The recent shootings in Aurora, Colorado are reminiscent of a similar tragedy over a year ago in Tuscon, Arizona. Former Philadelphia Phillies baseball manager Dallas Green lost his granddaughter in that Tucson shooting rampage, and afterwards, in a media interview, Green was asked how he was going to cope. He said: “We hope we can all get through it … and get through it with the help of baseball.”
I’ve got to tell you, I was stunned by his response, that “baseball” was going to get them through the tragedy. You would have expected to hear the word, “God” there – “we’re going to get through this with the help of GOD” – not “baseball”! But that is exactly the problem with so many people in America today: they are looking to other things to deliver them from their problems instead of God. They think that sports is going to be the “salvation” for their kids. They think that “education” is going to be the solution to our national problems. They trust that science and medicine are going to cure all of our ills. And let me emphasize: there is nothing wrong with medicine; there is nothing wrong with education; there is nothing wrong with sports. But none of these things can take the place of God. Our ultimate salvation and meaning and deliverance are only found in Him. As Psalm 3:3 puts it, only HE can be “the lifter of our head.”
This morning we will conclude our study of Psalm 3:3, where David says to God that He is “my shield”, “my glory”, and “the lifter of my head.” We have seen over the past couple of weeks that when God is your shield, it means that He totally surrounds you, and that nothing can touch your life unless He lets it through. That means that there is a God-ordained purpose for everything that happens to you. Last week we saw that He is to be our “glory” – our highest priority; the one Person we find our ultimate pride and joy in. And this morning we will finish our study as we see that He is “the lifter of our head”. Let’s read Psalm 3 together one more time, and then look at what it means that God is “the lifter of my head.”
I. The Meaning of “Lifter of My Head”
There is a specific word picture involved here in the phrase “the lifter of my head”: The head is naturally bowed down in time of trouble. For God to be “the lifter of your head” means that He will bring you out of that time of trouble, so that you are no longer bowing your head in misery and pain, because He has lifted your head!
As we saw previously in the subtitle for Psalm 3, David wrote this Psalm when his son Absalom rebelled against him and turned the people of Israel against him. He had to flee Jerusalem with little more than the clothes on his back. II Samuel 15 says that as he left Jerusalem, David climbed up the Mount of Olives, and he covered his head, and wept. He bowed his head in weeping and crying and grief. That is our natural stance when we are in dire straights: our heads are lowered and bowed. But when we get good news, and come OUT of a time of trouble, our heads are lifted up, and we begin to rejoice again!
What was likely originally a word picture from our body language became in Hebrew a technical term for bringing someone up out of a time of trouble:
— II Kings 25:27 says the king of Babylon “lifted up the head of Jehoiakin out of prison.”
— In Genesis 40:13 Joseph foresaw that Pharaoh would “lift up the head” of the cupbearer out of prison, and restore him to his former position.
So, to “lift one’s head” means that one’s fortunes are restored. It means that their heads, which were once bowed in sorrow, will then be lifted up in joy.
David says here that it is GOD who will do that for Him. David did not say, I am going to get my loyal people from around my kingdom, and they will get me my place back. He did not say: “My people will lift up my head.” He did not say, “I am going to go to Pharaoh, and he will send his army to help me, and he will help me get my position back.” He did not say, I am going to my friend, King Hiram at Tyre, and my ally will help me restore my fortunes. NO – David said, “YHWH will be the lifter of my head; MY GOD will be the one who will turn my fortunes around, and who will turn my sorrow into joy.” He said GOD is “the lifter of my head” – HE would be the One who would help him, and deliver him.
And He will be that for us, too. The Lord gave me this verse very early on in my battle with dysautonomia/POTS; that He would be MY shield, and glory and “the lifter of my head.” To me, that meant that He was making it very clear that HE will be the One who delivered me in this trial. I didn’t take that to mean that I was necessarily going to be “supernaturally healed”, but that I would be healed and restored and rejoice — when and where and how GOD wanted me to. To me when I read that, it was God’s way of saying that my attention and focus was NOT to be on doctors or medicines, or on anything that man could do for me, but on Him. HE would be “the lifter of my head.”
To me that meant that He may or may not use a doctor. We are so reliant upon science and medicine in our culture – and there is nothing wrong with doctors and medication. But we do not need to put our faith & trust in earthly doctors, but in the Great Physician! That also meant to me that He may or may not do it in Lake Charles; He may or may not do it in Houston. Again, there are a lot of great doctors and man-made facilities in Houston, but we need to remember that salvation does not come out of Houston; salvation comes out of HEAVEN! GOD said, “I am going to be the lifter of your head”!
