Contemplations on Psalm III
H.H. Pope Shenouda III
: Lord, How - Contemplations on Psalm Ill
: H.H. Pope Shenouda Ill.
Translated by: Mrs. Wedad Abbas
: Dr. Angeile Botros Samaan Professor of
English Literature. (Cairo University).
:The First - August 1989
:Nubar Printing House - Cairo
Legal Deposit No.:5418 1989.
: COEPA - 1997
H.H. Pope Shenouda III, 117th Pope of
Alexandria and the See of St. Mark
The Lord gave me an opportunity to contemplate on the
Psalms through my lectures late 1968, 1969 and also at other
I contemplated on this Psalm, "Lord, how they have
increased who trouble me!" on Friday, 18 April 1968 at St.
Mark Church - Azbakia. It is one of the Psalms of the
Matins (Morning Prayer).
I choose some Psalms, which are easy to memorize, to
contemplate on before those general lectures.
I hope, beloved reader, to publish those contemplations in
small books. I have already published my contemplation on
Psalm 19 (20), "May the Lord answer you in the day of
trouble", which is the first Psalm of the third hour prayer. I also
published contemplations on three Psalms of vespers (the
eleventh hour prayer), and I hope God may help me proceed
with the rest of this collection...
Remember me in your prayers.
H.H. Pope Shenouda Ill
"Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!"
Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
"There is no help for him in God." (Selah)
But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. (Selah)
I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord;
Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Your blessing is upon Your people. (Selah)
David in this Psalm blames God saying, "Lord, how?". It is a
Psalm of complaint as he says, "How they have increased who
trouble me!. Many are they who say of me, there is no help for
him in God" - It is also an appeal for help, "Arise, O Lord,
save me, O my God". Faith is evident in this Psalm for he says,
"I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set
themselves against me all around". David in this prayer speaks
of his spiritual experience saying, "I cried unto the Lord with
my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill". This Psalm
shows also confidence and trust in God for David says,
"Salvation belongs to the Lord, Your blessing is upon Your
people". He recalls his memories before God and says, "For
You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone, You have
broken the teeth of the ungodly". Though David begins his
Psalm with complaint, blame and appeal for help, he ends with
praise and exultation (Selah) as he remembers God's work for
This Psalm is suitable for anyone who is in trouble
because of enemies and those who are subject to spiritual
It is also a prophecy about the Lord Jesus Christ, His
suffering, death and resurrection.
Let us now contemplate on this Psalm verse by verse with
respect to its spiritual application to the human soul. It begins
He blames God. Lord how? How does all this come upon
me? How does this happen, in Your existence?
Many people get angry and resentful if you ask them why they
behave towards you in such a way; but when we ask God,
"why?" He accepts it with an open-heart.
Many people troubled David the prophet, but he did not
blame them; he blamed God Himself.
O Lord, why do I face such trouble? Why have they increased
who trouble me? Are not all of them in Your grasp? Are You
not the Almighty? Why do You allow all this in spite of my
being under Your protection and care?
David blames God:
How often does David blame God! It is something distinctive
in his Psalms.
1- For example, the similarity in the way he speaks in Psalm 10,
"Why do You stand afar off, O LORD? Why do You hide
Yourself in times of trouble?" (Ps. 10:1)
If we say these words to one of our friends, he will not bear
them! But God accepts such words and David His servant dared
to say, "O Lord, how?"
David goes on blaming God, "The wicked in his pride
persecutes the poor; and blesses the covetous, whom the Lord
abhors. God is not in all his thoughts". Then David says
"Arise, O Lord! O God, lift up Your hand! Do not forget the
humble." Why do you hide, Lord, in times of trouble? Arise,
work, save your flock. Why do you let them say there is no
God! or say; "There is no help for him in God"! "LORD, You
have heard the desire of the humble" (Ps. 10:17).
He Talks To God Frankly And Blames Him.
Why do we seek You in time of trouble but do not find You?
It is as if You are standing afar off, and we are not Your
children? God accepts such words, although He does work but
we do not see it.
2 - David says "O Lord, how" in (Ps. 44) where he also depicts
his troubles and blames the Lord, "But you have cast off and
put us to shame" and proceeds in the same Psalm (Psalm 44:12)
"You sell Your people for naught, And are not enriched by
" My dishonour is continually before me, and the shame of
my face has covered me; Because of the voice of him who
reproaches and reviles, because of the enemy and the avenger"
(Ps. 44:15,16). Then David concludes saying,
"Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise, do not cast us
off forever. Why do You hide Your face, and forget our
affliction and our oppression?" (Ps. 44:23,24).
David opens his heart before God and depicts his feelings
honestly. He does not fabricate words.
When he gives thanks, he does so from all his heart with joy
and when he is in trouble, he blames God. In both cases God
does not get angry at his frankness nor at his reproach. The
Lord Jesus Christ - glory be to Him - even says of David's
Psalms "David in the spirit call Him Lord" (Matt. 22:43).
David's blame shows God's love and forbearance on one
hand and David's boldness and familiarity on the other.
3 - In Psalm 74 David addresses God by saying, "O God, why
have You cast us forever, why does Your anger smoke against
the sheep of Your pasture? O God, how long will the adversary
reproach? Will the enemy blaspheme Your name forever? Why
do You withdraw Your hand, even Your right hand?" (Ps. 74:
1,10,11). Then he says,
"Oh, do not deliver the life of Your turtledove to the wild
beast" (Ps. 74:19)
He concludes by saying, "Arise, O God, plead Your own
cause; Remember how the foolish man reproaches you daily."
He considers the reproach of the foolish directed against God
Himself, because if God rises and saves His people, the foolish
will not behave in that manner.
4 - In Psalm 79, David blames the Lord saying, "O God, the
nations have come into Your inheritance, Your holy temple they
have defiled" (Ps. 79:1) and, "How long, Lord? Will You be
angry forever? Will Your jealousy burn like fire?.... Oh, do not
remember former iniquities against us!" (Ps. 79:5,8). Then he
"Why should the nations say, where is their God?" (Ps.
Here David does not only blame God for the
transgressions and reproach of the nations, but he also
blames God for His anger.
Had not You Lord, been angry with us and forsaken us, the
heathen would not have behaved like that against us. Why then
do You rage? And why does your anger continue? "Help us, O
God of our salvation for the glory of Your name..... we Your
people and sheep of Your pasture" (Ps. 79:9,13).
5 -The same reproachful words are repeated in Psalm 80 and 88
where David says, "O Lord God of hosts, how long will You be
angry against the prayer of Your people?" Then he blames
"You have fed them with the bread of tears; and given them
tears to drink in great measure".
"You have made us a strife to our neighbours: and our
enemies laugh among themselves" (Ps. 80:4-6). Then he
concludes the Psalm saying, "Return... look down from
heaven... cause Your to face shine and we shall be saved!"
6 - David blames the Lord also in Psalm. 88,
"Lord, why do You cast off my soul? Why do You hide
Your face from me?"(Ps. 88:14).
This Psalm in particular is full of reproach as David addresses
the Lord, "Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and You have
afflicted me with all Your waves" (Ps. 88:7), "You have put
away my acquaintances far from me;... My eye wastes away
because of affliction, Lord, I have called daily upon You, I
have stretched out my hands to You. Will You work wonders
for the dead? Lord, why do You cast off...?"
