It is going to be strange to split up this short chapter, but I am looking forward to making a long post about just 3 verses next time. And hopefully this is a great post about passion. David is a great example of not just having passion, but using it fully. Let’s see how he does it!
“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me and hear my prayer. O ye sons of me, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” -Psalm 4: 1-5
David asks for an audience with God to open this song. You can hear the passion- he’s not just casting words to ring in the air like an empty prayer, he needs God’s attention! Do you ever have those days when you feel like your prayers fall flat? I think a lot of us have felt this at some point. Especially after hearing a prayer given passionately by another, or at the beginning of one’s walk maybe. The strange thing is that our culture tends to shun passion. Of course, everyone has a different idea of passion. Maybe you think of a specific group of people whose passion has resulted in others misery. Or crazy enthusiastic athletes. We don’t often associate passion with religion any more, and if we do, it may not be the most positive thing we hear. Why are we afraid to live passionately for Christ? To pray with passion to God? To passionately share our faith? In Francis Chan’s book “Crazy Love” he calls this ‘lukewarm Christianity’. That place where everyone gets along, no one is challenged around you to consider faith or their way of living, you may not be living a ‘bad’ life, but you aren’t living passionately in your faith. But in just David’s first few words- “Hear me when I call!”- we can feel that passion flow!
David knew his passion too, which greatly helped. He was passionate about leading, and he knew God wanted him to lead because he was made king! But David wasn’t just made to lead, he was made to passionately lead people to God. And he knew his passion well. He spent time learning how to be a better leader, he was not discouraged by his son trying to overthrow him and being forced from his kingdom- in fact, maybe he was only made more certain that he was in the right place by the amount of resistance he faced, but nobody said following God was easy, and David knew that! He knew his God, he knew his passion, and he knew what he needed to do.
He turns to the God of his righteousness- the One who has made David righteous by His guidance, laws, and provision. The One who put him in the position he is in. David, again, practices recognizing who has helped him in the past, recalling how God has never let him down before or let him stay low. David uses the word ‘distress’ which is a relation on an emotional level for extreme sorrow or pain. It is heartbreak. It stems from a desire for some kind of healing. That’s how passionate he is about seeking his help from God. He bears his emotional state to God- Elohim, the One who created him, the True God- because he knows God understands. God will listen as He has in the past.
We would think David would be distressed because his son is after him or because he has been displaced, but it is actually because people are trying to destroy his good name, slandering him. (Though the other things may also be a factor.) Thus, in the second verse, he changes his desire for audience to men, because God is backing him. And he confronts them straight away- “how long will ye turn my glory into shame?” How long?- David keeps asking, as though he is pleading with children. How long will they try to turn the good he is doing into something bad? We can think to Job where we get the saying ‘Shall we accept good from God?’ David is praying on behalf of these people who are breaking his heart by pursing such a vain thing as his destruction.
David knew that God had set him and others apart. Such people are a joy to God! They have a special purpose, they seek to live in that higher, more difficult calling of purity. They live with passion for God. Do you know someone like this? I honestly haven’t met many people who live this lifestyle, but the few I have met have inspired me to pursue it more! You know who they are in your life- the ones who walk upright, that are full of edifying comments to encourage and build up those around them, and eager to talk about their faith with a passion, but also often the ones you may hear ridiculed the most for their lifestyle. They aren’t afraid of the enemies that come up against them, because even Jesus had enemies (though David didn’t have that knowledge, he still lived righteously!).
We already know that God hears David’s prayers. He has confidence that every Christian should have about their prayers- God will hear our prayers. But the Bible is clear that there are reasons our prayers may not be answered: if we don’t fast, don’t believe, aren’t abiding in Jesus, or haven’t repented, just to name a few reasons. Knowing and studying these should help us to know what we do need to continually practice as upright Christians to have our passionate prayers answered!
For the last bit of these verses today, we witness David talk to himself, which is something popular in the psalms, and it has it’s own purpose too. If we live our lives in righteousness under God’s guidance, then even talking to ourselves should be encouraging. He gives himself great advice that is founded in truth for good Christian living. He says ‘Stand in awe, and sin not.’ Our understanding of ‘awe’ should not confuse us here- Not the awe we feel of being before something incredible, but the awe of something troubling that angers us. Note that he doesn’t say ‘do not be angry, and do not sin’ (ESV uses ‘angry’ instead of ‘awe’). It is not unbiblical to be angry, but we should make sure our anger is righteous too, and totally under our control so we do not sin. And David has lots of reasons to be angry, but he has no reason to sin, so he reminds himself of this. He also speaks of meditation- to be filled with God’s word (as opposed to the eastern practice of emptying yourself). He also speaks of traditional religious practices coupled with trusting in God. Not replacing our trust! But drawing near to God, abiding in Him. Taking time to be with the Creator, even in the middle of an attack. (Or maybe, ‘especially’ in the midst of attack!) We do not practice that traditional way of offering sacrifices to God, but sacrifice is a practice we should still have in our personal lives. Things like sacrificing technology for a while, or certain foods (like a Daniel diet), or anything that is a large part of our life where the removal of it calls us to rely heavily on God in-place of that thing.
I hope this has been encouraging to your soul! I am coming up on the 5th Psalm post quickly, and hope to make a topical post after 5 Psalm posts- if you have a topic you’d like me to talk about, leave it in a comment!