Sure, it sounds like someone swallowed an old English dictionary… “art a shield?” Once upon a time I had Psalm 3 memorized in the old King James version, and that one line (which is the beginning of verse 3 in the text) always spoke comfort to my heart.
First, some background.
The passage begins with a heading: A Psalm of David–when he fled from his son Absolom. That tells us a lot. It tells us of a very dark and painful season in David’s life and experience. You can read of the setting in 2 Samuel 15. In short, as David records in this Psalm, it seemed his enemies were growing in number and that the danger was rising exponentially–and those enemies were becoming arrogant, taunting David, “So where is this God of yours?” And then this profound but…
But Thou O Lord art a shield for me, my glory and the lifter of my head!
Let’s put that into English we are a little more accustomed to, shall we?
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts up my head.
David continued to spell out where and how he was finding God to be present and active, even within the terrible struggle that he found himself in.
I cried out to the Lord… and He heard me.
I lay down to sleep… and awoke, because He sustained me.
I am able to face ten thousands of enemies all about me without fear… because He is my strength.
Note that these were David’s words of testimony. If you would have asked him, “So, David, what was it like?” This is how he would have answered you. ‘I cried out! God showed up! When any man should have had cause to lose sleep, God gave me the peace I needed to close my eyes. Yes, the odds were astounding, but I experienced an inner peace that defied those odds.’
Spend a few moments on those words. David wasn’t oblivious to the dangers that are mounting all around him. He wasn’t in denial. Rather, in his recognition of those dangers, he was able to find comfort–and even rest–in His God.
The last portion of the Psalm is imprecatory sounding. That means that it’s a call for justice–essentially David penned, “Won’t you rise up, Lord, and kick in the teeth of these enemies of mine?” They just don’t write hymns like the used to, eh? When was the last time you sang a song calling for God to come and whoop some booty?
The point of the big but, however, is what I want to emphasize. If you ever find yourself feeling wrongly accused, unjustly treated, or in a minority for the cause of right; or if you ever find yourself feeling surrounded, overwhelmed or oppressed; if the taunts of others include “so where is your God?” or the voice of the accuser speaks into your soul, “there is no help for you!”—– Don’t buy it.
Remember: But… You, O Lord art a shield for me!