7 - How often David blames God in his Psalms, it cannot be
counted. But I wish to conclude the quotations from David with
"How long, Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will
Your wrath burn like fire? Lord, where are Your former
loving kindness ... ?" (Ps. 89:46, 49).
This reminds us also of what David says in (Ps. 90:13,15),
"Return, O Lord, how long?... Make us glad according to the
days in which You have afflicted us, the years in which we
have seen evil".
This reproach, so frank, and the words, "Lord, how?" are not
confined only to David's Psalms but they exist in other Books of
the Holy Bible and are uttered by many prophets and holy
The Reproach Of Other Holy Men:
1 - Hearken to Jeremiah the prophet blaming God and saying
also, "Why?" "Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with
You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgements. Why does
the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal
so treacherously?" (Jer. 12:1)
I wonder how dust and ashes argue with God concerning His
judgements and inquire, "Why?" Truly says St. Paul the
apostle, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and
knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements, and
His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the
Lord? Or who has become His counsellor?" (Rom. 11:33,34).
However, Jeremiah the prophet addresses the Lord, "Let
me talk with You about Your judgements!"
O Lord, it is something I cannot understand, something
strange to leave the wicked prosper like that, "You have planted
them, yes, they have taken root; they grow, yes, they bear
fruit... How long will the land mourn, and the herbs of every
field wither,... for the wickedness of those who dwell there?"
O Lord, why do You let all this happen? Why do the
wicked prosper? Where is Your justice? Where is Your
Answer me, give me an explanation, explain to me Your
judgements, "Teach me Your judgements... teach me Your
statutes... Open my eyes, that I may behold..." (Ps.119) I want
to understand as far as my mind can, "Why does the way of the
The Lord accepts such reproach calmly and explains that the
wicked are like smoke which rises up but then fades away and
vanishes, "For yet a little while, and the wicked shall be no
more: Indeed you will look carefully for his place, But it shall
be no more..... the wicked shall perish... they shall vanish...
into smoke they shall vanish away." (Ps.37:10,20).
God, the unbounded and incomprehensible opens His
heart and responds to His children when they ask, "Why?"
2 - The same question is asked by the virgin of the canticle:
She blames the Lord whom she loves saying, "Tell me, O you
whom I love, where you feed your flock, where you make it
rest... Why should I be as one who veils herself by the flocks of
your companions?" (Song. 1:7). The Lord is not annoyed with
her words but says to her, "if you do not in the footsteps of the
flock"... follow the steps of the holy people...
3 - Another person who is frank in blaming God is Job the
He blames the Lord with amazing boldness and says over and
over, "Why?" as in (Job 7:11, 12,16,) "... I will complain in the
bitterness of my soul. Am I a sea, or a sea serpent, that You set
a guard over me?" If any one of us says to a friend, "Leave
me alone" perhaps he will not bear it. Yet, Job says this to God
Himself and continues his reproach, "How long? Will You not
look away from me. And let me alone till I swallow my saliva?"
(Job 7:19). Then, he goes on, "Have I sinned; What have I
done to You, O watcher of men?"
"Why have You set me as Your target. So that I am a burden
to myself? Why then do You not pardon my transgression, and
take away my iniquity?" (Job 7:20,21).
Who can say such words to any person! However, Job blames
God with much more reproach. He says,
"Do not condemn me; Show me why You contend with
me!" (Job 10:2)
"I am afraid of all my sufferings, I know that You will not
hold me innocent. If I am condemned, why then do I labour in
vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and cleanse my hands
with soap; Yet You will plunge me into the pit, and my own
clothes will abhor me" (Job 9:28-30).
Do you think God gets angry at such reproach? Nay.
At the end of the Book, when Job's three friends rebuked him
and vexed his bitter soul with false accusations, God said to
them, "... for you have not spoken of Me what is right as My
servant Job has" (Job 42:7).
God Likes Us To Reproach Him:
Believe me, had not there been in this third Psalm except
the words, "Lord, how?", they would have been sufficient as
comforting words that teach us to blame God...
See how Job the Just addresses God, "Withdraw Your hand
far from me: and let not the dread of You make me afraid.
Then call, and I will answer.. Make me know my transgression
and my sin. Why do You hide Your face, and regard me as Your
enemy? Will You frighten a leaf driven to and fro? and will
You pursue dry stubble?" (Job 13:21-25).
However, our good God does not get annoyed with Job's
Nor does He consider arguing insulting to His status. Nay,
God likes us to talk and argue with Him. He becomes glad and
happy for this because reproach shows love and intimacy.
Sometimes, God gives us a chance to blame Him:
He did so with our father Abraham. When He discussed with
him the matter of destroying Sodom and Abraham replied,
"Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?... far
be it from You... Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
God did the same with Moses the prophet when He raged
against the people and decided to destroy them because they
worshipped the molten calf. God talked to Moses concerning
this but Moses blamed God in the same words, "Lord, how?"
and said, "Why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people
whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great
power..? ... Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, "He
brought them out, to harm them to kill them in the mountains...
Turn from Your fierce wrath and relent from this harm to Your
people" (Ex. 32:11,12).
Holy people argue with God and moreover:
God calls for such argument saying, "Come now, and let
us reason together", says the Lord, "Though your sins are
like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow... " (Isa.1:18).
Those who flee from the presence of God evidently have no
love or hope. Adam fled from the presence of God and hid in
fear, but God called upon him to inquire and talk to him. Jonah
also fled from the presence of the Lord but God called upon
him, talked to him and rebuked him explaining to him the matter
and convincing him. (Jonah 4).
It is allowed then to say to God, "Lord, how?" as David did
in the third Psalm.
The occasion on which this Psalm is said.
In fact, brethren, when David the prophet sang this Psalm, he
was passing through a psychological and family crisis besides
the trouble which threatened his kingdom and perhaps his life
He wrote this Psalm when he was escaping from his son
Absalom who revolted against him and wanted to take
possession of the kingdom.
The divine inspiration depicts this story in the Holy Bible in
effective words, "So David went up by the ascent of the Mount
of Olives and wept as he went up, and had his head covered,
and he went barefoot. And all the people who were with him
covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up." (2
David was informed that his counsellor Ahithophel - with all
his resourcefulness and knowledge of David's methods - took
part in the conspiracy with Absalom. Shimei the son of Gera
too, came out to David on the way and cursed him and cast
stones at him saying, "Come out, come out, you bloodthirsty
man, you rogue." (2 Sam.16:5-7), and, "... for the people with
Absalom continually increased in number " (2 Sam.15:12).
Absalom and all the people came to Jerusalem and according
to the counsel of Ahithophel, "Absalom went in to his father's
concubines in the sight of all Israel."(2 Sam.16:15,22).Thus
were they increased who troubled David and many were those
who revolted against him and betrayed him, so he sang,
"Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!"
They have increased who trouble me "Many are they who rise
up against me" or as the poet says when the multitude of
afflictions trouble him,
(Had it been for one affliction, I would have endured; but
there are a second and a third).
Why Lord, are all these afflictions? Why do you leave your
servant in such troubles and to those who set themselves against
him all around?
As for Absalom in particular, David did not do him any
wrong but he was led by his own treachery in spite of his
being David's son! Why then, O Lord?
How did all those who cried out shouts of joy at the time of
victory, change and join a treacherous son, knowing well that
he was betraying his father?
