When Trials Pile On, Keep Trusting God (a sermon on Psalm 3)

FCF: Believers can trust God for protection and peace from the attacks of unbelievers.

This last week has been a time when God’s people have come under attack repeatedly. I saw a political cartoon this week that had the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah asking God when He would strike New York. This is a question I myself ask. This last week, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law legalizing abortion at any time prior to birth. This bill had passed their house several times but always been stopped in the state senate. This year, the new state senate had democrats in the majority party and they pushed it through. Cuomo signed it.

And they celebrated. It made me sick to read about this whole thing. Think about the evil that must be within a person to celebrate the “right” to kill an unborn child one minute before it would have been born otherwise. And under this law, nondoctors can perform abortions. I guess that old canard about being worried about the life of the mother pales in comparison to being able to kill your child.

Also in the last week, a group of Catholic young men from Kentucky were lynched in the media for the crime of wearing MAGA hats at the March For Life. They were harassed and provoked for 45 minutes, but the boys simply stood and some did school chants. One smiled at the man beating a drum in his face and trying to provoke him but the boy did nothing.

Even as the truth has come out, and it did within an hour of the events, many of the media were still reporting a heavily clipped video and saying it was all the boys’ fault. The school closed for several days due to threats caused by the slanderous reports. Celebrities have called for the boys to be punched. Luckily, lawyers have been already contacted the boys’ families and offered to handle the cases for free.

This should not surprise us. Satan has always been attacking believers. If you give him the slightest inch, he will take a mile. In David’s life, we see him constantly under attack from Satan. David lived a far from perfect life, but he always kept his life grounded with faith. David’s mistakes were bigger than most of us ever will have, but that’s because David was in a place of authority and had the opportunity to make big mistakes. We’ll make smaller mistakes that can mess up our lives just as much, but there won’t be people 3,000 years later reading about it.

During David’s trials, he would call out for God to keep him safe. This morning, we will look at one of those times when he kept his faith while under attack. That is Psalm 3.

As you turn to Psalm 3, think about the times that God has blessed you and kept you safe in the midst of trials. All of us have stories of when that happened. God provides more than any human invention ever will. The third psalm was written when David was fleeing from Absalom’s revolt. David’s own actions, or better, his lack of actions, had led him to this point. Absalom wanted justice for his sister, Tamar, David’s daughter who had been raped by her half brother Amnon. His rightful anger at David for not bringing justice became rage and then rebellion. That’s where David’s sin was, not providing justice for his own daughter. But Absalom went beyond justice for Tamar.

Psalm 3:1 A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me.

2 Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” Selah.

3 But Thou, O LORD, art a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.

4 I was crying to the LORD with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.

5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.

6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me round about.

7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God! For Thou hast smitten all my enemies on the cheek; Thou hast shattered the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the LORD; Thy blessing be upon Thy people! Selah.

Life is a battlefield between God and Satan. At times, it appears that Satan is winning, and he certainly is on the march today. Vermont has already said that they will follow New York’s lead. The Covington boys are still being maligned even though it has been repeatedly shown that the full video exonerates them. This shows the truth in the proverb, “A lie can run around the world while the truth is still getting its boots on.”

1: It Can Look Terrible

Psalm 3:1 A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O Lord, how my adversaries have increased! Many are rising up against me.

2 Many are saying of my soul, “There is no deliverance for him in God.” Selah.

David had made a grave error when he refused to bring justice to Tamar, his daughter. In 2 Samuel 13, David’s son Amnon had fallen for his half sister. When he could think of no way to win her, he feigned illness and raped her. This was after she offered to marry him that this wicked thing not be done to her. He then sent her away from his presence.

David became very angry when he heard this. But because Amnon was his firstborn, he did nothing. This was not the biggest mistake he ever made, but a big one nonetheless. David allowed Amnon to violate his sister and toss her outside after dishonoring her. This is injustice.

Tamar had an older, full-brother named Absalom. Absalom, meaning “father of peace,” waited to see if David would do justice to his daughter. He waited a long time and nothing came of his waiting. Amnon continued to be honored as the first born of the king. While waiting, Absalom’s anger grew and grew. From the day he had heard of the violation, Absalom plotted revenge. If David did nothing, Absalom would.

Two years after the event, Absalom got his chance. He invited all of his half brothers to a banquet after the sheep shearing was done. There, he had his men slay Amnon. Absalom fled to his grandfather’s kingdom for safety and lived there three years before he returned. He waited in Jerusalem two more years, waited for David to welcome him and forgive him. When nothing happened, he began a rebellion against his own father.

I can see the progression of Absalom’s thinking. Surely my father will come to forgive me. It has been years. Surely, he will see that I did what was right. If he was going to do nothing for my sister, I had no choice but to bring her justice!

But David refused to even see Absalom once he returned to Jerusalem. Absalom concluded that his father cared more about his sinful son Amnon than he did about the children who remained and were righteous. Obviously, David cared more for Amnon than he did for Tamar. Tamar’s shame would be obvious to all because the king’s virginal daughters wore special garments. Because of Amnon’s actions, Tamar could not wear it any longer. And you can imagine the rumors and gossip that would fly about the king’s daughter.

