April 16 – Devotion Sharing (Psalm 4)

Submitted by Wilson F. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Read the Psalm slowly several times, paying attention to the content, cadence, and the emotions expressed; note words and phrases that stand out.

Psalm 4 (NIV84)

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

1            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.

Father, thank You for being the approachable God.  “Come near to God and he will come to you” (James 4:8).  With this promise, Lord, I come before You, humbly asking that You hear my prayer, for I come before You as one who is distressed and troubled – by my own personal sins and brokenness, by situations beyond my control, by the burdens of those whom I am raising and to whom I am ministering and leading.  While the easy course of action is actually to not do anything at all and to not think about these distressing things, You beckon me to come and cast all my cares upon You.  So I call to You, in the honest admission that I need Your mercy and relief and comfort.  I am distressed by my own pride and ego, which seem to rear its ugly head at every turn; by my lovelessness and selfishness; by the heavy responsibility of raising two small children as well as discipling the college students You have entrusted to me; by the unpredictable nature of my wife’s MS, for which she recently resumed treatment; by the intermittent reminders of the passing of our third child, which bring about the same gnawing pain of grief.  Though I can pray for You to take these things from me, at the same time I know that this is called “life,” and I simply ask that through these distresses, I may deepen in my dependence on You.

2            How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?

How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?   Selah

3            Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;

the Lord will hear when I call to him.

O my righteous God, You call me “righteous” in Christ.  When I look within, I do not see myself as godly, but through the cross, where You “made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21), I am able to see myself as such, in faith.  Thank You for setting me apart, calling me out of my old life of sin and self-gratification and rescuing me from the trajectory filled with breaking a lot of hearts and a lot of relationship, ending in self-destruction and ultimately hell.  Thank You for setting me apart for Yourself, for a personal and eternal love relationship.  Thank You for also setting me apart so that I may do Your will – seeking and saving the lost, laboring to alter people’s eternal destinies, serving as a minister of reconciliation and as a shepherd over Your flock and a watchman over Your people.  You have given me such good work to do, such a noble vocation.

Because You have set me apart and elevated my identity, I am filled with holy significance – so I do not have to seek significance in the things that the men of this world love, whether it be career, wealth, or social status.  These are merely delusions and false gods, presented as sources of happiness and significance, but in reality, they are endless sources of anxiety, frustration, and drudgery.  Lord, I turn away from these things, and re-commit to setting myself apart for You and You alone.

4            In your anger do not sin;

when you are on your beds,

search your hearts and be silent.   Selah

Lord, You search my heart, and You find the anger lurking within – anger over not getting what I want, anger over not having my expectations met, anger over petty squabbles.  In my anger, how I am prone to sin!  To utter a hurtful comment, to entertain evil and violent thoughts, to withdraw from people or simply be a cold presence in the room.  “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry…” (Ephesians 4:26).  Help me to deal with my anger right away, to not allow my anger to fester in my heart.  Help me instead to examine my own heart and recognize that I deserve Your holy wrath – and be silent.  As the unworthy recipient of Your costly grace, I have no reason to complain, to be bitter, to uphold any sense of entitlement regarding the way my life should be.

5     Offer right sacrifices

and trust in the Lord.

6            Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?”

Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.

7            You have filled my heart with greater joy

than when their grain and new wine abound.

8            I will lie down and sleep in peace,

for you alone, O Lord,

make me dwell in safety.

God, this is the predominant sentiment of our generation.  You hear the cries of Your lost children: “Who can show us any good?  Who will show us better times?”  It is the angst-filled woe, loaded with cynicism and disappointment and hopelessness.  People who loved delusions and sought false gods are left spent, empty, broken, and jaded.  Wealth, luxury, fame, romance, high-paying job in a lucrative career, the pleasures of this world – none of these could satisfy, and so they wonder if life is nothing more than a cosmic joke.  Looking for joy, they anesthetize their pain with more grain and more money, with new wine and other drugs, with escapist pursuits.  Lord, You have filled my heart with greater joy, an everlasting joy, a transcendent joy – the joy of losing myself in You, of losing myself in being a source of blessing to others. 

So I will trust in You, my Father – trusting that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  Even in the midst of my distresses and troubles, I will trust that You are showing me good, though I may not perceive it at the time.  And lastly, I will offer up right sacrifices –a grateful heart and a life of humble service, declaring the gospel message of Your goodness and mercy and righteousness. 

This world is not all there is, and it certainly is not my home.  One day, I will lie down and sleep in peace – in heaven with You, where I belong.  Until then, may I be faithful.

In Your Son’s name I pray.  Amen.


Submitted by Jenny H. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

  • ·     What does this Psalm teach me about God? 

