O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him."
But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.
Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.
In order for us to understand this Psalm it is helpful to know why it was written. The story goes back to the time of David’s adultery with Bathsheba. The prophet Nathan had exposed his adultery and pronounced God’s judgement upon him. Because of this sin David would experience problems from within his own family. His son Absalom had instigated a successful military coup against his father and was now ruling Israel. (2 Samuel 15-18) David at the time of writing was hiding in a cave. The Psalm is a record of his cry to God. It is the first Psalm that is credited to David in our bibles and is closely related to Psalm 4. David’s reference to sleeping and waking in verse 5 is the reason that this Psalm is called the “morning Psalm” with Psalm 4 being the “evening Psalm.”
The Psalm breaks down into 4 convenient stanzas:
- Is there any hope? Verses 1&2
- A ring of confidence! Verses 3&4
- Resting in the Lord. Verses 5&6
- A certain victory. Verses 7&8
So we begin our thoughts as David begins a new day with a question to God.
- Is there any hope?
Apparently long ago a submarine had sunk to the bottom of the sea, trapping the sailors inside. A rescue team came to the vessel and heard a tapping from within. The Morse code message simply said: “is there any hope?” This was similar to David’s problem; he had sunk to the depths of despair. He knew that he was under God’s judgement and all that he could do now was to rest in the assurance of God’
He cries out to Yahweh as denoted by the capitalized LORD in our bibles. The God who had previously revealed Himself to Moses from within the burning bush is the same God that David was trusting in whilst in such dire circumstances all of which were of his own making. His question to God “is there any hope?” is one that I am sure we have all at one time or another prayed ourselves. David’s respect for the person of God is contrasted with the taunt of his enemies. David makes a request to the Lord whom he knows personally whereas his enemy can only use the general term for God. It is a bit like people who use the name of Jesus today for their advantage but who do not really know Him as Lord and saviour of their life. Contrast their words with the relationship the Christian has and there is a vast difference. David even though he had sinned and brought this unhappy situation upon himself had never lost his personal relationship with God. God will never leave or forsake His people. The promises made to David whilst he was still a young man are safe and secure. God’s grace supersedes man’s foolish sinfulness!
David’s problem was not that he had lost contact with God but it was how would God fulfill His purposes in this desperate situation? (Read the account in Samuel and see the problem David had.) David's enemy was his own son whom he loved! Absalom was taunting David and bringing the name of God into the equation and all in opposition to David’s success. The outcome eventually would be that Absalom is eventually defeated and David is restored to the throne. Absalom’s taunts are empty but nevertheless they were most hurtful!
God never changes and what He has promised will be fulfilled in each of our lives and in the life of the church. The taunts of the enemy which includes Absalom types (they are people who know of God by association: other religious groups etc.) will eventually come to nothing. David a man after God’s own heart cried almost a rhetorical prayer when he asked: “is there any hope?”
We know it is rhetorical because of the next stanza in the Psalm we discover that David had a:
- A ring of confidence.
Do you remember the ring of confidence that came around those who cleaned their teeth with Colgate! You were acceptable to all because your breath smells good and your teeth are white. David’s ring of confidence was of a much higher order; his confidence was in Yahweh. Yahweh surrounds him and even though he is “banged up” hiding in a cave; God’s glory is upon him. Even though the circumstances that he finds himself in are due to sin God had not forsaken him nor had He removed His glory from David. There is much to learn here for us as Christians today. It is easy to believe that God is only blessing us when everything is going well according to our estimation. To David although everything seemed to be desperate; in God’s purpose everything was under control, it was in order and was going according to God's will.
Not only was David confident of God’s protection in difficult days he knew that God hears and answers prayer. There had been no miraculous change overnight, the situation was just as it was before; but David was confident.
What difficulties are you struggling with? Be encouraged by David’s story. When Nathan revealed his sin to him, David came to God in repentance (see Psalm 51) and even though sin does have an effect God never leaves or forsakes those whom He loves. Just come to Him as David did and then as with David your confidence in Yahweh will be restored and strengthened. You will know that even though circumstance are difficult God is with you and that He is pleased to answer your prayer from His holy hill which is heaven.
