Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Psalm 4

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” (1). Have you ever said “listen” to God? I rarely do, but in essence when we pray we want him to hear us. We are calling on him to include us in his agenda. David didn’t seem to be shy about asking the Almighty not only to listen to him, but to answer him. When was the last time you asked God to answer you? I quit asking when I learned that he always answers the prayers of the righteous. Yes. No. Maybe. Later. David sought what we all mostly seek when we pray. Relief! We need to be rescued from anguish, pain, sorrow, distress and the evil that surrounds us daily. God knows this before we ask, but he seems to enjoy the communication. My earthly father knew I needed some extra cash while in college, but he also wanted to hear from me now and then.

         “How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false Gods” (2)? David needed to have the support of his flock. He was a shepherd king. The people begged for a king like the other nations. God gave them Saul. Then he gave them David. A head of state is either blessed or cursed by his constituency. The same is true with today’s national leaders as it was for David when he led the nation of Israel. Our moral leaders often have what could be glory turned into shame. And the reason for it is the same as it was for King David. The people loved delusions as well as false Gods. We have delusions by living fantasies, many of them pathetically immoral. We pretend to have affairs online. We escape with movies so bizarre that they deny description. We even escape now in a plethora of self-medication, whether booze or dope. And false gods surround us. We get more excited over the Super Bowl and the NBA playoffs than we do over our lost neighbors. Money and ease have become false gods today. We need not erect totems in order to be guilty of worshiping false idols.

       “Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call him” (3). We are told elsewhere that the Lord’s ears are forever open to the righteous. God knows who his children are. We can’t fool him. We can’t fake discipleship and suppose God won’t notice. There are sheep and goats. Before we are born God knows which we are. But this foreknowledge does not negate our free will as some "predestinationists" assert. But in his omniscience, God knows whether you will give your heart and soul to him or whether you will live a life of selfish indulgence. As Laura has often reminded me, if we are lost we deserve it. And I might add, and usually do: “And if we are saved we won’t deserve it.” But it will mean we have chosen to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and to live in the will of our Father God. Every one of us should feel extremely special knowing that we have that significant place in God’s heart as we continue in a holy relationship with him living out our lives in his merciful grace.

       “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent” (4). I love the comfort of a safe bed. We are blessed in this country to be able to afford such luxuries. Many in the world have no bed or private chamber from which they can be silent and meditate on holy matters or any other matters for that matter. But the point here is that we can sin even in the silence of our bedrooms. And also we note there is a place for anger, but that when we are angry, it should not involve sin. Anger, in and of itself is not sinful. Elders of the flock of God are told to be angry, but in that anger not to sin. Jesus was angry with the money changers in the Temple. There is a place and time for all of us to be righteously indignant. Living in the kind of sin that surrounds us, it’s hard not to be angry. But as we consider holiness in the midst of chaos, we search our hearts and make sure they are right with God.

       “Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord” (5). We sacrifice to God in various ways. Jesus told us to take up our crosses daily, to follow him, and to be living sacrifices. We do this by obeying his commandments. We do it by giving of or time and means and resources. I noticed that the taxes of one of our highest government officials was released to the public. He made hundreds of thousands of dollars but only gave $4,000 to charitable programs. I remember in the 70s the man who was running for VP, and was a preacher’s son to boot, had only given $400 to charity. Maybe God isn’t troubled by that kind of sacrifice, but I sure am. Of course, a million dollars given with the wrong intent and unholy attitude isn’t worth the ink used to print it. But a widow’s mite is a great sacrifice to God if the spirit of the giver is right. Have you noticed as you grow older how little you need to be content? All of the things that we have felt necessary to feather our nests are not all that important.

       “Many are asking, ‘Who can show us any good?’ Let the light of your face shine up on us, O Lord” (6). Someone recently said to me that he could rarely find any good to life and that he would rather be dead than to go on living in a world as evil and chaotic as ours. I reminded him that God was still the boss and so long as he was with us we had reason for living. Our purpose is not to be surrounded by constant good. Our purpose is to make sure goodness is available to those we influence and come into contact with daily. Do we allow God’s face to shine upon us?

        “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound” (7). To have our storehouses filled gives some measure of comfort and security. But that is never enough. Our genuine joy is not in a full cupboard or a fat bank account. The presence of God in us in the person of the Holy Spirit is a constant joy and delight, or should be. I think we sometime forget we are Spirit-filled children of God on a short-term mission before eternity is ushered in. One heartbeat away. That’s it. That’s how close eternity is. That is how soon time and space and reality as we know it will be replaced by the real deal. Are we ready?

      “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you along, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (8). Let’s accept reality, church. We aren’t safe. We live on the third rock from the sun and have been told a meteor could wipe us out instantly. When we lie down in restful slumber, it isn’t because we know we won’t get the flu or have a heart attack. It isn’t because we know our money will always be strong in the open market. It isn’t because we have a promise that we will all live to be 100 years old and die with our boots on. Nope. Our God in Jesus Christ is the sole reason for our ability to live and sleep in peace in a world out of step with heaven.    

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