If I am honest with myself, I have to confess that my life has been lived in relative safety. What fears I’ve experienced have been in the big scheme of things little fears. So how do you learn courage when you’ve experienced safety? You look to the lives of those who truly have experienced danger. You attempt to analyze their courage and learn from it.
King David was a man of action. He was a warrior. He knew battles. He had learned how not to be afraid. Psalm 3 makes for interesting reflection. The psalm heading says that the context of the psalm was Absalom’s rebellion. David found himself fleeing. David found himself with many rising up against him. But notice his response.
But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the LORD,
and he answered me from his holy hill.
I lay down and slept;
I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
(Psalms 3:3–6 ESV)
His relationship with God gave him courage to face his circumstances. God was his protection (shield) and victory. The reference to glory and lifter of my head convey the idea of God as the source (my glory) and giver of victory (the lifter of my head).
Because he has this confidence in God he could go to sleep. Have you ever had worries that kept you up at night? Fears can give us insomnia. David had the confidence that he could sleep. David is also not concerned with the odds. The ESV’s “many thousands” is the same word as in the little ditty: “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” (1 Samuel 18:7, ESV) David could confidently be in the minority because he was on God’s side.
As a modern reader, I stumble a bit with “breaking the teeth of the wicked.” But this is likely a wild animal image (see Psalm 58:6). Breaking the teeth is to render powerless the enemies of God. The people of God have the assurance of God’s victory.
Like David we can learn to be courageous in our faith. We can be courageous even if the odds are ten thousands to one, because salvation belongs to the Lord. Walking with God, I will not be afraid.