God is reminding some of you today that you need to be looking to Him for your deliverance. Some of you are looking all around you for who can help you with a specific situation you have. I am not saying that God is not going to use one or more people to help you, because God does use people. But don’t look to people for your ultimate help. Look to God. Maybe you are in a particular situation, and you have thought: “So-and-so is going to help me. They are going to get me out of this.” And you felt really good and confident about that. But maybe you have found out – or maybe you are about to find out – that “so-and-so” is not going to be able to help you after all:
— Maybe the doctor you expected to help you doesn’t have any answers.
— Maybe the “cash cow” you expected to bail you out has gone dry.
— Maybe the “connections” you counted on to “pull some strings” for you can’t or won’t do it.
Maybe you have found out that the people you thought were going to help you will not — THEY are not going to be “the lifter of your head.” If that is so, I think one of the reasons God has allowed that to happen is that He wants you to look to HIM to be “the lifter of your head.” Sure, God uses people to help us, but stop looking to people to do for you what you are supposed to look to GOD to do for you. Look to Him! HE will be “the lifter of your head.” HE will be your deliverer. HE is the one who will help you in your situation, who will turn your sorrow into joy.
Years ago, Charles Spurgeon said to his congregation:
“Some of you have tried to find refuge out[side] of God. You have sought to find it in your wealth, but you have pricked your head when you have laid it on that pillow. You have sought it with a friend, but that friend’s arm has been a broken reed, where you hoped it would be a wall of strength. You will never find rest except in God; there is no refuge but in Him.” (“The Glorious Habitation”, Vol. II, p.8)
Spurgeon was saying the same thing that David did here in Psalm 3: make GOD your refuge; no one else. HE will be the One who will deliver you from your situation, whatever it is. HE must be “the lifter of (your) head.”
II. “The Lifter of Your Head”: For Salvation
God must be “the lifter of your head” not only for specific earthly trials, but for our ultimate salvation – and that is by far the most important thing. Whatever earthly trial or difficulty you & I face, it will be relatively short-lived. The vital thing we need to know is that God is the deliverer of our SOUL.
For example, unless God miraculously intervenes, according to the best medical reports I have read, I will never be totally “healed” of dysautonomia/POTS. Statistically speaking, although teenagers and those in their 20’s who get POTS often seem to “grow out of it” in 2-3 years, those who get it in “middle age” (a category which I reluctantly fall into!) generally have to deal with it in some form for the rest of their lives. And I do NOT have any special personal assurance from God that He is going to miraculously heal me, either; He has not told me that. Despite what many false teachers proclaim, there is no blanket promise in scripture that every one of us can be healed of every infirmity. All of us will be called home to heaven with some illness, if Jesus does not come back first. But the promise of this verse is still is true: on that day when I breathe my last, God will be “the lifter of my head”! Now I can also tell you that I have already exceeded the minimum expectations for people with this illness – and I think I am still going to be a lot better than I am now, by God’s grace, and with a few more weeks and months of medication, exercise, and prayer. I am much more optimistic today than I was even just a few weeks ago. BUT – the truth is, if I am never “healed” on earth, I know I will be totally delivered from all illness on the day when God takes me home to His glory. But the KEY thing is: when I go to heaven, it will be God who has accomplished that. “HE is the lifter of my head.” God is the One who will bring about my ultimate salvation.
The problem that most people have is that they are looking to some source other than God for their salvation. In fact, salvation by human effort is the basis of virtually all world religions.
One of the little books I was able to read while I was sick at home the past few weeks was G.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. In it he had an interesting section on the difference between Christian and Eastern religious art:
“Even when I thought … that Buddhism and Christianity were alike, there was one thing about them that always perplexed me; I mean the startling difference in their type of religious art. I do not mean in its technical style of representation, but in the things that it was manifestly meant to represent … The opposition exists at every point; but perhaps the shortest statement of it is that the Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist saint has a sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The mediaeval saint’s body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive …The Buddhist is looking with a peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards.” (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, Chap. 8, “The Romance of Orthodoxy”)
What Chesterton is saying is that Buddhist art pictures the adherent with his eyes closed because he is looking INSIDE of himself for his salvation; he is looking for the “god within” which is supposed to bring him “salvation.” But Christian art shows its saints with their eyes OPEN, for the Christian is NOT looking inside himself for anything to save him; he is looking OUTSIDE, to a salvation that comes from someone else besides himself. The genuine Christian is looking to Jesus for his salvation; he is looking to the Lord, to do for him what he can’t do for himself. “HE is the lifter of my head.”
That is the essence of Christianity. The Christian’s trust is not in the works he can do or the prayers he can pray or the money he can give. The Christian’s hope for salvation is outside of himself; his trust is in what Jesus did for him on the cross. Jesus said just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, that whoever believed might look at the bronze serpent and live after they had been bitten by the deadly snakes, so whoever has been smitten by sin, may look to Jesus on the cross and be saved. But salvation does not come from US; it comes from HIM! The Christian says: “By grace I am saved through faith, and that not of myself, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest I should boast.” He says: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” The Christian knows that he cannot save himself; He knows that HE will be “the lifter of his head.” His salvation comes from the Lord.
