Psalm 3 Devotion – A song for sleepless nights
By Kat Cowell
Extra passages: Hebrews 2:14-3:6; Romans 8:28-39
Have you ever come across one of those people who have the rare gift of being able to fall asleep anywhere and at any time? Perhaps you are one of them yourself! My husband is one, and I have to admit, I have always been a little jealous of his sleeping abilities. As soon as the lights are out and his head is on the pillow, blissful sleep arrives. For me, on the other hand, most nights are a battle as my mind whirrs away, pondering the day that has been, or more often than not, thinking of all that is to happen in the days and weeks to come.
Even if you are a sound sleeper, I am sure you have experienced similar moments; moments where your mind seems to take off in a particular direction, leading you to all sorts of places you don’t want to go. Perhaps it involves brooding on the past, a constant replaying of conversations or situations that cannot be changed. Or maybe it looks like worrying about the future, running through a list of “what if’s” for every potential scenario.
Whenever I find myself in these moments, I take comfort in knowing that the Bible is full of people like me. People who experienced fear, anxiety, and sleepless nights. People who found their trust in God tested by the troubles of life, who had to be reminded of His loving faithfulness and perfect provision. Though much time and space separates us from them, the people in the Bible were human too, and experienced all the ups and downs of life that we do. David – the shepherd-boy turned warrior king – was one of these people. And it is in his psalms – the prayers and songs he wrote to God – that we get great insight into what stabilised him in many times of fear and worry.
When David wrote Psalm 3, it was in the context of fleeing from his son Absalom who wanted to kill him and take the throne. The backstory to this event can be read in 2 Samuel 13-15, and it’s worth saying that David doesn’t come out looking very good. Though he was the king chosen by God, a man after God’s own heart, David was certainly not perfect, and much of the later dysfunction in his family came as a result of his own personal failures. A series of tragic events had led to the scenario David now found himself in: escaping from his own son, with his life and kingdom in danger.
But in this psalm, where David blatantly names his troubles – the many foes that rise up against him, the taunts of those who say “God will not deliver him” and the tens of thousands that assail him on every side – he reaffirms his trust in God as the only One who can ultimately protect and deliver him. Though David was a military leader, well acquainted with the art of war and intricacies of battle, here he names the Lord as his shield and glory (verse 3). He is confident that his prayer will not fall on deaf ears, for the Lord “answers me from his holy mountain” (verse 4). And he knows that whatever happens, his life is in God’s hands, for “the Lord sustains me” (verse 5). He knows that every breath he takes, every moment he wakes, is a gift from the hand of the Lord.
This incredible trust in God’s sovereignty, power and protection leads David to say to himself in verse 6, “I will not fear though tens of thousands assail me on every side.” The wonderful truth is that these words can be ours as well, and with an even greater confidence than David, because we have a greater act of God’s deliverance to look back on when we face troubles in this world. While David had experienced God’s love and protection countless times in his life, we have the benefit of looking back to the greatest demonstration of God’s love for His world, in the sending of his Son Jesus Christ to be our Saviour. As the apostle John writes in 1 John 4:9: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.”
And in our times of trouble, we can look back to a greater act of deliverance from an enemy far more threatening than any human army – the conquering of sin and death itself. As it says of Jesus in Hebrews 2:14-15, “he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.” Jesus Christ has won this victory for us, giving abundant life, now and forever, to all who trust in Him.
The truth is, we will continue to face things in this world that might cause us to fear; things that might trouble our minds at night, tempting us to forget God’s power and promises. But the Lord is our shield too and the One who sustains us. Nothing can separate us from His love. He is the One who will deliver us, and who through Jesus Christ, already has.
A prayer for today:
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you that we can always call out to you in the midst of trouble, knowing that you hear and will answer. Thank you that through faith in Christ I am your child and servant, one who has been delivered from the power of sin and death. Please be my shield today and every day – protect me from all evil and temptation. Thank you that I can lie down and sleep knowing that you sustain me, that I am safe in your hands.
In Jesus’ powerful name I pray, Amen.