23. Total Security

Reaching into the Psalms:  23. Total Security (end of Psa 4)

 Psa 4:8   In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Process: This psalm starts with David calling to the Lord to answer him in his distress and ends in him declaring his complete sense of peace. In the New Testament, the apostle Paul wrote, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6,7) There is a process there: anxiety, prayer, peace, and we see the same thing in the process of this psalm.

David cried out to the Lord with request (v.1), and yet affirms his sure knowledge through experience that when he prays, the Lord hears (v.3). In between he addresses those who are causing his grief, those who demean the Lord and worship idols (v.2) and counsels them to check themselves out as they lie in bed (v.4) and to be faithful to the covenant and offer right sacrifices, trusting in the Lord’s mercy (v.5). He focuses on their wrong thinking, implying that the Lord is not there for them (v.6a) and so he prays that the Lord will let His face shine on this people (v.6b) and bring blessing that will transform grumbling into joy (v.7).

It is difficult to know exactly what is personal testimony and what is challenge to his detractors, but whatever it is, by the time he has off-loaded it all to the Lord, he is left with a sense of complete peace, total security. Yes, the opposition is there, but so is the Lord! Moreover he knows that the Lord is not only with him but also for him, and that means total security so at the end of the day when he goes to lie down, he is at peace.

Product = Peace: It is always good to unburden ourselves by sharing our concerns with someone near us, and the Lord is the obvious starting place to do that and, as Paul said, when we do that there comes a peace that goes beyond understanding. I think the very process of unloading to another lifts the burden, but as we do it in prayer, there comes a mystical exchange.

The Message paraphrase version puts it quite well, “Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.” Look at that. A ‘sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down’. That’s a nice way of putting it.

Beyond Explanation: Well that is nice but actually the translations speak about a peace “which surpasses all understanding,” (ESV & NKJV & NRSV) or transcends all understanding” (NIV). Surpasses means exceeds or goes beyond, while transcends means rises above. The product of our offloading our anxieties to the Lord in prayer is a peace that is inexplicable, you can’t explain it. For us it should be rooted in what the Message ended with: “Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life”, i.e. encountering him means we encounter the very source of our peace, the One who is, the One who is ruling in the midst of his enemies (Psa 110:1,2), who is in total control and who is for us (Rom 8:31). Rooted in that, when it happens we just find this peace coming which just is and is beyond understanding or description.

Approaching Sleep: How we go to bed at night is quite significant. I know someone, a friend, who has to have an audio-book story playing quietly in the background to still their over-active mind. For many the thought of going to bed at night is not greeted with pleasurable anticipation. Many go with the worries of the day bearing down heavily upon them. For others, like my friend, they have had a day full of mental (or perhaps spiritual) activity and their mind is still full of it. The experts say beware the blue screen syndrome, the need to play games on some hand-held device for that lit-up screen works against sleep. Perhaps we should learn from David and Paul: off-load the day to the Lord, pour it all out before Him but remember, with Paul, to add thanksgiving for all the good bits of the day.

The possibilities of sleep: Sleep (after having offloaded to the Lord!) can be a time of recreation (Gen 2:21), even a time of revelation (Gen 28:11-), a time of guidance (Mt 1:20), a time of learning (Mt 27:19), a time of the Spirit’s blessing (Joel 2:28). It is interesting in the last quote that it is ‘old men’ (repeated by Peter on the Day of Pentecost – Acts 2:17). Young people tend to sleep more deeply and therefore dreams tend not to be so near the surface to be remembered on waking, but older people tend to need less sleep and it is often broken or shallower and dreams are nearer the surface, able to be remembered. All of these things – blessings in sleep – are rare when the mind is filled with worries, so good dreams become nightmares and not a blessing. Thus our suggested approach to sleep – offloading the day to the Lord – is an approach of wisdom that perhaps many should heed.

David – and us! David has prayed, has expressed his concerns, addressed his detractors, affirmed the Lord’s goodness and ends the day retiring to bed in peace with a strong assurance of complete security in the Lord. Perhaps we might add to end-of-the-day prayer the suggestion of reading a short passage of scripture that releases faith and encouragement. Some may drink certain sleep-helping beverages – fine! – but what cocktail could be better than a time with the Lord, offloading concerns, giving thanks for the good, and declaring the truths of His word?  As we pray, like David and like Paul, peace descends and so sometimes we may not be able to get to the reading part, the peace just sweeps us into unconsciousness and a time of refreshing and blessing. May it be so.

22. The Joy of the Lord

Reaching into the Psalms:  22. The Joy of the Lord

Psa 4:7   Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound.

We have had cause already in this psalm to note the difficulty that sometimes comes with having to translate the original, and then cope with different translations. The NIV quote above puts this verse as a desire or request. The ESV and NKJV puts it, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound,” and other more modern versions put it in a similar way but with some different words, i.e. as a declaration of testimony.

Request or testimony?  Well; let’s consider both. It is a good prayer to pray to ask the Lord to fill us with joy and we’ll see in a moment the good scriptural grounds we have for asking that. It is also a good thing to declare by way of testimony (assuming we have entered into it, and if we haven’t then we’re back to praying for it). But what both things do is highlight to us something we may take for granted, that joy is a part of the believer’s experience.

Joy? Is joy the same as happiness? Some dictionaries might equate it with happiness but, I suggest, happiness is more a state of mind while joy is a specific outworking of a specific experience. Consider how the verse goes on. The NIV puts it, “when their grain and new wine abound.” The word ‘their’ must refer to the ‘many’ who were asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” (v.6a) When he then asked the Lord to, “Let the light of your face shine on us,” (v.6b) there clearly was implied in what follows the expectation that when God’s face shines on His people, it brings with it His blessing and so all their fears about prosperity will evaporate when a bountiful harvest comes from the Lord. There is therefore a flow: people worrying – prayer request – God coming and blessing – harvest in abundance – great joy. The joy is specifically in response to the harvest.

