(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)
BIBLE STUDY ON PSALM 4
AN EVENING PRAYER
(FROM DISTRESS TO CHILD LIKE FAITH)
I have come across many people in today’s world who suffer from a lack of sleep. It is often called insomnia and although this terrible plight can be caused by a number of medical conditions, many suffer from it as a result of the stress of modern life.
In Psalm 3 we looked at David waking up from a full night of sleep after the incredible stress of having to run for his life from his rebellious son Absalom. Psalm 4 is David praying before he goes to bed probably on the night before that morning. Why Psalm 4 follows Psalm 3 and is not the other way round is a mystery but having Psalm 4 (the night before) come after Psalm 3 (the morning after) gives us a great opportunity to understand how God (through David’s experience) wants us to face the day to day stress and pressures of life. Live life as a person seeking to be planted in God and his word (The Tree), and live life for the King of Love who is in constant battle with the King of this world who leads his followers to destruction.
Psalm 4 takes us on a journey a journey in prayer as David goes from a cry of distress to a position of child like faith that leads him to exclaim “I will lie down and sleep in peace” (Psalm 4: 8).
This psalm can be divided up into three sections:
- A CRY FOR HELP IN THE FACE OF STRESS (vs. 1)
2. A PLEA TO THE ENEMIES OF GOD (2 – 5)
- A EXPRESSION OF FAITH IN THE GOD OF LOVE (6-8)
Lets read Psalm 4
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)
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)
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.
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”.
- A CRY FOR HELP IN THE FACE OF STRESS (vs. 1)
In verse one David prays to God with the words, “Give me relief from my distress”. These words and other words in the Psalm make it very clear that he was in big trouble. As we saw in the previous study, David was on the run from his rebellious son Absalom who had engineered an unlawful take over of Israel and David and his large family and close friends had to flee the royal palace for their lives. Let me read to you again how Samuel describes this awful event.
2 Samuel 15: 13 – 18
A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.”
Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword.”
The king’s officials answered him, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses.”
The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace. So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at a place some distance away. All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.
As we learnt from the previous Psalm David was facing some of the consequences of his sins of Adultery and murder. Even though God forgave him for these terrible sins he told him through the prophet Nathan that, “Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ” 2 Samuel 12: 11 – 12.
David faced calamity after calamity in his own family from that time on and the rebellion of Absalom was one of the worst of these calamities.
Also we read in Psalm 2 of how there was constant opposition to God and his anointed King who was of course David. We learnt from this that there are only two Kings to follow and two ways to live. The King of this world who leads his followers to destruction and the King of Love who is Jesus, who leads his followers to eternal life and abundant blessings. We ever choose to live for God and receive the blessings he wants to give us or we live in rebellion to God and of course face his judgement.
David faced this opposition not only by the nations round about him but from within his own country and now from within his own family.
This means David was in great distress and rightfully cried out in the dark lonely fields somewhere in Israel, “Give me relief”.
- A PLEA TO THE ENEMIES OF GOD (2 – 5)
David now tries to plea to his enemies to consider the what they are doing and intend to do. He speaks of his enemies turning his glory into shame. This is a good expression to summarise what Absalom had been doing in leading a revolt against his father’s rule and was now doing as he, by force took over the Kingdom. To show you what he did we will now read 2 Samuel 15: 1 – 12,
1 “In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. 2 He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” 3 Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” 4 And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice.” 5 Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel. 7 At the end of fouryears, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD. 8 While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘if the LORD takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the LORD in Hebron. ‘ “ 9 The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he went to Hebron. 10 Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’ ” 11 Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. 12 While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing”.
You can see what Absalom is doing hear he is seeking to undermine the authority and reputation of his own father and therefore turning his glory into shame.
David goes on to say to his enemies, “How long will you love delusions and seek false Gods”. Of course David knew, as he stated in Psalm 2, that all opposition he faced was a result of rebellion to God, “ The Kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against the Lord’s Anointed”, Psalm 2 verse 2. However impossible it might seem David still seeks to try and convince his son and his Godless followers to turn back to God. I have noticed over many years that many very unlikely people, after hearing the Gospel message turn from their sinful lives and become followers of the true and living God. I have some friends in my church who have a ministry to the prisons and they see the miracle of faith in Christ in some of the most rebellious individuals you would ever want to meet. Just imagine what those early church members would have made of the conversion of Paul after he was their number on enemy and tormentor and he became the man God wrote more than half of our New Testament through.