David complained to God, the Almighty, who is able to turn
evil into good, in whose hands is the life of Absalom,
Ahithophel, Shimei the son of Gera and the lives of all the
David was not confined to troubles in distress and sorrow,
instead, he put them aside and sought God's help through
His troubles made him seek the Lord and say:
"O Lord, how do you permit all this to take place in your
hearing and sight?"
To you, Lord, I complain; for You alone are able to give me
comfort and power and can save me from this tribulation.
Complaining to other than God is humiliating as the common
saying goes. Whenever I talk to You, I find comfort. I feel
content trusting your work and intervention, in my life. On
Your kind breast I will lean, and ask You "Why? or "how does
If I ask anyone, "Why do you trouble me?" they will scorn
me and sneer at me.
Shimei the son of Gera did so, though I said nothing to him.
He rejoiced against me saying, "Come out, come out, you
bloodthirsty man... the Lord has brought upon you all the
blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned...
So now you are caught in your own evil..." (2 Sam.16:7,8).
This trouble which I am suffering from, may be due to my
Now, I remember, Lord, when You sent me Nathan the
prophet with a message from You saying, "Why have you
despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight?
You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have
taken his wife to be your wife... Now therefore the sword shall
never depart from your house... your neighbour.. shall lie with
your wives in the sight of this sun... before all Israel." (2
Sam.12:9-12). Now, do you know why are they increased that
However, David, in spite of his sin, remembers also the
words of Nathan the prophet to him, "The Lord has also
put away your sin; you shall not die." (2 Sam. 12:13)
The Lord has put away sin and put it on the Lamb who takes
away the sin of the whole world (John 1:29). David knows
God's kind heart as God Himself says, "He has not dealt with
us according to our sins; nor punished us according to our
iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so
great is His mercy toward those that fear Him. As far as the
east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions
from us" (Ps.103:10-12). So, David addresses the Lord in his
"Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your loving
kindnesses, For they are from of old. Do not remember the
sins of my youth, nor my transgressions " (Ps. 25:6,7)
O Lord, do You still remember for me this sin? We have
discussed it and I repented, and according to Your faithful true
promise You have put it away. As for me, because of this sin,
"... all night I make my bed to swim; I drench my couch with
my tears" (Ps.6:6). How then Lord, You remember my
iniquities? "If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who
could stand? But there is forgiveness with You..." (Ps.130:3,4)
"Do not enter into judgement with Your servant: For in Your
sight no one living is righteous" (Ps.143:2)
True Lord, they are increased that trouble me; but
certainly You are not among those, because You are my
comfort and salvation.
Thus, in the depth of my troubles, I hold my harp and sing this
Psalm. Indeed, "is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms"
(James 5:13), but I, in the midst of my deep tribulation sing to
You because my pleasure is in You.
I do not account these tribulations as punishment for me
but I consider them something which brings me closer to
As for my sin, You have forgiven it. However, if You consider
these earthly punishments of some benefit to me, I shall accept
them with thanks. But, have compassion upon Your son as I
asked for my son, "Deal gently for my sake with the young
man, Absalom" (2 Sam.18:5) In spite of his treachery and all his
faults... So I inquired, "How they have increased who trouble
me? Many are they who rise up against me"(Ps 3:1).
In fact, not all tribulations are due to sins.
The friends of Job the righteous wronged him and vexed him
by saying that he was tempted because of his sins (Job 4:7,8).
God reproved them for this because they have not spoken of
Him what was right (Job 42:7).
The disciples thought the man born blind was born with this
disability due to the sins of his parents. The Lord answered
them, "Neither this man, nor his parents sinned, but that the
works of God should be revealed in him" (John 9:3).
St. Athanasius the Apostolic suffered much though he was
righteous and St. Paul the apostle suffered also and described
his suffering in his Second Epistle to the Corinthians (2 Cor.2)
The Holy Bible says too, "Many are the afflictions of the
righteous: but the Lord delivers him out of them all"
(Ps.34:19). It is even said of the Lord Jesus Christ the most
Holy that He was, "A Man of sorrows and acquainted with
Though some of David's troubles were not due to his sin,
other tribulations were.
He suffered many troubles in his life, from Saul the king at a
time when David was deeply attached to God and had the Spirit
of the Lord. As for the present troubles, though the Lord
warned him against some of them as in 2 Sam.12, yet he did not
imagine the affliction would be so severe and that those who
troubled him would be so increased. So, he blamed the Lord
saying: Lord, how they have increased who trouble me, Many
are they who rise up against me".
Afflictions accompanied David in his righteousness and in
Afflictions did not leave him at all, since his youth. He
describes the details of such afflictions in his Psalms. Then he
finds the matter has become too serious, so he cries out to the
"Many are they who rise up against me"
He explained the word "Many" by "Ten thousands of people,
who have set themselves against me all around" (Ps. 3:6). O
Lord, how do You allow so many people to rise up against me?
have I sinned? I have confessed that. Even before this sin also
many have troubled me, "Many a time they have afflicted me
from my youth" (Ps. 129:1) and moreover "they that hate me
without a cause are more than the hairs of my head." (Ps.
69:4), "They surrounded me,. they surrounded me about like
bees; they were quenched like a fire of thorns" (Ps. 118:11,12).
It is a great comfort for us to see a great prophet like
David suffer from many people.
A greater comfort is to see him delivered from all such
troubles and not a hair of his head fell but his soul has escaped
as a bird from the snare of the fowlers (Ps. 124:7). Blessed be
the Lord who has not given him as a prey to their teeth. Indeed,
"... we must, through many tribulations enter into the kingdom
of God" (Acts 14:22).
See, how many tribulations Joseph the righteous suffered
Many have risen up against him, even his brothers. He was
cast into a pit, sold as a servant, the wife of his master rose up
against him and accused him falsely though he was innocent.
Potiphar also resisted him and put him in prison (Gen. 39;
17,20). I wonder if Joseph has said the same words "Lord, how
they have increased that trouble me?!"
Usually, a believer is surrounded by troubles and
We must enter through the narrow gate and follow the straight
path always bearing our own cross and going forth unto the
Lord outside the camp bearing His reproach (Heb. 13:13). The
Lord did not conceal from us such troubles but said expressly, "
in the world, you will have tribulation" (John 16:33).
However, where afflictions exist, there is God the Saviour.
There is the divine help which gives comfort and salvation.
The Holy Bible did not only say, "Many are the afflictions of
the righteous", but said directly after that, "but the Lord
delivers him out of them all", and did not only say, "in the
world you will have tribulation" but said also, "But be of good
cheer, I have overcome the world". I remember a time when
birds were of great danger to the provisions of the
monastery. They swallowed up crops and fruit greedily... I
asked the fathers when I was coming down from the monastery
if they wanted me to bring anything for them with me, and one
of the old fathers answered, "We want a trap to catch the birds"
I said, I shall bring it but I shall teach the bird a Psalm." The
father inquired, "Which Psalm will you teach the bird?" I
answered, Psalm 124 which says, "Our soul has escaped as a
bird from the snare of the fowlers, the snare is broken, and we
have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made
heaven and earth". Yea, the snares are set in the way of
believers, but there exists also God's help".
The danger which threatened David was merely that
many rose up against him.
The fact that the words refer to "How have they increased
who trouble me" can be endured, and also the fact that, "Many
are they who rise up against me". But the thing which cannot
be endured is, "Many are they who say of me, there is no help
for him in God ... !"