This psalm teaches that God is a God who does not treat me as my sins deserves, but declares me innocent.  This is a scandalous, wonderful thing that the God of the universe who has seen every single hour of my life and all of my motivations and thoughts – that he deems me innocent through the blood of Jesus.  He hears me when I call to him, my prayers do not fall on deaf ears.  I can call on him when I am in distress, when I have troubles weighing down my heart. God does not want me to only come to him with praise in my heart, but when I am down, when I am in distress and need relief.  I can learn that God sets apart the godly for himself. What does this tell me – it matters how I live before God, he notices and not only that but “sets apart,” cherishes when people choose to say no to selfish, worldly life and decide to follow him.

  • ·     What exhortations, lessons, or warnings do I need to heed?

One lesson is that life will throw at me rejection, that in ministry and in life, I will face people who will “ruin my reputation” and “make groundless accusations.”  This is something Jesus promises will happen to me if I follow Him. This is something I can’t be shocked by but prepare myself for.  How? By weaning myself off of the addiction to people’s approval and the soothing of my ego.

The warning and lesson that I need to heed is that in my anger, I can sin, I can hurt many people, I can do things that I will regret, that will grieve God and leave a trail of victims. How true this is and how true it was of my day today. In my moodiness, I can say careless and hurtful words to my husband, to people I care about. In my anger against someone who has offended me, I can sin against that person in my heart, wishing ill upon them or just turning my heart cold towards them.

I am this prone to sin. God, please have mercy on me. The psalmist says to remain silent – wait overnight before doing anything rash, before letting words that can cut people come out of my mouth.  This is practical and sound advice. To wait before God, to be silent and to consider before reacting and not be driven by anger or ego.

Another lesson is that this psalmist, when confronted with people who are slandering him, who are ruining his reputation, his response is not to retaliate, but to turn to God and to pour out his anguished heart.  For me, when my attempts to help someone are met with rebellion or straight up rejection, the old self in me wants to fight back, to have the last word or to close my heart towards that person, and not just towards that person but my response is for my heart to close not just towards that person but towards people in general because the desire to not get hurt. But the psalmists point me to a different way of dealing with rejection, disappointment, slander. To bring it honestly before God, to trust him in the midst of it, instead of caving into self-protection and cynicism or coldness towards people.

  • ·     What truths can I affirm, or what promises can I claim from this Psalm?  

That there is a greater joy… something besides relying on the ups and downs of life circumstances.

The psalmist’s joy comes from God, not from the circumstances in his life working out well.

You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.

There is such thing as a “greater joy” – what is that greater joy?  Abundant harvest and new wine – fruit in ministry, relational peace, things working out well, accomplishments – these are good things. but the psalmist knows and points to a “greater joy” that comes from God. God has shown me a greater joy that comes from knowing that he has rescued me from Hell and but not only that, but from the hellish life of living for my own selfish desires and ego by inviting me to follow Him and submit myself to His vision of life.

I can affirm that there is a greater and deeper joy in relationship with God. Who is the source of the greater joy?  Only God. That there can be peace even when there is no harvest and when circumstances are difficult.  How is that possible? I see it in the lives of the godly people around me, people who despite tragedy striking are able to still hear God speaking to them, can still cling on to His love and hope for them, can still recognize God’s people embracing them.  In my own life, I have experienced the peace of God. Recently, I have experienced a sense of peace even in situations of feeling very vulnerable, being in that scary situation of uncovering and confessing my sins, not mincing words or making things sound better than they are. Where does that peace come from?  From knowing that in the end, God is not a God of truth but that he is a God of grace and that even in the face of the shameful things I confess, still the cross of Jesus covers me.

I can affirm that it’s God who keeps me safe. Will I be safe from difficulty or heartache?  No, not necessarily, but the truth that I have affirmed as a Christian is that God will go with me through this broken and uncertain life and through the greatest storm, death itself.

  • ·     Who can I intercede for based on these words?

I can intercede for those in my life, even those that are rebelling or unresponsive to me as I try to minister to them instead of harboring any grudge against them or allowing a “safe” distance to be created between us. I can intercede for them, learn to keep my heart aching for them to understand God’s heart and in my prayers peel away the layers of self-protection and the need to be liked or approved of in the eyes of people.

  • What verse stands out that I want to remember or meditate on further?

You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.

Don’t sin by letting anger control you.  Think about it overnight and remain silent.

PRAYER

Please spend some time praying, referring to the words of the Psalm, and personalizing the Psalm as a prayer for yourself, or as an intercessory prayer for others.  Or, you might want to write out a personal prayer based on the thoughts and words in this Psalm. 

Dear my Righteous God, you hear this prayer and you beckon me to cry out to you.  Thank you that you hear me.  Please God, grant me relief from my distress, that distress of knowing I’ve hurt the precious people in my life because of my careless words and tone, distress from knowing I cannot carry out what you ask me to do because of my sin. Thank you that instead of turning away from me, you desire to give me relief from my distress.  Thank you that somehow, though you are Righteous, though you are Holy, through the costly blood of Jesus, you declare me innocent in the face of all the accusations of my sins and of Satan.  In my clearest moments, I understand that you have given me greater joy than anything else in the world can offer. Joy that cannot be taken away by life circumstances because it’s not dependent on those circumstances. Joy that comes from being forgiven and washed clean of my sin, joy that comes from the hope in the reality of heaven, joy from knowing that I am loved with a rich a pure love though I do not deserve to be.

