Insights From the Psalms: Chapters 3 – 6
This Bible lesson aims to provide insight into how you might approach God in prayer and have the confidence that He’ll answer you. Take note of the tones within the prayers of Psalms 3 – 6. By tones, I mean how the psalmist prayed and their attitudes in their prayers.
Read these Psalms as if you were eavesdropping on someone, the psalmist, while he is praying. Take note of his tone of voice, confidence, and his perceived standing with God.
This is a psalm of David when he fled from his son, Absalom. Read about it in 2 Samuel 15-18.
The Problem Statement
Psalm 3:1–2 (NRSV) — O Lord, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying to me, “There is no help for you in God.” Selah
I call this verse the problem statement because the psalmist identifies his problem. Many enemies are telling him that God will not help him.
Now, consider yourself when you are in trouble or are facing a challenge. Are there those around you that discourage you? Are you encouraged to trust God, or are you given alternatives to God as the primary course of action?
Psalm 3:3–4 (NRSV) — But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts up my head. I cry aloud to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah
We might interpret this passage as an acknowledgment of God’s involvement in the situation. The psalmist declares what God is to him.
- Shield = protection
- Glory = source
- “Lifts up my head” = raises one from discouragement or hopelessness.
Also, note that the psalmist declares that God answers him when he calls.
Do you believe that God answers you when you call him? Is God your shield, source, and encourager?
Psalm 3:5–6 (NRSV) — I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the Lord sustains me. I am not afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
I call this passage the testimony because the psalmist declares his disposition because of what God is to him. He can sleep in peace because God sustains him.
Therefore, he is not afraid of multitudes around him. The psalmist knows that he is protected.
What about you? Do you believe that God protects you when danger or trouble surrounds you?
Psalm 3:7–8 (NRSV) — Rise up, O Lord! Deliver me, O my God! For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked. Deliverance belongs to the Lord; may your blessing be on your people! Selah
God is figuratively represented as being asleep because of his seeming indifference to the psalmist’s situation. Sometimes we may feel that God is indifferent to us when we are in trouble, and things don’t seem to be getting better, or all hope begins to wane.
Striking on the cheek and breaking the teeth is a symbolic representation of what God would do to fierce enemies. They are pictured as wild, dangerous animals, but God will take away their power.
Deliverance is seen to come from God, whom we trust.
Note the tone of the passage. The psalmist says to God, “Rise up.” He tells God to bring down his enemies. He makes his requests through statements or affirmations. This request-through-statements concept is similar to how Jesus taught us to pray (Matthew 6:9-13) and Jesus’ own prayer (John 17). Notice the similar tone in Jesus’ prayers compared to Psalm 3:7-8.
Psalm 4:1 (NRSV) — Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
Notice the tone of this statement. The psalmist does not grovel. Instead, he boldly makes his claim and requests an audience with God.
The psalmist is asking God to hear him. How do we know that God hears us (See 1 John 5:14-15)? However, we can also hope in God’s love/mercy (Ps 33:18-19, 147:11).
Psalm 5:1–3 (NRSV) — Give ear to my words, O Lord; give heed to my sighing. Listen to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you I pray. O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
Note the similarity in tone to Psalm 4:1. He is requesting an audience with God to hear his prayers as statements. Does this mean that we don’t have to ask God for what we want? No. Note that the psalmist says, “O Lord, in the morning, you hear my voice.” He knows that God hears him.
Do we believe that God hears us when we pray?
Worthy of an Audience With God
Psalm 5:4–6 (NRSV) — For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you. The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.
Notice how verse four is connected to the previous verses. The psalmist identifies those things contrary to God’s character, e.g., he is not joined with evil or boastful people. It is as if the psalmist is giving reasons for being heard, i.e., he is not evil, boastful, etc.
Do you feel that you can stand before God (recall Psalm 1)? Do you think you are worthy of being in the presence of God? Explain.
Humbly Approach God
Psalm 5:7–8 (NRSV) — But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love, will enter your house, I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you. Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies; make your way straight before me.
The psalmist approaches God because he depends on God’s faithful (steadfast) love, and he will worship Him.
In God’s presence, he asks God to lead him in His righteousness.
Deal With the Wicked
Psalm 5:9–10 (NRSV) — For there is no truth in their mouths; their hearts are destruction; their throats are open graves; they flatter with their tongues. Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of their many transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.
There is a contrast between the righteous psalmist and the wicked. The psalmist wants God to punish the wicked, which assumes that he is righteous.
How do we know that we are righteous now? If the Bible says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, then how can we think we can stand before a righteous God and ask for anything?
Praise and Worship
Psalm 5:11–12 (NRSV) — But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, so that those who love your name may exult in you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover them with favor as with a shield.
Those who take refuge in God will experience His protection and can, therefore, rejoice. The righteous are blessed and are covered with favor like a shield. This passage reminds me of Psalm 91, which we will cover shortly.
Who are the righteous now? Are you righteous? How so? How is righteousness different in the Old Testament and the New Testament regarding Jesus Christ?
Request for Healing
Psalm 6:1–3 (NRSV) — O Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger, or discipline me in your wrath. Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror. My soul also is struck with terror, while you, O Lord—how long?
The psalmist says to God not to punish him while God is angry. The sickness the psalmist experienced may be considered to be a punishment from God.
The psalmist is languishing and in terror. He asks God how long will he be tormented with the illness.
An Expression of Anguish
Psalm 6:4–7 (NRSV) — Turn, O Lord, save my life; deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who can give you praise? I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. My eyes waste away because of grief; they grow weak because of all my foes.
There is the request for salvation for God’s love’s sake, not the righteousness of the requester. He expresses his anguish.
Have you ever cried out to God to express how you feel while going through a challenge or sickness? Have you ever thought that God was taking a long time to help you?
God Heard the Prayer
Psalm 6:8–10 (NRSV) — Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer. All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror; they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.
The psalmist knows that God heard his prayer, and therefore the evil people must get away. He will be delivered from his enemies because God heard his prayer.
Can you say, “God heard my prayer?” Do you have confidence that God will come to your aid and answer your prayer even though you feel unworthy?
In the Psalms in this lesson, we found declarations of God protecting those who make God their refuge. We saw how we could come to God not based on our merit but God’s everlasting love. We can have confidence that God hears our prayers.
What have you learned from the prayers of Psalm 3 – 6?
How can you know you can go before God to make your petitions and have confidence that He’ll answer them?