Sunday, August 16, 2015
Sermon: Psalm 3 You are my Shield
Did you sleep well last night? Was it a nice, long, refreshing sleep and you woke this morning ready to take on the world? Or was it one of those disturbed, seeing every hour, tossing and turning type of nights? According to some survey or other, 25% of people in the UK have some form of sleep disorder - they can’t sleep at night, and then could sleep all day, feeling tired.
Maybe you couldn’t sleep because someone else was snoring (as all the ladies look at their husbands...) - or perhaps you woke yourself up from your snoring! Some people even have ruined sleep by sleepwalking or sleeptalking.
Or maybe you weren’t able to sleep because of a worry you have - you can’t seem to switch off, you’re always thinking about it, always worrying about it.
In our Psalm today, David describes his night’s sleep. Look with me at verse 5. ‘I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.’ Well, that’s all right for him, you might think. David was the king, he was probably in his royal palace with a four poster bed and a comfortable mattress and a nice duvet. Of course he was sleeping well. If I was in Buckingham Palace I would have a great sleep as well!
But these Psalms we’re looking at this summer are Psalms from David’s life. They are all in response to events that David was living through. When we read the title of the Psalm, the little capital letters, we see that David wasn’t in his palace. David wasn’t even in the city. He was on the run. ‘A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.’
David was king in Jerusalem, but his son Absalom had risen in rebellion against him. Absalom comes towards the city, and David runs away. He flees. Everyone seems to have turned against him. Look at verses 1-2. Here’s how desperate the situation is:
‘O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.’
It’s as if David is looking behind him, and he sees the crowd following Absalom, many foes; many risen against me; many talking about me. If it goes on numbers, then David is finished. All these people are against him, they’re out to get him. And they reckon that God doesn’t want him either.
Now, picture yourself in David’s position. You’ve had to flee from your house and your hometown. You’re with a small band of followers, and evening comes. You’re not lying in your palace, you’re lying on the ground. Do you think you would sleep much? Would you not lie awake, listening for the noise of Absalom’s army? Would you be able to sleep for fear of what might happen?
So how do we get from this desperate situation in verses 1-2 to verse 5, where David lay down, slept, and woke again? We have to go through verses 3 and 4. And as we do that, we also have to deal with the extra wee word at the end of verse 2 and 4. Selah. No one quite knows what it means, but it’s found in loads of Psalms. Some think it’s a musical term, but it seems like it’s a pause for thought indicator. It comes at the end of verse 2, as if David is reflecting on this situation.
Everyone else has it in for me. ‘But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head.’ Here’s the reason David could sleep so well, even with all these people out to get him. He knows that the LORD, the promise making, promise keeping God is three things: a shield about me - God is like a shield, protecting us; my glory - the one who David delights in, the one whose opinion really counts; and the lifter of my head. With all these people against him, with all his worries and woes, David’s head must have been down. But God lifts his head, gives him strength and grace and purpose.
And how does David know this? How does this work out in his life? ‘I cried out to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill.’ David might have left the ark behind. David might not be in Jerusalem any more. But God still hears David, and answers David. (Selah - pause)
When you know that God is in control, when you know that God is in charge, when you know that God is for you, then you don’t need to fear anyone or anything. So even on the rough ground, David had a good night’s sleep. He did it, ‘for the LORD sustained me.’ And do you see how he keeps going in verse 6? ‘I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.’
David isn’t trusting in his own strength. He doesn’t think that he can take them all himself. David’s trust is in his shield, his glory, the lifter of his head. And so he calls God to action: ‘Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.’
It’s God who acts to save, not David. It’s God who deals with David’s enemies, striking them on the cheek, breaking their teeth. Then they won’t be able to bite. They won’t be able to speak out the accusing threats.
Verse 8 brings the Psalm to a close, and shows us the message of the Psalm in one little easy to remember sentence. Despite the big problem David had; despite all the people after him; David was able to lie down and sleep. He wasn’t depending on himself. His trust was in God, because he knows the truth of verse 8.
‘Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people.’
Salvation belongs to the LORD. David the king recognised this, but we also hear another king singing the same song. This king knew what it was to have massive opposition; for people to taunt him about his God; for people to question his faith. Yet as he trusted in God, so he passed through (not just sleep, but) death and woke again, because the Lord sustained him.
Jesus has endured the scorn and opposition to provide his salvation. Jesus is the one who shields us, is our glory, and lifts up our head. Because salvation belongs to the Lord, so he provides blessings to his people. There’s another Selah at the end - a great reminder to pause, reflect, and take in this great truth before we rush on with the rest of today.
When it comes bedtime tonight, how will you sleep? When the litany of worries begins, could you join with David in recognising who your God is - your shield, your glory, the lifter of your head? And as you do so, cry out to him. As someone once said, when you can’t sleep, rather than counting sheep, speak to the shepherd, who is your Lord.
This sermon was preached in Aghavea Parish Church on Sunday 16th August 2015.