The Lifter Up of Mine Head
A brief study of Psalm 3, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 12 May 2006
Psalm 3 is hardly ever regarded as a messianic psalm. David wrote it when he fled from Absalom his son who wanted to take over the throne.
But David no doubt wrote in the Spirit of Christ. David was a type of Christ in many respects. His experiences and emotions reflected what our Lord himself went through in his days of humiliation.
For this reason, when you have gone through the book of psalms you will realise that almost every one of them could have been taken by our Lord in his lips to apply to some particular situation during his own earthly life.
Indeed, some of the psalms, such as Psalm 22 can hardly be applied to David, whereas they so clearly fitted into the earthly life of our Lord.
For this reason, we have good basis to believe that the Holy Spirit intends for us when we read or sing the psalms to understand them as being directly applicable to the Lord himself. It is in this way that the Lord is said to join us in the congregation to sing when we sing the Psalms (Heb 2:12).
We therefore agree with Andrew Bonar, who noting that this Psalm may be known as ‘a prayer of the Messiah,’ remarks:
Every member of Christ may use it… We feel as if sympathy were more sure to us, when we know that the Lord Jesus himself once was in circumstances when such a … hymn expressed his state and feelings; for now every believer can say, "My Head once used this Psalm; and while I used its strains, his human heart will recall the day of his humiliation, when himself was comforted thereby."
Bearing this in mind, let us consider this psalm, by thinking about how it applies to our Lord in the first place; and how we may apply it to ourselves in the second place.
Let us consider this psalm by looking at the 3 natural stanzas in it. Each of these stanza ends with the word ‘selah’, which probably means ‘rest’ or ‘pause’.
Each time we sing the psalm, we must pause for a while to reflect on what the Lord is teaching us through it.
In the first stanza, we see how the Lord was persecuted.
1. The Lord’s Persecution
1 LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. 2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah.
During our Lord’s earthly ministry, he initially made many friends. He was healing the sick, casting out demons and feeding the multitude. Many people were drawn to him.
But as he began to teach hard doctrine, more and more people began to forsake him. And not only so, but more and more turned against him. Eventually our Lord had more enemies than friends. "LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me!" our Lord must have cried.
Oh how these enemies of our Lord mocked him. Remember how they cried out "He saved others; himself he cannot save" (Mk 15:31). "He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God" (Mt 27:43).
Would not our Lord have taken the words of the psalm in his lips, "2 Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God."
Now, none of us will fully understand the grief our Lord as his enemies increased in number and intensity, for he is the holy Son of God.
But all who are the disciples of Christ will taste of the same kind of persecution to some degree. Our Lord says:
"18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. 20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also" (Jn 15:18-20)
How should we comfort ourselves when we are persecuted? We may comfort ourselves by recalling and meditating on God’s Word. We may especially comfort ourselves by singing the word of Christ, remembering that he suffered the same things for our sakes.
At the same time, let us remember our Lord’s confidence in his Father.
2. The Lord’s Confidence
3 But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. 4 I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah.
In the psalms and indeed in the whole of Scripture, the name of God, Jehovah, can apply to the Father, or to the Son or to the Holy Ghost.
When the word was taken in the lips of our Lord, it would apply to the Father.
The Lord Jesus was persecuted and tormented. But he never did lose hope. His eyes were constantly on his Father. He knew that his father would hear his prayer. He therefore looked to his Father to protect him as a shield, and exalt and encourage him. "… thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head."
When all things around him beckoned him to hang his head in sorrow, the thought of his Father’s glory and love alone would have lifted up his head. The lifter up of his head is his Father.
In his high priestly prayer he prayed:
"4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. 5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (Jn 17:4-5).
Thank God for this example of our Saviour. He lived to glorify God; he sought glory from God.
When we sing this psalm let us have an eye on the Lord our Saviour. Lord, thou didst sing these words. Now, I follow your example to sing these words. The Father has appointed you to be my shield, my glory and the lifter of my head. You are interceding on my behalf before the Father. As the Father heard your prayers, so you give me the same assurance that he is bowing his ears to hear my prayers.
Thou art, oh Lord, my hope and confidence. I will praise thee with my lips. I will praise thee with my life. You are my shield, my glory and the lifter of my head.
But as we praise and thank the Lord, let us also learn to petition the Father as our Lord did.
3. The Lord’s Prayer
5 I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. 6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.
Notice how the Lord prayed. It was not all petitions. It was conversation with the Father. Children must learn this. You must learn to talk to the Lord.
The Lord Jesus had confidence to pray because the Father has never ceased to sustain him.
As he is fully human, our Lord needed to rest. But how to sleep when so many problems beset him? How to rest when so many enemies were after his life? Our Lord was able to sleep because he trusted in His Father. He knew his Father would sustain and protect him. As long as His time was not yet come, He knew that nothing could touch him.
So he slept in the storm not afraid of anything though waves and the strong gale pounded against the ship.
So he slept in the midst of persecution and enmity, not afraid even if ten thousand people who hated him surrounded him.
He slept a peaceful sleep each time he lay down his head to sleep.
But our Lord was neither passive nor sanguine. He did not have a don’t-care attitude. He was able to rest not because he did not care about what would happen to him. It was rather that he had confidence in his Father. This is why even as he acknowledged how he is able to rest unafraid, he calls unto his Father to arise for him.
7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. 8 Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.
He calls upon his Father with the encouragement that he always hears his prayer. God does not close his eyes to the wicked works of the enemies of his children.
The enemies of God’s children inevitably think that they can do what they do with impunity. So they mock God’s children or they use innuendos to sneer at them. Or they speak evil of God’s children behind their backs. They take advantage of them thinking that they would not retaliate.
Well, it is true that God’s children will probably not retaliate, for they know that vengeance belongs to the Lord.
But God will retaliate. He will arise to deliver his people. He will arise with fierce wrath against their enemies. He does not only give them a slap in the face, He gives them a knockout punch. "He smites the ungodly upon the cheek bone, he breaks their teeth."
God’s dealings with the enemies of His people testify of his wrath against them. So David prayed that the Lord would again arise on his behalf; so the Lord prayed unto his Father that he would arise on his behalf.
Are you facing much persecution and afflictions beloved brethren and children? Be sure that the Lord has not forsaken you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
He will not turn a blind eye to all the wicked things that have been said and done against you, you who are beloved of the Lord.
He has promised to arise for you for salvation belongs to him and his blessings are upon his people.
So trust him; so plead with him according to his promise. You do not need to suffer in silence when you are persecuted or when you are taken advantage of.
Learn from your Saviour who when he was reviled, reviled not but committed himself to his Father.
Are you troubled by many things beloved brethren? Have you been unable to sleep at night because those worries keep replaying in your mind? Oh will you not learn to do as your Saviour did and commit all things to the hand of your heavenly Father; and then lay down your head and sleep—not allowing those things that trouble you to continue to play in your hearts and minds so that you have no rest?
Thank God for this 3rd Psalm. As our Lord was safe in the midst of foes and troubles; so too we who hope in the name of the Lord can have peace in the midst of foes and tribulations. Amen.
— JJ Lim