There is no help for him in God:
David knows well that it is God who saved him from all his
previous troubles and from all the dangers, which surrounded
him. God saved him from the paw of the lion and the bear when
they took a sheep of his flock and saved him from Goliath. So,
he addressed king Saul, "The Lord who delivered me out from
paw of the lion, and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver
me from the hand of this Philistine". (1 Sam. 17:37).
The words, "Salvation belongs to the Lord", or, "The
battle is the Lord's" are very familiar on the lips of David
and in his Psalms.
He says to Goliath, "The battle is the Lord's and He will give
you into our hands" (1 Sam.17:47). He says also, "You come to
me with a sword, and with a spear and with a javelin. But I
come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts... This day will
the Lord deliver you into my hand..." (1 Sam.17:45, 46).
David says the same thing concerning his enemies, "They
surrounded me about like bees... For in the name of the Lord I
will destroy them. You pushed me violently that I might fall:
but the Lord helped me. The Lord is my strength, and song,
and He has become my salvation" (Ps. 118:12-14).
As God was the cause of salvation of David from the lion
and the bear, He saved him also from king Saul.
How many times Saul wanted to kill David, and how many
times he pursued David from one wilderness to another and the
Lord saved him. Thus, David said to Saul, "Let the Lord judge
between me and you" (1 Sam. 24:12,15); and when Saul fell in
the hands of David, he said to him, "The Lord delivered you
into my hand today, but I would not stretch out my hand
against the Lord's anointed. And, indeed, as your life was
valued much this day in my eyes, so let my life be valued much
in the eyes of the Lord, and let Him deliver me out of all
tribulation." (1 Sam. 26:23, 24).
Since God delivers him out of all afflictions, how serious
are the words of gloating that there is no help for him in
They frighten him with this dreadful matter: that there is no
help for him in God. Not only one person utters such words but
as David cries out in his prayer complaining. "Many are they
who say of me: there is no help for him in God!"
He tells the Lord what people say, but he does not believe
that at all.
His experience with the loving God, who helps, delivers and
saves; and the life of faith which he leads besides God's
promises to him... all this makes him not believe their gloating.
It may seem that God has delayed or that His help has not yet
come..! but it certainly will come even in the small hours.
God will never forsake him. It is impossible. Salvation will
come.. it is certain... no matter how long it may take.
They say of my soul, "There is no help for him in God. They
say so because they are enemies and malevolent, rejoicing at
my troubles, at the treachery of Absalom, Ahithophel and at
the curses of Shimei the son of Gera. They rejoice because I
came out of Jerusalem bare-footed and weeping... they rather
say such words because they do not know God, nor His love for
me nor His relationship with me!"
Thus, David said after these words, 'Selah' which means a
He says to the musical band that accompany him while
singing, "Stop here, in order to contemplate this matter and let
us change the time or even change that which the enemies and
malevolent say... stop here because I do not accept such
It is the first time in which the word `Selah' comes in
This word did not come in the first or the second Psalm but
came for the first time in the third Psalm. It is included 74 times
in David's Psalms and shows a musical pause in order to change
the tune or perhaps to introduce a new theme or view... David
perhaps intends by it to say also, "Stop, you; musicians for I
shall talk with God instead of talking with people I want to tell
Him about that which people say..."
Truly, Lord, I have sinned, against You, "and done this
evil in Your sight." (Ps. 51:4); but You will never forsake
If all people forsake me, You will not; and if no one comes to
save me, this will not trouble me nor make me astonished.
Suffice it that - You - do not forsake me, for salvation is Yours.
However sinful I may be, "He has not dealt with us after our
sins" I cannot believe that You see me in trouble and do not
care! for I am Your servant and the son of Your maidservant
(Ps.116:16). Whenever I sin, Your hand is upon me and not
Your rod. Though many rise up against me and wish I were
dead, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of
death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me" (Ps 23)...
"Though an army should encamp against me, my heart shall
not fear, though war should rise against me, in this I will be
confident" (Ps. 27:3).
The words, "There is no help for him in God" are of the
devil, intended to make one suspect God's help.
It is the devil who put such lies and feigning on their lips to
reduce my faith and my trust in Your love and help, to lead me
to despair, submission and to make people doubt God's help to
His children. However, I shall never get desperate of waiting
for Your help.
I am still waiting for Your help in confidence and faith no
matter how long it may take.
"The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to
me? The Lord is for me among those who help me; therefore I
shall see my desire upon those who hate me" (Ps.118:6,7). With
such confidence, I wait for the Lord, I wait for Him more than
those who watch for the morning (Ps. 130:6).
Though God sometimes punishes, He is compassionate in
So, "Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His
mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man"
(2 Sam. 24:14). It is He who does not break a bruised reed or
quench a smoking flax (Matt. 12:20), who wounds and His
hands make whole (Job 5:18).
The words, "There is no help for him in God" remind me
of the cruel words uttered by Job's friends.
How painful they were for a bitter soul and how hurting for a
righteous person; but God rebuked them (Job 42:7) and at the
same time, "The Lord restored Job's losses" (Job 42:10)
because God does not forsake His children. Thus, "We are
perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken,
struck down but not destroyed" (2 Cor. 4:8,9). Let people then
say whatever they want... and let them try the weapons of
gloating and suspicion.
As for me, Lord, I know who You are:
You are a shield for me, my glory and the One who lifts
up my head.
You, O Lord, Art A Shield For Me:
I imagine some of those who hear David are amazed. They
exclaim, "What do you see, you poor man? A shield for me! My
glory! The one who lifts up my head! How do you say this
though you came out bare-footed and weeping and all who
came out with you wept too!! Your friend Hushai the Archite
came out to meet you with his coat torn and dust on his head"
(2 Sam. 15:32)! Where is glory and victory in that? Here is
Shimei the son of Gera cursing you saying, "Come out, you
bloodthirsty man, you rogue!" In spite of this, you say to your
friends in humility, "... let him curse because the Lord has said
to him, `Curse David...'. It may be that the Lord will look on
my affliction." (2 Sam. 16:5-12). Do you say after all this, "My
glory and the one who lifts up my head!"
However, David said these words with the spirit of faith
not looking at his present condition but unto the coming
help of the Lord. He was not living the present affliction
but the future joy putting in his heart, 'The evidence of
things not seen" (Heb. 11:1).
In spite of the bitterness of his affliction, he saw God's
salvation in front of him even before it came. This is the virtue
of hope which knows no affliction nor despair. This is not only
hope but also, "The substance of things hoped for" (Heb. 11:1),
through which a believer proceeds to say with the apostle,
"Rejoicing in hope" (Rom. 12:12).
Troubles exist, but God exists too. Faith in God and His
work overcomes troubles so we do not see them but see
God's work, so we rejoice and praise it in our Psalms.
Thus, we say in the depth of troubles, "You, O Lord, are a
shield for me; my glory and my pride". You, Lord, are the
Almighty. You do not forsake the universe which You created
but look after it. You see all that happens on earth and set up
justice among people as Your prophet Malachi said, "The Lord
listened, and heard them; So a book of remembrance was
written before Him." (Mal. 3:16).
Perhaps You did not see Absalom, Shimei and Ahithophel!
