Wednesday, 12 July 2017

“Thoughts in the Night”: An Evening Psalm – Psalm 4

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for Thou alone, O Lord, makest me dwell in safety” (v.8). Here, in its closing verse, we find the central theme of Psalm 4 – peace, the peace of God. This Psalm can be divided into four sections: v. 1 - prayer for help; vs. 2-3 - reproof of his enemies; vs. 4-5 - exhortation of his enemies; vs. 6-8 - confidence in God.
 It is in the closing section (vs. 6-8) that we come to the heart of this Psalm’s message for us – the peace of God and confidence in God. The Psalm points us to the peace of God so that we might have confidence in God. Before we come to the Psalmist’s confident affirmation of the peace of God, we must first take a look at his struggle to cope with the opposition that comes from those who mock him (v. 2). He is able to cope with this opposition because he has come to rejoice in God as a prayer-answering God (v. 1).
v.1 : prayer for help The Psalmist had learned that his own experience of the divine mercy was the strongest support on which he could always rely in times of trouble. On many occasions, the Psalmist had experienced this divine mercy. God had heard his prayer. God had answered his prayer. God had helped him. This was the firm foundation on which he was able to take his stand in the face of fierce opposition.
vs. 2-3 : reproof of his enemies
v. 2 – From his faith in the divine mercy, the Psalmist derived spiritual authority with which he was able, with clarity and conviction, to reprove the doubts and reproaches of his opponents. His directness of speech comes from his realization that when anyone slanders the man of God, they are also slandering God. Note that reproof opens the door for return. He is calling upon them to return to the Lord. By asking the questions, “How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?”, he is saying, “Is it not time that you stopped slandering God and started worshipping Him?”
v.3 – Here, the Psalmist is giving his testimony. He’s no longer reproving. He’s evangelizing. To his backslidden friends, he has asked the question, “How long will you ignore God’s grace?” Now, he is saying to them, “God has been gracious to me. Can you not see this? He is my Saviour. He can also be your Saviour.”
vs. 4-5 : exhortation of his enemies
v. 4 – Here, the Psalmist offers some pastoral advice to his backslidden friends. They have made themselves his enemies. He says to them, “Tremble, and sin not!” (v. 4a). They are to tremble before God. They are to fear God. They are to stand in awe of God. With a wholesome fear of God and a true reverence of God, these men are to turn from sin. God is calling them to repentance. When they are in the quietness of their own beds, they are to think seriously about their relation to God (v. 4b). Why does he specify the night time? He knows that our thoughts are easily distracted when we are out and about among people. He knows that, when we are on our own in the quietness of the night, we can think more seriously about the things that really matter. These men are being called to get alone with God so that they might examine themselves with true honesty.
v. 5 – God is not looking only for outward ceremonies. He’s looking for pure sacrifices, offered in a spirit of faith, humility, sincerity and heartfelt repentance. There’s something more important that the outward sacrifice. It’s the state of the heart before God. The Psalmist is urging his backslidden friends to return to the Lord. He’s calling them to get to know the love of God in their hearts and lives.
vs. 6-8 - confidence in God
v. 6 – Many are content with material prosperity. They enjoy the worldly blessings, which they have received from God. They never think of giving thanks to God. The Psalmist prays that the light of God’s countenance may shine upon us. He prays that God may look upon us with a Father’s love. Those who put their trust in prosperity have a form of happiness. It is not, however, true joy. Those who seek happiness in a worldly way of living need to be reminded that true joy is found in God alone.
v. 7 - “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather have Jesus than riches untold.” “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” The joy of the Lord is the believer’s most priceless possession. The Psalmist speaks of light, joy and peace. We will only know the joy of the Lord when when the Father’s love shines upon us. We will only know the peace of God when we have the joy of the Lord, lifting our hearts.
v. 8 : We have received the Psalmist’s testimony concerning the grace of God in his life. Let’s turn to the Lord with sincerity of heart. Let’s come to Him and enter into the joy of His favour. Let’s receive the gift of His peace into our hearts. God’s peace in our hearts – What a wonderful blessing this is. This blessing can be ours through faith in Christ. May God grant that His peace will be given to each one of us.

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