Filing a Grievance With God; Psalm 3

The Psalms were written between Moses (c. 1440/1280 BC) and the Babylonian Exile (586 BC) by various human authors, including kings David and Asaph. The Psalms are the songs God inspired for the expression of praise, worship, and confession of His people to Himself. This divine psalter, or hymnal, has 150 songs God wrote through verbal-plenary inspiration. The Psalms are rarely used and under-appreciated but are the best expressions of praise we have available because they are God’s very word.

God’s psalter can be divided into 5 categories:

  • Gospel Psalms—Psalms 1:1-41:13
  • Psalms of Deliverance—Psalms 42:1-72:20
  • Holiness Psalms—Psalms 73:1-89:52
  • Sovereignty Psalms—90:1-106:48
  • Psalms About Scripture—Psalm 107:1-150:6

These 5 categories, or books, parallel the Torah, or Pentateuch, in order.

Concerning God’s Psalms: It continues to amaze me that people are so quick to quarrel about church music. Some desire a certain set of hymns and others desire more contemporary music, but never do people seem to want to sing from the psalter God Himself breathed for the purpose of His own praise. God provided 150 songs to be used, but, as with most of life, we often neglect what God has breathed because of our own preferences and in favor of the words we have written for ourselves. The neglect of God’s Psalms evidences the self-centered worship of the local church in our day.

Book 1: The Gospel Psalms

The Gospel psalms encourage the people of God to sing about the application and outpouring of the Gospel message in the lives of God’s people and assume that those singing them are already God’s people. So, the gospel psalms reflect post-conversion Christian life and fruit.

Psalm 3

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O Lord, how my adversaries have increased!

Many are rising up against me.

Many are saying of my soul,

“There is no deliverance for him in God.”

Selah.

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,

My glory, and the One who lifts my head.

I was crying to the Lord with my voice,

And He answered me from His holy mountain.

Selah.

I lay down and slept;

I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people

Who have set themselves against me round about.

Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God!

For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek;

You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the Lord;

Your blessing be upon Your people!

Selah.

Their accusations (v. 0-2)

A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.

O Lord, how my adversaries have increased!

Many are rising up against me.

Many are saying of my soul,

“There is no deliverance for him in God.”

Selah.

This psalm, unlike the previous two, begins before the first verse. The psalmist identifies himself as David and provides a context for the psalm. David wrote this psalm after Absalom, his son, incited a coup (Cf. 2 Samuel 15:13-17, 29). Absalom made himself king and David fled for his life. The word, psalm, is simply translated from the Hebrew word for “song,” מזמור. 

David cries out to the Lord, telling the Lord what He already knows. David brings up the troubling circumstances the Lord already has in mind. The Lord is already aware that the conspirators are spreading rumors, claiming that God is not with David. Of course David believes the Lord already has a plan and sustains all things according to His will (cf. v. 5). Even though David believes in God’s providence, he unapologetically tells God the circumstances of his life.

Have you ever been tempted to think your circumstances are too insignificant to bother God about them? Have you ever felt like you lack trust or belief because you find yourself praying about the circumstances of your life even though you believe God worked together those circumstances, like you are complaining about a set of circumstances God worked together for your good? I have felt so guilty because I felt like something went wrong in my life and I had to tell God all about it instead of simply accepting it by faith. Here, we see a davidic psalm, inspired in a verbal and plenary way, in which the inspired psalmist tells God about what he perceives has gone wrong. Perhaps our prayers of grievance are not as sinful as some people have made them out to be. Perhaps, especially since He inspired such a psalm, the Lord who works all things together desires we come to Him with our grievances. In light of this revelation, we must consider what Jesus taught about worry:

For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear for clothing?” For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:25-34).

