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20 April 2015

Psalm 3: Christ's Grace Brings Confidence

First, this is labeled as "A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son." That's not a story that we spend a lot of time talking about in Sunday School or other classes, so the first thing I did was to go review the story. The Bible Dictionary lists quite a few passages that deal with Absalom, but the main event is in 2 Samuel 15-18. After studying that, and re-reading the psalm, I also went and reviewed the story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11-12

This was an incredibly trying time for David. It's sometime after he had taken Bathsheba and killed Uriah, and now his son Absalom has risen up against him. First, Absalom played a subtle game where he undermined the king and stole the hearts of the people. Then, he actually raised an army, and David and his supporters had to flee Jerusalem. The third Psalm deals with both the difficult situations that he faced, and also expresses his confidence in the Lord's care.

Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.
Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. 
But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.(vs.1-2)

I have frequently heard David held up as a singular example of What Not To Do. There are good reasons why this is so. We know from the Doctrine and Covenants that his sins were severe enough to cost him dearly in the eternities. In the beginning, he was described as "a man after the Lord's own heart", and he was chosen, and elevated above his brethren because of this. But his rise was followed by the tragedy of his choices regarding Uriah and his wife. You still hear, from time to time, people saying that, "there is no help for him in God."

David, himself, clearly felt otherwise, and the Psalms are full of his praise for the amazing Grace that the Lord extended to him.  This is one of those Psalms.

But thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory and the lifter up of mine head. 
I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill. 

Even in this extreme case, the Grace of the Lord is such that David wasn't utterly abandoned. What a hopeful thing that is for all of us!

The Gift of Grace, April 2015

Even in these difficult circumstances, and in spite of past sins, David seems to have enjoyed the peace which passeth understanding. If ever there were troubles that would cause one to loose sleep, David had some, particularly at this time. He had to have known that the conflict with Absalom was not going to end well; attempted coups nearly never end in reconciliation for the dynastic family. And quite often, neighboring countries see this sort of weakness and take the opportunity to annex some territory or the country descends into civil war, so there were quite likely concerns for his people that could keep him up at night, even if those family issues didn't. But he's not talking about how little he's sleeping; instead he talks about the strength he draws from the Lord.

I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me. (vs. 5)

We can have this kind of strength from the Lord, too. Whatever we have done, we, like David, are not too far gone for Christ's mercy. We can also draw on the strength that He offers.

In the Strength of the Lord, April 2004

Since I started studying the Psalms, I've come to have a greater appreciation for just how dramatic the power imbalance between us and God is: a mosquito has a better chance of stopping an elephant than any human has of frustrating God's Will. At this point in his life, David has returned to a place where he desires the Lord's Will, and is unflinching before it. "Here am I," he says. "Let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him." This is important; it enables the confidence we see in the psalm:

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God, for thou has smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth to the Lord: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah. (vs.6-8)

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