The background to Psalm 3 takes place in 2 Samuel 15-18. David wrote this psalm as he was fleeing for his life. We would expect this sort of thing to be normal for David, except that in this instance he is fleeing from his own son Absalom! His son stirred up a rebellion against him in order to overthrow him and become king. Furthermore, those Israelites who were once committed to David are seen here as being aligned against him (see 2 Sam 15:13).
But all the aforementioned trials were nothing in comparison to the real worry that tormented David’s soul. I observe an escalation in David’s worries: He had many enemies (v. 1a). Furthermore, many of these enemies were once his loyal countrymen (v. 1b). But, worst of all, his enemies believed God’s anointing upon him was taken away from him as it was taken away from Saul. They believed David was no longer fit to be king and Absalom was now the rightful heir to the throne. It’s not that they believed God was unable to save him. Rather, it’s that they believed God was unwilling to save him. It’s one thing to have enemies who oppose the cause of God, but it’s an entirely different thing to have enemies who think they are aligned with God against you!
Nevertheless, it is clear from the text that David trusted that God was for him. Verse 5 confirms this fact: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.” Who could sleep in the midst of such a trial? Who could rest peacefully with thousands of foes at all sides? Not only was David convinced that God was his protection–it was God who was his glory, and it was God who gave him courage in these great trials (v. 3). In fact it was God who granted him rest from his anxiety, just as it was God who sustained him throughout the night until morning!
But David did not just trust God to protect his life. He trusted that the kingly anointing given to him had not left him. And thus, Israel’s prosperity was based on his prosperity, since he was in fact their rightful king. He did not merely pray for protection–he prayed for victory and prosperity against those who sought to thwart God’s plans for Israel! So much was riding on David as Israel’s king, and he trusted that God would do what he promised through him. This was why he was able to proclaim, “Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing be on your people” (v. 8).
Here David reminds me of the Lord Jesus. I am reminded of how Jesus slept peacefully in the midst of the storm while his disciples panicked for their lives. More than that, I am reminded of how Jesus cried aloud to the Father from Gethsemane before he courageously gave himself over to his captors to be beaten, flogged, and crucified. I am reminded of how Jesus trusted that in his sacrificial death he would be victorious over the powers of darkness. Salvation belongs to him and it is he who won salvation for his people!