Confidence in Troubled Times
A Psalm of David when he fled from his son Absalom.
1 Lord, how my foes increase!
There are many who attack me.
2 Many say about me,
“There is no help for him in God.”
3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
4 I cry aloud to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.
5 I lie down and sleep;
I wake again because the Lord sustains me.
6 I will not be afraid of thousands of people
who have taken their stand against me on every side.
7 Rise up, Lord!
Save me, my God!
You strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;
may your blessing be on your people.
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). (Ps 3). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
When many foes afflict me…
We are told to love our enemies. We are also told that the Psalms offer us inspiration for how to pray to God through the various trials of life. So how do we know when to love our enemies, or when to pray that God would break their teeth!?
Relationships are tricky, and conflict is common. God often uses conflict to discipline us. When a brother or sister calls us out, we can respond with humility, or attempt to save face. It would be wrong to pray this Psalm against one who has a disagreement with us just because we are angry with them. So how do we know when these kinds of prayers are appropriate?
2 Samuel 14-18 tells the background story behind this Psalm. David’s son Absalom attempted a coup in order to seize the kingdom from his father. We are told that Absalom was cunning, handsome, and charming. He patiently worked his plan over the course of 4+ years as he gradually swayed the hearts of many Israelites in order to garner their support. Absalom was a cunning deceiver whose lust for power was his driving force and his ambition was to take that which was not rightfully his.
We might say Absalom represents the way of the beast. Adam and Eve were told to have dominion over the beasts of the field. The serpent was more crafty than the other beasts of the field. He won the favor of the human couple in order to take and usurp their authority and power. As a result, the humans and their legacy through Cain were subdued by the way of the beast and they began to act according to their new master – whom they were supposed to have dominion over!
The language of “breaking the teeth” is commonly used to speak of men who are acting like beasts, and God breaks their power. For example:
6 O God, break the teeth in their mouths;
tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord!
When you are encountering opposition from enemies, here are some important things to ask yourself:
- Is this person challenging me with my own best interests at heart, or are they acting out of jealousy?
- Is my opponent’s ambition to seize or usurp something from me (position, possessions, relationships)?
- Is my heart in the right place? Note that even as David prayed this prayer, he loved his son Absalom. When the battle took place, David requested that Absalom be spared. His servants did not listen, and Absalom was killed in battle. As a result, David’s army did not return to the city in a spirit of victory, but of mourning. The prayer to break the teeth of my enemy is not a prayer of cruelty for enemies, but a prayer that God would break the serpent’s beastly power acting through them.
- Hopefully, with these observations in mind, we can see that it is entirely possible to love our enemies and pray Psalm 3 at the same time!
Lord, for those facing opposition from others today, I pray for a heart of wisdom and discernment. Reveal to us our own motives and give us humility. You never call us to pray out of hatred, but for justice! If we claim Psalm 3 over ourselves when it is not appropriate to do so, then I pray we would immediately realize our error and have the humility to listen. But for those who are genuinely encountering the opposition of beasts, we ask that you shield them and sustain them. Be their glory and salvation. Break the teeth of the wicked and deliver the oppressed. Amen.