What an extraordinary day it had been as King David and those associated with him fled like a long line of refugees from the city of Jerusalem down the steep hillside heading towards the Jordan valley and its well-known river. The city is incredibly tense and quiet as people weight up their options to stay or to flee. Time is of the essence as Absalom and his supporters who had launched the military coup d’état would soon arrive. How would they treat any remaining citizens? Who would be trusted to support the new regime or who would be suspected of deeper sympathies for the aged David? Was it time for the old man to step down and let his middle-aged son take the throne? David although weak in body as the ageing processes cannot be delayed for ever is still as ‘sharp as a pin’ in his mind. He knows that his only hope of survival or even of regaining his throne is to escape across the Jordan River.
All of us have faced moments of crisis and trouble when we felt overwhelmed by events taking place around us. For some of us the events of recent months have been overwhelming, but no-one could deny the unsettling nature of so much that has been going on. The future for us now, like David then, was too difficult to predict. How did David react as an elderly man coming to terms with such difficult times? Psalm 3 was written almost certainly as a response to his time of crisis three thousand years ago.
1. The pressure exerted by David’s foes (Psalm 3:1-2) (Psalm 3:1a) Lord, how many are my foes! II Samuel 15:13-14: A messenger came and told David, ‘The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.’ All of us have had times in our lives when we have felt overwhelmed. The emotions just come over us and we cannot but feel incapable of handling whatever circumstances are in front of us. It may be that in the worst case scenario they might indeed be that bad, but like me you will have had times where a good night’s sleep has allowed our minds to be refreshed and our emotions calmed and then we are able to gain a sense of perspective.
At that point we can start to see actions that can be taken to help us go forward with what lies before us. This is the hardest part of the situation seeking to get a clear picture of what is going on before seeking to process it so that we can organise a plan of action. It is so impressive that David despite his advanced years is able to keep his mind focussed on the task in hand. In life all of us will have our disappointments and setbacks with health issues, work and family challenges and bereavements, together with supporting other people through a varied mix of their life situations.
In these situations it is a privilege and an assurance to know that we can rely on the Lord to sustain and uphold us through these times. Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.’ 3 Surely He will save you…(Psalm 91:1-3a). I hope each one of us have the Lord as our Rock on whom we can depend in the ups and downs of life.
2. The protection provided by David’s God (Psalm 3:3-4) (Psalm3:3a) But You, Lord, are a shield around me, God you are my protector. You care for me when other people may think –doesn’t he deserve it? I won’t give a hand! In Psalm 27:7-10 David makes this point at a time when he was in another crisis situation. Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me. 8 My heart says of You, ‘Seek His face!’ Your face, Lord, I will seek. 9 Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Saviour. 10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.
David’s parents never forsook him as far as I can tell. These words were a hypothetical example – even if this happened – God will never abandon me. In Psalm 34:6-7 during an earlier crisis when he was on the run from his predecessor King Saul, David while in Philistine territory was delivered by God. His autobiographical statement is most encouraging to us: This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles.7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. What a wonderful assurance! I hope you and I can share it as well in our lives today as we seek to navigate the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 virus pandemic.
3. The peacefulness experienced during David’s sleep (Psalm 3:5-6) I lie down and sleep (Psalm 3:5a). It was because his security was in God that he could have the confidence to lie down and sleep that first night. It was not simply sheer exhaustion that brought about his sleep, though undoubtedly he was exhausted with the exertions of the day. The gift of sleep is so precious to us. But we do take it for granted. We only truly appreciate it when on those rare nights we struggle to sleep, we long for it, and if it doesn’t arrive we can feel very weary. There is here a real practical issue in our prayer life of being able to bring things to the Lord and leave them with Him. Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6-7 are so applicable here:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
May that continue to be our experience as followers of Jesus. David went on to say: I wake again, because the Lord sustains me (Psalm 3:5b). God promises each one of us only the strength we need for one day at a time. It is a battle that we may have to fight daily. May God the Holy Spirit enable us to live this way in His resources.
4. The assurance found in David’s heart (Psalm 3:7-8) From the Lord comes deliverance. May Your blessing be on Your people (Psalm 3:8). The civil war in Israel was just beginning and David and his companions were camped out on the other side of the Jordan River. Yet this promise would come true. Many people came to assist them with the things they needed from food to bedding; and there would be a rebuilding of their confidence in how things would work out for them to go back to their homes and get on with their lives again as before. The immediate crisis was now over, but what was important was that they committed the future to the Lord their God. We don’t know what the future holds for us either, but we trust the God who holds our future in His hands.
Our song for reflection is: ‘God is our strength and refuge’