Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 2: Wednesday
You surround him with favor as with a large shield.
Mid-week on Wednesday, we are back in the Psalms. Today’s reading is Psalm 3–5. Think for a moment about what a gift God has given to us in His Word. The many authors, the many types of writings, the many topics, encompass everything God wants us to know about who He is, who we are, and how we are to live. Not only that, but He has given His Holy Spirit to us to teach us, to help us, to comfort us.
These are psalms of David and are the first with superscriptions. Superscriptions are not the headings given in some translations, but are part of the text. Look at Psalm 3 in the NASB to see the difference. “Morning Prayer of Trust in God,” is a title the NASB translators gave to the psalm. “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son,” is immediately above the psalm and is the superscription about it. It is part of the text of the Bible. The Legacy Standard Bible translation of Psalm 3 has only the superscription. I’ve written more on the superscriptions of Psalms at The Five Books of Psalms, and expanded the post to also include an overview of its poetry.
David’s psalms speak to so many of us. We read David’s poetry and songs written in the midst of all kinds of circumstances. We see him affirm over and over again who God is in His character and His care for David. His psalms sustain and increase our faith because we find here a man dealing with realities and calling on God. We have hope that when we are in the midst of the same realities, we can call on God. His psalms also keep us from going off the rails because David’s bring us to God and who He is in the midst of grief and pain. We see God’s love for David, and David’s love for God, and we are encouraged to love God.
In all three psalms, when speaking to God, David most often calls Him Yahweh. Remember Yahweh is God’s personal name to His people. Yahweh is His covenant name. Alec Motyer writes:
A totally false sense of reverence later said ‘The Name is too holy for us to use,’ and the custom was introduced of representing it as ‘the Lord’. No, no. He has granted us the privilege, and we should learn (belatedly) to live in the benefit of it. Hebrew has two main nouns for ‘God’. There is a plural elohim, God in the fullness of the divine attributes ― for simplicity I translate this as ‘God’ ― and the singular el which I translate as ‘transcendent God’. But there is only one ‘Name’. ‘God’ is what he is; Yahweh is who he is.1
This is why I’m using the Legacy Standard Bible for the Psalms. Seeing Yahweh did at first seem strange to me, but when I started studying the Psalms in the LSB I began to appreciate its use and love the depth of personal meaning it gave to a passage as I read. It is a constant reminder of God’s covenant with His people; it brought to my mind and heart anew His personal care and promises to me as one of His own. At my post, God’s Name to His People, you’ll find more about God’s name, Yahweh.
In Psalms 3–5 David asks for deliverance from foes, relief from distress, and he cries for help because of his foes. Look at who He says God is.
Psalm 3: But You, O Yahweh, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.
Psalm 4: the God of my righteousness
Psalm 5: my King and my God, You are not a God who delights in wickedness (David describes God’s hatred and judgment of the wicked in several verses).
As I go through and look at phrases within these Psalms, I find he speaks of what God has done for him in the past for him, is doing for him in the present, and he looks to what God will do for him in the future:
Psalm 3: He answered me, Yahweh sustains me, You have struck all my enemies on the cheek, You have shattered the teeth of the wicked
Psalm 4: You have relieved me in my distress; Yahweh has set apart the holy one for Himself; Yahweh hears when I call to Him; You have put gladness in my heart; For You alone, O Yahweh, make me to abide in safety
Psalm 5: You will hear my voice; For it is You who blesses the righteous one, O Yahweh, You surround him with favor as with a large shield
As David cries out to God, he also speaks of what he does:
Psalm 3: I lay down and slept; I awoke, for Yahweh sustains me; I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who all around have set themselves against me.
Psalm 4: Tremble, and do not sin; Ponder in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in Yahweh. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Yahweh, make me to abide in safety.
Psalm 5: But as for me, in the abundance of Your lovingkindness I will enter Your house, At Your holy temple I will worship in fear of You.
I wanted you to see those things before looking at what David cries out to God. Yes, he is in distress. He is in fear for his life. However, interwoven in these intense and emotional prayers to God he describes who God is; he speaks about God has done in the past, is doing in the present, and will do in the future; and he also talks about what he, himself, does.
David cries out:
Psalm 3: Arise, O Yahweh; save me, O my God!
Psalm 4: Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
Psalm 5: Give ear to my words, O Yahweh, Consider my meditation; Give heed to the sound of my cry for help; O Yahweh, lead me in Your righteousness because of my foes; Make Your way straight before me; Hold them guilty, O God; By their own devices let them fall!
Take the time to read slowly through these psalms again. Notice all these things David writes about. How are David’s words a lamp to your feet, and a light to your path?
There is no pretense in David. He describes exactly what it’s like to live in a sinful world. And in this world, in his fear and distress, he keeps telling himself, and us, who God is, and he worships Him.
For some reason, we seem to think that if we know God, then we will no longer feel pain. We build up false pictures of life and not only impose them on ourselves, but impose them on others. When reality cracks those pictures, we don’t know what to do. Sometimes we don’t offer the love and encouragement others need because what we see going on in their lives threatens to crack our façade.
In our grief or distress we also often forget who God is, because our pain clouds and distorts our understanding of God. David points us again and again to who God is. David does this in his grief, in his distress, and at times when he is fleeing for his life. His psalms, indeed, all the psalms, tell us over and over again who God is. Think of them as personal testimonies by people who know God, who have known Him in the most difficult times of their lives. They testify to us that in all the circumstances of our lives, this is who God is. They testify to us to trust Him.
The Bible tells us of a real God who offers real hope for real life: the living God David knew is the same God we can know.
Let them ever sing for joy;
And may You shelter them,
That those who love Your name may exult in You.
For it is You who blesses the righteous one, O Yahweh,
You surround him with favor as with a large shield.
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
The Psalms, Wenceslaus Hollar: Public Domain. Various authors are pictured here, although this psalter is titled, “The Psalms of King David.” Derek Kidner explains, “Seventy-three psalms, nearly half the Psalter, have the note ledāwīd, ‘(belonging) to David’. Hence the collection as a whole tended to be termed simply ‘David’ (Heb. 4:7, RV).” Derek Kidner, Psalm 1–72 (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1973) 33.
1Alec Motyer, Psalms By The Day: A New Devotional Translation (Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Ross-shire, Scotland, U.K. 2016) 10.
2The Spurgeon Archive, The Treasury of David.
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