WHOLESOME WORDS FROM PSALM 4
T. PIERCE BROWN
There are three classes of persons who may find a message in Psalm 4: The believer who may need to count his blessings and rejoice, the unbeliever who needs to be warned, and all persons who need special admonition.
Note first the words of encouragement to the believer. “Thou hast set me at large when I was in distress” (v. 1). When we are in distress and fear because of our sin, we are made free in Christ. Whole volumes could be written about what is involved in freedom in Christ. It is a tragedy beyond comprehension that many conclude that it includes freedom to disregard God’s will and make choices about worship and service based on our own feelings and desires. To be free from the fear of death, the guilt of sin, the burden of sin, the bondage of sin the punishment of sin are only a part of our being set free.
No wonder he could say in verse 7, “Thou hast put gladness in my heart.” God puts gladness in every grateful heart because of the manifestation of His grace and power on our behalf. If we could all recapture the spirit of 1 Peter 1:6-8, and feel the joyful gratitude for our salvation, even in the midst of difficulty, disaster, danger or death, it would change our lives. Note the passage. “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, ye have been put to grief in manifold trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold that perisheth though it be proved by fire, may be found unto praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ: whom having not seen ye love; on whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice greatly with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” This is why Paul and Silas could sing praises to God in prison after being beaten and persecuted. That kind of joyous gratitude seems to be rare today.
David said in verse 8, “In peace will I both lay me down and sleep; for thou, Jehovah, alone makest me dwell in safety.” I think it possible that we have allowed the false doctrine concerning the security of the believer to take away from us some of the peace that would come if we understood the truth about that security. The idea that when one is once saved from his past sins he could not ever be lost is false. But God teaches us that when one is saved from his past sins he will not be tempted above what he is able to bear (1 Cor.10:13). If we follows the teaching of Jesus, no man can pluck us out of His hand (John10:28). If we walk in the light (that is, continue to live in penitent faith) the blood of Jesus Christ continues to cleanse us from sin (1 Jn. 1:7). One who understands and believes those things can say with David, “In peace will I lay me down to sleep.” The false doctrine that is called “security of the believer” really amounts to “security of the unbeliever” for it teaches that no matter how much faith one may lose, or how unfaithful he becomes, he still cannot be lost. But to one who by faith has obeyed the gospel of Christ, the words, “free,” “glad” and “safe” are very precious words of comfort.
Then in this Psalm there are words of rebuke for the unbelieving. For those who practice ridicule, love vanity and seek falsehood, there is an implied rebuke. Verse 2 says, “O ye sons of men, how long shall my glory be turned into dishonor? How long will ye love vanity, and seek after falsehood? ”
Then there is special admonition for all of us. “Stand in awe and sin not” (v. 4). When one properly meditates on the greatness and majesty of God as revealed in the world about us, when he thinks of the greatness and glory of the love of God as manifested in all things, especially at the cross, he cannot but stand in awe. When we do that, we cannot think lightly of sin.
“Commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still” (v. 4) is worth our consideration. Since it is with the heart that one thinks, believes, loves and wills, we need to examine our hearts in all of those areas. Paul says in 1 Cor.11:31, “But if we discerned ourselves (Gr. discriminated), we should not be judged.” When we commune with our own hearts, we may not only see our failures, shortcomings and sins and strive to correct them, but we may be able to see our strengths, abilities and talents and use them for the glory of God and the good of man.
As a result of that self-examination, the admonition of David will become more meaningful. “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord” (v. 5). Whatever the Psalmist may have meant by the sacrifices of righteousness, we may include in it any thing we give up because of God’s righteous requirements. It might be pride or dishonesty or any other sin considered as big or little. It is put this way in Hebrews 12:1-2, “Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.” Although David probably did not have in mind the idea that we must give up (sacrifice) any sin we may hold dear, there is little doubt that he did include the idea that whatever we offer to God must be prompted by the right motives and in accordance with the directions of divine law. For us, it certainly would include Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.”
When David said, “Put your trust in the Lord” he uses a word that means more than merely accepting the fact that God is. The Hebrew word is “batach” which is equivalent to the Greek “elpizo” and involves the idea of trusting, hopeful reliance upon. It involves the kind of obedient faith that causes one to turn his whole life over to God, not merely accept Him as a personal Savior. Although we should reject the idea that a person needs to be re-baptized with a “Lordship baptism” every time he has a deeper concept of the what the Lordship of Christ means, we have no doubt that there are many connected with the Lord’s church who were baptized without the conscious determination to let Christ be the Lord of their lives. The failure to start the Christian life with the deliberate purpose to let Christ control every facet of life probably accounts for the large number who fall away.
It would be difficult to find a short passage with more wholesome words of encouragement to the believer, words of rebuke to the unbeliever and words of comfort and exhortation to all mankind than these few words in Psalm 4. It is certain that if each of us would meditate on the thoughts and incorporate the principles into our lives we would be more pleasing to God, and live more joyous and abundant lives.