Psalm 4

When we are in distress, we are inclined to worship a false view of God.  As this situation persists, we have a choice of letting go of the one we want God to be in order to receive the true God, or we can hold tenaciously onto the god who is not, but seems to satisfy our desires. In Psalm 4 David traces this process through to victory.

1 Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

David opens with the expression of distress that sets the tone for the rest of the process.

2 How long will you people turn my glory into shame?

David has called on the righteous God, but now the righteous God turns His gaze on the one who is calling out to Him. David’s call has betrayed how he views God, and to the Lord of all the universe it is clear that David has turned His glory to shame.

How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

In his distress, David has, as we all do, picked away at the problem from His perspective and worked out what God ought to do about it. Yet the Lord’s perspective is that David has loved a delusion, the delusion of a god who is on his side in the difficulty. The god who is going to march in and give him victory the way he thinks it ought to happen.

3 Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.

The Lord’s intentions are far higher than we can imagine. A crisis will drive us to look at the world through a polarizing perspective of, ‘Are you for me or against me?’ The Lord however is using the crisis to develop us towards love, and so to set us apart for Himself.

A right response to the crisis would be to seek God for Himself, rather than to ask God to be the tool of my victory. In seeking the Lord, He will open the way to a new way forwards that is His way, rather than mine, and resolves all things so that, ‘In everything God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.’ Romans 8:28

4 Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

One of the places of greatest danger is lying in bed sleepless, while our brains pick at the problem in anxiety. Here, the need for finding the Lord’s peace is paramount. In many ways, this is the place of testing to find how much we are ready to trust God for His sovereign control. Our act of faith is to let go of endless worrying at the problem and to worship God for who He is, rather than whom we want Him to be.

5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.

David discovers here the true place of worship – ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart you will not despise.’ (Isaiah 51:17) and surely it is a broken spirit that can receive God who might have a different agenda than us in this time of trial.

6 Many, Lord, are asking, ‘Who will bring us prosperity?’ Let the light of your face shine on us.

In the light of this challenging situation, David gives up on the seeking of prosperity and turns his gaze towards the Lord his God. He asks the Lord to shine the light of His face on him.

When the Lord visits us and lets his light shine on us, we suddenly gain a perspective on life as He sees it. We understand the Lord’s goodness and His grace to us. This perspective is far different from our squabbling demands for the world to adjust to us and helps us understand that whatever the outcome, we are in a safe place with the God who loves us.

7 Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.

This new perspective on God has an impact on our view of others. We can be glad when the Lord blesses other people. We can have joy that they are blessed without the immediate thought, ‘What about me?’

8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

This place of rejoicing at the blessing of others is an indication of trust that the Lord has both our future and present in hand. He knows what is best for us and can be trusted with it. We don’t have to overstep the boundaries that the Lord has placed us in, in order to snatch the blessings that He is intending at this time for others.

Having encountered God, David is able to lie down and sleep assured of the Lord’s protection in the midst of the causes of anxiety that have plagued him. There is no indication that the circumstances have changed, but David’s heart has.