With this confidence as David did we will then be able to:
- Rest in the Lord:
It doesn’t matter how tired we are, when we are in great danger it is impossible to sleep. Lying down seems to be a trigger for our imagination to frighten us to death. It is the time that we worry the most! David was afraid for his life but yet he was able to say that he could lie down and sleep. That is the evidence of a confident man! He is blessed because not only is he confident in Yahweh and believes that Yahweh hears and answers prayer but also because Yahweh is sustaining him.
What David needed most at that time was to be able to rest his body in preparation for the battle that the next day would inevitably bring. David recognised that his good nights sleep was a gift from God. Do we praise God for the benefit that a good night’s sleep brings? It is amazing when reading the accounts of people martyred as to how many of them recorded sleeping soundly and in perfect peace the night before their execution. David through this experience was learning the principle that God will not allow anyone to be tested beyond what they can bear even though they might deserve it. He was also learning that even in difficult times it is possible to be at peace in this world.
This is God’s grace in action!
The next morning the fears of the night are in the past and David awakes with an even greater confidence that he is on the victory side. Even though the enemy seems vast David was not afraid; he had God on his side!
This is the great heritage of the believer; even though all seems to be against us we need not fear. One of the most distressing books to read is Foxes Book of the Martyrs. At first it seems glorious but by the time you get half way through it becomes monotonous because all of the accounts seem to follow the same formula. The victims are arrested, tried, found guilty and sentenced to death for blasphemy unless they recant of knowing Jesus as Lord and Saviour. They are then executed as heretics usually by burning at the stake! The one thing that Fox always brings out is that each martyr died knowing that even though the enemy was great they were on the victory side!
Are you resting in the Lord? John Wesley’s Methodists were commended because they died well; but another mark of the believer is that he can sleep well. I do not mean that he will not have sleeping problems but that his sleep will not be ruined because of fear that God might not be on his side!
We also can rest well knowing that one day there will be:
- A certain victory:
The mark of a great commander is that he can inspire his troops when needed. Remember Winston Churchill’s great stirring speeches during the Second World War and how they raised the spirits of the British nation not to give in to what seemed to be certain defeat!
What David did in verse 7 might be seen to be blasphemy in that he is ordering God to act! He boldly called on God to arise and fight the battle on his behalf. We have been warned much in the past as to what is the acceptable way to approach God remembering that His character is perfectly holy and righteous. We must not approach Him just as we wish, but David came boldly to Him and made demands that He fights on his behalf. The reason for this is that David knew with absolute certainty that what he was asking was within God’s purposes. Absalom was claiming that he was God’s appointed man BUT he was wrong! God had set David apart and Absalom was not a part of David’s plan for Israel!
God will not allow another to usurp His authority; He will always glorify His name. Therefore David’s prayer was simply “Deliver me, O my God because it is only you; LORD who can deliver and you will do so in order to bless your people! David understood what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews would later teach in Hebrews chapter 4:16 “let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive grace to help us in our time of need.” David was certainly in a time of great need and so he approached the throne of grace confidently knowing that what he asked for was God’s purpose for both Himself and His people Israel.
As Christians we must always treat the things of God with utmost respect. God has given great and mighty promises in His word, we often do not take them as the absolutes that they are and so we act and pray timidly. At times it is a wonder that God can ever interpret what we are asking of Him; our prayers are so nebulous. That certainly was not the case with David! He wanted the enemy destroyed and God’s name to be glorified.
There are many around us today attacking God and His people, it is offensive to Him and so it should also be to us. Are we as bold as David was? Dare we ask that the enemy of our God be defeated knowing in confidence that God will be pleased to answer that prayer?
So what do we learn from this Psalm?
We can be like David who whilst in distress was confident in the LORD and resting in the belief of certain victory.
As Christians we have even more reason to be confident, we can rest assured that the enemy of our souls has been defeated through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ knowing that we are on the victory side. He has commanded that we help to destroy the works of the evil one. He then rescues His people from Satan’s stranglehold. Our weapon of war is the gospel, we have it in our hand we must boldly use it for the glory of God.