Nay, but You saw them and saw their conceit, revolt and
treachery. You saw my oppression and humility and behold, I
hear Your voice saying, "For the oppression of the poor, for
the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, says the Lord, I will
set him in the safety for which he yearns" (Ps. 12).
David is fully aware of this, so he says on many occasions,
"God is a shield for me" (Ps. 3:3); (see also Psalms 18:20, 7:10,
28:7 and 59:11) a shield that protects against blows of the
enemies, a shield or an armour against all the arrows of king
Saul and even against "The fiery darts of the wicked" (Eph.
6:16). Yea, it is God who lets not, "The scepter of the wicked...
rest upon the lot of the righteous" (Ps. 125:3).
He is the God of the poor, the weak and the helpless
against those who are more powerful than them.
We address Him in the Divine Liturgy, "You are the hope of
those who have no hope and the aid of those who are helpless.
You are the comforter of the weak-hearted and the refuge of
the troubled". Also David the prophet says to Him, "All my
bones shall say, "Lord, who is like You, Delivering the poor
from him who is too strong for him, yes, the poor and the needy
from him who plunders him?" (Ps. 35:10).
So, we find the strong depend on themselves, but the weak
cry unto God.
David did not cry unto God when he was aware of his power
and ability to strike Nabal of Carmel (1 Sam. 25:13-22) but
cried unto God when he felt helpless before Saul and Absalom
because of their power on the one hand and on the other hand
because Saul was the Lord's anointed and Absalom was David's
own son. So, he was unable to strike them due to causes within
himself and also because they did not care for any act due to
their low spiritual condition. Thus, he cried unto God, "How
does this happen? How they have increased who trouble me!".
Indeed, as long as a person feels weak before God, he
deserves His Divine help.
It is God's concern to preach good tidings unto the meek; and
to bind up the broken hearted (Is 61:1), and as the Lord has
said about His sheep, "I will feed My flock, and I will make
them lie down...I will bind up the broken, and strengthen what
was sick..." (Ez. 34:15,16). Here, David was that broken and
sick sheep, not the great king sitting on the throne but the
rejected king flying away from his enemies.
A strong person is more liable to fall than any other
person probably because of his pride and self-conceit!
And, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit
before a fall" (Prov. 16:18).
Strong persons are not on guard because of extreme vanity in
their power, and fall because they are not cautious. Besides,
due to their self-confidence, they do not feel in need of an
external power" so they do not pray for help, and being away
from the act of Grace, they fall. Thus, it is said of sin, "... And
all who were slain by her were strong men" (Prov. 7:26).
David prayed to the Lord to save him from the
He used to say: "Save me, O God, by your name, for
strangers have risen up against me, and oppressors (in another
translation (the strong), and in a third one (the Ruthless) which
means void of compassion who have no mercy nor compassion
have sought my life; they have not set God before them" (Ps.
So were the strong that rose up against David: the lion and the
bear, Goliath, Saul and Absalom; all of them, "have not set God
before them". David experienced how God gave him victory
over all those and he said, "You are a shield for me; My glory
and the One who lifts up my head", "You were an armour and a
shield for me against all the darts of my enemies " So, David
did not kill Saul, nor Absalom but the Lord delivered him from
them because the battle is the Lord's.
True are the words of Moses the prophet, "Do not be afraid.
Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will
accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see
today, you shall see again no more forever.. The LORD will
fight for you, and you shall hold your peace (Ex. 14:13, 14).
As for David, the Lord was not merely a shield for him and an
armour against any attacks, but He was moreover as David
says, "My glory and the One who lifts up my head"
My Glory and the lifter up of my head:
So, the Lord says of him in the Psalm, "Because he has set his
love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him: I will set him on
high, because he has known My name I will be with him in
trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him" (Ps. 91:14, 15).
He did not only say, "I will deliver him" but also said directly
after it, "I will set him on high" - not only, "in trouble will I
deliver him", but also what is more, "I will honour him" and
that is what happened with David.
The Lord delivered him from Goliath the valiant, and on
that occasion, honoured him and lifted up his head.
So, women came out singing and dancing with tambourines;
with joy saying, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his
ten thousands" (1 Sam. 18:6,7).David was made leader of the
men of war and won the love of all the people. Prince Jonathan
put on David his clothes, his sword, his bow and his girdle.
Afterwards, David could marry Michal, the king's daughter, and
God helped him to win in other battles (1 Sam. 19). It is even
said of him, "David behaved more wisely than all the servants
of Saul; so that his name became highly esteemed" (1 Sam.
The Lord did not only delivered him from king Saul, but
also glorified him and lifted up his head.
King Saul who was seeking David's life died and so David
got rid of all Saul's attempts to kill him. Upon Saul's death,
God set up David on the king's throne, "And the men of
Judah came and there they anointed David king over the house
of Judah" (2 Sam. 2:4), and, "David grew stronger and
stronger, and the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker" (2
Sam. 3:1), The Lord delivered him from Abner the captain of
Saul's host as he died (2 Sam. 3:30), "Then all the tribes of
Israel came to David at Hebron, and spoke, saying, "Indeed
we are your bone and your flesh, and they anointed David king
over Israel" (2 Sam. 5:1,3) and the matter was settled for him
as king over all the people, so God lifted up his head.
David remembered all this when Absalom rose up against him
and the memories gave him comfort within, so he said: I cried
unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His
Undoubtedly, the heart is comforted and faith is strengthened
whenever one remembers God's previous loving kindness, and
how He heard one's previous prayers; one feels God's love and
work for him and say to oneself, "God, who heard in the past,
will hear now and at all times" So, we say in the Divine
Liturgy, "You who has blessed at past times, now also do
God's salvation of David was the story of his whole life.
Whenever he remembered the particulars of his life, he
remembered the Lord's salvation.
So, we find in the Holy Bible a very comforting verse dictated
by the divine inspiration, "And the Lord preserved David
wherever he went" (2 Sam. 8:6).
David could not forget such salvation in the midst of his
afflictions, nor can the church forget it.
History is long, full of lovely memories. He who saved from
the hands of Niron, saved also from Diocletian, from Irianus the
governor of lnsena and from many others afterwards, "No
weapon formed against you (God's children) shall prosper" (Is
54:17). These memories give comfort to a heart which cries
out unto God irrespective of the hardships. A person remembers
the words of the Lord concerning Zerubbabel when the temple
was being rebuilt, "'Who are you, O great mountain? Before
Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! " (Zech. 4:7).
Many times David cried unto God and God heard him. David
did not forget this but remembered it and was comforted. He
did not lead an easy life but walked in a way surrounded by
afflictions and troubles and the Lord saved him and granted him
what he prayed for. So, he said, "Many are the afflictions of the
righteous: but the Lord delivers him out of them all. He guards
all his bones: not one of them is broken" (Ps. 34:19, 20).
A person's experience with God encourages him at the
time of affliction. Here, David remembers his experiences.
"I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of
His holy hill". The word "cried". indicates deep prayer and
urgent need. It indicates also the severe condition in which he
was. David's Psalms are full of his cries unto the Lord and you
can follow this up in his other Psalms. These cries exist also in
Jonah's prayer out of the fish's belly. He was actually in a crisis
which needed cries, so, he said to the Lord, "Out of the belly of
Sheol I cried, And You heard my voice. " (Jonah 2:2). He cried
out and the Lord heard, "And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it
vomited Jonah onto dry land" (Jonah 2:10).