Then David uses, what seems a very strange expression “the Lord has set apart the godly for himself”, In Zechariah 2 verse 8 we read the words, “”for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye” and this is what David means here that to mess with him, “The Lords Anointed” is to mess with God. To reject David, “The Lords Anointed” is to reject God and that is a very serious thing to do. Jesus says the same thing to the Disciples as they were sent out by Jesus two by two in Luke 10 and in verse 16 we read. “ He who listens to you listens to me: he who rejects you rejects me: but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me”. David knew that God loved him and listened to him when he prayed and if his enemies don’t stop pursuing him to do him harm then God will answer David’s prayer and they will face the might and vengeance of God himself. This can be seen later when Absalom and his men loose their lives at the hands of David’s general Joab.
In verse 4 David makes another plea to those who were pursuing him in the words, “in your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent”. Absalom and his followers were building up a full head of steam of hatred and anger to David. Throughout history armies preparing to go into battle often prepared themselves for the battle by psyching themselves up with words of anger and hate towards those whey were about to face in the do or die battle to come. David says don’t do this and in fact as you lie on your bed in those quiet moments of reflection before you go to sleep think a bit more deeply about what you are about to do and of course change your mind. This idea of not letting your anger continue as you go to sleep in bed reminds me of Paul’s words in Ephesians 4 verse 26, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while are still angry”. Have you ever gone to bed angry? How did you sleep that night? or maybe a better question to ask is did you sleep at all? Anger is a emotional cancer that will eat you up and kill you and the only way to deal with the cancer of anger is to cut it out.
David makes a final plea to his enemies in verse 5 in the words, “Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD”. Absalom had made clear to his father, David his intensions to set up a rival Kingdom with his request to his father in 2 Samuel 15: 7-9, “At the end of fouryears, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD. While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the LORD takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the LORD in Hebron”. Hebrom was a rival place of worship in Judah and even though it had great significance to the Jews (contained Abrahams burial cave) it was not the God ordained place of worship like Jerusalem. So Absalom was making his intentions clear and at the same time in doing so attempting to make false sacrifices to God. So David pleads with his son and his followers to turn away from the false worship (Sacrifices) and offer up right worship (sacrifices) to God. This means that Absalom and his followers must trust in the one true God and his anointed King, David.
- A EXPRESSION OF FAITH IN THE GOD OF LOVE (6-8)
David’s tone now changes from distress to real confidence in his God. In verses
6 – 8, David makes an amazing statement of faith in his Lord and God. To feel the real impact of how amazing David’s faith is here is to remember his current situation. He is on the run for his life and for the lives of his family and friends. He is out in the backwaters of Judah, sleeping, probably in a tent and he has very little food and wine. Rightfully this statement of faith begins with what people were saying at the time, “Who could show David any Good” verse 6. David in the same breath of asking this question answers, “Let the light of your face shine upon us, Oh Lord”. These words are an allusion to God’s words to Moses for Aaron and his son’s in Numbers 6 verse 26, “The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace”. This is part of God’s loving covenant to the people of Israel. David in these words is nailing his colours to the pole. He trusts in the God of the covenant and no one else. He believes that God can be relied upon and will pull him through to victory.
These words are similar to the words he wrote in Psalm 31: 16 – 17,
“Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Let me not be put to shame, O LORD, for I have cried out to you; but let the wicked be put to shame and lie silent in the grave”.
From this position of faith David moves to such a point of confidence in his situation that he says, “ You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound”. It has been suggested that because David had to flee quickly from his son Absalom with such a large group of people, David had no food and wine to feed them. He is then referring to this fact when he spoke of his enemy’s grain and new wine. This means David was now not depending on material things but God himself and in this context David experienced the joy of God. In 2 Samuel 16: 1 – 4 we see, probably the next day, how God came to David’s rescue in this situation.
When David had gone a short distance beyond the summit, there was Ziba, the steward of Mephibosheth, waiting to meet him. He had a string of donkeys saddled and loaded with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred cakes of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs and a skin of wine. The king asked Ziba, “Why have you brought these?” Ziba answered, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and fruit are for the men to eat, and the wine is to refresh those who become exhausted in the desert.” The king then asked, “Where is your master’s grandson?” Ziba said to him, “He is staying in Jerusalem, because he thinks, ‘Today the house of Israel will give me back my grandfather’s kingdom.’ Then the king said to Ziba, “All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.” “I humbly bow,” Ziba said. “May I find favor in your eyes, my lord the king.”
