Swimming In The Psalms 1: The LORD Hears (4:1-8)
Why invest time in the Psalms this summer?
- Psalms are powerful, especially when we go thru hard times—they are real/gritty/honest, like reading diaries of God’s people thousands of years ago. Refreshing & encouraging to see the saints of old wrestle with the hard questions of life: “how long, O LORD?”, “Where are You, LORD?”, “Help me in my grief, fear and shame, O LORD!”, “Break the teeth of the wicked, O LORD!”
- Also powerful as expressions of worship to the LORD both in easy and hard times—during our trials (not just before & after), we too can experience the joy of the psalm-writers!
- Many psalms were meant to be sung/set to music…oh how important it is for God’s people not only to read the Bible but to pray & sing the Bible…my hope for the future is that one song each Sunday would be a psalm or portion of a psalm set to music. We’ll remember them better & understand them differently by singing them!
Example: Was discouraged last fall by some ways I fall short as a pastor… Psalm 46:10 played on the CD I was listening to—“be still & know that I am God. I will be exalted in the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”—it was sung slowly with just a voice & acoustic guitar. I wept for joy in the middle of my discouragement. Ever since, whenever I hear that verse sung slowly on that CD, I’m encouraged—the LORD reminds me that He will honor Himself with me, through me, & in spite of me! 🙂
Let’s dive into Psalm 4 together!
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.
1 Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God.
[David reminds himself of God’s righteousness/right-ness even before God gives David relief! God is not only right when He gives us what we think is right…the LORD is always right, and David rightly reminds himself of this powerful Truth…]
Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
[David, and much of the nation of Israel, is suffering.
David doesn’t sugar-coat his situation,
and he goes directly to the LORD with his situation.
David also recognizes that he needs mercy from the LORD,
whether David’s suffering is David’s direct fault or not,
that God even listening to David’s prayer is a gift that David doesn’t deserve…
In the next verse, David addresses the people of Israel,
who have not gone to the LORD for relief
(or have not continued to go to the LORD for relief…]
2 How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? [or “seek lies”]
The Israelites were going thru hard times,
& so they sought other gods to get the results they wanted.
They committed spiritual adultery against the LORD
because He wasn’t ending their suffering;
- They sought lies because the Truth wasn’t working out for them
(see 2 Timothy 4:2-5);
- They sought the fog of delusions
because they didn’t like what they saw in the light of God’s Truth…
- They sought relief pragmatically—whatever works!
How do we do this today?
- Praying in the name of Visa when stressed—retail therapy.
“I’ll buy/shop my way out of this hard time.”
- Praying to the fitness god when stressed—exercise therapy.
“I’ll find relief by improving how I look.”
- Praying to the money god when stressed—career/financial therapy.
“I’ll earn/work my way out of this hard time—I’ll rest on my bottom line.”
- Praying to the entertainment god when stressed—distraction therapy.
“I’ll screen time my way out of this hard time.”
Please hear me out: it’s not inherently wrong to shop, exercise, earn a bonus/get a promotion, or go on the internet/watch movies—but we need the Holy Spirit’s help to take the time to reflect on WHY we do those things.
Are we seeking false gods/lies/delusions in our hard times,
or are we seeking the LORD?
3 Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
The LORD is attentive to the cry of His people—yes!!!
But in His way/on His timing—Israelites were slaves 400 years before He freed them.
When David wrote verse 3, notice that the LORD
still hadn’t answered his prayer of verse 1.
That is faith…David KNEW that the LORD heard him,
even though David didn’t see/feel that God had heard him.
No answer from God? Keep praying, keep praising, keep pursuing Him!
Luke 18:1: Then Jesus told his disciples a parable
to show them that they should always pray & not give up.
4 Tremble and do not sin; [or “in your anger do not sin”]
Be careful not to sin in your desperate attempts for relief from suffering!
When we suffer, God has placed spiritual signs for us: “Caution—wet floor!”
We are more liable to slip & fall!
In our anger over not getting the relief we want,
be careful not to take matters into your own hands
& sin by trying to end your suffering in your own way:
e.g. Peter cutting off guard’s ear, Abraham getting Hagar pregnant, etc.
when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.
- Never getting a check-up from the doctor, or being a hypocondriac.
- Never working (trying to live off others), or being a workaholic.
