The question of the day is: Do you trust that God is watching over you? Are you assured of this fact?
Today’s reading is all about assurance. When we looked at Psalm 3, a few weeks ago, we spoke about our ability or inability, to rest easy knowing that God is in charge of everything. Many biblical scholars feel that Psalm 4 is a companion piece to Psalm 3, one that was likely uttered by David during that very same time in which he was in exile, hiding in the mountains. We don’t know for sure, but we know that David once again had to leave things in God’s hands because he was helpless himself without God’s protective presence.
I opened with this question because I don’t think that sometimes people today acknowledge that very same deep sense of dependence on God, or cling to His assurance of providence. But we maybe we could if we could relate a little to the level of dependence and trust that a three-year old named Gabby Gingras had.
Gabby suffered from a nerve disorder called hereditary sensory autonomic neuropathy Type 5. It’s what they call an orphan disease, a condition so rare that it’s thought that only about 25 people in the entire United States are thought to have it at any one time. In this disorder, pain sensations are blocked from reaching the brain. So Gabby might break a tooth or skin her knee or have a serious infection, but she would feel nothing. As a result, she wouldn’t know when she’d injured herself, and so everyone must keep aneye out for her at all times.
She is on complete dependence. She will die, unless others watch over her day and night to make sure she is healthy and uninjured. She needs and trusts others to keep her alive.
And we are in this very situation. But do we say to ourselves, “I will die today, without God’s help? I cannot live another day unless God intervenes? He is my lifeline, my hope, my everything?”
Sometimes we hear of these thoughts and words more in a time of war, or disaster. But what about today? What about every ordinary day?
I think something we think, we have the regular days handled just fine without God. But have you ever stopped to think that even the air we breathe could disappear in an instant. In a flash, the sun could be gone. The earth could open up and swallow everything.
Our very existence, and the fragile ecosystem of this planet, hinges moment by moment on God’s will.
Without God taking care, and watching out, it could all be gone.
Now, that’s nothing to fear, of course, in one way, because we would then be safely with Him in His glory. For believer’s the end of the earth is nothing to fear.
But as we live here on earth, just like it is in heaven nothing extends beyond His reach or is overlooked by his watchful eye. Not even the tiny sparrow, not even ordinary you and me.
David knows that. And by that, I mean, he really takes it in. He is assured. He knows that God protective hand is a fact. Something we can be sure of. Psalm 4 [From the NLT – New Living Translation]For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by stringed instruments.
1 Answer me when I call to you,
O God who declares me innocent.
Free me from my troubles.
Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
2 How long will you people ruin my reputation?
How long will you make groundless accusations?
How long will you continue your lies?
3 You can be sure of this:
The Lord set apart the godly for himself.
The Lord will answer when I call to him.
4 Don’t sin by letting anger control you.
Think about it overnight and remain silent.
5 Offer sacrifices in the right spirit,
and trust the Lord.
6 Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
Let your face smile on us, Lord.
7 You have given me greater joy
than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.
8 In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe.
David was never one to give up to despair. But that wasn’t often the case of the people around him. You can see this in verse six “Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
In another translation, “Who will show us any good?” We see David’s own men were discouraged.
They were going through a trial, and some were saying, “David, let’s get real here. This is clearly the end. God is no longer going to help us.” “we’ve reached the end. Who’s gonna get us out of this mess this time?”
But David cried out to God, ” You have given me greater joy “
What starts with anguish and sadness, ends with gladness. He started with tears and ended with triumph. Once again, like in Psalm 3, he’s sleeping beautifully. Verse 8 reads like this in the King James “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”
David discovered that what was important was not the circumstance around him but the attitude within him. He had to remember that God can do it. We can’t do it, and others can’t do it for us.
Psalm 3 is sometimes called THE MORNING PSALM, whereas this is sometimes called THE EVENING HYMN. And this one, in particular is to be set to music.
Our opening instructions tell us that this was to be given to the music leader, and was to be sung along with Neginoth, which are stringed instruments, or hand instruments, possibly a combination of harps and cymbals.
Sung joyfully with musical sounds.
Sometimes today we sing the hymns like funeral marches. (Not us of course, but some people do that.) This tells us that many of the Psalms, and likewise our hymns are to ring out!