Amazingly Ziba is the grandson of Saul, or the son of David’s friend Jonathan, who was King Saul’s eldest son. It is the grandson of David’s old enemy who comes to his rescue from the clutches of his Son Absalom.
In verse 8 David says he is now able to lie down and go to sleep in peace. He is again exercising amazing faith in God because his peace is based on the safety his Lord provides for him. This concept is the main link with the previous Psalm, which we saw was David’s prayer and thoughts the next morning after this night of sleep. In verse 5 of Psalm 3, we read, “I lie down and sleep, I wake again, because the Lord sustains me”.
So David shows us how, by faith we should deal with stress in our lives we will look further at this in our New Testament application of this Psalm.
THREE NEW TESTAMENT APPLICATIONS OF PSALM
- JESUS IS ALWAYS WITH US
David faced tremendous difficulties the night he wrote Psalm 4 and even as his son bore down on him with hatful murderous intent his faith in God never faulted and as he committed his situation to God in prayer and sought to try and turn his son and his deluded followers from there sinful action his faith in God only grew larger. David had a sense that God was always with him and this helped sustain him and even give him a good nights sleep.
As Christians, followers of the greater anointed King, we to can have this kind of confidence in our Lord, no matter what we face in life and no matter where we fin ourselves in this world. This is simply because at the end of Mathews Gospel Jesus promises to always be with us. Lets read Matthew 28: 18 – 20, “Then Jesus came to them and said, and “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them inthe name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
If Jesus is with us then who can possibly defeat us as we will see in Paul’s in point three.
- JESUS PROMISES TO HELP US WHEN WE FACE DIFFICULTY
Not only does Jesus promise to be with us always but also he promises that he will help us, no matter we face in life. We see this great promise in Matthew 11: 28 – 30,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” So Jesus promises to be with us and even help us carry the burdens we bear, this is beautifully illustrated in the famous story of “FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND” whose original author is unknown. The story goes like this, “one night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonged to him, and the other to the Lord. When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life, there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.: “Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you the most you would leave me.” The Lord replied, “My precious, precious child, I love you and would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then I carried you.”
So Jesus is before us making the way for us to heaven, he is with us and even will carry us, when we need it and Jesus is behind us supporting us all the way to heaven itself. This then leads to our final New Testament application.
- IF JESUS IS WHO CAN BE AGAINST US
At the end of the famous and remarkable Romans chapter 8 Paul gives a fantastic word of encouragement and hope. Let me read it to you, Romans 8: 28 – 39,
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, like David, Paul had complete confidence in his Lord and so can we, for we, in Christ are more than conquerors.
So when we face the prospect of a sleepless night, owing to sin or conflict in our lives we to Like David can “lie down and sleep in peace for God alone in Christ makes us dwell in safety”.
When people give us a hard time for trusting in Christ or when any kind of attack is at our door we must remember the words of Peter in 1 Peter 3: 13 – 17,
“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil”.
Read the poem based on this Psalm.
AN EVENING PRAYER
I lie in bed and contemplate the day
And I pray for help,
For I need his help to sleep tonight.
My day has been a trial and test
And I look to God to make things right.
I lie in bed and think of the words that hurt me
And I pray for help,
For others have had a go at me today.
They say my faith is foolishness
And didn’t know what to say.
He always hears,
Yes he always hears.
So how can he be dead?
His love is real
Yes very real
I remember this in bed.
I lie in bed and contemplate the lost
And I pray for help,
Help to communicate God’s love.
For many sin and have no fear
They need the Lord above.
I lie in bed and I praise my God in prayer
And I thank him for his help,
For he hears the prayers we pray.
Blessing us in so many ways
With peace for us today.
He’s always near,
Yes he’s always near.
Giving peace when all seems dead.
Peace so real,
Yes very real.
God’s peace puts me to bed.
Jim Wenman (2008)
Lord I commit my life to you trusting that even if I come up against great opposition I will remain faithful to you. Help me in times of great difficulty to find help and peace in you alone. When I am challenged about my faith give me the words to say that will help those who challenge me. Like David, help me to know that I can always know your peace, which Paul says passes all understanding. I ask this in and through the name of Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour. Amen