Author and Historical Setting
Psalm 3 is the first psalm attributed to David. Not only do we know who wrote the psalm, but we also know when David wrote the psalm. David wrote this psalm while fleeing from his own son, Absalom. If you wish to read the details of the story you can find it in 2 Samuel 15-17. In short, one of David's sons attempted to take the kingdom from him by force and it appears to be the morning after David flees for his life that he writes this psalm.
David's son is trying to kill him.
This psalm delves into the real life struggles we often have. Each one of us has times when life seems to be set against us and our emotions are shredded by the devastating events that surround us.
This is one of the powerful features of the psalms. It deals with the raw wounds that we have in a real and open manner. In fact, the most common genre of psalm is the lament. How does one move forward when life falls apart?
One of the structurally interesting thing about psalms is that the center of the psalm is often the key idea of the psalm. In Psalm 3 the the numerical center, word-wise in the Hebrew, is "I seep". The central sentence is "I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me." This is, in essence, a psalm about peace in the midst of devastation.
Psalm 3 is the first to explicitly name David as the author and begins a set of 37 psalm by David. Interestingly it is carefully structured using the number 7 and 14. Seven is the number of fullness/perfection and 14 is the numerical value of the name David.
In Hebrew, the first and second sections are all made up of 14 words each and the rest of the psalm equals 28 words (14 x 2). The first 5 verses are all seven words in length. For a more detailed description of the use of 7 to organize the psalm, see Labuschagne's logotechnical analysis.
David starts by crying out to God. His own people, led by his son, are seeking his life. Shimei has even told him that this is God's punishment for David's treatment of Saul (2 Samuel 16:5-8). David passionately lays these concerns before God. Like David, we should lay our concerns before God. God listens. God loves. God responds.
God answers David by reminding him that God is his protector. The Lord is his shield. God has brought honor to David, and God is the only one who can lift him back up. The only answer to our pain is to turn to God. Only He can restore us.
David now has found the peace he needs. With God as his protector, he can sleep peacefully. Even though he is surrounded by enemies, David has nothing to fear. What do you fear? Whatever it is, put it into the hands of God and rest in peace. The flip side to this is that if you do not have peace than you are not fully trusting God.
David ends by asking God to rescue him. The psalmist uses the same word for both the rising up of his enemies and the rising up of God. When trouble arises in our life, we can trust that God will rise up to help us.
David moves from fear to trust to peace. There are many times in life where our circumstance are out of control, but they are never out of God's control. Trust in His love and find the rest you need.