The alternative? Now the more modern translations, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound,” removes that flow of prayer, answer, blessing, joy and simply reduces it to a testimony. Having said that, seeing verses 6 and 7 in those newer versions is interesting: “There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?  Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”  You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” (e.g. ESV) The inverted commas show us they include the ‘lift up’ part of the verse as part of the cry of the other people around him and therefore what follows – “You have put…” becomes a strong contrast in David from that of the unbelievers around him, and we should emphasise the ‘my heart’ that shows that contrast. They may have great joy when harvest eventually comes in, but the joy that David knows in his experience of the Lord, vastly outweighs that.

The Possibilities: So we have two possibilities here (and we won’t know the truth until we get to heaven and ask David which he meant!), one that sees the Lord answering his request to bring blessing to His people which will result in great joy, and the other that sees that David’s joy is greater than that which comes in the natural world of men. There is great truth in both. It is absolutely true that when we pray for God to intervene in our difficult circumstances, and He does, that brings great joy. But there is what almost seems a greater meaning, that as children of God, as believers, we know in our everyday experience of the Lord a joy that is not dependant on circumstances. It is a joy that flows from the Lord and because He is unchanging, it is unchanging.

Jesus’ Joy: At the Last Supper, John records Jesus as saying, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (Jn 15:10,11) Now I have included both verses because Jesus refers to his own joy in the context of obedience to the Father. Even as he had obeyed the Father, abiding in His love, so he now wants us to obey him, abiding in his love. The environment, if we may put it like that, is love, the acts are obedience and the outworking is joy.  Later on he prayed to his Father, “now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.” (Jn 17:13) Again the context was what Jesus has done in his years of ministry and joy flows out of that. Now he wants that same joy to be ours because, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (v.18) i.e. obedience to the will of God releases joy.

Let’s finish with a few additional considerations about this joy. The ‘wise men’ had ‘great joy’ as the star revealed the way to Jesus. (Mt 2:10). The revelation of the kingdom of God – like a hidden treasure (Mt 13:44) – comes with great joy that enables a letting go of the past to enter into a wonderful new future. When we use what the Lord gives us in this kingdom and bear fruit, it brings joy to the Lord and to us (Mt 25:21). A realisation of the wonder of what Jesus has done and of his resurrection should also bring us great joy (Mt 28:8). As part of our relationship with the Lord, answers to prayer, as we noted above, bring great joy: “Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (Jn 16:24) And so we could go on; joy is an indelible part of the life and experience of the Christian and it all flows out of our relationship with the Lord. Hallelujah! For David it was the same.

21. God’s Glory on us

Reaching into the Psalms:  21. God’s Glory on us

Psa 4:6b   Let the light of your face shine on us

We finished yesterday’s study asking at one point, can we stand before God’s gaze and have a clear conscience about the way we use our money and the attitudes we have? And then we come to the second part of verse 6 which raises various thoughts.

God Sees: The first thought, following the use of the words, ‘God’s gaze’ reminds us that God’s eyes are always on us. Intriguingly it was Hagar, Sarai’s servant who focuses this for us first: “She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Gen 16:13) as, in the desert she realised after an angel came, that she might have been alone, but God saw her and her plight. The psalmist expands that to include everyone: “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind.” (Psa 33:17). Then in the famous burning bush incident, the Lord’s starting point is, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt.” (Ex 3:7)

The fact that God sees us is both comforting and scary. It is comforting when we think that He watches over us all the time to protect us (see Psa 121) and it is rightfully scary to think that He sees all we do (see the example of Gehazi and Elisha who saw by the Spirit where he went).

God’s Presence: But in the context here, I believe David is using the expression in v.6b to simply mean the Lord’s presence. He has been acknowledging the words of the people, wondering where the Lord is, where the signs of His blessing are, and so his obvious request is simply that the Lord will come and make His presence known. But of course wherever the Lord appears, His glory is seen, that brightness that shines forth from Him, and where that glory shines it brings the blessing of the presence of the Lord with it.

God with us: I have spoken many times in recent series about the presence of the Lord because it seems it is a crucial issue for the church today. There is a sense that God is everywhere (see Psa 139) but we know very clearly that most of the time we are not conscious of Him being there. Yet there are times when He manifests His presence so that although that we do not ‘see’ Him, we sense His glorious and amazing presence in the room with us, and suddenly everything is different. I was in a church service fairly recently (and sadly this doesn’t often happen) but the moment the two musicians struck up, the Spirit within me leapt and I instinctively thought, “Oh my goodness, the Lord is here!” There are such times when He transforms the present with His presence and it is a real transforming. Your spirit lifts, joy flows forth and worship pours out. The sense of His glorious presence releases all those things instinctively.  It is truly a case of Emmanuel, God with us.

His face? Why the reference to His face? Perhaps it is the same thing that we see when we gaze into the face of someone in front of us. There we may see love or even hatred but the face reveals so much about the one before us. Sometimes, it seems, all their thoughts, their feelings or their attitudes in respect of you are revealed in their face. The face is the focus of the person towards us. Watch friends or family meeting a loved one, waiting at the other side of the barrier at Airport Arrivals. Their faces say everything. Yes, body language may contribute but it is the face that communicates most to us.

‘Seeing the face’ of the Lord refers to access to Him. In a later psalm David was to write, “the upright will see his face,” (Psa 11:7) and when he felt separated from the Lord he cried, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?  How long will you hide your face from me?” (Psa 13:1). Similarly it means personal encounter and elsewhere David wrote, “be merciful to me and answer me.  My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”  Your face, Lord, I will seek.” (Psa 27:7,8) Indeed again and again we see David using this terminology.

Elsewhere we find, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Ex 33:11) But then we find that when Moses did meet with the Lord like this, when he left the Lord’s presence his face shone with the Lord’s glory (see Ex 34:29-35) and it is that picture that the apostle Paul uses of us: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:17,18) See the language, we “with unveiled faces”. There is a sense whereby with the open relationship we now have with the Lord through the work of Christ on the Cross, and His presence within us by His indwelling Holy Spirit, this openness brings about a transformation in us as encounter Him.

