Psalm 3 can be a strange one for us. “O Lord, how many are my foes,” it begins. David is on the run,
with people trying to kill him. He has lost his kingdom, and his own son, who grabbed power, is trying to
take his life.
I don’t know about you, but there haven’t been too many times in my life when my son has led a revolt
against my kingdom and has sent men to kill me. So how am I supposed to think about this psalm?
I understood it better a few years ago during a particularly hectic time in my life. For reasons that I still
find hard to fathom, my colleagues had made me chair of the department. This role came with what
seemed like hundreds of little demands. Every day, new and unexpected responsibilities would land on
my lap. They all came on top of the classes I had to teach, the papers I had to grade and the family
responsibilities I had to tend to.
“O Lord, how many are my foes.” I laughed (a bit sarcastically) when I studied this, because I felt like I
had a lot of enemies pursuing me. My enemies weren’t people, but those countless demands, pressures
and stresses that continually chased after me, nipped at my heels and sometimes ambushed me from the
At its deepest level, then, this is a psalm about stress, pressure and anxiety. I may not fear something as
serious as someone who is out to kill me, but I still face daily stresses that can feel overwhelming.
College students, of course, feel them, too. The assurance here is that peace is found in God, my “shield”
and the one who “lifts up my head.” He answers me when I cry out to Him.
Then there is the verse that every college student should take to heart: “I lie down and sleep; I awake
again, because the Lord sustains me.”
There is Good News here. God is more powerful than whatever it is that we are anxious about or afraid
of. He “strikes my enemies on the teeth.”
The psalm closes by reminding us that it is God, not us, who has this power. Blessings follow from His
work in us. If David discovered this when his very life was in danger, we can too, with whatever it is that
Dr. Jay Case is a professor of history at Malone University