If Psalm 1 offers us the picture of the Righteous Man (in a wisdom tradition), and Psalm 2 of the Royal Man (in a nascent Messianic tradition), Psalm 3 combines the two introductory psalms into a picture of the Righteous Royal Man. From here on in the main ‘voice’ of the Psalmist is that of the king himself, even where explicit identification may be lacking. It’s not lacking in Psalm 3, with the psalm situated in relation to David’s flight from Absalom. But the psalm itself gives no hint of that particular setting. Nonetheless, it fits more than well enough, comprising an initial lament (v1-2), with a corresponding declaration of trust (3-8) with plea (v7). Verse 5 gives us a temporal marker (morning) that complements psalm 4’s evening, and offers us another matched-pair in the entry to the Psalter overall.
Insofar as the Psalm is paradigmatic, it begins with the figure of persecution, of both hostility from foes, and declaration of defeat by hostiles (whether enemies or ‘bystanders’). This is in contrast to the salvation that is in the Lord himself (v3). The psalm both declares the Lord’s salvation, and prays for it (cf. vv3,5,8 with v7).
Looking forward to the New Testament, we are reminded that Christ came to those that were his own (John 1:11), who did not receive him, indeed he was killed by those he created, a betrayal far deeper and wider than the vicious treason of Absalom to his Father. Also of the mocking in Matthew 27:42, “He saved others; he cannot save himself”. Jesus knew with absolute certainty the Lord’s salvation, but found himself in the midst of many enemies, and crying out for that very vindication.
This psalm, as a Christian psalm, is deeply dislocative – it situates us in at least three places. Firstly, that, because he died while we were enemies, we are the many enemies! Secondly, we are called to identify in and with Christ, in his mockery and suffering. Finally, to know that whatever suffering and opposition we now face is linked to that suffering then, and so is transformed by the knowledge that indeed, the Lord will arise and bring his salvation.