And that brings us back to verse 6. In the face of the unbelief in the nation, in the face of the grumbles about His absence, David asks the Lord to come afresh and make His presence known in the midst of His people again, because he knows that, even in accordance with their history, when the Lord did that it brought about transformation.  And that is what you and I need, that is what our churches need, and that is what our communities need, the transforming presence of the Lord Himself, and in our case that transformation of church and community will be as it comes in and through us.

20. Uncertainties with money

Reaching into the Psalms 1 to 4: 20. Uncertainties with money

Psa 4:6a   Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”

Focus: Here we have one of those verses that appears almost inconsequential and yet, I sense, is potentially a bomb that will go off beneath our feet if we will but take time to think about it. The presence of the word ‘LORD’ where it is indicates that David is addressing God, is important, and when we move into the second half of the verse we will see that even more clearly. The presence of the word ‘Many’ indicates that David is speaking about people that he knows – possibly close to him, possibly others – and he is drawing the Lord’s attention to these people. This is the focus of what we have here – David talking to the Lord about others.

Their negativity: Each of these words point out something. The word ‘asking’ speaks of a questioning people and questions can be positive, genuinely seeking out information for a good reason, or they can be negative and critical and there is a probability in the words that follow that they are just that, negative and critical and, subtly, they are a criticism of God. The Lord had pointed out the negative aspects of so many of their lives in verse 2 when He asked, “How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?” He clearly saw that their relationship with Him was utterly shallow, having turned away to idols, to ‘things’ they obviously thought might help them. Superstition is a weird thing.

Self-concern: This question, “Who will bring us prosperity?” is an expression of self-concern that, I suggest, most, if not all of us have. We want to survive but more than that we want to prosper. Some of us may be locked into work and life-styles that prevent us progressing financially, but we still dream – which is why so many do lotteries or other forms of gambling – “who knows but one day my circumstances could be utterly changed and I would never have to worry about money again.”  When money is short it is a natural concern.

Challenge to the church: We have a particular friend at the present who, through circumstances beyond her control, is struggling financially. That presents a challenge to the rest of us in the church: “All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2:44,45) Here in the West, I suggest there are usually in the church, those of us with sufficient financial resources that we don’t need to sell off things, we can simply dip into a bank account.  The questions are, will we be compassionate and caring and can we hold our finances lightly, and will we be obedient to Scripture, for example, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth,” (1 Jn 3:17,18) and “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Lk 3:11) and “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” (Acts 4:32) Challenging teaching and challenging examples for those of us in the affluent West.

Holding a Right Attitude: Now we have suggested that these words in verse 6a come in a negative manner and in the light of the spiritual state of the nation as highlighted by verse 2. But we have also said that it is right to be concerned about how to make ends meet when money is short. It is a difficult subject sometimes and truth and integrity as well as wisdom are sometimes lacking. Our church runs a food bank and provides Saturday brunch for ‘vulnerable families’. Thus we seek to minister to people who do fit that description, of those who are concerned about how to make ends meet. But all is not always as it seems.

Those who work with street people tell of how sometimes poverty and begging is a professional means that brings in money in excess of 100,000 a years (dollars or pounds, it doesn’t matter). That may be an extreme abuse, yet we have encountered a family that turns up for free brunch where the father has an income in excess of some of the well-paid people in the church. A leader was asked by a family to go around to talk to them about how the church could help them out of their financial straits. When he entered their house he observed that all of the children had their own cell-phones and iPads. When questioned they denied they could do without them. Now such situations (and they could be multiplied) indicate possible lacks of wisdom, if not of integrity, in the lifestyles of some in our society and hence Pauls words about “speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15) present a challenge to us if we are to minister to such people.

And Us? Always such considerations come back to us. We try not to point fingers at others, especially if we ourselves are struggling to hold right attitudes. Implied behind the words of verse 6a there is the attitude, “Why won’t God help us?” and for them they had turned superstitiously to idols in the vain hope that that would help. But the Bible calls us to honesty and integrity about our own situations. Do we work? Do we work as to God? Do we overspend? Do we need to learn about budgeting? Are we discontented because of what we see others have? (Ex 20:17 speaks to that). Are we unwise in our use of credit cards and the like? Can we stand before God’s gaze and have a clear conscience about the way we use our money and the attitudes we have? Indeed, if we are Christians, have we sought the Lord’s wisdom over all these things? Maybe we need to find a Christian of maturity who can counsel us, give us their wisdom, so that we are not alone in these things.

God’s gaze? Having just referred to this, it brings us to the second part of the verse: “Let the light of your face shine on us,” and as I go to ponder that, I think it would be wise to consider it in a separate study, so let’s do that tomorrow.

19. A Right Approach

Reaching into the Psalms 1 to 4:  19. A Right Approach

Psa 4:5    Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the Lord.

Context: So often with the psalms (and I suppose with so much other Scripture) you have to catch the flow of the verses to better understand where you are. David, we have seen, cried out for relief in his difficult circumstances (v.1) but the Lord called for us to look at the bigger picture of the state of the nation in which those circumstances flowed (v.2). David’s response within that is to declare his faith role that opens up the relationship with the Lord that brings the confidence that the Lord hears him when he cries out to Him (v.3). Then we saw that verse 4 was a call to hold a right perspective in respect of wrongs, to be angry but not allow it to become something out of control but simply something that highlights the wrong to be presented to the Lord (v.4).

Imperfect life: There is underlying all of this a constant awareness of living in a Fallen World where sin abounds, people do wrong, and the walk of the children of God is to be a walk of righteousness, but that is not always as easy as we might like it to be. We get it wrong, we stumble, we occasionally give way to temptation, we fail and have to repent, pick ourselves up and start again. How easy those words flow, how glib we can be, so what grounds do we have to be able to utter them?

