You, O Lord, are a Shield for Me
by H.H. Pope Shenouda III
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 oppressors.
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. 54:1,3).
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."
*Taken from the larger work by His Holiness on Psalm 3.