Psalm 4: Peace Under Pressure

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Psalm 4:1-8, 7-8

"You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe" (Ps 4:7-8, NLT).

Theme: To know peace in a world with no peace; finding peace in a world without much peace.

Sex trafficking--a world without peace. Last Mon (1/26/15) I watched a documentary on sex trafficking in the U.S. on channel 11 called A Path Appears. It is based on a book with the same title, written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, a couple dedicated to fighting poverty and the oppression of women in the 21st century. It was highly disturbing and sad to hear accounts of how young girls, usually runaways--as young as 11 to 13 years old--are ensnared by pimps who use them as prostitutes. Often, these girls sleep with an average of 10-20 different men a day (or night) every single day for countless years until they escape or die--usually from violence (beaten to death) or from a drug overdose. Prior to being prostitutes most of these women have a history of incest or were sexually abused by some family member or boyfriend of the mother. To hear these women recount their stories in detail is truly jarring to listen to. One of the most eerie accounts is to hear how pimps are on the lookout for young runaway girls to enslave and ensnare them to a life of prostitution and sex trafficking. The pimps looks for young girls walking alone aimlessly in malls. They say to the innocent young girl, "Your eyes look beautiful." If the girl says, "Thank you very much," the pimp would walk away and move on. But if the girl looks down sadly and says, "No, I'm not," the pimp knows that he has her, and he seeks to win her over as though he really cares for her. In no time, the pimp knows that she will become his sex slave and source of income. Hearing this was simply chilling to my bones.

A morning and evening psalm in times of difficulty and suffering. Psalm 3 and 4 are called companion Psalms. Psalm 3 is sometimes labeled a morning psalm. David awoke to find that the Lord has sustained him (Ps 3:5). Psalm 4 has been called an evening psalm (Ps 4:4, 8), though both psalms meditate on faith during the night. In both psalms David is besieged with suffering, injustice and oppression.

Different types of psalms. There are various types or categories of Psalms. Psalm 1 is a wisdom psalm. It is ethical and instructive, often contrasting the righteous and the wicked. Psalm 2 is a royal or messianic psalm. Psalms 3-7 are regarded as lament psalms. So far, the following have been considered:

  1. Happiness (Ps 1:2): A happy person knows who to hang out with and what to think about (Ps 1:1-2).
  2. Sovereignty (Ps 2:6): The sovereign God rules despite the constant opposition from the rulers of the world (Ps 2:1-3). It is wise to kiss the son (Ps 2:11).
  3. Confidence (Ps 3:6): People who pray are confident, bold and fearless, even when the odds are heavily stacked against them.

Review the various ways to divide Psalm 3 (The first objective of study should be to discover and clarify structure):

  1. Ps 3:1-2  Despondency   Complaint   Problem   Trouble
  2. Ps 3:3-4  Dependency   Confession   Prayer      Trust
  3. Ps 3:5-8  Deliverance   Consolation  Peace      Triumph

In Psalm 4, we consider the theme of Peace. Notice how the psalmist began with much affliction and distress in verse 1 (because of different types of discouraging people) and ended up experiencing peace and joy in verse 8 when he cried out to God. Consider Psalm 4 in two parts:

  1. No Peace: Discouragements from people.
  2. Know Peace: Encouragements from God.

I. No Peace: Discouragements From People

  1. The Liars (2). The Bible encourages God's people to speak the truth (Eph 4:15; Zech 8:16). The devil is the father of lies (Jn 8:44). There should be no place whatsoever for deceit or dishonesty among God's people, nor any gossip or slander, which is both a lie and a deceit in that it is a skewed and biased perspective slanted against the person gossiped about without him or her knowing about it.
  2. The Angry (4). Though righteous anger and indignation may occasionally be justified, man's anger is all to often the result of lacking self-control and damaging toward others.
  3. The Despairing (6a). A despairing person invariably denies the goodness and the sovereignty of God by communicating fatalism and hopelessness.

II. Know Peace: Encouragements From God (which are the fruits of prayer):

  1. Relief (1), though our situation may still be the same.
  2. Know God's faithfulness (3).
  3. Trust God (5; Prov 3:5).
  4. Experience God's favor (6b; Num 6:24-26).
  5. Know peace and joy (7-8; Isa 9:6; 26:3; 48:18; 66:12; Jn 14:27; Phil 4:8).

Losing our live in order to find our life. Many of us Americans have most of our physical and financial needs provided for in contrast to much of the world where poverty, hunger and inadequate resources are a daily reality. Research has shown that when our lives are comfortable and adequately provided for, there is not much we can do or add to our lives that will enhance or increase significantly our own personal peace and happiness. A larger TV, a better car, a more expensive vacation, or a bigger house would at best "increase" our happiness only marginally and the effect wears off rather quickly. But when we invest our lives for the benefit and welfare of others, we experince an inexplicable contentment, fulfilment, peace and joy. That's why Jesus says that if we want to save our own lives we lose it, but if we lose our lives, we find it (Mt 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24).

Losing peace in order to have peace. Jesus is the happiest man who ever lived because though he needed nothing and had everything, yet he gave up all he had and lost everything--including his very life(Phil 2:5-8)--for welfare and benefit of others. Jesus is the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6), not because he kept his peace to himself, but because he willingly lost it all on the cross, so that we might come to have the peace he has (Jn 14:27) and know the peace that transcends all understanding (Phil 4:7).

Questions:

  1. What are 4 attributes of prayer in verse 1? What is afflicting the psalmist and causing him distress (2, 4, 6)?
  2. What is the ultimate basis for divine intervention (1; Gen 18:25 Jer 23:6; 1 Cor 1:30)?
  3. What did people do and say about the psalmist (2)? How is it different from God's agenda for the godly (3)? How is this the ultimate answer to the most wounding words and discouragements from others?
  4. What often leads to sin and needs to be overcome (4a; Eph 4:26)? How (4b-5; Prov 3:5)?
  5. How else do skeptics afflict and distress God's people (6a; Ps 3:2)? How does the psalmist overcome such discouragements (6b-7; Num 6:24-26; Gal 5:22)? What is the difference between inward and outward joy (7)?
  6. Notice how verse 1 begins and how verse 8 ends this Psalm. What can God alone do that man can never do (8; Isa 9:6; 26:3; 48:18; 66:12; Jn 14:27; Phil 4:7)?

References:

  1. Motyer, J Alec. The Psalms. New Bible Commentary. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1994. Praying, knowing, trusting, resting.
  2. Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1 - 72: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1973. Peace! Be still!
    1. Well-founded prayer (1)
    2. An answer to the fickle (2-3)
    3. An answer to hot-heads (4-5)
    4. An answer to the doleful (6-7)
    5. Well-founded peace (8)
  3. Zemek, George. Road Maps for the Psalms: Inductive Preaching Outlines Based on the Hebrew Text. Valencia, CA: The Master's Academy International, 2006. (Psalm 4: Rest in Peace.)
  4. Talking to God and Men. Study guide for Psalm 4 by David Guzik.

Miscellaneous notes:

Psalms expresses the manifold emotional life of the psalmist, who is a believer and a person who has faith in God.

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