Approaching God: Have you ever wondered why Leviticus exists with all its talk about sacrifices and offerings?  Pages of talk about sacrificing animals or birds? It’s all about how the Israelites were to maintain a right attitude, a right perspective, in respect of God, how they could come back into a right place after failure. There were fellowship offerings that could be used as expressions of their desire for a good relationship with the Lord; there were sin and guilt offerings to deal with failure – and don’t we as frail human beings get it wrong sometimes! Here they were called to be a holy people, the people of God and yet they are still very ordinary human beings and human beings never get it entirely right. It’s not even a case of not living up to God’s standards, it also about not living up to our own standards, or maybe the expectations of the community around us. So if we get it wrong in their eyes or even our own eyes, how can we (they) possibly have a relationship with a holy God?

The work of Sacrifice: The answer had to be to simply do what He said when you sinned. The sacrificial law was there and was taught: you offered a particular sacrifice in the manner laid down. In one sense it was simply your obedience to the Law of Moses, given by God, that put you right. At a deeper level it was the awareness that another life was taken (of an animal or bird) instead of yours to pay the price of justice in respect of your sin and your guilt. So there was an obedience factor and an atonement factor and perhaps also there was a deterrent fact; when you saw the life ebbing out of an animal at your hands, the severity of the punishment would speak of the seriousness in the eyes of God (it has to be Him for sin so often blinds our eyes so we don’t realise how serious it is) of what you had done, and that experience would hopefully ensure you would not repeat it.

The act of the righteous: And so we come back to David, very conscious of the fallen nature of himself and mankind around him, of the fact that they stood before a holy God who has just spoken about their shortcomings. It doesn’t matter what the sin, how minor or how serious, the path of righteousness is the path of the sacrificial law. For the Israelite that was the path of righteousness, acknowledgement of failure, of sin, and then a response in accord with the Law of Moses found in Leviticus. So the sacrifice of the righteous is first obedience in attitude and then the offering as the expression of that obedience.

Trust in God: For them – and us – there is always the human desire to try and work ourselves out of a place of guilt and shame, we always try and justify ourselves and if we can’t explain away our sin, we try and make up for it and compensate for our failure by doing something ‘good’.  Some over-zealous and misguided believers of the past (and maybe a few in the present) used to beat themselves or wear sacking as a form of penance, but all such things are acts of ‘self’ and are nothing to do with the faith that the Bible speaks of.

So when David says, “and trust in the Lord,” that is not just a reference to a general way of living but is a specific command in respect of our attitude towards how our sin is to be dealt with. No, we are not to be complacent and just shrug it off, saying, “Well everybody sins, so what.” No, God is concerned that in the big picture justice is done, justice is appeased. Justice is that demand that wrongs are properly dealt with, paid for, that unfairness becomes fair, that injustice becomes just. We all have this instinct and although it may not come out until we personally suffer at the hands of another, it is there.

Past and Present: The good news is that you and I no longer have to offer sacrifices because Jesus’ death on the Cross acted as a once and for all sacrifice that covers all and any sin. (Heb 9:14,25-28, 10:10,14). The sacrificial system of the Law of Moses looked forward to the coming and work of Christ, although the people then did not realise that. The sacrifice brought was, as we’ve said, an act of obedience, this is God’s way laid down for how to deal with your failure, your sin.

Today the call to you and me is to believe what the Bible says, that Jesus has died for all our sins and so when we sin, we confess it and repent (1 Jn 1:9) and we are forgiven on the basis of what he has done. When we have sinned and the Holy Spirit has convicted us, the weight of the failure so often makes it difficult to believe that all it needs is our repentance and the work of the Cross deals with it, removes it and cleanses us of it. That is where the trust comes in. We have to trust that what we read is true – there is no other way – that God’s way of dealing with our wrongs was the Cross and we can do nothing to add to that. All we can do is believe it and ask for forgiveness on the basis of it – and then trust that forgiveness HAS been granted.

Yes, we live in a fallen world and we get it wrong and, yes, God is a holy God, but HE has decreed the way back from our sin that satisfies justice and we must simply accept that, give thanks and not try to add to it. Blow it?  Confess it, ask for forgiveness on the basis that Jesus has died to pay for that sin, believe it, trust God be at peace and go on living thankfully. It’s a new day ahead.

18. Warning about Anger

Reaching into the Psalms 1 to 4:   18. Warning about Anger

Psa 4:4 (ESV)   Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.

This is another of those verses that translators have struggled with. I have used the ESV which is the same as the NKJV and some older versions, but even they have a footnote attached to ‘be angry’ that suggests an alternative as ‘be agitated’ or ‘tremble’ (NKJV) and “Tremble and do not sin” is the NIV.

Anger? Let’s take the thought of anger first of all. In the New Testament the apostle Paul uses this verse: “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” (Eph 4:26) The truth is that anger is an experience we all have at some time or other. David spoke of this more fully in a later psalm: do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” (Psa 37:7,8) We may get angry when we are offended and that is more of a defence mechanism. However we may rightly get angry (because God does) when we see wilful wickedness in the world around us. Habakkuk, we noted in the study of the previous psalm, was obviously angry when he cried out, “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.” (Hab 1:2) It is right to be angry about things that are clearly seriously wrong.

The Danger: The problem with anger is that it can flare up, burst forth and cause harm and upset. As David said, “it leads only to evil.” Not only can it cause harm to others as you may inflict your emotions on them, but it may in turn inflame them and cause them to retaliate and both might well be unrighteous. So the version above says, “Be angry (BUT) and do not sin.” I have inserted the ‘but’ there to imply that anger may be right but if it is carried on it may lead into sin.

