It is generally recognised that the first two Psalms are an introduction to the Psalter, bringing to the notice of the reader, amongst other truths, a beautiful description of the blessed man, only fully realised in the Lord, followed by a graphic description of His ultimate triumph.
One would expect, therefore, that the Psalms which follow would continue in an opening paean of praise to Him, but this is not so. Psalms 3 and 4 turn the attention of the reader to the sorrow and trouble that often meets those who have placed their trust in the Lord. From the delightfulness of His character and the declaration of His triumph, declared in the introduction, there immediately follows the distress of the afflicted. The care and compassion of God for His own is given priority of place.
Psalm 3 is a morning Psalm and, as the superscription states, it was written by David "when he fled from Absalom his son". Those who have experienced times of distress will understand, at least in measure, the anguish he felt. The blow was severe: his own son in open rebellion, intent on claiming the throne. Little wonder that his head was bowed low as the ambitions of Absalom were supported, not only by 200 men who followed him "in their simplicity" (2 Sam 15.11), but also by the men of Israel whose hearts went after the usurper (2 Sam 15.6,13).
The bowed head of the king was evidence of the bleak circumstances through which he was passing. First, for him there was no upward look. A lowered head could only look down, heaven had no part in what met his eyes. How many dear saints today are unable to see beyond the earth-bound circumstances. No heavenly consolation can enter their breasts, no comforting Scripture fills their souls. The blow has been so severe, the weight has been so great, that there can be no release from the anguish.
Second, for him there was no inward strength. The lowered head testified to his weakness, with no human resources to make up for this lack. How many are there who are so bruised emotionally and spiritually that they feel defeated and at an end of themselves. They have learned of the fickleness of the human heart, even amongst those whom they trusted, and this has sapped their strength and robbed them of their vigour.
Third, for him there was no surrounding solace. He would rather lower his head than look around, where the scene was bleak. The curses of Shimei would still be ringing in his ears (2 Sam 16.5-8). Even his own friend and counsellor, Ahithophel, had deserted him - he of whom David speaks thus: "a man mine equal, my guide, and mine acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked unto the house of God in company" (Ps 55.13-14).
But, suddenly, the sun rises to dispel the darkness in his soul. The Lord proves that He is the lifter up of Davids head, as He is for all those who, in the darkness, genuinely seek solace from Him. The exultant cry of the overcomer is heard from the page. Not only is the Lord a shield to preserve David from his enemies, He is also, David exclaims, "the lifter up of mine head". When many have concluded, "There is no help for him in God" (v.2), David knows otherwise. Against the dark background he had cried unto the Lord and the Lord had heard.
Consequently, he now has an upward look and in so doing remembers the goodness of God in the past, that which gave him victory (v.7). Despite Davids grievous sin in the matter of Bathsheba, the Lord will still deliver. This does not indicate that the Lord had ignored that sin, indeed the rebellion of Absalom was one of the chastening experiences through which David had to pass as a result of it. His genuine repentance, however, expressed in Psalm 32, opened heaven to him again.
But he also now has inward strength; the Lord sustained him (v.5). Through the night watches he has enjoyed the truth of Psalm 4: "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (v.8). No longer weak, he felt the strength given to him raise up his head.
Nor are surroundings bleak any more. "I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about" (Ps 3.6). The outlook of defeat had gone.
For saints passing through grievous circumstances, in days when there seems to be no cause for sunshine in the soul, make your plea to Him who alone can cause you to cry that He is "the lifter up of mine head".