A person raises his prayers unto the Holies of God.
So, David says here, "He heard me out of His holy hill" and
says in (Ps. 20:6), "Now I know that the Lord saves His
anointed. He will answer him from His holy heaven." Thus, it
is supposed that we ask holy things or at least things which
conform with God's will.
David proceeds telling his experiences with God;
I laid down and slept; I awoke:
How amazing it is that David lies down and sleeps in spite of
the many who trouble him and the ten thousand who set
themselves against him. The normal thing is that sleep quits him
in the middle of such troubles and outer threats. Hearken to
what the divine inspiration says about King Darius when he cast
Daniel into the lion's den: "Now the king went to his palace,
and spent the night fasting, ... and his sleep went from him"
However, in spite of these afflictions, a person sleeps when
his heart is full of faith and peace.
With such faith and peace, Peter the apostle slept in prison
guarded by four squads of soldiers and knowing that Herode
the king intended to bring him forth to the Jews after Easter (a
few days later) to be killed (Acts 12:3,4). He did not sleep a
disturbed sleep but slept so heavily that the angel who came to
rescue him struck him on the side (Acts 12:7). Thus David lay
down and slept.
Afflictions were pressing from without, but did not enter
into his soul to disturb him or hinder his sleep.
Thus, David was able to sleep, not in unawareness or death,
but in confidence feeling that he was sleeping in God's kind
bosom. Absalom with his army were pursuing him and he slept
in the wilderness leaving the Lord to protect and guard him.
David in his sleep was more peaceful than Absalom who
was conceited with his power; so he said, "I lay down and
When contemplating this verse - in particular with you, I
remember the evening of Good Friday at the time of (Burial)
when we remember the burial of the Lord Jesus Christ and read
We pray this Psalm till the words, "I lay down and slept"
which refer to the death of Christ. Then, we stop and do
not proceed with the rest of the Psalm; and in the prayers
of Easter Eve we complete the Psalm beginning with "I
awoke" which refer to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus
Sleep, sometimes, symbolises death as when the Lord was
speaking about the death of Lazarus, He said to His holy
disciples, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake
him up." (John 11:11), He was referring symbolically to the
death of Lazarus, and meant by the words, "I go, that I may
wake him" that He would raise him from the dead. Here, the
same meaning applies to the words, "I lay down and slept, I
awoke" which refers to the Lord Jesus Christ.
This interpretation shows us three trends in interpreting this
Psalm and contemplating on it:
Three interpretations of this Psalm:
1 - The first trend concerns King David, his troubles and
tribulations as we explained on the preceding pages.
2 - The second trend concerns the Lord Jesus Christ - glory be
to Him - as we indicated when applying the verse, "I lay down
and slept, I awoke," to the death and resurrection of the Lord
Jesus Christ. This trend is evident in the rituals of Good Friday,
and it is also the trend which St. Augustine followed when
interpreting many Psalms.
3 - The third trend is spiritual and applies to everyone in his
personal life. We shall deal with this trend on the following
pages, if God wills.
The interpretation concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.
1 - Let us start from the beginning of the Psalm where the Lord
says to the Father, "Lord, how they have increased who trouble
me! Many are they that rise up against me!" How could all
those rise up against me: the scribes, pharisees, sadducees, the
elders, the priests and chief priests, even the multitudes whom
He served! Indeed it is an amazing matter.
2 - It is amazing also that they think that I want to get rid of the
cross (Matt. 27:42) and say; "There is no help for him in God"!
".. let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him"
(Matt. 27:49). They mocked Him saying, ""If You are the
Christ, save Yourself and us." (Luke 23:39), and considered His
death the end for Him and that He will have no salvation.
3 - But You Lord, are a shield for Me, My supporter, My glory
and the lifter of my head. In the crucifixion and the resurrection
the Son was glorified. When He came to Calvary, He said,
"Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son
also may glorify You " (John 17:1). He saw Himself glorified in
His cross; the glory of love and sacrifice, the glory of destroying
the devil's state and purchasing the whole creation with His
precious Blood, the glory of the kingdom which He was to
establish with His blood and the glory of redemption and
atonement. Such glory would lift up His head as the saviour of
the whole world through his death because through His death
He would tread death and Satan who brought death unto the
world. Such was the glory that the Son would bruise the head
of the serpent on His cross. As for the glory of the resurrection,
it is evident to all.
4 - "I lay down and slept. I awoke". I did not die that death
which they thought would be the end, for My soul is immortal.
In divinity I am alive, I do not die. However, this death is only
like sleep from which I awoke by the resurrection. Truly, the
soul was separated from the body to satisfy divine justice, but it
returned to the body in the glory of the resurrection by which it
trod death forever.
5 - Thus, "I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who
have set themselves against me all around", those who cried
out "Crucify him, crucify him", for most of them will return to
me repenting and join the faith. None of those has any authority
over me for I lay down my life by my own will "...I lay down
My life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but
I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have
power to take it again" (John 10:17,18).
Spiritual Contemplation For Any Person:
1 -A person may either apply these verses to himself with
respect to his problems and troubles and in the case of increased
enemies or surrounding him.
2 - He may profit from them spiritually and call the Lord asking
His help in his spiritual wars saying, "How they have increased
who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. ":
Wars of thoughts, of the senses, of the emotions and lusts of
heart, wars of the devils, stumbling blocks and tongue faults.
3 - All these pressing wars, gloat in my failure and fight me with
despair saying, "There is no help for him in God" as if the Lord
has forsaken me and His Grace left me delivering me into
4 - But You, Lord, with Your kind heart, will not leave me in
my sinful state. You are a shield for me, and my supporter.
Certainly, You will lift me up from my fall and restore me unto
my former rank. You will wash me and I shall be whiter than
snow and restore unto me the joy of Your salvation. You will
lift up my head and restore unto me my former image and I shall
be glorified in You.
5 -That was what You have done with Jerusalem the sinner in
(Ezek. 16:6-14), "And when I passed by you and saw you
struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood,
`Live!' Yes, I said to you in your blood, `Live!' "I made you
thrive like a plant in the field; and you grew, matured, and
became very beautiful. Your breasts were formed, your hair
grew, but you were naked and bare. "When I passed by you
again and looked upon you, indeed your time was the time of
love; so I spread My wing over you and covered your
nakedness. Yes, I swore an oath to you and entered into a
covenant with you, and you became Mine," says the Lord God.
"Then I washed you in water;(in baptism)... and I anointed you
with oil. (the anointment of the Holy Chrism)... "I clothed you
in embroidered cloth and gave you sandals of badger skin;
(Justification of the holy person)...and a beautiful crown on
your head... You were exceedingly beautiful, and succeeded to
royalty. "Your fame went out among the nations because of
your beauty, for it was perfect through My splendour which I
had bestowed on you..."
6 - Thus, a sinner finds that God lifts his head and puts a
beautiful crown upon his head.
This happens when God cleans and purifies him of all his
filthiness as He promised also in Ezek. 36:25-27, "Then I will
sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean; from all
your filthiness.... I give you a new heart and put a new spirit
within you: and I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh
and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you
and cause you to walk in My statutes...
O Lord, all this you do for a sinner...
7 - Indeed, Lord, Ye are a shield for me, my glory and the
One who lifts up my head. They are liars who say to me,
"There is no help for him in God.'