Complexity: On the other hand there is a case to be made for suggesting that David is almost instructing us to be angry so that we do not sin. The challenge in verse 2 had been about godless unrighteousness in the land (and maybe in those bringing about these circumstances) and it is right to be angry about such things, in fact complacency almost becomes sin (“forgive us the things we have not done.”) What a complex things this anger is. Sometimes it is sin not to be angry but when we do become angry it becomes sin if we hold on to it.

Wrong and Right Responses: Why might that be? Why does it become sin to hold on to it? If we hold on to anger it means we are revelling in it, relishing it almost, using it, but it is never meant for that. I conclude that anger is meant to highlight injustice and wrong, but once we have observed that, the righteous ongoing response is to give it over to the Lord. Why? Two reasons. First, we may be wrong, we may have wrongly understood or only partially understood the situation and so we need to hand it back to the Lord for His assessment of it – “Lord will you judge this.” But second, more often than not, in reality you and I are incapable of really changing that evil, only God can, and sometimes we have to give it to Him and submit to His wisdom over it. He may want to deal with that person, here and now, or He may leave them for His greater purposes and only deal with them at the Final Judgment. Whichever it is, He knows best and we would be wise to simply submit it to Him. Perhaps part of our ongoing praying might be to ask, “Lord, is there anything you want me to do about this situation?” Merely because we say ‘submit it to the Lord’, does not imply passivity; it is simply suggesting we present the situation to the heavenly court for the will of God to be worked out in respect of it.

Ponder it: “Ponder in your own hearts on your beds” or as the NIV puts it, “when you are on your beds, search your hearts.”  i.e. we need to check out what we are feeling and thinking. Why I am feeling like this? What has caused me to react like this? Is there an element of self-centred, self-interest in my response? What is the truth about this situation? What does God feel about it? I wonder how many times we let things fester in our minds because we do not submit our feelings and thoughts to rigorous examination. Do I need to hold scripture up before me? I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:44,45)

Am I perfect? Do I always get it right? What is my ‘offender’ going through? What has brought this about? Could I have prevented it? Was I the cause of it? The more I ask such questions of myself the more I silence and quench the anger.

I am aware that in these paragraphs I have veered away from anger that arises from observing general human iniquity (such as human slave trading) to anger that arises when I am dealing with another person, and I have done that because I don’t believe most of us get angry about the big sins of the world – we duck them because they seem too big for us to do anything about – but we do often encounter trying circumstances that involve others and it is within those that we hear words spoken, things said and done, that raise our ire.

So yes, when I start asking the questions of myself that challenge my honesty and integrity, then I find I go silent. Thus David’s last words of this verse: “be silent”, and they come as a result of the pondering in bed. In bed? Yes, in line with Paul’s words, “do not let the sun go down on your wrath.” i.e. don’t go to sleep in a state of agitation. If you go to bed still angry, get up and sort it, don’t let it drag on. If there is an unrighteous situation, do what we said above, commit it to the Lord with the option of being told what part He might want us to play in changing things.

Can I insert a word of wisdom here before we finish? If you are angry within yourself because of something someone else has said or done, it may be that it is your sensitivity or your misunderstanding of the situation and nothing to do with the other person. If we have contributed to the situation then it may be appropriate to apologise or even ask for forgiveness but if your anger is one of these other things, then can I counsel you not to dump it on that other person with an apology, especially if they know nothing of your wrong reaction. The other thing today is don’t go public with your unrighteous indignation, certainly not on social media. If someone has offended you, you confront them lovingly in private and with humility. If you are out for blood, you are acting unrighteously. Don’t do it. If you genuinely want to be godly, then seek reconciliation with grace, wisdom and humility and only after you have paused, slept on it for a night and been open before the Lord. Such a simple verse but with such profound potential.

17. Confidence in God

Reaching into the Psalms 1 to 4: 17. Confidence in God

Psa 4:3   Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.

Possibilities again:  In yesterday’s study, as we considered verse 2, I suggested two possibilities in respect of the way we view the first half of that verse. The first half could be David speaking about the rebellion robbing him of his glory as the Lord’s anointed, or it could be the Lord speaking through David to His people Israel.  The ‘my glory’ could refer to David’s glory as God’s anointed one, presently disgraced, but it could also be the Lord’s glory. In verse 3, the ‘I’ near the end of it clearly indicates it is David speaking.

Bounce back: Now whether it is either of the two options we have just considered doesn’t matter because of David’s confidence in the Lord. Verse 1 was an appeal to the Lord to respond when he called to Him, an appeal for the Lord to deliver him from the present pressing circumstances; rather heavy if not gloomy words. Verses 2 comes either as a challenge from David to those against him or from the Lord similarly. So far, all downhill, and so in some ways verse three shows us David bouncing back with faith declarations.

I have commented here recently on going through a test with the Lord. It was to allow the Lord to be God in what I felt were ungodly church circumstances. I had shared this with my wife. Then suddenly somebody did something in the church that was both unwise and foolish and unhelpful and I was angry. No, let’s be honest, I was fuming, seriously fuming! My wife saw my face, nudged me and whispered, “Say nothing. Remember the test.” At that moment I had a choice before me. Either to let my anger go bang and explode in this foolish situation or reign it in and let the Lord be the Lord. Grace prevailed and within two minutes the anger was gone and the Lord was the Lord. Now here’s the point, and I think we see this often in David: we can be confronted by seriously trying circumstances but we have a choice of how we will respond. We can either sink in the gloom of the situation or we can choose to make faith statements to rise up above it.  David is doing the latter.

“Know”: What a forceful word that is. When someone says, “Know this…” you know they are making a forceful statement, a declaration that needs to be heeded. So when David says, “Know that the Lord has….” he is making a strong statement to those around him, those who will hear him or read or sing this psalm, that is a strong declaration of faith, a strong statement of what he is sure is true – and they had better heed it!