Perhaps we feel weird about telling God what we think has gone wrong because it seems to us like we are not trusting Him to provide all things. We have e tendency to be more of a burden on ourselves than God is. We should be careful not to overanalyze ourselves, which I have done. Notice that David is not worried about what will be or how he will be provided for. Jesus did not teach that people should never file a grievance with God. He taught that people ought not worry because God knows what they need. The psalmist does not disbelieve in God’s providence. He simply voices the current circumstance he is suffering through. If we feel like our life circumstances are all wrong, God provided us a psalm to sing and as an example. Pour out your frustrations to God. Cry out, scream, yell, or weep; He can take it. He desires His children to be real with Him, not put on some religious or pious mask—to do so is to lie to God. To be real with God does not cancel out our trust or belief in God, nor does it drive us into unfaithfulness or apostasy. In fact, telling God about the problems we have without digressing into whining or complaining is a worthwhile spiritual discipline. Consider any relationship. When we bottle up our grievances instead of going to the appropriate person personally and privately to tell him or her what is wrong, we eventually explode and cause much fallout. Hurt people hurt people. If we bottle up our grievances toward God, even because of our sense of piety, we eventually explode and rebel against God causing all sorts of fallout around us, even within the covenant community.

At the end of this stanza, the psalmist writes, “Selah,” This is not a word that is sung. The consensus seems to be that the word denotes something like a musical interlude or refrain. So, for all those who do not believe people should play instruments artistically or have instrumental solos in church music, consider the fact that God wrote them into His personal psalter. God takes great pleasure in well-crafted music. He is glorified as His bride, the church, serenades Him in His court.

God’s provision (v. 3-4)

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me,

My glory, and the One who lifts my head.

I was crying to the Lord with my voice,

And He answered me from His holy mountain.

Selah.

After crying out to the Lord about his hurt, David remembers what God has done. After filing his grievance, David confesses. The Lord is his shield, his glory, and the one who lifts his head or gives him hope. As David was crying out to the Lord, the Lord answered him.

After we cry out to God concerning everything we see going wrong in our lives, God reassures His people by guarding them in their tribulation, being their glory or dignity so they don’t have to trust in the materialism of the world to be dignified, and providing them with hope and peace through the trials of this life. God works together the tribulations we all face, but He does not leave us in those tribulations without His divine aid. Do you ever notice how much differently those who take refuge in the Lord handle tribulation than those who do not?

Consider what the Lord provides His people in their trouble. First, He is their shield. He is the reason we can endure. Second, He is their glory. Those who take refuge in the Lord do not have to wallow in their tribulation. They are afforded dignity even in their pain or loss. Why? We have the only one who profits us forever. The people of the world grovel when they think they have lost everything or fear losing what they have. The one who has God has dignity. That is why Paul will later write:

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:7-12).

Third, the Lord lifts their heads. He provides hope and peace. All that tribulation is worked together for a purpose and for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (cf. Romans 8:28). This is how the Lord answers the grievances of His people. He gives them rest, provides a selah in their tribulation. How can we know that these promises apply to us and not only David? God inspired this psalm for His psalter, to be sung by His people to Him and to one another (cf. Ephesians 5:19).

David’s petition (v. 5-8)

I lay down and slept;

I awoke, for the Lord sustains me.

I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people

Who have set themselves against me round about.

Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God!

For You have smitten all my enemies on the cheek;

You have shattered the teeth of the wicked.

Salvation belongs to the Lord;

Your blessing be upon Your people!

Selah.

After remembering who the Lord is and receiving strength by taking refuge in the Lord, David proclaims how refreshed he is and implores the Lord God to deliver him. His rest preceded His deliverance. He felt wronged, filed his grievance, was contented in the Lord, and now petitions the Lord for deliverance. He believes that God is able because he has already seen God smite many his enemies and shatter the teeth of the wicked. Simply read 1 and 2 Samuel leading up to 2 Samuel 15 to see how God delivered David many times before.

God has promised to deliver all of His people according to His will. It is healthy to pray for deliverance and trust God to work—not according to our plans but according to His. Because we can trust God, we can rest; We can selah. David composes this psalm in such a way that with every stanza a refrain is provided. That refrain, though it has no words, speaks loudly into David’s tribulation. No matter the swarming hardships, God provides His people rest in the midst of their tribulation and promises to finally deliver them from the tribulation of the cursed earth. Our God is not some powerless invention; He is mighty to save both momentarily from physical distress and eternally from the consequence of human unrighteousness according to His will.

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