Though I fall, I shall - with Your help - repent. I experienced
this in my life for many times, "I lay down and slept, I awoke"
because You Lord support me in all my weakness. Many times I
slackened in my spiritual course but then came a spiritual wake
in which I heard the apostle saying,
8 - "Awake you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ
will give you light" (Eph. 5:14)
9 -I thank God that I awoke and that sleep was only casual in
my life and Grace which guards, did not quit me. Thus, in
whatever spiritual wars the enemy fights me, "I will not be
afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves
against me all around". God is more powerful than all of them.
Suffice me that I cry unto God as I did many times before, And
He heard me out of His holy hill".
10 - In this way, a person goes on contemplating this Psalm
with respect to his afflictions and enemies or with respect to his
11 -This Psalm may be said by the Church being the
congregation of believers and the Body of Christ.
Thus contemplation on this Psalm extends and does not stop
at a certain trend. St. Augustine at the beginning of his
interpretation, concentrated on the Lord Jesus Christ, then
applied it to the church and then to the ordinary person.
David the symbol of Christ:
1 - David was betrayed by Absalom, and the Lord Jesus
Christ was betrayed by Judas and the people cried out,
"'Crucify him, crucify him".
2 - David cried out, "Many are they who rise up against me",
and many rose up against the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 - David did not resist Absalom who betrayed him but said to
the leader of his army, "Deal gently for my sake with the young
man Absalom" (2 Sam. 18:5); and when Absalom died, David
was sorry for him and wept saying, " O my son Absalom --my
son, my son Absalom --if only I had died in your place! " (2
The word "Absalom" means the peace of the father because it
consists of two syllables: Ab (father), and Salom (peace), for
though Absalom resisted his father, the father did not resist him
but rather was peaceful towards him in spite of his revolt.
4 - As for the Lord Jesus Christ, He died for the people and
asked forgiveness for those who crucified Him, "Father, forgive
them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). Thus,
though people resisted Christ, He was peaceful towards them
and warned Judas many times revealing to him the results of his
5 - David seemed weak at the beginning of this rebellion against
him, and wondered how they were increased that trouble him.
But at the end he conquered and God saved him from all his
enemies, and some of those enemies even returned to him in
Likewise, the Lord Jesus Christ appeared weak on the cross in
front of people and they mocked Him saying, "He saved others;
Himself He cannot save" (Mark 15:31). Yet, he conquered at
last, by the resurrection and many of those who took part in His
crucifixion believed in Him. Thus He saved the whole world.
Let us proceed with our contemplation on this Psalm. David
says: "I will not be afraid".
"I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, who have set
themselves against me all around".
God's children do not fear at all no matter how the enemy
encompasses them. They feel God's existence with them and
this casts away every fear.
God Himself says to His children, "Fear not" . He said to our
father Abraham, "Fear not, Abram: I am your shield" (Gen.
15:1); and said to Joshua the son of Nun, "Be strong and of
good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord
your God is with you wherever you go", " No man shall be able
to stand before you all the days of your life" (Josh. 1:9,5). To
Paul the Apostle He said, "Do not be afraid, but speak, and do
not keep silent: For I am with you, and no one will attack you
to hurt you..." (Acts 18:9,10).
Many times God has said to His children, "Fear not" He said
to His disciples, "Do not fear those who kill the body..." (Matt.
10:28), and assured them, "But the very hairs of your head are
Only those who do not feel God's existence in their lives
may fear, or those whose sins separate them from God and
consequently are deprived of help and protecting power.
As for David, he was completely aware of the deep relation
between himself and God, so he was not afraid but laid down
and slept in peace in spite of troubles and Absalom's army
revolting against him. He slept confident that God is watchful
for his safety and angels sing to him, "... He who keeps you will
not slumber.. neither slumber nor sleep... The Lord shall
preserve you from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul. The Lord
shall preserve your going out and your coming in... " (Ps. 121).
Thus, David sleeps in peace, not afraid, leaving his safety in the
hands of the watchful God and says moreover,
"'Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil. for you are with me"' (Ps. 23).
Likewise, Daniel was not afraid when he was cast in the lions'
den, nor the three lads were afraid when cast into the fire
furnace. The martyrs also were not afraid while they were led
unto death or while facing all kinds of suffering... David was not
afraid of Absalom's uprising against him but said, "The Lord is
my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the
strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Ps. 27:1). If
you ask David, "Why are you not afraid, ye great prophet?" he
will answer you "because of experience", "Because of
experience, of what?" "When the wicked came against me to eat
up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell". So,
"though an army should encamp against me, my heart shall not
fear; though war should rise against me, in this I will be
confident" (Ps. 27:2,3).
"They have bowed down and fallen: but we have risen and
stand upright" (Ps. 20:8).
It is David's experience in life, his experience of God's work
for him and with him, his experience of God hearing his prayers
and of God's mercies which never quit him. Let his enemies do
whatever they want, and let people set themselves against him
all around, suffice it to destroy them that he says, "Arise, O
Lord; save me, O my God:
David was not afraid but was entirely aware of the danger so,
"David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem,
"Arise, and let us flee, or else we shall not escape from
Absalom. Make haste to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly..."
(2 Sam. 15:14). He said so because danger was surrounding
him and them, "... for the people with Absolom continually
increased in number " (2 Sam.15:12).
However, danger occupied only his mind not his heart
making him to fear.
He was aware of the danger but was not alarmed, for he saw
that the solution was to resort to God alone who is able to save;
so he said, "Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God..."
He did not allow dangers to encompass him but asked God to
interfere. He did not face troubles alone but cast them upon
God to face them and deliver him out of them.
It is good for a person to know that he cannot save himself
but it is God who saves him.
This is usually obvious in David's Psalms, as he says for
example, "Help, Lord,. for the godly man cease; for the
faithful disapear from among the sons of men" (Ps. 12:1),
"Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your
strength" (Ps. 54:1), "Now I know that the Lord save His
anointed" (Ps. 20:6), "Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my
trust" (Ps. 16: 1), "For you are the God of my salvation; on
You I wait all the day" (Ps. 25:5), and, "The Lord is my light
and my salvation; whom shall I fear?" (Ps. 27:1). Time is
lacking to mention all the examples in this respect.
As David says here, "Arise, O Lord; save me" he says also at
the end of the Psalm, "Salvation belongs to the Lord" (Ps. 3:8).
David experienced that salvation is the act of the Lord and not
dependence on a human arm. He experienced this in his fight
with Goliath where he said, "This day the Lord will deliver you
into my hand" (1 Sam. 17:46), and said also on the same
occasion, "...for the battle is the Lord's, and He will give you
into our hands" (1 Sam. 17:47). He meant to say here that
salvation belonged to the Lord.
Indeed, salvation belongs to the Lord, " for nothing restrains
the Lord from saving by many or by few" (1 Sam. 14:6).
Here, David says in the Psalm, "Arise, O Lord"
These words are repeated in his Psalms and in the Holy Bible
as a whole. We quote them in the Holy Liturgy, "Rise, O Lord!
Let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee
before You" (Num. 10:35).
The Lord answers, "Now I will arise, says the Lord; I will set
him in the safety for which he yearns" (Ps. 12:5), and David
sings, "Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered; let those
also who hate Him flee before him. As smoke is driven away, so
drive them away" (Ps. 68:1).
It is not something new Lord, for Your mercies are extended
everyday and Your salvation is seen every moment.