- Never exercising (& destroying your body slowly),
or always exercising (& idolizing your body)
Similar extremes in following Christ:
- Never looking in to analyze our hearts/desires/beliefs/actions, or
always looking in/analyzing ourselves (navel-gazing)—
both extremes are unhealthy.
My dear friends, if you can’t sleep, please don’t just turn on the t.v./internet—
I believe that often when we can’t sleep,
the LORD is calling out to us to seek Him, to be silent before Him,
to open the Bible and examine our hearts in His presence.
Sometimes that’s the only way the LORD can get our attention—
taking away our sleep!
Take some time in your sleeplessness to seek the LORD,
to open up your heart before Him in Bible reading, prayer, praise, and confession…
Psalm 139:23-24: Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Back to Psalm 4:
5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
and trust in the Lord.
Our true sacrifice is trusting in the Lord Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross—
that’s what makes us righteous!
We dont make sacrifices to get God’s mercy/compassion,
we make sacrifices because we have it in Christ already!
Matthew 9:10-13: “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice…”
Psalm 51:15-17: Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Bring to Him your guilt and shame over your sins–
- run TO Christ, not away from Him!
- Hide IN the Lord Jesus, don’t hide from Him–
He will not despise the sinner who takes responsibility for his/her sin
and kneels down at His feet for mercy!
Trusting God is living each day/moment
as if His character&promises are true/real.
- Trusting a chair is sitting in the chair & relaxing! (not white-knuckling it!)
- Trusting directions is following the directions (obedience)!
6 Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
We are right to want relief from our suffering,
& we are right to go to the LORD for relief.
BUT…we must not want relief from suffering MORE
than wanting the LORD Himself.
We must not grab onto/follow anyone/anything that promises relief—
that’s why Hitler rose to power
(pragmatism—thinking that whatever works is what is good/true/right).
Christianity isn’t true because it “works”—
it’s true whether or not you get the relief you want.
We must let God define what relief and prosperity really mean.
John Piper: Gratitude for luxury impresses no one with ourSavior.
No matter how grateful we are, lining our lives with gold
will not make the world think our God is great.
It will make the world think our god is gold…
But his supremacy–his being infinitely more valuable than gold–
is why we live.
Our sinful hearts naturally want prosperity/relief
to mean ease/comfort/convenience;
God defines prosperity as knowing Him & becoming holy–
thus in the second half of verse 6, David says this:
Let the light of your face shine on us.
KNOWING THE LORD! YES!!!
Psalm 23: “Even though I walk thru the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me…”
Jeremiah 9:23-25: This is what the Lord says:
“Let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
24 but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the Lord,
who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,” declares the Lord.
This is what David asks for:
7 Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.
[ESV: You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.]
The joy of knowing the LORD spiritually
is better than the happiness of having an abundant physical harvest!
Inner joy always better than outer happiness—
joy lasts longer & cant be taken away by circumstances!
And what is a result of this inner joy
that comes from knowing the LORD,
that comes from His face shining upon us?
8 In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.
If you sleep well,
- is it because of the LORD & Who He is & what He’s done/given you, or
- is it because of you & who you are & what you’ve accomplished
& what you’ve earned?
What is your pillow/blanket/mattress each night?
There’s a reason the Holy Spirit is called Comforter…
Even when we aren’t safe on earth, we are safe in eternity;
Even when our present is shaken, our future is solid (unshakable).
The LORD doesn’t promise that we will never suffer ever,
But He does promise that we will never suffer FORever.
Thus our peace, our ability to sleep in our storms,
comes from His promise
that our earthly storms
will eventually end on the shores of eternity.
HE ALONE is what gives us such peace—
not our bank accounts, stuff, fame, physical appearance, achievements, etc.
There is a time to work hard/be diligent,
but there is a time to trust in the LORD by stopping working—
this is part of the importance of Sabbath:
trusting in the LORD to provide by taking a day off from work,
e.g. Chick-fil-a/Hobby Lobby…
Worry/losing sleep doesn’t show we care, it shows we’re scared.
A trusting child shows trust in their parent
by falling asleep in their arms though the monsters are still under the bed,
not pacing the room all night with all the lights on…
May God help us do the same!
Thank you. Great stuff to reflect on. Love the verse by verse study.
Thank you for the encouragement! 🙂