Self-awareness: When he then refers to “his faithful servant” he is referring to himself. Now when you think about that, it is quite remarkable; I wonder how many of us would say we are God’s faithful servants? To claim you are faithful is a declaration of awareness but, even more, a declaration of confidence in who you are before God. David has just uttered a word in verse 2 that either exalts him as the Lord’s anointed, or exalts the Lord, and so is very much aware of the Lord. To be able to stand in the Lord’s presence and declare your faithfulness is both an example of confidence and of security. He is not expecting the Lord to tell him off for making such a claim. One of the Old Testament scribes makes an amazing assessment of David’s life: “David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kings 15:5) David, the man after God’s own heart had been faithful, except in that one instance and for that he was now paying.

Self-direction: But there is also in such speaking a speaking to oneself, perhaps a chiding or maybe encouragement. The Bible is all in favour of talking to yourself. Perhaps the most famous one in the psalms is, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.” (Psa 42:5) I often say to people, “When you get up in the morning you need to look in the mirror and declare the positive truth about who you are – to yourself!”

Who you are: Do you know this about yourself? “Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant (YOU) for himself.”    Have you ever thought about your life as a Christian like this? “he chose us in him before the creation of the world,” (Eph 1:4), “When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit,” (Eph 1:13) Do you know the original meaning of ‘church’ in the Greek – ekklesia – (Latin ‘ecclesia’, hence ecclesiastical) is ‘the called-out ones’, a word that was used of an assembly called out to hear proclamations.  But note also the incredible truth that David declares: the Lord has set him apart, “for himself”. He – and we – have been called by God, set apart by God, to enter into relationship with Him. We have not been created to simply exist in this world; our destiny is, as the New Testament puts it, to become ‘children of God’ (Jn 1:12, 1 Jn 3:1,2), ‘sons of God’ (2 Cor 6:18, Gal 4:6, Eph 1:5) We dare claim this level of relationship because the Bible says it is so.

Heard: “the Lord hears when I call to him.”  It is because we have this relationship we can rest in this wonderful knowledge. The example is often given of a mother in a place near where her child is playing in the midst of lots of other children. The child falls and hurts itself and cries. Out of the noise of all of the children’s voices, the mother picks up the unique sound of her own child and runs to find out what has happened. If that is true of a mother, how much more of our loving heavenly Father. But that is not to say that He will come running at our beck and call; sometimes He will wait until the right moment before He acts. To Moses he said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians.” (Ex 3:7,8) That misery and their crying had been growing over the years, only now was it the right moment for the Lord to act.

And So: Downcast and crying out, a rebuke comes to the nation, but then David rises up with a declaration of faith.  He is the Lord’s and so the Lord does hear his cry. He hasn’t yet seen the answer to his cry but it will come. Are faith declarations part of your life and mine? They should be; declaring the truth builds faith. When we utter truth as a faith word, the Holy Spirit within takes and establishes it so that we are established. A lesson to be learned; a lesson to be applied.

16. State of the Nation

Reaching into the Psalms 1 to 4: 16. State of the Nation

Psa 4:2    How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

God’s Leader:  There are often difficulties coping with translations, and indeed Scripture generally, when verses can be read in different ways. The first half of this verse could be David speaking about the rebellion robbing him of his glory as the Lord’s anointed. That would be a legitimate understanding because, knowing David the man after God’s own heart, we know he often has great understanding and insight. He knows something about what it means to be the Lord’s anointed (see his references to Saul in 1 Sam 24:10, 26:9,11,16,23) and had himself been anointed by Samuel (1 Sam 16:13), he knows that he is king because God chose him to replace Saul. Yes, he also knows that what is happening to him now (if this is a continuation of Psa 3 speaking into the time when he was on the run from Absalom) is God’s discipline. Nevertheless those who are doing this to him have disregarded his calling and are acting in both an ungodly and unrighteous manner.

Another Possibility? Now I don’t actually believe that is the interpretation of this verse although it does raise the above possibility which raises the challenge to have right attitudes towards those the Lord has raised up to be His leaders. No, what we have here, I believe, is something you often come across in such psalms, which is a prophetic sense that feels more like it is inspired by heaven and is the Lord speaking through David to His people Israel. Now I have two questions: first if that is so what is He saying and second, what grounds are there historically to suggest this is so?

The Challenge: If this is the Lord speaking, then His question is how long will you carry on being godless? ‘How long’ puts the challenge, will you continue on in the wrong way you are going? But what is the wrong? First it is specifically in respect of the Lord, “turn my glory into shame”. The Living Bible paraphrase supports this: “The Lord God asks, “Sons of men, will you forever turn my glory into shame by worshiping these silly idols, when every claim that’s made for them is false?”   It’s about failing to give God the glory that is due to Him alone and then, second, it is about how they are doing that – by worshipping idols.

A Common Need: This turning to idols seems to be a snare that Israel fell into time after time after time. What makes it worse is that Moses warned them against it before they entered the Promised Land. (check out Ex 34:17, Lev 19:4, 26:1 but then just before entry Deut 4:15-19, 7:5, Ch.13., 16:21,22, etc.) Perhaps they revealed the heart of their need in Samuel’s day when they asked for a king instead of judges (see 1 Sam 8:19,20); they wanted someone visible to be out front. It seems that unbelief manifests itself first of all in this feeling that “I struggle to believe a God I cannot see. Give me something tangible to follow.” It’s why we make idols of big church buildings, big leaders, big church projects, all things that we can see and follow and which help bolster our weak faith. However the moment we put our trust in these sorts of things, we detract from the glory of God who should be the entire focus of our worship, should be the One on whom we rely completely.

