free than the slave of opinion; better, with St. Stephen and the martyrs, press heavenwards through "peril, toil, and pain," than follow a multitude to do evil. - W.F.

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