O Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying of my soul,
    “There is no salvation for him in God.”
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me,
    my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord,
    and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept;
    I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
   who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord!
   Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
   you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord;
  your blessing be on your people! Selah

“Few men of this century have understood better the inevitability of suffering than Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He seems never to have wavered in his Christian antagonism to the Nazi regime, although it meant for him imprisonment, the threat of torture, danger to his own family, and finally death. He was executed by the direct order of Heinrich Himmler in April 1945, in the Flossenburg concentration camp, only a few days before it was liberated. It was the fulfillment of what he had always believed and taught: ‘Suffering, then, is the badge of true discipleship. The disciple is not above his master. Following Christ means passio passiva suffering because we have to suffer. That is why Luther reckoned suffering among the marks of the true Church, and one of the memoranda drawn up in preparation for the Augsburg Confession similarly defines the Church as the community of those ‘who are persecuted and martyred for the gospel’s sake.’ Discipleship means allegiance to the suffering Christ, and it is therefore not at all surprising that Christians should be called upon to suffer.’” (John R.W. Stott, Christian Counter Culture)

The context of this psalm is one of suffering. The inspired words that head most English translations say, “A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son.” Those words are chilling because they move us to review the history of a significant trial in King David’s life. His own flesh and blood threatened to usurp the throne. David feared for his life throughout that trial and witnessed many people turn against him. Therefore, this Psalm is useful today as we face opposition, suffering, and significant trials as we pilgrim through this sin-wrecked world.

Suffering for the sake of Christ is inevitable. As disciples of Christ, we should expect opposition from those who deny the Lord or demonstrate their hatred for the Lord and his people by their actions. Absalom was a professing Christian. That is, he was a circumcised Jew and a member of the visible church. Yet, he rebelled against the man of God’s choosing. His behavior demonstrated his heart. Yet, David, in his prayer journal recorded in this Psalm, consoles himself with words that should also console us as we face hard days and opposition.

First, the entire psalm is one of prayer. That teaches us that when we are opposed or face trials of varying types, we should turn speedily to prayer. I know that can be awfully difficult at times. I know that during times of severe pain and suffering, the flesh may be willing, but the spirit is weak. We don’t know all that David wrestled with during those days when his son opposed him, but we do know that he prayed.

Second, opposition comes in many forms, but often, it comes through the use of words. In this case, it is a slanderous attack against the king (3:2). They mock his trust in the Lord while they run over him, seeking to overthrow the throne of David. Words can be very painful. The old saying that “sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is a lie. Words sometimes hurt far more than blows. Bruises heal. Broken bones mend. Words, however, can cause great damage and leave one hurting for a long time. We have all experienced those things. They can come from friends and foes. Sometimes, they come accidentally or without thought. Sometimes, they do not intend to do damage. We should be patient and gracious in those times. Sometimes, they come with a heart that intends to do as much damage as possible. Recently, I have received letters highlighting the very nature of the words David heard. They were vitriolic, hurtful, and designed to destroy. Words offered in that matter can hurt, and they do.

Third, the opposition should not paralyze you. That is easy to say. It is hard to do. I know the struggle in that area. I know how you feel if you find yourself despondent and despairing during times of opposition or attack. I suspect David wrestled with his own attitudes and emotions during those dark days. Yet, he consoles him by reminding himself of the goodness of the Lord for him. He reminds himself that the Lord is a shield for him (3:3). A shield has one function: to defend. Notice that he is not the shield. The Lord and God of heaven, who is almighty, is his shield. It is the Lord who will defend you. It is the Lord who will ward off the attacks of the Evil One and evil people. We are called to love our enemies and pray for them. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. During the Middle Ages crusades, a shield was essential in battle. To engage in a battle with a shield in hand was foolish. To live this life without the Lord as your shield is infinitely foolish. Yet, as a child of God, we have him as your shield, and you can console yourself with this truth. It isn’t subject to our feelings. It is true, regardless of how we feel. He also reminds himself that he is heard and answered when he prays and cries out to the Lord (3:4). Sometimes, we are so burdened by our suffering and opposition that we want to scream out with pleading tears to someone. As we do so to our heavenly Father, we are heard. I think we know that. What is often hard to do is wait for the answer. I admit that there have been times when I cried out to the Lord and wondered if he would ever answer me. No, I was waiting for a voice from the sky. I was waiting for relief. Sometimes we are made to wait. Sometimes, waiting is long and hard. Yet, the Lord uses those times to perfect us and cause us to trust wholly in him. Our heavenly Father is not interested in raising spoiled children. He does not always give us what we want when we ask. He often makes us wait.

Fourth, the opposition should not bring anxiety. Again, this is easy to write, and it is easy to say to yourself and others. The reality is that we do get anxious when times are hard. We are sinners. Sometimes, when tribulation comes, we tribulate indeed. As we learn to cry out to the Lord, we can find peace and contentment (3:5-6)

Finally, the opposition may be long, but your God is for you. He will vindicate his people. It may not happen in this life, though most would like to see that happen. It will definitely come in the life to come. God will vindicate his people and his church.

Remember, the Lord Jesus suffered in untold ways. We have a very small record of the things he suffered. I suspect if we stacked all the suffering and opposition received in life on top of one another, it would not compare to the sufferings endured by the Savior. He cried out to his Father and was heard, comforted, and sustained. Your Father will do the same. He will hear you and uphold you throughout the trial. He will never let you go. Salvation belongs to him, and he cannot fail.

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