God, please help me, I am so prone to sin. Please help me not to sin by allowing anger or mood or crankiness or my own lack of self-control to overtake me. Help me God to remain silent, help me remember how you remained silent.  This is what you did as you walked to the cross, as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so you did not open your mouth. You modeled this for me in the deepest, most loving way as you went to the cross.  In my sinful heart, I just want to open my mouth and retaliate or just let loose words to defend myself.  Have mercy on me O God and let me remain silent so that I don’t sin, so that I don’t grieve your heart and hurt those I’m called to love.

Thank you God for giving me peace, that I can rest knowing that my life is in your hands, knowing that I don’t have to be the sole protector of my life.  How sad, how insecure, how unsafe that would be if I’m to be the protector and guardian and master of my life. Thank you God that I can rest in your leading of my life.

Submitted by Daniel C. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Father, first of all I want to thank you for being a God who hears my prayers. As this psalmist affirms throughout his prayer, you are a God who hears me when I cry out to you. That is such a comfort to me. You are near to those who cry out to you about their distresses, and you have the power to free them from what distresses them. Lord, you know me through and through. I am so full of inner turmoil. Constantly battling my sins, my thoughts, and the many competing voices that I hear. So I am so thankful that you hear my cries for help, that there is someone I can always turn to even to just pour out everything I’m feeling. I see your faithfulness in this, O Lord, that whatever I am going through, you never change your attitude towards me. You always listen to my prayers, and you are always merciful to me. I need you, Lord. It’s a fundamental need of mine to be heard by you and acknowledged by you, to know that you understand what I go through and am concerned about it. I can never say that no one hears or understands me. Thank you Lord, for always hearing me.
Lord, thank you so much for being a refuge for those who you’ve set apart for yourself. Lord, I live in a world that loves delusions and seeks false gods. Everywhere I look – on campus, at my workplace, in all that I read and hear about in the news everyday – people are all chasing so hard after money, success, pleasure, quick and cheap thrills. Every single person is chasing after the same tired things. And there is so much sin and brokenness everywhere, I don’t even want to read all the sick things in the news. People are so hostile to any talk about God and Christianity. They refuse to acknowledge there’s anything wrong with them. In the midst of all this mess, Lord, I often chase after those very same things, especially longing for the approval of others and a sense of being successful in life. So I’m so thankful, that out of your mercy you’ve saved me, you’ve set me apart for yourself, that you call me “godly” though I’m just like every other sinner I see out there, and now I can find refuge in you. I find refuge in you when I call out to you and know that you hear me.
Lord, I was struck today that for those you’ve set apart, they can live in peace, rest, and joy even in the midst of their sins, and in the midst of living in a world hostile to you. I want to affirm again that you are my greatest, most fundamental need. You give me a deeper, more profound joy than anything else I can obtain in this world. After years of being a Christian, I have grown more and more convinced of this. Yet I confess that this is a truth I can wholeheartedly affirm but which my emotions often don’t obey, as in my heart I long for power and for others’ approval.
Father, what I thought of today is that I want to intercede for so many of the college students I know–especially those who I’ve been talking with a lot this year about their struggles with wanting the world. These students are right in the midst of a period of life when they are tempted by the world and all it offers, and by the potential lives they think they can live. They all have certain ideas about how they want their future to pan out, but those ideas are so strongly influenced by the world! Lord, I want to intercede for them now. I pray that they’ll be thoroughly convinced, like this psalmist, that their deepest joy will come in you, not the power and status they lust for, that makes their heart quicken, that causes them to drift away from you. They think that somehow living for you will limit them. That is such a lie; please help them to see this. I pray that they won’t merely intellectually agree that only in you will they have “greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.” They really need to find their true peace and rest and security in you, so that they will not go after all those false and destructive things that promise fulfillment. They are at a stage in their lives when they are bombarded by temptations and lies, when they are right in Satan’s crosshairs, so please protect them and help them come to know that they were made to find lasting fulfillment in you.
Lord, thank you once again. You know me; I was so restless. Wanting to make a name for myself even after I became a Christian. Wanting to accomplish great things, and being restless and edgy because of it. Always feeling like I wasn’t progressing in life fast enough, not realizing what potential I thought I had. I thank you Lord that you have really worked in my life to deliver me from such restlessness, so that I can rest from all that and find peace and contentment in you. Help me to continue to find my rest in you. Please quiet all those voices that sometimes ask me, what are you doing with your life? Help me to rest as your child, as one you’ve set apart for your purposes. Use me to help others find similar rest in you, and to wage war against the lies of the world that cause people to be as restless as I was.
In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Response