In his Everlasting Man, GK Chesterton comments: ‘three or four times at least in the history of Christendom the whole soul seemed to have gone out of Christianity, and almost every man in his heart expected its end’.
He remarks on a pattern, ‘the creed (of Christianity) had become a respectable thing, had become a ritual thing, had then been modified into a rational thing; and the rationalists were ready to dissipate the last remains of it, just as they do today…’ Chesterton was writing in 1925.
I draw attention to Chesterton’s observations because they touch on the apprehension of many Christians today – namely, that such is the hostility towards Christianity that its voice will be inevitably be shut down in the public forum. Certainly, progressive secularism reckons it will have the final word. But will it?
Psalm 3 is the first Psalm that has the title, ‘A Psalm of David’. It is one of fourteen psalms specifically linked to events in David’s life – here the occasion of Absalom’s rebellion that we find in 2 Samuel 15:13ff. 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”, Psalm 3 begins.
The opposition against David was personal and determined. Many are rising against me, he says. Significantly, he comments, many are saying… “There is no salvation for him in God”. It’s how we are sometimes tempted to feel today: ‘God won’t step in to help us’.
Response. But consider how David responds: But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. (Ps. 3:3). With imagery that progressively expresses his sure trust in God, David speaks of God’s protection, the honor (glory) God bestows on him, and God’s assurance that enables him to carry his head high. God heard David’s call and answered: I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill (Ps. 3:4).
David’s reference to God’s holy hill is striking. Absalom was intent on setting himself up in the city of Jerusalem and there make his own decrees. But David knew of a higher authority whose word, symbolically (and literally) spoken from Jerusalem, is supreme. A New Testament example of this confident faith is found in Acts 4:23-31 where God’s people, in response to the release of Peter and John in Jerusalem, prayed for boldness in testifying to Jesus as the Christ.
Such was David’s peace of mind in the face of Absalom’s rebellion that he lay down and slept. He awoke again sustained by the Lord. No longer was he afraid of the thousands who opposed him.
But as Derek Kidner comments (Psalms 1-72, p.55)), ‘Refuge is not enough… To settle for anything less than victory would be a virtual abdication’. David prayed: Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God! Under God, David had the responsibility to carry out his calling as God’s king.
Let me suggest that we too have a calling, amongst other things to partner with the Lord in the work of announcing the kingship of Jesus Christ to people around us. Yet too often our apprehensions silence us. Let’s pray with the first believers in Jerusalem who prayed: Grant to your servants… to speak your word with all boldness (Acts 4:29).
Psalm 3 concludes with the assurance: Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Notice that David’s focus is no longer on himself; rather, it is on the Lord and his salvation and blessing.
Psalms 3-72 (Books I and II) tell us in poetic form something of David’s experiences – his suffering, failures, and weaknesses. But we also read of David’s trust in the Lord and of God’s supernatural intervention bringing new life and hope in times of apprehension and despair. In fact, the pattern of David’s experiences foreshadow the experiences of his great successor, Jesus Christ, especially in the hostility that nailed Jesus to a cross, but also in God’s intervention that raised him to new life.
To return to Chesterton’s theme about the dying and rising pattern of Christianity through the ages, he comments, ‘When Christianity rose again suddenly and threw them (‘the rationalists’), it was almost as unexpected as Christ rising from the dead.
Will you join me in praying that the Lord will give us all a new love for him; a love that creates in us a longing to bring others to a sure knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ? Who knows, in the mercy of God we may see a fresh rising again of interest in his good news. We may see again many turning with joy to find their true home in him.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com