English Basic Explanation - Chapter 3
The story of Avshalom's revolt against his father, King David, is recorded in the Book of Shemuel II (chapters 15-18) and likely ranks among the most heart-wrenching stories in the entire Tanach. Avshalom attracts a sizeable following and mounts an audacious attack against his own father, who is forced to flee eastward from Jerusalem across the Jordan River, joined by a small group of loyal devotees. Although David's men manage to defeat the rebels and restore his kingship, David's victory is a bitter and mournful one, as it resulted in the death of Avshalom, whom he still loved as a son.
One can only be inspired by the third chapter of Tehillim, in which David records his emotions during this most painful chapter of his reign and his life, his flight from Jerusalem to escape Avshalom's onslaught. As his entire life's work begins to crumble, as he leaves his home and his post to a future of uncertainty, and as he suffers the shame and humiliation of being ousted by his own son, he can still triumphantly declare, "I call with my voice to Hashem, and He answers me from His sacred mountain" (verse 5). Even at this moment of crisis and upheaval, he feels confident in God's protection.
David reveals the source of his optimism in the subsequent verse (verse 6): "I lie down and I sleep – I awaken, for Hashem supports me!" The daily phenomenon of waking from sleep – an experience about which one hardly thinks twice – serves for David as a rejuvenating source of encouragement and hope. If God can revive a person's spirit each morning, if He can restore a person's soul after a nightlong period of "death," then He is certainly capable of rescuing David from those who pursue him and restoring his honor and dignity. Hence, David self-assuredly declares, "I shall not fear the tens of thousands of people who have come upon me all around" (verse 7).
For good reason, this Psalm has been incorporated into the Keri'at Shema Al Ha'mita (the bedtime Shema) service. Each night, we are reminded that it is only the grace and unlimited power of the Almighty that allows us to go to sleep knowing that we will arise the next morning. Furthermore, this chapter is among the chapters of Tehillim traditionally recited during times of crisis, Heaven forbid. It reminds us of King David's optimism and faith even during life's harshest travails, and of the Almighty's unlimited ability to bring salvation even in situations that would otherwise seem hopeless. If David could remain sanguine and upbeat even as he flees for his life from his son, then certainly we can and must retain a degree of hope and optimism even as we endure life's most trying challenges.