The Cause: So now on to the second question above, what grounds are there historically to suggest that this is God rebuking Israel? Were they in a bad state spiritually? Well if you follow all of David’s activity, setting up singers and musicians to worship the Lord, having victories against enemies you might not think so, but later, when David is reinstated there comes an incident that involves him that puts a major cloud over the life of Israel. We read, “Again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go and take a census of Israel and Judah,” (2 Sam 24:1) In 1 Chron 21:1 we see the Lord used Satan to do this. How does it work out after David’s pride allows him to do this thing? “So Gad went to David and said to him, “Shall there come on you three years of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how I should answer the one who sent me.” (2 Sam 24:13) So what was the outcome? “So the Lord sent a plague on Israel from that morning until the end of the time designated, and seventy thousand of the people from Dan to Beersheba died.” (v.15)

Severe Judgment: Now elsewhere, where I have written about the judgments of God and this sort of judgment that brings death, I have referred to these as terminal judgments (distinct from most judgments I call ‘disciplinary’ because God uses them to bring change in people) or alternatively ‘judgments of the last resort’. In other words, contrary to God’s express dislike of such judgments (see Ezek 18:23,32 & 33:11), the situation is so bad that in order to save and preserve Israel, a judgment that will have a severe impact has to come. We do not know the state of Israel during this period but the nature of this judgment suggests that the rebuke in verse 2 of Psalm 4 is apt. How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

Today? We often say we need to see how the words of Scripture apply in the modern context. I wonder, in much of the modern Church, would an appropriate version of this be, “How long will you people – my supposed children, redeemed by the death of my Son, filled with my own Holy Spirit – continue without my glory in your midst so that the world scorns you? How long will you live like the people of the world in their delusion that materialistic pleasure is all-important and so you fail to seek me and know the power of my presence in your midst? How long will you put personal pleasure and comfort and ease and self-centred living, before seeking out and doing my will so that my power is revealed to the world, they see your love and unity and are convicted and your lives full of salt-and-light-impact and transform your communities like I want them to? I simply ask the question. Does it apply?

Revelation in the midst of a Crisis: See something significant to finish here. David has been concerned for his situation, for the negatives that are impacting his life – which he knows are from the Lord – and looks for mercy from the Lord to ease the pain, but the very next thing that comes is rebuke and challenge. It is almost as if in the midst of crisis the Lord speaks and says, “Look at the bigger picture, look at what is going on in Israel spiritually. See the shortcomings and do something to change that.” It is true that in times of crisis when we are seeking the Lord and crying out to Him, that we get revelation about the big picture, about the issues that are on the Lord’s heart, the things that stop His people fully entering into their inheritance, the things we need to attend to.  Do we need a crisis to hear that?

15. Continuation

Reaching into the Psalms 1 to 4:  15. Continuation (start of Psalm 4)

Psa 4:1    Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

Look again!  At first sight this first verse is just another of those cries of David that become so familiar in these psalms, and perhaps because of that I know it is another of those verses that in the past I have just skimmed over without giving it any real consideration. If that is true of you, let’s slow ourselves down and chew it over, meditate upon it and see what is behind it.

Urgency: It comes at the beginning of a psalm that may well be a continuation of the previous psalm for there are similarities, so it may be still on the occasion of David being on the run from Absalom. Having said that there do seem to be some stronger spiritual elements in it, but that may just be because David is thinking more about the nature of the people who are ousting him. In the middle of Psalm 3 we read, “I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain,” (3:4) but now there appears a stronger urgency, not merely a testimony: “Answer me when I call to you.”  This has that feel to it of, “Lord, I’m crying out to you, I need you to hear me, I need you to respond to me.” It is a strange thing but unbelievers may pray but without any conviction. It takes a firm, committed believer to suffer frustration with God, because we believe in Him, we believe He has given us a channel to Him in prayer, and we believe He is a communicating God and so we expect Him to hear us and answer. For these reasons it is the committed believer who puts urgency into such praying.

God’s Righteousness: But then we come to a phrase which produces a variety of translations. The ESV and NKJV both have “O God of my righteousness,” while the NLT has, “O God who declares me innocent,” while the NRSV has, “O God of my right.” Now although there may be some cause for the translators to take this uncertain phrase in this direction, I think theologically, from what we know of David, in this instance he is relying upon what he knows about God and is not appealing to his own righteousness (which he does do elsewhere) because if this is what we think, a continuation of his appeal on the run from Absalom, he knows he has not been righteous and is indeed under God’s discipline because of two acts of extreme unrighteousness, so he would not be appealing on that basis.

Now this is an important and significant point. I am maintaining that the NIV that we are using here conveys most accurately what David is thinking and saying when he says, “my righteous God.” He is affirming his belief in God, not in himself. God does all things rightly – including bringing discipline and including delaying in answering specific prayers sometimes – that is what is behind this prayer of this man described as a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14, Acts 13:22). He will not blame God! He will not make himself out to be righteous and blame God either for his circumstances or for the apparent slowness in seeing an answer to his prayer.

And us? I believe our circumstances sometimes present a test for us, there to see how we will respond under trying circumstances. I believe I have been and still am facing such a trial, such a test at the present time and I watch others and see similar tests. Such trials make us grow up and mature, and they reveal to us (as well as to the Lord who already knows!) just where we are at in God’s redemptive process in our lives. It is only with His grace, apprehending it, taking hold of it and applying it by an act of will, that we remain righteous in our outlook and attitudes and subsequent thinking, words and behaviour. Part of our changing (2 Cor 3:18) is learning to trust God and not apportion blame for what appears to be happening to us. As I said, an important and significant lesson.

Relief? “Give me relief from my distress.” This takes us into the area of relief ‘from’ or relief ‘in’. At the moment of writing at least, David’s mind is in turmoil. David could be delivered ‘from’ his present circumstances if, say, someone back in Jerusalem had assassinated Absalom and changed the mind of his followers to repent and call back to Jerusalem the Lord’s anointed, David. That would have meant David being delivered out of them. But if the circumstances are going to carry on, then David needs a deliverance from his sense of turmoil, the anxiety he has within him. That would come about when the grace of the Lord imposes in his mind a sense of security, a sense of peace, and that so often comes when we pray (see Phil 4:6,7). Deliverance ‘from’ means a change of circumstance, deliverance ‘in’ means an inner heart and mind change.