For Thou hast smitten all mine enemies.
"For thou has smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone;
thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly".
So many were those who rose up against David without a
cause, that he said once,
"Those who hate me without a cause are more than the
hairs of my head." (Ps. 69:4).
He did not make an offence which made king Saul hate him.
The only cause for such hatred was that David behaved more
wisely than all the others (1 Sam 18:29,30).
Absalom also hated him without a cause for David did him no
evil; but Absalom's lust for dignity and rule made him in war
with his father.
David did not do anything wrong to Shimei the son of Gera
and Ahithophel, nothing but the treachery within their hearts.
Likewise was Judas towards the Lord Jesus Christ who chose
him among His disciples and gave him the box, sent him to
serve and gave him power to do miracles. Even at the last
supper, Judas was sitting near the Lord dipping his hand with
the Lord in the same dish (Matt. 26:23). However, the
treachery in Judas' heart led him to betray the Lord.
Those who hate without a cause are oppressors and the
Lord revenges on them for the oppressed.
For the Lord says, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the
Lord" (Rom. 12:19). Thus, God smote Pharaoh with various
blows because he afflicted the people and persecuted them
without a cause. He smote also the men of Sodom with
blindness when they tried to do wrong to the two guests of Lot
the righteous (Gen. 19:11). The Lord smote all those who
persecuted the church; some with madness and some died
because they persecuted the church without a cause... He smote
Arius and he died because he became an enemy of the church
without a cause.
Thus, David remembers all the events that he passed through
how the Lord smote Saul, Abner, and the Amalekites when they
invaded Zikiag and burnt it unjustly with fire (1 Sam. 30). So,
David sang to the Lord, "You have struck all my enemies .... ;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly" (Ps. 3).
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly:
Sinners are like fierce beasts which want to devour God's
children. So, the Lord once compared them to ravenous wolves
(Matt. 7:15). and St. Paul the apostle said about them, "savage
wolves... not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29). He also gave an
example of this, "I have fought with beasts at Ephesus" (1 Cor.
15:32). St. Peter the apostle also said, "Be sober, be vigilant,
because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring
lion, seeking whom he can devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). Thus, there
must have been divine help to protect from the teeth of such
In another Psalm, David says, "Blessed be the Lord, who
has not given us as prey to their teeth" (Ps. 124:6) and in the
present Psalm, he addresses the Lord, "You have broken the
teeth of the ungodly" (Ps. 3).
Our delivery from the teeth of the ungodly so as not to fall
prey to them is only a preliminary salvation; only a step unto
delivery but the devouring teeth still exist. Here, the
experienced prophet tells us about a more effective and saving
act by God that is "breaking the teeth of the ungodly" so that
they might no longer have power to devour. It is an ultimate
delivery through destroying the enemy completely. Truly,
blessed be the Lord's Name.
David says this with the spirit of faith at the same time in
which he says, ",Arise, O Lord; save me, O my God". He
asks for salvation and sees it with the eye of faith.
Salvation is the story of his relation to God all his life as if he
says with Zacharias the priest, "That we should be saved from
our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us" (Luke
1:71). A salvation which the Lord gives, salvation from Goliath
the foreigner and Saul the malevolent with his darts and
conspiracies, salvation from Ahithophel the treacherous and
Absalom the undutiful son.
Arise, O Lord, save openly, for salvation belongs to the
It is something which belongs to the Lord and we depend on
Him concerning it completely remembering all His previous
loving kindnesses towards us.
This may be said also by any person who is in trouble or
overcome by a certain sin.
O Lord, I did my best but still fall due to the myriads of lusts
and stumbling blocks rising up against me all around which are
about to become fixed habits or part of my nature corrupting it.
Yet, I trust in You because You can break the teeth of the
devils and the ungodly who hate me without a cause and save
me from them; so I cry out with David, "Salvation belongs unto
The Church says so also; in all its troubles.
Arise, O Lord, save me, O my God: for Thou hast smitten all
my enemies. Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is
upon Your people.
Your blessing is upon Your people;
You save and bless, You save us from negativism and
afflictions, and bless us with every spiritual blessing from high
above. This is the positive factor in salvation.
In the salvation granted by God, He does not only save us
from the original sin and the actual sins but He also grants us
the blessings of the New Testament via sonship, rebirth, Holy
Unction of the Holy Ghost, and all the holy sacraments; so as
we may rejoice with David saying, "Your blessing is upon Your
God's blessing is upon His people, not upon strangers.
Those who benefit from the salvation of the Lord and say
salvation belongs to the Lord, who become branches in the True
Vineyard and its juice flows in them so they give fruit and
become living organs in it. Those only enjoy the blessing of the
Lord in their lives, in their ministry and in all their works and
they say, "Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing is upon
This blessing has been intended by God for the world
since the beginning.
God blessed Adam and Eve (Gen. 1:28), gave them the
blessing of fruitfulness, multiplication and authority. He blessed
Noah and his sons (Gen 9:1) when He recreated earth, and gave
them the same blessing which He gave Adam and Eve. God
also blessed our father Abraham and made his name great and
made him a blessing so that those who blessed him might be
blessed and in him all families of the earth would be blessed
(Gen. 12:2,3). Such blessings were told to all the people upon
mount Gerizim (Deut. 27:12).
Blessing became the utmost thing a person may seek and
it carried within it everything else.
Solomon the Wise said in this respect, "The blessing of the
Lord, makes one rich..." (Prov. 10:22). But whoever has no
blessing, his life becomes completely empty and he fails in
So, the Psalm ends with the blessing to show that David has
attained all that he wished for.
So are David's Psalms:
How wonderful David the prophet is in his Psalms! and how
wonderful his Psalms are! How they begin and how they end!
He begins this Psalm with complaint and reproach. Complaint
of the increase of those who trouble him, who rise up against
him and who lead him into despair saying, "There is no help for
him in God..." He ends the Psalm with the blessing and
salvation of the Lord insisting that the Lord is his supporter and
saviour against his enemies.
The turning point in the Psalm from affliction to salvation
lies in the words of the psalmist, "I cried to the Lord with my
voice, and He heard me from His holy hill."
The Lord interfered and the problem ends and the direction of
events change so the person praying becomes not afraid of the
myriads of people setting against him all around.
Indeed, a person becomes tired most when he deals with his
problems alone and does not call upon God to interfere and
deliver him from them.
David's Psalms give us deep comfort concerning all our
troubles whether spiritual or social.
Take for example the sixth Psalm, "O Lord, rebuke me not in
Your anger". It begins with David moaning and saying "my
bones are troubled, my soul is also greatly troubled..." Then
comes the turning point at the end of the Psalm, "Depart from
me, all you workers of iniquity; for the Lord has heard the
voice of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the
Lord will receive my prayer".
May we sing the Psalms with the same spirit and say to the
Lord with David, "You have turned for me my mourning into
dancing... I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up"
(Ps. 30:11, 1).
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- Lord, How?
- Psalm III
- Lord, how?
- David blames God:
- The Reproach Of Other Holy Men:
- God Likes Us To Reproach Him:
- There is no help for him in God:
- You, O Lord, Art A Shield For Me:
- My Glory and the lifter up of my head:
- I laid down and slept; I awoke:
- Three interpretations of this Psalm:
- The interpretation concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Spiritual Contemplation For Any Person:
- David the symbol of Christ: