Last time we were in psalms together we told the story of Absalom betraying his father David by planning to kill the king and take his throne. We titled that message from Psalm 3, “Trusting in the Lord to Save”. No plan against the Lord’s anointed would succeed and David was kept by the power of God.
This week we enter Psalm 4 and many have paired together these two psalms saying that the same back story flows in each place from II Chronicles 15-19. Whether this is true or not, the psalm doesn’t specify as Psalm 3 did in its heading. There is no doubt this is written by David who learned to trust in the Lord to save him and he demonstrates in these words an extension of that trust or what we will call today, “Confidence in the Lord”.
You may have heard the old adage, “Trust is not given, trust is earned”. While we have no reason to doubt God, many times people do, until they see his tender care, faithful love and gain security and a level of confidence in Him. Once we reach a place of confidence in the Lord, trust becomes second nature or should I say a part of our spiritual norm. Do you have confidence in the Lord today?
David has written a piece of music to express his confidence in the Lord as the heading to this psalm states , “To the chief musician on Neginoth (stringed instruments). This phrase, “To the chief musician” will appear 53 times throughout the psalms, pointing us to believe that each of these psalms with this designation is offering instructions for the leader of worship to know how to use the words in praise to God. While we are not commanded to use instruments in worship today, we can certainly relate to these words of praise and apply them to our lives.
A great point to start with is that the proper response to the Lord and his dealings with us is to set our heart to praise Him. David’s psalm here is his effort to share his heartfelt confidence in God.
Confidence in the Lord to answer our prayers (vs. 1-2)
“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah.”
Our confidence is connected to past experiences in prayer
David asks the Lord to answer his prayers, but adds that he had experienced relief from distress in the past. This former answer gives him further assurance of another reply.
Our request of God to hear our prayers is not because we don’t believe that He will answer, but rather a deep desire and confidence that He will continue to be what David states is providing relief and he calls the Lord, “O, God of my righteousness”
Since God is righteous, and extends to us His righteousness, he will look favorably on His own and will bless them in reply to their petitions for help.
Remember in our last lesson that James mentioned that we must have this confidence and belief in prayer or we should not expect to receive anything. Our confidence in the Lord allows us to come to Him in full trusting faith.
We are confident that God will be gracious to hear us
We know that God sees and hears all things. The idea of God hearing, is not based on Him receiving the message, but is rather hearing and acting on what He hears. It is His reply.
After David addresses God, he then cries out against his accusers who shame him for his past and asks, “how long will my honor become a reproach”. It is interesting to note here that David appears to still be in prayer and praise to God, but uses Him as in mediation to let him hear the accusations that are brought against him from his enemies. He is the royalty and he is being royally maligned by his accusers.
Generally, when the question, “how long...?” is asked in prayers of the Bible, is when the one crying out is asking for the Lord to step in. To ask how long, is to express hope in the troubles coming to an end, by the hand of God. David wants to know when his past will no longer be held against his future. How many of us have asked this question wanted to know the answer? How can I stop being defined by past failures? How can I rest in the righteousness of God in the midst of my enemies who won’t stop their negativity?
David was appointed king by the Lord, but when he let his own power go to his head, he sins greatly against the Lord and suffers great consequences as a result. We discussed last time that we studied in Psalms, how David sought the Lord in repentance and he was forgiven. It appears that others would not let his past go, but David knows that God is full of grace in spite of what men may say against us. Praise God for his grace and for his willingness to extend His righteousness to us in spite of our many mistakes, no matter how grave they might be.
According to David, those who bring up our past will continue to love what is worthless and aim at deception. You may recall Psalm 2:1, where David asked why the people devise vain things and they are in an uproar? They want to tear the righteous down. They want to remind us of times when we failed and bring us to ruin. How do we overcome them? We pray confidently casting these cares on the Lord and he hears and answers in his righteousness and loving- kindness.
Next time that you are made to reflect on the mistakes of your past, go immediately to prayer and praise God for His forgiveness. He said,
“For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb. 8:12).
If God forgets, then why are we carrying around that weight? If an enemy makes an accusation, turn to the Lord and his mercy and forget it just as he has forgotten. He cast our sins from us as far as the east is from the west and to the extent of the deepest parts of the ocean. If your mind haunts you with a memory, take it to the throne of grace. You don’t have to bear them, because Jesus carried the weight of your sins on the
cross. If you are in Him, Jesus said, “whom the Son sets free, is free indeed.” You don’t have to be forced to relive the regrets and stains of your former manner of life. You are a new creature and have a new life in Christ.
If you are a son or daughter of God, you are royalty. You are exalted by God to be seated in the heavenly places with Christ. Many will mock us as if our faith and hopes are vain. Others will try to destroy your honor by making you look bad and speaking evil of you. When they remind you of your past sins, tell them what Jesus did to redeem you and remind them of their future in hell unless they too find forgiveness and allow the Lord to wash them of their transgressions against God. The world will continue to love worthless things, but we turn to worship and prayer as David did, because God is worthy to be praised and since He is righteous we can confidently (boldly) approach Him and He will respond.
Selah is used here for us to pause and consider what we have learned thus far and was also an instruction for the choir director to start an interlude with stringed instruments. Use this time today to think about how this applies to your life in the Lord. Do you have confidence in your prayers? Do you praise God for his delivery from all your distresses?
Confidence in the Lord to sanctify our life (vs. 3-4)
“But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him. Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
David wants others to know he has been set apart (sanctified) as a godly man
David is still building on his former point that since he is dedicated to God and God chose him, therefore his prayers are heard (Ps. 31:23). You may recall in our last Sermon in Psalms, David stated that even while he was running for his life as the Lord’s anointed, God heard him from his holy hill. This makes it clear that in order to be able to approach God, we must belong to the Lord and have clean hands and a pure heart (sanctified). David is not arrogantly claiming to be godly, but in comparison to his enemies, he had been cleansed from his sins and God still considered him a man after his heart. We don’t bank on our own righteousness, but the Lord imputing righteousness to us through Jesus Christ. He sets us apart!
Sanctification is more than just being set apart. We are set apart for a holy calling. David was doing all that he could to live according to the will of God, in spite of his many setbacks. When God sanctifies us, he is also preparing us for service. We are to be holy as He is holy, but this requires a new calling in life. That call of the gospel compels us to live each day for the Lord.
The advice of David is tremble (be angry), do not sin, meditate in your heart on your bed and be still.
David admonishes his enemies (according to some translators) that they can be angry (tremble) but they should not sin. The sin David is advising against is coming against the Lord’s anointed to attempt to harm him which is ultimately a sin against God. These words are perhaps what Paul had in mind when he said these exact words (Eph. 4:26-27). The real meaning here is that if you are angry and rising up against the godly, you had better tremble instead of be angry, because you will not only come up against the godly, but against our God. Amen! God is to be approached with fear and awe. If you are angry with the righteous it is better to keep it in check, because you are starting something that you cannot finish. You will be met with the resistance of the God of heaven and earth and no man can stand against Him. So David is not encouraging his enemies to be angry, but that if they are in a state of rage to vent it off somewhere else or they will be met with destruction from God. They will fall into the trap of the evil one in sin.
David adds that these enemies of his should meditate in their heart on their bed and be still. To move against the godly is foolish. The best thing they could do is go back home and go to bed and calm down. The close of the day when we climb into bed is an ideal time to reflect on the events in our life and think over our actions. The godly were already told to meditate both day and night on the word of God in Psalm 1. David found that his bedtime was a great place to think about the Lord (Ps. 63:6-11). Being in bed in the silence of the night isolates us to be able to focus more clearly. It is a great time to pray. While David thinks about God on his bed, the wicked are to ponder their sinful ways and relent, lest they enter into further sin and punishment from God. The teaching here is to be still. In the still of the night the godly can draw near to God without the distractions of the hustle and bustle of the day. In the same manner these enemies of David and of God are instructed not to let the sun go down on their anger and find a way to be redirected before it was literally too late (See Job 33:14-17). Those who are ungodly also need to ponder the things of God and find a way to learn of His will for their lives. It is one thing to avoid sin, but it is another thing altogether to live for the Lord. Where these sinners once blasphemed God, now they would hopefully believe in Him. While they may have withdrawn themselves from godliness for a time, now they approach God, and begin to worship Him from the heart. Where they once relied on their own wisdom for direction in life, now they could potentially turn to God in prayer and seek guidance from Him. This is the ultimate goal of our efforts in evangelism. The goal is not to simply stop people from sinning against God, but to help them live a life that is sanctified before Him and filled with worship toward God.
Again we are asked to pause with the word, “Selah” being used in this portion of the psalm.
Confidence in the Lord to bless our worship (vs. 5-8)
“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the Lord. Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord! You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.”
When we worship God in holiness, we demonstrate full trust in the Lord’s goodness
We praise God because He is worthy of that praise, but also because He is good to the godly. Worship comes from another word “worth-ship”, giving off the idea of how much God is worth. He is worthy of everything that we can possibly offer. But we must bring acceptable sacrifices to Him. Here these enemies are told to bring a sacrifice of righteousness that would demonstrate their repentance. Then they are told to put their trust in Him. God is certainly worthy of the offerings of the righteous, but here these enemies are being told to offer sacrifices to pursue righteousness. Those that are at odds with God need to bring Him the sacrifices commanded in His word for their sins. Our sacrifices today are not those of the old covenant, but of the new covenant in Christ. In fact, the sacrifice for sin was paid in full by God through Jesus Christ. We bring the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God. We give on the first day of each week to help us do kingdom work. We give of our time and energy to bless others. Because of the mercies of God given to us, we give love, and offer ourselves daily on the altar of service in worship. In turn He gives us good things to enjoy and He desires the praise of those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.
While many skeptics continue to ask, “Who will show us good?” we who are the children of God already know the answer. God is good all the time! We are living in a troublesome time where it seems that everywhere you turn, there is some negative headline speaking of the evils that exist in the world. People are turning away from God and His word. It’s as if the world has become completely hopeless. You can almost look into the eyes of people today and hear their hearts cry, “When will something good come my way?”
The answer is found in this passage. We need to ask the Lord to lift up the light of his countenance in this dark world over us and plead with Him to make Himself known in every place. After we have meditated on the Lord in the night we are asking Him to shine on us as in the new morning light. This could be reminiscent of the prayer offered to bless the people of God in Numbers 6:24-26.
“The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make His face to shine on you and be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.”
The light of the gospel of Jesus Christ must be carried into the entire world and shared with the lost, the broken hearted, the lowly, and those desperate for change. This is the only hope that we can offer. The deterioration of morality in society is becoming more and more obvious on a daily basis. Jesus is the light of the world but He now shines through you and me as we tell of His love wherever we go. It is time for the church to bring a message of hope, joy and peace to the world.
The outcome of confidence in the Lord through worship is abundant blessings.
David expressed that God has put gladness in his heart. While men everywhere are seeking for happiness, David didn’t find it by himself. God gave him gladness which came from a friendship and fellowship with God. We will never know joy until we know the Lord. This means that in the midst of doubters, skeptics and blatant sinners against us, we can express confidence in the Lord and find gladness and overcome the chaos that we see surrounding us. By our confidence in the Lord and in receiving His blessings, we can be a testimony to others in our faithfulness and gratitude. Gladness will never be found in what the world offers: possessions, positions, and passing pleasures. We can sing, “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart.” When someone says, “Where?” we will remind them that it is in our hearts.
David states that the gladness that he feels in his heart in the Lord is greater than when the wine and grain are available in abundance. Again, these perishable and consumable things will never match the everlasting joy of imperishable fellowship with the Lord. We are filled up by God. David has more blessings by possessing the Lord than in a harvest filled with grapes to press to make wine and plentiful grain to mill to make bread. We know that the grain and wine season was a jubilant one amongst God’s people because it was a symbol of prosperity. David says that experiencing joy in the Lord far outweighs an overflowing vat of wine and flour to bake many loaves of bread. These too are blessings from God, but the greatest blessing is seeking Him first and the daily sustenance is ours to enjoy.
Clearly, the “good” that people are seeking and the “peace” they desire does not come from the abundance of our possessions but from being in a spiritual fellowship with God. David is so confident in the Lord that he finds a way to lie down and sleep. He doesn’t go to bed and stare at the ceiling with his mind racing. He doesn’t roll around and become restless. He is not up two or three times a night pacing the floor with anxiety. He is at peace in his sleep and explains, “For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” That is confidence in the blessings of the Lord and David worships God for his goodness toward him in this psalm.
In God alone. We cannot expect to find peace and safety in anyone or anything besides Him. We mentioned last time, when we studied Psalm 3 that David was able to find perfect rest even while his son Absalom was trying to kill him. Once you trust in the Lord to save you and He does, you can confidently say that God is your helper and man cannot harm you, no matter what plans are made to ruin your life. Even if the enemies that we mentioned earlier decided not to go settle down on their bed at night and extinguish their wrath, David wasn’t worried. If God has been faithful in protecting you before, He will do it over and over again. It doesn’t mean that every day is going to be filled with pleasant circumstances. God promises to see us through and be our safe haven from whatever we face. Rest in Him completely! Jesus promised a rest for our souls that comes from our willingness to follow Him.
This last section of the psalm does not end with “Selah” as we have been accustomed to up to this point. This lack of “Selah” at the close of this psalm could be a way to express that there is nothing left to play, sing or say. Once we are confident in the Lord and find safety, we rest and live in that level of complete trust.
Are you confident in the Lord, in prayer, sanctification and worship? David has given us much to think about, but no confidence can be had in the Lord until we have learned to fully trust in Him?
Are you a Christian? If not, how can I assist you in obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ? If you believe in Jesus as the Son of God and you are willing to confess His name as Lord, while repenting of your past sins, I will stand ready to assist you in following the command of Jesus as we baptize you in His name for the remission of sins and you will have a new life in Him today. If you are not from the area allow me to get you connected to a good church in your community that can assist you. From that point on you can go on living with confidence in the Lord.
If you are a child of God, how is your prayer life? Have you been living a holy sanctified life or is there some sin that is keeping you from your faithful walk with the Lord? Have you been honoring the Lord by living in the service of worship? There is no better way to get back into a right relationship with the Lord than to confess your faults and allow others to pray with you for forgiveness. This is a true demonstration of confidence in the Lord to answer and bless you.
Let me know how I can help you.