A Need for Mercy: “have mercy on me”.  Mercy is undeserved compassion, forgiveness and blessing. Note the key word – undeserved. An appeal for mercy is saying, “I recognize I have no grounds to ask you to do this and so I plead with you to do this, just because you can.” For David, he is saying, “I realize I am in this mess because I deserve it and you are bringing discipline on me – and I deserve that – but in the midst of this I know you are the same righteous God who does all things well and so I plead with you that I may still experience something of your loving goodness towards me. Even asking for such a thing is in fact an expression of praise towards God, acknowledging something about His greatness that exists entirely independently from us; He IS known as a merciful God, a God who responds positively towards us, even though we don’t deserve it.

Let mercy listen: “hear my prayer“. There are times when we have messed up so badly that those who have been affected by our actions will just not listen to a word we say. If God had been us, if we had seen David’s adultery and murder-plans, and that in the face of all the things we had done for him, the human response would have been to write him of, give up on him, cast him aside. But God isn’t us – thank goodness! – He is merciful because He is love (1 Jn 4:8,16), and because we have learned that, it can give us hope that He might listen to our pleas.

When we have sinned and completely blown it, the wonderful thing is that God, as a loving heavenly Father, doesn’t turn His back on us but, to the contrary, is out there looking to hear those words that indicate change of heart, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son,” (Lk 15:18,19) and then to our amazement He throws His arms around us and kisses us (v.20) and orders a celebration (v.22,23). It is because we know that, that we can pray, even when we have got it seriously wrong. How wonderful is that; hold on to that if that is you.

14. Deliverance

Reaching into the Psalms 1 to 4:  14. Deliverance (End of Psalm 3)

Psa 3:7,8    Arise, Lord! Deliver me, my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. From the Lord comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people.

Deliver me!  Here is a pair of verses I think most of us just skim over without a great deal of thought. Yes, David wants God to deliver him. OK. Move on. Hold on! David is clear in his request, for now we have returned to the request part of this prayer, and it is to be delivered out of this present situation. Now think about this; how many of us have life circumstances that we wish we could wave a magic wand over and change? Perhaps it is state of health, perhaps it is boring work, perhaps it is annoying neighbours, perhaps it is rebellious teenagers, perhaps it is the tantrums of the terrible twos, perhaps it is the anguish of having to cope with senile parents. We have a couple of friends both of whom have elderly parents who put such demands upon them that they rarely have a moment’s peace. Perhaps you are one of those elderly parents and you fear because of the awareness of declining faculties. There can be so many things, living in this fallen world, that are stressful.

What sort of fighting? So yes, the objective of this part of the prayer is quite clear but look at the language. Strike my enemies on the jaw???  Break the teeth of the wicked??? Hold on, I thought this was supposed to me a man after God’s own heart? We need to realise two things.  First there is David, his times and his life. He is first and foremost a warrior. Whether it was killing lions and bears, slaying giants or leading armies against thousands, he is a warrior and this is the language of a warrior. Second, you and I are not called to be warriors in the same way. The battles we fight are against ungodliness and unrighteousness and we operate under an army commander, seated at his Father’s right hand in heaven, who is working out his strategies on earth, partly by means of his own Holy Spirit who indwells you and me, and the thing about it is that we are called to ‘fight’ with the character of our commander. Hence we find, “I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:44,45)

Change this! Put aside the language, what do we see here? That same insistence that you and I feel when confronted by attacks from the enemy – Lord please step in, stop this happening!  Yes, in his case it is the language of a warrior of those days but it is exactly the same in its sense as the cries that come out of us. Perhaps one of the best illustrations of the frustration that sometimes builds up in us came from Habakkuk: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.” (Hab 1:2) His cry was over the unrighteousness he saw all around him. The Lord’s answer, put most briefly, was, “I’m on it – but perhaps not in the way you might expect!”

Confident Assurance: But then in verse 8, having just asked for help, comes a declaration that that help WILL come because God does this sort of thing; that David has learned. “From the Lord comes deliverance.” (v.8a) Throughout his life, this warrior has realised that when he has had victory, it was the Lord enabling him, for example, “The Lord who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” (1 Sam 17:37) David had been the one who had used a sling, but it was the Lord who had enabled him to overcome. That is spiritual maturity, recognising our abilities come from the Lord. And once we have that? Then we can rest in the assurance that in the present trying circumstances, the Lord WILL come and deliver.

Peace and the bigger picture: See the flow of this whole prayer. First there had been the acknowledgment of the problem of his present circumstances (v.1,2). Then came what he knew of the Lord, what he had learned over the years – that God was his shield and so on (v.3) – and then came the recognition that when he cried to the Lord, the Lord always heard him (v.4), but the Lord’s ‘hearing’ wasn’t something passive, it meant that David could rest at peace in that security (v.5), knowing he did not need to fear the opposition (v.6). So now he could pray confidently for the Lord to come and deliver him (v.7) because he knew that that Lord was a deliverer (v.8a) and having come to that point it is as if peace reigns in David’s heart and he is able to simply speak to the big picture, “May your blessing be on your people.” (v.8b) Even in that he declaring God’s will for he knows that that is God intention, that is what God wants to do – bless His people.

Blessings from God: Back in the Law we find, “All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God,” (Deut 28:2) and that is then followed by a whole series of ways that God wanted to decree good over His people. Obedience was the thing the Lord called for again and again so that His people would learn to walk in the ways He had designed for His world, and when they did that they would find that He decreed good for them – His blessings. This was what David knew the Lord wanted now in these present circumstances – that His disciplinary will would be worked out in David’s life and if David responded righteously, then the Lord’s blessing would be forthcoming. Yes, it would be for him, but it would also be “on your people,” on the nation as well. How easy it is to miss the implications of these few simple words. David may be a king on the run but he is still God’s king over His people and he still wants God’s blessing for these people, despite the difficulties he is suffering under God’s discipline. A test of righteousness and spiritual maturity is how you respond under the discipline of the Lord. May we pass such tests.