Is that not the role of Christ’s church to sing of Jesus who is the “joy to the world” as often as possible. Don’t we have joy in Christ? Is his resurrection and salvation not a joyful thing?
The joy of the Jewish church was so great that they regularly used music to set forth this joyful noise.
These Neginoth were not necessarily very tuneful or melodic. But they were loud and joyful and bold. Just like we are to be!
Regarding verse one, a commentator wrote:
“Surely we should all speak the more boldly to men if we had more constant converse with God. He who dares to face his Maker will not tremble before the sons of men.”
David starts, as we should here, by talking with God. The name by which the Lord is here addressed is “O God who declares me innocent” or “God of my righteousness.”
It’s the only place in the bible in which these words are used.
It’s a wonderful idea, but one that is hard to accept. A God who declares me innocent? How is that possible?
It’s possible only due to the blood of Christ. Again we see all through scripture, Jesus is everywhere. David calls upon His Messiah, the only one who can declare him innocent. Not because he did all the right things, but because of God’s mercy.
“Oh, God you are a never failing and eternal comforter, my Savior, Have mercy upon me.”
And as he finishes uttering these words he moves on to the question of the ages:
Three times he calls out to God “How long will this go on?”
Sometimes I think and sometimes I say these words over the most trivial things. You know the kind of day were you’ve had that series of unfortunate events, and then one more comes along. It’s like the last straw and you can’t stop but thinking “Come on God, what’s up with this? Will I get a break soon? How long will this go on?”
I had one of those days where I stubbed my toe, hit my shin, twisted my ankle, smashed my hand with a hammer, spilled food on myself, and lost a $20 dollar bill all in one day.
More than three times I call out to God “How long with this go on?”
But how silly is that really? At the very same time I could have thought, “Thank you God that I didn’t cut off my toe, or fracture my shin, or break my ankle, or fall off the ladder when I hit my hand with the hammer. Thank you God I had food to spill and money to lose.”
For every complaint there is a blessing in there, if you have the right perspective. The right focus.
Maybe if we spent less time questioning God and more time trusting Him, we’d be better off.
David didn’t wonder if His heavenly Father was so busy operating the cosmos that He couldn’t be bothered with His requests for help. He trusted firsthand the God of the Bible who reveals Himself as the only true God-the One who sustains the universe and yet notes even the sparrow’s fall.
David knows, he assured – that God wants us to talk with Him about even our most trivial concerns.
He says “The Lord will hear when I call to Him”
Not maybe, but absolutely.
Verse four brings us to something we do, but God says we shouldn’t.
He says ” 4 Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.”
The verse is very much like Ephesians 4:26 that a young boy’s mother uses in vain to help him in a tough situation.
The little boy had gotten into a fight with his brother and the whole experience had left him feeling bitter. When his brother wanted to make things right, he refused to listen. In fact, he would not speak to his brother all day.
Bedtime came, and their mother said to the boy, “Don’t you think you should forgive your brother before you go to sleep? Remember, the Bible says, ‘Do not let the sun go down on your wrath'”. The boy looked perplexed. He thought for a few moments and then blurted out, “[So exactly how am I supposed to] keep the sun from going down?”
Sound familiar?. We get angry at certain people and hold grudges. But when we are confronted with our unforgiving attitude and urged to make things right, we sidestep the issue and try however we can to avoid the clear instruction of Scripture on this matter.
It’s true, we can’t change another person’s heart, but we are responsible for our own attitude, our own reactions, our own behavior.
We are responsible to God teachings in the Bible both here in Psalm 4 that is again reflected in Ephesians, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you”
The boy was right. We can’t keep the sun from going down. That’s in God’s hands. But we can keep it from setting, while we still hold anger in our hearts. And that means we must forgive.
I’ve always remembers these verses about not going to sleep while I was still angry with someone. So what have I done, I’ve stayed awake all night – angry. Not the point.
Another little boy who was having trouble falling asleep. He told his mother, “My body is lying down, but my mind keeps sitting up!”
But David rests easy, assured of God’s care. And some of that rest comes from our willingness to let go and let God. Forgiving is not forgetting. And forgetting is not forgiving. They are not the same thing. To forgive is to let go off, and expect no more. To forgive a debt doesn’t mean someone didn’t harm you in not paying up, it means the debt is gone, off the books, no longer something we expect or hope to collect.
