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Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Psalm 4: What God listens to.


For the director of music; with stringed instruments; A psalm of David.
A cry from the heart. 

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer. How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
 
Selah
A promise in the heart.
Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him. In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.
Selah
A gift from the heart. 
Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD. Many are asking, "Who can show us any good?" Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.
A certain peace in the heart.
You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Remember last time we discovered that Psalm 3 was for the morning and that Psalm 4 is for the evening. Some believe the Psalms to be related due to the Selah (or “pause for a moment and then continue”) at the end of Psalm3. Psalm 4 in that case does not randomly follow on from Psalm 3 but that they belong together. Psalm 4 is David’s prayer for protection before going to sleep. 
Absalom is outside lurking in the shadows and awaiting his chance to kill his father; whether that is true or not is open to conjecture and really does not matter that much anyway. Verses 3-4 clearly tell us that it was written with night-time in mind therefore it is a helpful Psalm to reflect upon in the night especially when fears are preventing sleep. We all have worries that from time to time cause us to lose sleep and even though the Lord tells us not to worry and that worrying makes not one iota of difference to the situation. 
Proverbs instructs God’s people to cast our cares upon God who cares for us; this is exactly what David is doing in this Psalm. By his experience and example we learn what it means to cast our cares upon God because He does care for us in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in!
The first thing that we see is that David makes:

A cry from the heart.

The Psalms are the songs of the bible but they are much more than popular songs. I suppose some of the Negro spirituals that come from extreme suffering of an oppressed people come close to the Psalms. Psalm 4 is a plea from the heart of the David; this is a prayer of David to God whom he fully trusted in and knew personally as we learned from Psalm 3. 

It is helpful for our own prayer life as we learn how this saint of old prayed to God.

David cried out to God from his heart. Last time we discovered that we must come boldly to God in prayer. He does not expect us to come as some type of Uriah Heap who prided himself in his false humility and who loves to tell of his unworthiness but really he was revealing an evil and arrogant pride which made him a most unlikeable fellow. Some Christians believe God expects of His people to be so humiliated by their sin that they resemble Uriah Heap. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our sin as was David’s has been dealt with and so we can and must approach God boldly! Of course that does not allow us to come arrogantly but carefully as did David. This is a great lesson to us. 

David came boldly to His God who listened to his requests and answered His bold friend.

We therefore see the respect that David had for God. We also must come respectfully to God recognising His righteousness. Even David King of Israel came in praise and wonder of God in heaven. Getting the right balance in life is always difficult. As we have said we can be arrogant in our humility but it is equally wrong to be arrogant in our boldness. David in this Psalm displays the right balance; we must come to God always in the right way. Jesus taught that God wants His people to worship Him in spirit but also to be guarded by truth. 

We must pray biblically.

As David was praying and asking for God to hear and grant mercy to him his attention went out to his enemies. He addresses them in his prayer displaying the conversational aspect of his prayer life. He could not directly address his enemies but he could talk to the Lord about them and expose his heart before the Lord. 

David was God’s appointed king; God’s glory was with him and it was this that was under attack. They were fighting David but in reality it was God they were standing against. Remember the time when Samuel judged over Israel, the people demanded of him a king like the nations around them had. Samuel was hurt at their rejection of him but God said to Samuel that it was not him that was being rejected but God Himself. This is a similar situation the leader whom God had appointed was under attack and being rejected. In reality Israel would rather have the good looking and youthful usurper than God’s man. David had every right to be angry at what they were doing and to speak indignantly to God in his prayer about it. We also know what God has appointed for His people, we are under attack from all sorts of outside forces that would usurp God’s authority in the church. Rather than lose sleep over it as David did we must commit it honestly to God in prayer. That is true also for all of the issues that we experience as individual Christians.

The amazing thing about David is that he was concerned about his enemies. They loved delusions and sought after false gods; they knew all about the truth and rejected it and so they refused to follow God. David loved his enemy and wanted only the best for them and so he prayed “how long before you come to the truth and your senses?” What an example of true godliness, there is no wonder that David is a type or fore-runner of Jesus who came because He loves those who are His enemies.

Lesson:

As Christians we are the people of God and as such we also can come boldly requesting that His name might be glorified even in those who would despitefully use us. Do we love the enemies of the church and the gospel enough to pray for them as David did?


The Selah that follows is probably a musical term, which means pause for a while and ponder before continuing. In other words:

 “Stop and wonder at what God has done for His people!”


A promise in the heart.

David recognised his relationship with God in verses 3-4; he had been set apart for service to God and His people! Being “set apart” is a reference to the articles used for worship in the tabernacle. All of the bowls etc that were used had to be made of pure metal and before use they had to be made ceremonially clean. David is using the same terminology here when referring to the Godly. In the New Testament we discover that the articles set apart by God are all who are Christians. Those who have been saved by Jesus’ death are set apart and are made holy for God’s service!

Our relationship with God is not one-sided, we do not speak to a god who cannot hear or speak. David tells us that our God who is in heaven is righteous and just and He hears the prayers of His friends even in our ramblings as we lie on our beds at the end of a difficult day. 