Absalom’s rebellion started not with blood and sword, but with Absalom weakening his father’s position in the eyes of Israel. When a man came with a dispute only the king could solve, Absalom stopped him, said the king would give no justice (from Absalom’s experience, a true statement), and offered to judge the case.

After many years of doing this right under David’s nose, Absalom had his men declare him king! The rebellion began in earnest, and David had to flee.

David, the mighty man of Israel, the first warrior of King Saul, the man who had slain his thousands and ten thousands is now old and has to flee from his son. No worse punishment comes to mind for this man right now.

However, remember that David is not just the warrior king; he is the sweet singer of Israel. He wrote more psalms than anyone else. David is a warrior and a poet. His emotions got the better of him before when he would not bring justice to Amnon, but he harnesses his sorrow at being run out of town into a psalm.

He writes of how they are rising up against him on every side. More enemies now than he had faced in times prior. The situation looked so bad that many in Israel were saying that David had no chance of survival. God would not deliver him this time.

They may have been speaking of how David’s sins had finally caught up with him. David was never one to gloss over his own sins. He would downplay those of his sons but not his own. They may have concluded that David had committed too many sins for God to continue blessing him. Maybe just this one sin was too much. We have no indication that David had repented of his sin of failing to bring justice to Tamar. Surely, if he had, some indication would have been seen in Scripture, but we can only conclude that he did not.

They believed that God would not deliver him this time. In the Old Testament, deliverance is something that comes from God. It is a special word while not reserved for speaking of God’s saving actions, it is often used that way. It means to “make wide,” to remove someone far from the threat. Whatever David does, they are saying, he cannot get away from Absalom and his men. The time of David is over, they think.

And on the surface, maybe David thinks that as well. He knows deep in his heart that God will provide a way out. He knows that the God who was with him when he slew the lion, the bear, and the giant will be with him now. But that knowledge is deep within David. David knows that God will deliver him, but in the face of danger, it can be hard to remember that.

David is now on the other side of the chase. He remembers running away from Saul and deciding not to harm the Lord’s anointed. However, he knows that the men chasing him will not have the same consideration. They will not stop at simply capturing him. They want him dead. Only then will Absalom’s rebellion be complete.

David ends each stanza of this psalm with the Hebrew word “selah.” This word is used only in poetry (71 times in the Psalms and 3 times in Habakkuk) and the meaning is not known for certain. One possible meaning that fits very well here is “contemplate what has just been said.” The time is appropriate because we do need to think about what has just been said. It is true that people are saying these things, but David knows and is about to express that God will still be on his side.

2: But The Lord Still Protects

3 But Thou, O LORD, art a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.

4 I was crying to the LORD with my voice, And He answered me from His holy mountain. Selah.

Sometimes the hardest part of knowledge is waiting for it to come to fruition. David knew that he was going to be preserved by God. It just looked like it wasn’t going to happen for a while yet.

It is tempting when surrounded by enemies to think that God is also against you. But we see here that God can still be for us when everyone else is against us. When circumstances turn against you, seek God!

David did what we should do whenever surrounded by enemies, he prayed. He lifted his voice to Heaven (they did not pray silently in those days) and poured out his feelings of first fear and then assurance. It isn’t a sin to feel fear. It is a sin to not act on it correctly. To turn to God when overwhelmed, outnumbered, and afraid is the perfect response. He has said “fear not” because He overcomes that fear in us.

David knew that God would protect him. God would be a shield over him and lift his head above the enemy in victory. God responds when our prayers are most urgent.

On the one hand, David could have trusted in his army to protect him. He was king, he had an army, he could use them. However, he left the outcome in God’s hands. It wasn’t enough for David to win. He needed to win because he was on God’s side.

Another thing to realize is that God is not confined to the Holy Mountain. David spoke poetically. The holy mountain was Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, the very place that David’s son Solomon would build the Temple in years to come.

The psalms David and the others wrote are like our hymnbook. You can learn the most about a people’s faith by their hymnbook. What kind of songs do they sing and are there certain times they do so? This psalm is one that cries out to God for relief and expresses thanks when answered. It is not a teaching psalm like 1 or 19. It is a song of need and deepest emotion. It is a song of reaching out for God while knowing He will answer. You may not know when He will answer, but you know it will happen.

If you were to ask any Christian, they would be able to sing more hymns than they can recite Scripture. Music has a way of working into our memories and staying there when words do not. Few people remember the details of a sermon from three weeks. Many will remember a hymn they heard in childhood. This is why we must be absolutely certain our hymns are scripturaly sound. You’re going to remember this hymn for a long time, make sure it is teaching you the right thing.

When in tune with God, worship comes naturally, even in the worst of circumstances. David is in a situation none of us will be in, but the poem just flows from him. In Acts 16, we see a great example of this. Paul and Silas, in prison and persecuted, prayed and then sang hymns to God. The hymns touched the lives of all those around them and made believers of them.

