Light in Darkness: Psalm 4

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Psalm 4 (NIV)

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

How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
    How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.

Tremble and do not sin;
    when you are on your beds,
    search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
    and trust in the Lord.

Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
    Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy
    when their grain and new wine abound.

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

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.

CONSIDER THIS

Today marks the first Sunday in Lent. We will begin with Psalm 4 (followed by Psalm 5 next week) which should be experienced as a set. They provide the basic framework of evening and morning prayer, which is so central to framing the Jewish (and later, Christian) day. Psalm 4 is an evening prayer. We might expect that morning prayer would come first, but the Jewish day starts at sundown, not at sunrise. The new day begins by calling upon the Lord as we prepare to lie upon our beds. The psalmist reflects on the root of all sin. Sin is not merely specific acts of rebellion against God. Sin, at its root, is robbing God of the honor he is due.

As Christians, we remember that God sent his Son into the world to restore the honor that rightly belongs to him. God has been robbed of his honor. It is in Psalm 4 that God addresses the unbelieving world, “How long . . . will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” (v. 2). The primordial lie, which goes back to the fall, is doubting God’s Word and seeking to rob him of his honor by putting ourselves in the place of God. This causes undue misery. Sometimes we look around our culture and the world and, almost in despair, we ask, “Who can show us any good?” (v. 6). Yet the psalmist recognizes that when we remember our proper place and give God the honor due his name, then not only can we sleep in peace, but we have a deep joy and gladness in our hearts that is even greater than when “grain and new wine abound” (v. 7). In short, living a life properly before God is the greatest source of joy and security, which far surpasses any of our outward circumstances.

As Christians, we know that when the psalmist prays, “Let the light of your face shine upon us” (v. 6), this was not a new prayer, but one that stretched back through Israel’s history to the great prayer of Aaron (Num. 6:24–26). This great prayer was ultimately answered in Jesus Christ, about whom Paul writes, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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