In the Psalm David reminds himself and therefore warns us that our thoughts at bedtime can be very dangerous! You know what it is like when you go to bed; if the day has been stressful we will ponder all of the difficulties of the day plotting and planning as to what might happen tomorrow and how we might do harm to those who hurt us! Whilst we are waiting for sleep to happen we can indulge in the most awful sins. If this Psalm was written at the time when Absalom was seeking David’s life then it would have been very easy for David to wage a hate campaign against Absalom! BUT David recognised this as wrong.

It is important to note that David does not say do not be angry or that anger is sin. It was right for him to be angry and as Christians at times we ought to be angry. We should be angry about injustice and all wrongdoing, how much more so for the wrong that is aimed at God or His people, which may include ourselves. 

God Himself is angry at sin but His is a righteous anger with no hint of wrong or sin involved. 

We should be angry in the same way. God hates sin but loves sinners and desires that they be restored into fellowship with Him. David in writing this Psalm displays his God-like qualities. He gives some sound advice to both himself and to his readers also. When temptation to sin comes we should: “search our own heart and be silent.” It is better to be quiet than to say something, which will cause bitterness and sin.

At this point David instructs the reader to ponder and consider what has been said but then to continue: Selah

Lesson:

As Christians; we are in a personal relationship with God through His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a living relationship and so as His family we can approach Him not only knowing that He listens to us but that He also answers our prayers. 

As His friends we are to be like Him in all of our ways. Just as at times in His earthly ministry Jesus displayed anger but did not sin. We also must deal with our anger rightly and not sin. Remember that when the Lord interpreted the commands He said that hatred was as bad as murder. David throughout his life displayed a love for his enemy and so must we.

A gift from the heart.

David moves from the heart that sins to the heart that worships. His advice is simply: 

“keep away from sinful thinking by offering something to God instead.”  

When sin crouches at the door of your heart look upwards and offer your sacrifice to God! The question that needs to be asked is: 

“what are the sacrifices that David is talking about.” 

The answer to that is found in Psalm 51:17 where David writes that the only sacrifice that is acceptable to God is a broken and contrite heart. He was guilty of gross sinfulness including adultery and the murder of an innocent man as a cover up of his own evil deeds! David had from this learned that “at the time of great temptation” it is better to offer the praise of your heart to God instead of acting upon desire. But if we do transgress we can come before Him broken and asking for forgiveness in order that you might regain fellowship with Him and also with His people. 

When we come to this understanding then we can more honestly understand other people when they fail. This is exactly what David goes on to say! It is important that God’s people reflect the heart of God because when things go wrong; throughout history people have asked the question that David addresses next.

Who can show us any good?”

He makes a request of God in response to the people’s need. They need to see good in people, where should they see it? It should be clearly seen in the people of God. Therefore the answer is for God’s people to reflect God’s glory. David here was probably referring to Moses who after meeting with God one day had to veil his face from the people because his face shone due to him having seen the glory of God that his face was radiant. In fact it shone so brightly that it would have frightened normal sinful people to death. David was saying in his prayer that the greatest need for Israel at that moment was for God’s glory to shine upon him in order that they might see God’s goodness through him.

Lesson:

People today are confused as to what is right and what is wrong. Post modernism (which is apparently the time that we live in!) tells us that there is neither right nor wrong. Its protagonists tell us that everything is ok as long as it does not offend anybody. In this they exclude God who is offended by sin!! 

How will anybody ever know truth, if truth is not told? 

The proclamation of the gospel is desperately needed in our land TODAY! Not merely by our words but by every facet and nuance of our very being. 

How do we gain such a persona? 

Do we pray as did David that those opposed to the gospel might see truth through us?


A place in the heart.

It is interesting to note that at the end of the previous section there is no Selah. By this David is saying; “with this in mind carry on and consider what is in your heart.” When God shines His light upon His people it always has the same effect:

WORSHIP!

This is true of David; he was no longer concerned about the enemy or even his personal sin. He had seen the glory of God; and that is greater than a stomach full of good food or a heart merry with wine or even greater than being a successful farmer or merchant. To have God’s face to shine on you is absolute and total satisfaction, in the light of this everything else pails into insignificance. This is true peace, when we are at peace we can sleep well because God is our security. 

Thomas Cranmer’s brother asked him on the night before he was martyred if he wanted him to stay overnight. Cranmer refused the offer saying that he intended to have a better nights sleep than he had ever done before because God would be with him. Cranmer could only say such a thing because he had experienced a peace beyond all understanding. Jesus said that He had come to bring such a peace into the world. David experienced it, Cranmer experienced it, are you experiencing it? You cannot gain it by what you do but by what has been done on your behalf.


Psalm 4

Answer me when I call, O God my help!
When I in trouble was, you aided me.
Be gracious to me; Lord, hear now my prayer.
Be gracious to me; Lord, hear now my prayer.

How long, you people; will you insult me?
How long will you love lies and vanity?
Know that God chose the ones who godly are;
He hears me when I call unto His name.

Tremble with fear lest you fall into sin;
Lie quietly in bed, and think on this:
Offer right sacrifice and trust in God.
Offer right sacrifice and trust in God.

Many pray, “We wish we could see some good.
Lift up your countenance upon us, Lord!”
But I’ve more joy than those with harvests great.
I sleep in peace, for You, Lord, keep me safe.

To the tune: Abide with me.
Meter: 10:10:10:10

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