David writes this psalm while fleeing from his son Absalom. It’s hard to imagine the vulnerability of sleep when someone is out for your life. It’s hard to imagine your own family member out to destroy you.
Enemies don’t always come across as sinister villains. Sometimes they wear larger-than-life smiles. Sometimes they send you Christmas cards. Sometimes they are people you’d least expect (like David’s son!). Does this hatred lie dormant in each of us? What triggers the turn? Is it power? Is it jealousy? Is it resentment? What feeds this beast?
Oh, Lord, guard my heart!
There were days when I could not hold my head up. Days when there were enemies on every side. I stood in worship and sang the words, if our God is for us then who could ever stop us. I wondered, when so much seemed wrong, was God for me? That is the darkest place to be.
When an enemy’s hand holds down, it’s hard to feel uplifted by encouragement, “God’s got something better.” Because, what if–and you’d seem faithless to finish the question.
I read over Acts with some students last fall as we were getting to know about Paul. I read this part with fresh understanding:
6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time. 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there. 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas. Acts 16:6-8, NLT.
That first spring after we moved, I learned how to ride the tractor to cut the field. I’m sure I was a grinning fool, overwhelmed by beauty. The sky, the fragrance, the feel of the breeze, the sound of the birds, the temperature–like an embrace. He spoke to me there, a repeating refrain. I searched his words online and found them. He took my breath away with this: “It was I who sent that great destroying army against you.”
And you know what? I was thankful.
O Lord, I have so many enemies;
so many are against me.
2 So many are saying,
“God will never rescue him!” Interlude
3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
4 I cried out to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude
5 I lay down and slept,
yet I woke up in safety,
for the Lord was watching over me.
6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
who surround me on every side.
7 Arise, O Lord!
Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face!
Shatter the teeth of the wicked!
8 Victory comes from you, O Lord.
May you bless your people. Interlude Psalm 3:1-8, NLT
When hardships come, I can know: he is a shield; he hears me and holds me; he watches over me. I can read the words and know them as truth.