Psalm 3 (Part 2 of 3) series: Lessons on Psalms
by John Lowe
5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me.
6 I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.
David is so certain that Yahweh had heard him that he could settle down to sleep. And in the morning he awoke, aware that he was still safe because Yahweh was sustaining him. With that knowledge, he would not be afraid of anyone, even ‘ten thousands’ of people (a great army), even though they had surrounded him and were set against him.
“I lie down and sleep; I wake again”: David used both of these as evidence of God’s blessing. Sleep was a blessing, because David was under such intense pressure from the circumstances of Absalom’s rebellion that sleep might be impossible, but he slept. Waking was another blessing because many wondered if David would live to see a new day.
He could rest in the knowledge that his sins were pardoned. So why shouldn’t David have laid down and slept? He had passed through two years of anguish and of heartache. Now, since he had confessed his sin, and sought and found pardon, he naturally laid himself down and slept. He had found peace, perfect peace.
Now, I will ask you a question, if I may: why shouldn’t we also lie down and sleep? Our sins are washed away, our sins are gone. "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace." Even though there is no rest for the wicked; even though the wicked are like the sea with its waves dashing, and they cannot rest; but we cannot be like them, because our sins are forgiven. When Christ entered into our troubled heart, He said: "Peace, be still," and there was a great calm.
Some believe that what David said in this verse about laying down and going to sleep has a much higher meaning than we have given it, more than merely falling asleep on our bed. They suggest that the words picture Jesus laying in the grave, and his glorious resurrection that followed. And certainly, it is a beautiful idea, well deserving to be kept in view in this Psalm. Because it was said with confidence by the spirit of prophesy that Jehovah would not leave Christ's soul in hell neither suffer his Holy One to see corruption. (Psalms 16:10)
David could say, I laid down and slept, instead of spending the night in useless anxiety, because I cast all my cares and fears upon God, and relied upon his help. I awoke in due time, after a sweet and undisturbed sleep, still safe and secure, not yet delivered into the power of my enemies; because the Lord sustained me. David was confident that the hand of Almighty God was upholding him, and this fact gave him his calm assurance in the midst of dangers. What else but great faith could make him forget his danger; that while he slept a disloyal army was at his back, hunting him!
As soon as David had found rest in the Lord, He was fully awake to his new opportunities for service. He had said: "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."
If you, dear brother or sister, are a child of God, you can say along with David, "The Lord sustained me" and strengthened me. Such is always the case. First, forgiveness; then, rest and testimony, a new power in service, and a new victory in temptation. This was Peter's experience. When he was forgiven he was restored to service, and strengthened to a new task. Thank God, we are not left in any depleted and weakened condition when we are restored from our backslidings. Following forgiveness, the Lord gives power. We find His grace is sufficient to meet every need.
God sustains us in our sleep, but we take it for granted. But think of it: you are asleep, unconscious, and dead to the world—yet you breathe, your heart pumps, your organs operate. The same God who sustains us in our sleep will sustain us in our difficulties.
The picture painted by David’s words perfectly fits his circumstances. David is in the camp, supported by his men, his faithful private army, together with others who had accompanied them, faced with the possibility of an approaching army of Israel surrounding the camp in order to destroy them, but no longer afraid because Yahweh sustained him. “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people:” With God sustaining him, David could stand against any foe. Before the Apostle Paul took pen in hand to write it down, God knew the truth of Romans 8:31: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
David had plenty of reasons for this NEW SENSE OF ASSURANCE he had; for example:
1. "Perfect love casteth out fear." “I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side.” All fear of the enemy had passed. A new assurance had caused David to lift up his head. Even Absalom's treachery, and his trained army seeking to destroy him, gave him no fear. He believed in God and was not afraid. It is always the case: when we have a commission from Heaven and we are walking in fellowship with a victorious Christ, we take His victory. We know there is nothing too hard for the Lord, and we know that it is a conquering Lord who fights for us.
2. "One shall chase a thousand." There came into the mind of David, in the hour of his great trial, remembrances of past days. He remembered how, as a ruddy youth, he had gone out unarmored, with only a sling and five smooth pebbles, to meet the giant Goliath.
3. He remembered how, in the early days, after he had been crowned king, God had given deliverance upon deliverance to his armies from every foe. With all of this before him, and with the promises of God ringing in his mind, he cried out: "I will not be afraid of ten thousands." And why should we be afraid? Our God is still able to deliver. .
Here is the promise which God left with us. "Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you." There is no task too great, no call of God too difficult, for the conquest of an unwavering faith. Our Lord said: "All power is given unto Me." Then He promised that power unto us, and told us to "Go."
How perfectly wonderful are both of these verses! Ten thousands opposed to one poor man become a mighty army! But millions against us, when God is on our side, are as nothing. Oh! For faith in the Lord, and in the power of his might. See a beautiful illustration of this doctrine in 2 Kings 6:15-17—“The servant of the man of God got up the next morning. He went out early. He saw that an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "My master!" the servant said. "What can we do?" "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Elisha prayed, "Lord, open my servant's eyes so he can see." Then the LORD opened his eyes. He looked up and saw the hills. He saw that Elisha was surrounded by horses and chariots. Fire was all around them.”
7 Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked.
This verse reminds me of a boxing match between God and David’s enemies, with Moses at ringside shouting encouragement to the Almighty. I had a pastor, years ago, who liked to say, “Your arms are too short to box with God.” How true!
Now, let’s break this verse down—Arise, O LORD!
These words are reminiscent of Numbers 10:35, where Moses used this phrase as the children of Israel broke camp in the wilderness—“So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said: ‘Rise up, O Lord! Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You’” (Num. 10:35). It was a military phrase, calling on God to go forth to both defend Israel and lead them to victory. God is figuratively represented as asleep to denote His apparent indifference—“Arise, O LORD, in your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies. Awake, my God; decree justice. (Psalm 7:6). Psalm 68:1 gives the impression that if God will arise and go forth all His enemies will flee before Him: “Let God arise, Let His enemies be scattered; Let those also who hate Him flee before Him.” God will arise to defend his people and defeat their enemies in response to their faithful prayers. Moses knew this, and therefore he ordered the priests, whenever the ark was moved, to say, "Rise up, Lord.” Commanders must pray before they lead their forces into battle.
Deliver me, O my God!
Arise, O Lord, save me—don’t wait any longer, but let them see thou hast not forsaken me. “O my God”—you are mine by our special relationship and covenant: Lord, save your own. Deliver me from these my rebellious subjects, whose strategy and power I am unable to withstand without your assistance.