O Lord, 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 Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
PSALM 3:1-4, NRSV
Today’s question is, Can God protect us from our enemies? The photo is taken from a military uniform with a patch of St. Michael, an angel protector. Does God provide angels to protect us? We have evidence of stories and psalms that show God’s people trusting in God for protection, and there’s no reason we should abandon such hope for the same protection from God.
I believe we should not think God will protect us if we sin with impunity but God is faithful to His covenant and His covenant people who have followed him since the time of Abraham, and we can rest in this long playing story and God’s faithfulness. This is why we read Psalms and stories dating back thousands of years.
At the same time, we follow a Messiah who abandoned the protection of Yahweh and allowed human rebels to crucify him. What David in theory said about his son, Absalom, “I wish I had died instead of you,” Jesus the Messiah actually does for us. That has great implications on how we view protection and fighting for ourselves. Jesus did not come to call up an army of rebel fighters but a regiment of disciples who would be willing to give up protection for sake of spreading the good news of the kingdom of the righteous and merciful Messiah who has come into the world to change everything.
So, today we see David calling on God to protect him from one of his many enemies he’s made being Israel’s second king.
This is the first Psalm we see a specific contextual title that says, “A psalm of David when he fled from his son Absalom.”
Here at the beginning of the Psalms we get a taste of family enmity. David is fleeing from his own son. You can read about it in 2 Samuel 14:25-18:33. You should read this: it’s a cracking good story, but it ends in great sadness.
The title of Psalm 3 about fleeing from Absalom and David’s desire for God to “Hit all of my enemies in the jaw! Break the teeth of evil people” doesn’t necessarily refer to Absalom but his ire could be toward Absalom’s evil advisors. Ahithophel, for example, advised David to have sex with David’s concubines in view of Israel. Other advisors and rebels joined Absalom’s coup and fought against David’s army.
And two other signs suggest David wasn’t really tough talking in Psalm 3 about his son but about Absalom’s lousy advisors: first, David actually sent out armies against Absalom’s men (2 Samuel 18:5) saying, “Be gentle with Absalom for my sake.” How could they be gentle when going out to defeat Absalom. People were going to die and one of these kings (Absalom was declaring himself king and had sent out infiltrators into the tribes of Israel to say he was king).
Second, David wept over the news of Absalom’s death (2 Samuel 18:33), a famous line in the Hebrew Scriptures, “My son Absalom! My son, my son, Absalom! I wish I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son!” Check out how Absalom dies though. Didn’t I tell you it’s a great story? (2 Samuel 18:9-15)
As you read, get a sense for the emotions King David must be feeling. His own son is trying to usurp the throne through flattery of Israel and direct pursuit of his father to kill him. As with Saul, David has opportunity to kill Absalom but does not.
Yahweh, you are my protection. I can lie down and go to sleep and wake up again because you protect me. Ten thousand enemies may surround me, but I’m not afraid.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg’s wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.