Is that true of you today? Have you been looking to Jesus for your salvation? Or have you been looking for it in the good things you could do to appease God? If you have never done it before today, look for your salvation outside of yourself; look to Jesus! Put your whole trust in Jesus. Let HIM be “the lifter of your head.” There are some of you here today whom God has allowed to come into a time of difficulty, because He has been trying to get your attention, so that you would look to HIM to do for you what no one else can. Look to Him, to be “the lifter of your head.”
III. The Personal Nature of “The Lifter of My Head”
Whether it is for your eternal salvation, or regarding a trial you are undergoing, it is important that you have a personal commitment to God as the One who will be “the lifter of your head.”
One of the things that stands out when you read this passage in Hebrew is the “i” ending at the end of each noun. You see three of those “i”’s; three of those Hebrew first person pronoun endings: “my”, “my”, “my.” He is a shield about ME; He is MY glory, He is the lifter of MY head.
That means that this Psalm is speaking about David’s very real, and very personal commitment to God. There is no nominal religion here in Psalm 3; David was in the trial of his life. And when you come to your most difficult moments, Christianity is either very real to you, or it is not. God is either all of these things this Psalm talks about to you, or He is not. When you hit bottom, you find out whether what you say you believe is really true for you or not.
For Job, when he had lost everything that he had: his flocks & herds; his children; his own health — and was sitting on the ash heap of all his hopes and dreams for life; when all he had left of what was once a rich and prosperous family was a wife who told him to curse God and die, and three so-called “friends” who told him that he was suffering because of sin in his life! – for Job this wasn’t a “religious game.” God was the only thing he had left, and he called out to Him from his heart. When you are suffering, you don’t play any religious “games”; if it is not real to you, you toss it aside; if it IS real, it is the most important thing you have.
Sometimes God allows us, like Job, like David, to be stripped of virtually everything we have. In those times you find out how real your faith really is. These past few months have been one of those times for me. I had lost my health; there were times I thought I was going to lose my job, my home, everything outward I had, and perhaps my very life. But I want you to know that in those times, my faith has been very real. And this verse in particular has been very meaningful to me: “Thou O Lord, are a shield to ME; MY glory, and the lifter of MY head.” What we are talking about here in this verse today is not a game to me. The God of this Bible is a shield about me; He is my glory, and He is the lifter of my head. My question for you today is, is He that real to you? Is He each of these things for YOU? Is it personal for YOU?
— is He your shield: do you know that nothing touches your life but that it comes through Him first, and that He has a purpose for it?
— is He your glory? Is HE really the weightiest thing in your life? If you were to lose everything else, can you glory in God?
— is HE the lifter of your head? Are you really looking to HIM to deliver you – or has your hope been in someone or something else, who will fail you?
Are you making it personal in the sense that He is going to be all this for YOU?!
— It is one thing to believe that He can do it; that He will do it for someone else. It is another to believe that He will do it for YOU.
— It is one thing to believe that He will save “sinners.” It is another to believe that He will save YOU! THIS is the essence of saving faith: “Lord, be merciful to ME, a sinner.”
— It is one thing to believe that He will lift “someone’s” head; it is another to trust Him as the “lifter of YOUR head”!
Wherever you are in your spiritual walk today; whatever your specific need is, whether it is for salvation, or for God’s help in some specific area of your life, I want to encourage you today to make this verse personal. Turn to God today, and say these words to Him with all your heart: “For Thou, O Lord, art a shield to ME; MY glory and the lifter of MY head.”
I know that many of you have either read or heard of Andrew Murray, the famous South African minister and writer who lived primarily in the 1800’s. When he was in a difficult time in his life, he wrote the following in his journal, under the title: “He Brought Me Here”:
“First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.
Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.
Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
Last, in His good time He can bring me out again – how and when He knows.
Let me say I am here,
(1) By God’s appointment,
(2) In His keeping,
(3) Under His training,
(4) For His time.
Andrew Murray in the midst of his trial said, “in His time, He can bring me out again.” That’s just another way of saying: “He will be the lifter of my head.” Just like Andrew Murray, I know that “in His time”, God will be “the lifter of MY head” – and He will be for you, too, if you will call out to Him. But in the mean time, each of us has important lessons to learn from the specific trials that God has brought us each into. But the most important lesson of all, is to love and TRUST HIM! Make it your personal commitment to say to God, like David did here in Psalm 3:3, “Thou, O Lord, art a shield to me; my glory, and the lifter of my head.”