Knowing God brings great joy. Not merely a happiness that comes and goes with the circumstances, but a deep abiding joy. Joy remains even when all the outer trappings that make for happiness are gone. David had joy here in spite of his surroundings.

Similarly, the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer had joy. He ministered in Germany before the second World War. He was arrested by the Nazis and while in jail had the opportunity to witness to an atheist. When the atheist challenged him to “show me Jesus,” Bonhoeffer simply smiled at him with the radiant smile that only comes from a deep faith. The atheist sat back down, saying, “You have seen Jesus and shown him to me.”

Though the psalms fall into several categories and often a single psalm will be in more than one, this psalm is one of lament, “I am in trouble,” adoration, “God can save me,” and thanksgiving, “God has promised to save me.”

3: Even in the Worst Times, the Lord Delivers His People

5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustains me.

6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me round about.

7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God! For Thou hast smitten all my enemies on the cheek; Thou hast shattered the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the LORD; Thy blessing be upon Thy people! Selah.

Even as the enemy surrounded him, David found the sleep of the just. Sleep does not come easily in a crisis situation. When Absalom rebelled, surely it was hard to sleep. What made the difference for David? When you have the full assurance from God that you are doing what God wants you to do, it brings peace. The New Testament calls this “the peace that surpasses understanding.”

This is the peace God offers. No matter the circumstances, God can bring peace. If you are surrounded by enemies and about to lose your kingdom, God can still bring peace. Since none of us stand to lose a kingdom, imagine if you had lost your house to a flood. Everything can be gone, but as long as you have God, you can have His peace.

It isn’t always easy to take hold of his peace.

Sleep can come when you have poured out your heart to God. Know that He is in control and thank Him for it. Then sleep will come.

David also speaks of another side of God—His wrath. The anger of God is always righteous, and David knows he is in the right. He wants God to strike his enemies for him. David had been insulted and slapped. Here he wants God to return to his enemies the same things that he has endured. Smite them on the cheek and shatter their teeth. David knows that God is just and will give a righteous judgment. Nothing more, nothing less, than what is deserved.

David ends this psalm with a praise. As we all should in times of trouble, praise God! Salvation, the deliverance David prayed for and that his enemies said could not come, was available from God. Faith in God’s timing was the answer to David’s problem. The wicked had obtained success unfairly, but God would balance the scales.

David shows a great assurance here. God hasn’t rescued him yet, but David knows it will happen. Remember Daniel in the lions’ den or the fiery furnace? The New Testament stated “have no anxiety,” but the Bible also shows people in trouble still holding on to God. We could easily multiply examples from scripture.

Joseph was in slavery in Egypt but still kept his devotion to God, knowing that he would be justified. It would have been so easy for Joseph to turn away from God, to decide he was abandoned and live like an Egyptian. But he didn’t.

Job has a whole book about how he never gave up his faith in God. He wondered what was going on, he didn’t understand why it was happening, he asked ‘why me?’, but he refused to curse God and die. For that, God vindicated him.

On the other hand, Solomon show us how easy it is to fall away from God when things are well. Solomon had it all, power, wealth, prestige, beautiful wives, but let his heart wander away. But Job had great wealth, too. What was the difference in them? Why did one wealthy man keep his faith even when it was taken away and then restored while the other had it all and wandered away only to return at the end of his life, realizing how much time he had wasted.

The story form remains within us and teaches us even if we have forgotten all the words.

To Paul’s instructions to “have no anxiety,” we may reply, “that’s easy for you to say.” To the story of Daniel remaining faithful in the lions’ den, we say, “that’s what I need to do!” To the story of David running from his son’s rebellion and keeping his eyes on God for deliverance, we say, “Amazing! I want to have that faith when I am in trouble.”

The final thing to note is what comes after salvation. Blessings come after salvation. God will do great and mighty things for those who love Him. He will bless those who come to Him. His promise of deliverance is available to all who come to Him with their trials.

Conclusion

What trials are you facing today? How are they making you run? Remember that God is always with you, especially when the enemy is after you. Even as life is hard against us, even as the enemy lies and tells us he has the victory, and surely it looked like David had lost his throne, know that God is in control and He will have the ultimate victory. These are the times that try men’s souls. And when your soul is tried, turning to God is the only way you can hang on.

If the trials you face seem to be overwhelming you, I invite you to come to the altar and pray for strength. God is not one to turn away His people. He has promised that when trials come (not if, he said when), He will provide the strength you need to stand up under it. The coming of the trial is not a sin, how you act in the trial can be. So resolve to act without sin in the face of the trial.

Come this day to find strength in the Lord, our Savior. Pray that whatever trial you face—and name it—let God know which trial bothers you—will be met with His strength. And He has promised to lend you the needed strength. Come today.

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About frankluke

Professionally: pastor, programmer, writer. Personally: husband, father.
This entry was posted in Assemblies of God, nonfiction, Old Testament, sermon, The Last Crusade and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to When Trials Pile On, Keep Trusting God (a sermon on Psalm 3)

  1. Pingback: When Trials Pile On, Keep Trusting God (a sermon on Psalm 3) - SuperversiveSF

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