Psalm 4

WHO CAN SHOW US ANY GOOD?  —  Pete Bauer

This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on June 10, 2012.  To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Ps 4.

The people of God have many critics, but here is one that might surprise you – King David.  This morning we are going to look at a worship Psalm in which David cries out to God in frustration and anger regarding those who are dishonoring God.

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.

Section #1: David crying out to God in distress:  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.

Section #2: David speaking with God’s voice to idolatrous Israel – then as himself:  How long, O man, will you turn my glory into confounding?   How long will you love emptiness (delusion) and you are seeking lies?   Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;  the Lord hears when I call to him.

Section #3: David speaking to the godly – also distressed – in a counseling tone: In your anger do not sin  (Alt. “Tremble and do not sin”)when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.   Offer sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.

Section #4: David’s own conversation with God – movement from distress to peace:   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.

HOW ARE WE TO RESPOND TO CHURCHES THAT CLAIM THE NAME OF CHRIST, BUT SEEM TO BE DAMAGING HIS CAUSE?

Some Churches Turn God’s Glory  into Shame:  Who is David complaining about here? Not just evil men – but those who ought to be bringing glory to God.  The truth is that it is those who claim to know and follow God who can particularly turn God’s glory – his work in their lives – to shame.

David, here, is specifically talking about the Israelites, the people of God during his time.  He lived at a time when the kingdom of Israel was established and reasonably safe.  Yet, rather than giving glory to God for this situation, the people persisted in running off to the hills to worship the fertility and storm gods.  Rather than wanting to be honorable and upright, the Israelites tended to oppress the poor and love wealth more than doing what was right.

Our tendency is to look at Israel and say, they weren’t really the people of God – they weren’t really like us.   We want to distance ourselves and the church from what seems like shockingly sinful behavior by Israel (during the Exodus for instance).  But if we are willing to be honest, we need to see that the church – as well as Israel – goes astray and often turns God’s glory into shame and confusion.

~ Some churches deny the grace of God:   Some churches persist in teaching moralism rather than grace.  They teach people to appear respectable and to do good things, like going to church.  Church actually becomes a practice to take pride in and something that sets one person above another for moral reasons.  People are taught that they are sufficient before God because they are moral or religious.  This mindset and practice hides their brokenness and sin – rather than exposing their need for grace.  Such churches become inhospitable to any but the respectable.

~ Some churches deny the meekness of Christ:  Jesus was with the lowly and the poor.  But there are churches where the lowly are not welcomed – where they would not fit in.  There are churches that love and worship power.  Leaders in churches who thrive on being important and seen rather than being servants.   There are churches who hire the most impressive individual to preach and pastor – who build elaborate and expensive buildings – who leave town and move to the suburbs and bigger more expensive buildings when the neighborhood around them becomes, “undesirable”.   There are Seminaries that train pastors in academics rather than servanthood.  We praise good public speaking more than humble serving and impressive buildings and budgets more than caring for the poor.

~ Some churches deny the love of Christ and tend to despise other expressions of faith in other churches because they are different:  Rather than seeing other denominations and churches as different expressions of the grace of God, some churches reject or belittle other denominations and churches.

~ Some churches deny the service of Christ:  Church, for many, is more like a tv show to come watch, than a community to be involved in.  Churches become consumer focused to entertain and bring in people, rather than to equip them for service.

~ Some churches ignore the Spirit of Christ: Some churches maintain ministries and services that have long since ceased to meet any need, while at the same time, often failing to address real needs and situations.

MANY ARE TEMPTED TO TURN AWAY FROM THE CHURCH.

The Temptation to Turn on or Reject God’s People:  David turns into a counselor here.  He does not merely tell us to get over it – in fact, he says, literally, “Be disturbed/ Tremble, yet do not sin”.  In other words, tremble with anger at what is happening – yet, at the same time, do not allow that anger to lead you to a rejection of the people of God.

We should be disturbed and upset when the church acts foolishly or unjustly, and yet we cannot lose sight of the fact that the church is still the bride of Christ – without stain or wrinkle.  God loves his people – and if we are to love God – we must also love his people.

The Temptation to See Sin (the Problem) Only in Others:  So then, how does David counsel us to be angry and yet not to sin?  He tells us to search our hearts – to examine ourselves and to be silent before God.  And what should our silence show us?   That there is corruption in our own hearts.   We are sinners who, ourselves, contribute to the corruption of the church.

The Temptation to Despair:   This statement at the beginning of vs.6 is the heart of the Psalm – the real issue.  Many people are looking at Israel and her constant tendency towards corruption and saying, “Who can show us any good?  Or, why should God ever bless Israel?  This attitude is also often present in the church.  People reject “organized religion” – believing in God but seeing no point in worshipping with the community of his people.

PRAY FOR CHURCHES AND LEADERS WHO HAVE HURT YOU.

Ask God to Reveal Himself to Churches and Leaders that are Doing Damage – David’s Request:  David makes an amazing and even shocking request in vs.7 – in light of the rest of this Psalm.  David says to God – “Show us your favor” – “Let the light of your face shine upon us O Lord.  In his anger and frustration with the people of God, David asks God to bless Israel – to reveal himself and be present with his people.  David’s words come from the priestly blessing in Numbers 6:22-27 – The Lord said to Moses,  “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:“‘The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;  the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.’ So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”   David is asking for that mysterious presence of God – the Holy Spirit…

  • to come and convict those who are doing evil of sin
  • to reveal something of the beauty of God to these people
  • to create in them a desire for truth and a desire to know God.

David does not take it on himself to go hunt down and punish idolaters – rather he prays for God to bless  them and reveal himself to them.

Ask God to Give to Leaders and Churches that Do Damage – A Joyful Change of Heart – David’s Testimony:   Why does David pray this way?  Because this is what has changed his own heart.  You get a glimpse into what drives David here – Joy!  David  has discovered the Joy of the Lord, somehow.  God has filled his heart with greater joy than at harvest time (the best, most joyful time David knows).  Now he wants this gift of joy for these idolatrous people who are driven by fear and desire.  Joy is life changing.

Entrust the People of God to God – David’s Statement of Confidence:  The Psalm ends in rest.  So is this just apathy – has David given up? Are the people of God just God’s problem?  No!   David is at rest not because of apathy – but because he is confident in the goodness of God.  He believes that God will answer his prayer.  This is what we are called to – to entrust the church to God – to pray that the church would be transformed by joy – and then to rest in confidence and hope.

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