“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. But you, O LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the lifter up of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill” Psalm 3:1-4
The Psalm begins with an honest cry, describing to God a desperate situation. The only word of address or introduction is “O LORD”– the prayer is raw, messy, and not uttered according to formal rules or regulations.
You don’t have to get fancy and proper and have your life together when you come to God. You come when you feel like you are surrounded on all sides by enemies, troubles, and grief. This Psalm is attributed to David when he was fleeing from his son– who wanted to kill him. In the face of broken relationships and possible death. And these things that oppress us externally, they also get inside us and speak to the very inner core of who we are that there is no hope. As the Psalm says, “there is no salvation for you in God.” There is no remedy, no solution, no one to make things right. You and the world you inhabit are too far gone.
But the Psalm doesn’t stop there. The prayer continues: “But you O LORD, are a shield around me, my glory, and the lifter up of my head.”
The word for glory, kabod, literally means heaviness, weight. It is translated variously as abundance, riches, splendor, honor, and glory (Brown-Driver-Briggs, 458). This word, kabod, is often used to describe God’s glory (as well as the glory of kings, actual wealth, etc.).
And here the Psalmist, himself a king, radically claims that God’s glory belongs to him. God’s honor and riches and abundance. Or maybe rather, he is saying, “Even though I am a king and I have plenty of my own glory, when it really comes down to it, what makes my life significant, what gives me real weight and honor, what keeps me from being crushed by these circumstances is not my wealth, not my status as king, it’s God.”
And that’s what he remembers in his prayer: the glory, the kabod, the abundance and riches of God. That is his shield and his protection from all the things that oppress him. That is what gives him the courage to pray, and the confidence that he will be answered, that his enemies do not have the final word.