1. Study Psalm 3. How would you characterize verse 1?
This is the address element of the Psalm; it describes whom the lament is
addressed to. "O Lord" is the psalmist’s call to God. Parallelism is at the core of Hebrew
poetry and this verse is an example of synonymous parallelism, which is the most common form of Hebrew
poetry. In this example: the second line advances the concept of the first (",..how my adversaries
have increase!" and "Many are rising up against me.").
2. How would you characterize verse 2?
The complaint element follows; it describes the heartfelt distress of trouble
and why help is being sought. At the end of verse 1, the psalmist describes numerous foes and in verse
2, the taunts of his enemies are described.
3. How would you characterize verses 3-6?
Verses 3-6 are the confession of
trust element; it is a declaration of trust in the Lord. Described as a "shield," the psalmist finds
comfort in the metaphorical description of God’s protection. There is trust in protection, in answered
cries, and while asleep. So resolute is his trust that he is fearless of the opposition.
4. How would you characterize verse 7?
Verse 7 has two elements: petition / deliverance and assurance / praise.
The first part, the petition ("Arise,..! Deliver me,..!"), is a plea for help. It is
another example of synonymous parallelism. The latter part of verse 7 is the assurance; it is the
complete confidence that God will deliver. In this synonymous parallelism, the imagery is one of a knockout
punch, and the psalmist writes as though God has already destroyed his foes.
5. How would you characterize verse 8?
Verse 8 is the final element: praise. The psalmist praises God for His faithfulness.
Key: Read each Psalm as a unit to minimize the risk of losing context!
Psalms have several distinguished composers: David authored 73, Moses authored 1, Solomon authored
2, etc. Their purpose was to worship God in a heartfelt manner through musical poems. Instead of being
instructive, Psalms are principally for guidance; they provide an example of how one can communicate
their thoughts and feelings while still remaining faithful and dependent on God.
It is believed that David wrote Psalm 3 when he was fleeing from Absalom (2 Sam 15 - 2 Sam 18); thus,
many Psalms may have a historical connection. Psalm 3 is an example of a Lament. It has 6 successive
elements to its structure:
Introduction or address,
Confession of trust,
Petition or deliverance,
Confidence or assurance,
As inspired prayers and hymns, Psalms offers an example of how we may communicate with God. In the
case of adversity, a prayer of lament is one such example. From the pattern above, one can observe some
interesting details. For instance, notice that the complaint is followed by the confession of
trust and that the petition is followed by the assurance! Notice how many verses are
spent on each. What does this reveal about the lament? Do your prayers have elements? How are those
elements balanced? What are your prayers for help like? Take a look at the Psalms and discover other
details that could help your prayer life!
To learn more about Psalms, read Answering God: the Psalms as Tools for Prayer, by Eugene
Peterson (San Francisco: Harper-Collins, 1989).
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