Psalm Chapter 3: David’s Flight from Absalom

Jan 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Psalms, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Psa. 3:0 A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

David’s flight from his son Absalom gave rise to the Third Psalm. He was telling about an incident that occurred near the end of his reign, when his enemies flocked around Absalom.

This information indicates we are not to expect the Psalms to be arranged in a time sequence.

With regard to David, it is strange that people are prone to look upon the infirmity of old age as a sign of weakness. The people back there considered Absalom to be a fit successor to David.

Not only was Absalom handsome with his long hair, but evidently, he was very glib of tongue. With savvy, he spoke nice things, and the people liked his personality. However, God was with David, who was still king at this time. Rumors can discredit honorable individuals, as was the case here. It is David who slew Goliath, the one who challenged Israel every day for 40 days. Out of fear, the Israelites, including King Saul, who was taller than any of the others, did not accept the challenge. Along came David at the last minute with a slingshot, which he used to kill Goliath. Natural Israel had the problem of forgetting, and the same is true of spiritual Israel.

With the Ancient Worthies, the Old Testament saints who were justified by faith to friendship with God, the same principles operated more or less as they do with regard to Christians and the Gospel Age. The difference is that more understanding is needed now and more has to be sacrificed than was required of the Ancient Worthies. However, the Old Testament saints suffered for righteousness’ sake, and their obedience pleased God. Consequently, they will be given a role in the coming Kingdom.

Every so often as the Psalms are read, there is an indication of “Book Two,” “Book Three,” “Book Four,” and “Book Five.” Since one scroll was not large enough to hold 150 Psalms, five scrolls were required to put together the Book of Psalms. Parts and pieces of the original scrolls that were unearthed in the vicinity of Jericho are called the “Dead Sea Scrolls.”

Psa. 3:1 Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me.

David was speaking: “Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! many … rise up against me.” He was very cognizant of the fact that he had lost the esteem and confidence of the people of Israel, especially those of the northern kingdom.

Absalom had ulterior motives, for he used flattery and insincere words to gain the affection of the people. He positioned himself at the gate so that he could speak to as many as possible. His pleasing personality was persuasive. Many have nice personalities but lack understanding and content in giving counsel.

Comment: Satan worked the same way with the fallen angels originally.

Reply: Yes, he was handsome and had a good singing voice, plus savvy. No doubt spirit beings, as well as human beings, look on the outer man, which becomes almost a subconscious guide that has to be carefully examined before taking a serious step. When we see a person approaching, the first thing we notice is his face, and subconsciously we make a temporary judgment of the individual. Then we begin to see his body frame and make a supplemental judgment. Thus we do judge by the outer appearance, but we must be careful not to misjudge.

Psa. 3:2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.

David continued to speak. In many instances, “Selah” means “Just think of that!”—indicating either approval or disapproval depending on what was said immediately preceding the expression. “Selah” is somewhat like “Amen,” but with this different slant.

Why did many say concerning David, “There is no help for him in God”? (1) Absalom’s popularity and influence were so great that many shortened God’s hand in their own minds. (2) In his old age, David began to appear decrepit and bodily weak to some. For example, he was cold and frequently had chills—so much so, in fact, that arrangements were made to have a maiden warm the bed for him (1 Kings 1:1-4). (3) Because of David’s physical deterioration, some subconsciously compared him with Absalom, making bodily appearance an indicator that God was departing from David and favoring Absalom. Many felt God’s providence was now favoring Absalom and leaving David. The outward signs of David’s appearance seemed to support this thinking or judgment.

It is hard to make judgments because we cannot read the heart, but we are to observe the fruits of individuals. As Jesus said, we are to judge a tree by its fruit (Matt. 12:33). Those who observed Absalom saw him as being solicitous and friendly and speaking pleasant things, and they considered these “fruits” to be signs of spirituality.

Comment: The very fact David’s own son opposed him led people to think, “No son would usurp his father without grounds for doing so.” They assumed that Absalom had inner, familial understanding.

Reply: Yes. The people knew that Absalom had been sent into exile, and some might have questioned David’s motive in doing so. “Was it jealousy?” they would ask, being unaware of Absalom’s wrong acts. Even so, it was with reluctance that David banished Absalom. The point is that the people did not study David as an individual and see his exceptional qualities, as Psalms 3 and 4 will show.

Q: Is this Psalm a prophetic prayer of the Church in the last days? The people will oppose the feet members for not believing in the Trinity and say, “There is no help for them in God.”

A: It is true that many Psalms are prophetic, but whether or not this Psalm fits that category remains to be seen. However, David’s experience here is the experience of many of God’s people. Over the years, we have known three brethren quite intimately whose last experience was to lose their former standing through misjudgment and a lack of understanding of some of their statements and actions and/or the stand they took. Two of them lost not only their popularity but also their eldership among the brotherhood. Therefore, from the standpoint of principle, all of the Psalms have helpful lessons. Since David was a man after God’s own heart, his feelings and expressions can be prophetic from that perspective. Not all of the Psalms are prophetic, but the Scriptures do show the feet members will have extreme experiences.

Psa. 3:3 But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.

Comment: Even if David was elderly and no longer walking with his head erect as would befit the posture of a king, he was now resting in Jehovah, who was his shield. He always looked to God for help.

Reply: Just as Peter was a rock after receiving forgiveness for his denial of Jesus and after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, having leadership qualities like Paul, so David, as a result of one particular sin, saw that he could not rely on his own strength of character. In later life especially, he had to lean very heavily on the Lord.

An optional rendering in the King James margin for “a shield for me” is “a shield about [that is, around] me.” Instead of just being a shield in front of David, God was a shield all around him— in front, in back, and on the two sides. That thought, which is the thrust of this Third Psalm, is conveyed elsewhere in the Psalms as “shield and buckler,” meaning all-around protection (Psa. 35:2; 91:4).

