Summary: "It's Not As Bad As It Seems" is an exposition of Psalm 3 that makes the point that things are never as bad as they seen, if the Lord is on your side!

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Psalm 3

Psalm 3 introduces a series of firsts in the book of Psalms. It is the first psalm with a superscription. In most of your Bibles, you will find these words above verse 1: A PSALM OF DAVID, WHEN HE FLED FROM HIS SON ABSALOM. This heading presents several more firsts in this psalm. This is the first psalm that is called a psalm. It is the first psalm that identifies its author. In this case, it is David. And this is the first psalm that states the occasion of its composition. David wrote it when he fled from his sin Absalom. Likewise, Psalm 3 is the first psalm that records the enigmatic word, Selah. It occurs three times in this psalm – following verses 2, 4, and 8 – and 71 times in the book of Psalms. It is generally agreed that SELAH is a musical notation. But no one knows what it is meant to indicate. It may be a call to sing or play louder. Or it may a call to stop playing in order to think about what is being said in the song. The tone, content, and background of this psalm argue for the later, as there is much here to stop and think about.

Psalm 3 is also the first of a category of psalms called “THE SONGS OF LAMENT,” in which the psalmist sings the blues, lifting the sorrows of his heart and complaints about life to God in prayer. This is what David does in this psalm. He laments, “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.” Some scholars object to this psalm being categorized as a song of lament, because David’s complaint ends in verse 2. The remaining six verses reflect confident trust, not personal sorrow. But this change of mood does not change the nature of this psalm. It directly addresses it. It does not deny the bad situation David found himself in. It declares that it was not as bad as it seemed. That is the message of this psalm: Things are never as bad as they seem to be, when the Lord is on your side. Psalm 3 teaches us how to pray with confidence that things will get better when things seem to as bad as they can get.


The historical background of this psalm is recorded in 2 Samuel 13-18. David’s son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar. In defense of his sister’s honor, Absalom killed Amnon and then started an insurrection against his father David. Because of Absalom’s beauty, charisma, and shrewdness, many people forsook David and joined the revolt. Finally, David had no choice but to flee Jerusalem. It was during this exile that David wrote Psalm 3.

The sweet singer of Israel had the blues. The one whose reign led to international peace was on the run from his own people who are being led by his own son. The man after God’s own heart was at a place in his life when it seems that God has turned his back on him. So David complains. You would too. But to whom would you complain? In verses 1-2, David brought his complaints to the Lord. The heart of this complaint is found in the repeated word many, which occurs three times in these two verses. David’s troubles were real, growing, and insurmountable. But he prayed and told the Lord what his enemies were doing and saying.


Verse 1a says, “O Lord, how may are my foes!” It was enough that David’s beloved son Absalom had declared himself to be his father’s enemy. But many of David’s people also turned against him and joined his son’s rebellion. People David knew, loved, and trusted were now determined to end his reign and his life. Everywhere he looked, friends became foes. And David founded surrounded by enemies. This can happen to you. Life can bring you to a tight place where you are surrounded by evil intentions. And people you know, trust, and love can work to hurt you rather than help you. Verse 1b says, “Many are rising against me.” This is military language. David was outnumbered by his enemies. And the numbers were growing. More and more people were switching allegiances and taking a stand against David. But David tells the Lord that many people were against him and the ranks of those who sought his demise was growing every day.


David’s heart was broken by what his enemies were doing to him. But his broken heart was stepped on by the news of what his enemies were saying about him. In verse 2, David complains, “Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.” I have seen people go through things that we so bad that I thought that only God can save them. But I have never seen someone go through something that was so bad that I thought that not even God could save that person. But this was the word on the street about David’s situation. CHARLES SPURGEON said it well: “It is the most bitter of all afflictions to be led to fear that there is no help for us in God.”

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