We remember the offenses against us. We would never learn anything if we didn’t. But to be assured of God’s care is to give those offenses to Him, and not hold them close where they continue to cause us pain.
Dennis De Haan wrote this prayer: Spirit of God, please change my heart And give me a new desire; Help me to be a man of peace Who’s not controlled by anger’s fire.
If you remember, a few weeks ago, I spoke of a God who grows weary, when we read from Malachi, and He does. He is weary. He was weary of insincere offerings and the Psalmist again point us in the right direction.
Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the Lord.
And then he brings us a wonderful image. One I know I have brought to my mind over and over when thinking of my thought and behaviors. It’s one way to think about sin.
Does this thing I am doing make God smile?
David asks “Let your face smile on us, Lord.”
We don’t live forever, it’s a fact. We’d had a number of deaths just in this congregation and community recently that vividly brings home that truth home.
It’s hard for us to smile when a loved one dies. But surely it must bring joy to your heart to think of God smiling when we die.
When we leave this earth, it’s that our greatest desire? That God will smile upon us.
The same is true in life.
A young boy was reciting his bedtime prayer and got a bit confused. The prayer goes and you may know it.
Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to keep;
If I should die before I wake,
I pray Thee, Lord, my soul to take.
But when he came to the line “If I should die before I wake,” he got mixed up and said, “If I should wake before I die.”
This whole idea of God smiling and having assurance in His care got me thinking. And this mix-up in the prayer was actually quite profound.
God wants us to wake before we die as well.
There are many people who tonight lay their heads on their pillows without being sure of the destiny of their souls should they die before they wake.
But many are quite assured of where there are going should this be their last night on earth. They can’t wait to get to heaven.
And that can be a real problem. For many people anticipating a heavenly welcome, still live with so much anxiety, and just plain fear, about everything in this life.
And frankly I think some would prefer to die before they wake.
Family problems, emotional struggles, legal and financial difficulties, health problems, loneliness and depression can make them wish they would be taken out of this life before the morning sun forces them to face yet another agonizing day.
But that is not the life God calls us to live. It’s the not way he desires us to live.
One day all these problems will pass away, just as we will abandon our earthly shell and gain new heavenly glory in Christ.
But to not be alive, and at peace, and filled with His joy is to deny His resurrection.
While we’re still here, we are to live! And we are to live for Him! There is His purpose in that!
Our anxiety and fear comes from always looking into the unknown future because Christ’s peace is in the present moment.
By placing our trust in the Lord, we can close our eyes at night with the assurance that the problems of tomorrow will not be greater than the God of eternity. We can fall asleep with the confidence that we are in God’s care. We can have the certainty that whether we die before we wake, or wake before we die, all is well.
Which reminds me of a story:
During World War II, an elderly woman in England had endured the nerve-shattering bombings with amazing serenity. When asked to give the secret of her calmness amid the terror and danger, she replied, “Well, every night I say my prayers. And then I remember that God is always watching, so I go peacefully to sleep. After all, there is no need for both of us to stay awake!”
To be assured by God is a big thing. It’s what allows a person to sleep through the bombs.
You can say what you believe, and only believe it half-heartedly.
You can say you have faith, but have only little of it.
But to be assured by God is to have absolute certainly. To be able to bet your very life on it.
That’s what a resurrected life in Christ is all about. It’s about living and dying with the assurance of God.
A mother and her 4-year-old daughter were preparing for bed. The child was afraid of the dark. When the lights were turned off, the girl noticed the moon shining through the window. “Mommy,” she asked, “is that God’s light up there?” “Yes, it is,” came the reply. Soon another question: “Will He put it out and go to sleep too?” “Oh no, He never goes to sleep.” After a few silent moments, the little girl said, “As long as God is awake, I’m not scared.”
Realizing that the Lord would be watching over her, the assured child soon fell into a peaceful sleep.
There’s a poem that goes like this:
Tomorrow’s plans I do not know,
I only know this minute;
But Christ will say, “This is the way,
Don’t be afraid, walk in it.”
That’s Jesus talking: Don’t be afraid, little flock. I am the way. Drop your nets, follow me!
(c)2010 Timothy Henry