Comment: Multiple times in Holy Writ, David said God was his shield.

Reply: Yes, that terminology was especially used in the Hebrew. The thought of armor for the Christian impressed the Apostle Paul.

“Thou, O LORD, art … the lifter up of mine head.” The lifting up of the head suggests that the head was formerly in a downcast, mourning attitude and that God changed the mourning into joy. Psalm 27:6 is a good cross-reference: “And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me: therefore will I offer in his tabernacle sacrifices of joy; I will sing, yea, I will sing praises unto the LORD.”

Psa. 3:4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.

When David cried with an audible voice, God heard him out of His “holy hill,” which is Zion, the heaven of heavens. Stated another way, David’s cry reached God’s throne in the uttermost heaven. “Selah”—”Just think of that!”—the Almighty God heard David out of His holy hill!

Concerning this distance, Jehovah said, “Am I a God at hand … and not a God afar off?” (Jer. 23:23). From our perspective, God is “afar off,” but from His perspective, He is very, very close. This thought, among numerous other reasons, indicates God’s size is so tremendous that we are like little ants in comparison. A light-year is like traveling 186,000 miles per second. If God takes one step, He covers what would be many light-years away from our perspective, because all of our time, reasoning, body mechanics, chemistry, etc.—whether we realize it or not—are proportioned to our life span and size in order to be realistic and practical. If we try to imagine things in too large a sense, they are beyond our comprehension, so we have used the following illustration. God sits on a throne, or chair, above all the universes or galaxies (plural), which are like a rug. Distance-wise, He is only a step or two from the farthest, most remote part of the galaxy. King Solomon said, “And the house which I build is great: for great is our God above all gods. But who is able to build him an house, seeing the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him?” (2 Chron. 2:5,6). In other words, “the heaven” is not large enough to contain God. Now we begin to get a feeble grasp of His magnitude. How truly remarkable that tiny man has brains capable of reasoning with and worshipping God! Great spirit beings also have brains, and they can reason and worship, but how marvelous that God created the human being with the ability to worship an unseen Creator! People read His Word and make a consecration to serve their God and King based on such little information in a small book because they have great faith. Thus is seen the power of the Word itself. It magnifies and glorifies God’s name and shows what His Holy Spirit can do if we yield ourselves to that power and become filled with it.

Comment: Not only does God know what we need before we ask, but sometimes even the answer is there before the asking. Isaiah 65:24 reads, “And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.”

Reply: Yes, He knows what is in our heart. A burdensome need leads us to plea to God in prayer. He sees our emotion and knows that need will cause us to get down on our knees, sometimes crying, to ask for assistance. Sometimes in such instances, He has already sent someone in answer to our prayer while we are still on our knees.

Psa. 3:5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.

David had a good night’s sleep and awoke refreshed, for God had sustained him.

Comment: Jesus slept in a boat during a fierce storm on the Sea of Galilee. Jonah also slept on a boat during a storm, and Peter fell asleep between two guards when he was in jail.

Reply: Yes, in those instances, they had peace in their heart. The Apostle James was executed just before Peter’s experience. Logic would say that Peter’s execution was next, yet he had a good night’s sleep. In times of duress, sleep is especially needed. To sleep soundly when danger is abroad is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

When Jonah awoke, he told the others that his disobedience was the reason for the storm. He said, “If you throw me in the water, the storm will cease.” Those on the ship complied. Jesus likened himself to being in the sleep of death for parts of three days and nights just as Jonah had been in the whale’s belly.

Comment: Jesus slept, knowing God was protecting him, and that is our hope too.

Reply: Even if one is rudely awakened, that is God’s providence, and He is watching to see how we react. We hope to be members of the Little Flock, but whether we merit that as a final reward is based on how we handle our experiences. When we fail, we get the lesson not to be too confident in our own flesh and strength.

Psa. 3:6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.

Notice that the word “thousands” is in the plural, so “ten thousands of people” could be 100,000 at least.

Comment: This same promise is in Romans 8:31, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?”

Psa. 3:7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Verse 7 is expressed in past tense. We do not know the exact year or time David composed this Psalm, but it was near the end of his life. In the past when David was popular and in power, and even earlier when he was fleeing from King Saul, he was delivered from one incident after another. God delivered him when the end of his career seemed nigh, for a curse seemed to be on those who conceived mischief against him. When David was a general leading the army during Saul’s reign, he accomplished some remarkable feats. A popular saying was, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands” (1 Sam. 18:7). By comparison, Saul’s leadership in battle and warfare resulted in only one tenth of the damage done and the victories obtained by David. This disparity was one of the seeds that led to jealousy on Saul’s part and undermined his character. When first chosen, he seemed to be a person of integrity, but one can change as the years go by.

“Thou [God] hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.” The last clause is a powerful expression, for when teeth are broken and crushed, the victim may even swallow fragments of the teeth and bone. Verse 7 shows that the experience was deadly for those who became the enemies of David.

Comment: The faces of people who are brazen reflect the harshness.

Reply: That quality is likened to a brazen forehead, that is, to a forehead of brass. A smiting of the cheekbones was needed to stop the stubborn, cruel opposition. An expression used by parents many years ago was, “I will have none of that cheek,” meaning “none of that sass.” There followed a slap on the face to indicate disapproval of what had been said or done.

Psa. 3:8 Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.

Verse 8 is a summation of what David had already said. Because God was his shield, comforter, and pacifier, he could get refreshing sleep and deliverance from the enemy. Likewise, all who lean wholly on the Lord experience such salvation. This last verse is meant to be especially comforting to the Christian.




(2004-2006 Study)

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