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.

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23. Humbled

Meditations in Deuteronomy : 23 :  Humbled, Provided For, Disciplined

(Focus: Deut 8:1-5)

Deut 8:2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

A casual reading of parts of these early chapters of Deuteronomy might conclude there is just a lot of repetition, but a closer reading shows that where there is repetition it is for a different specific purpose and it usually has different elements to it. This is what we find here.

So chapter 8 starts out with something that has been said a number of times before.  Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers.” (v.1)  Note again that there is a command and a promise so the promise is conditional on the command. The command is a simple call to obey all the laws being reiterated by Moses, and the promise is blessing on their lives and an enabling to go in and take the Land. Normally, previously, the promise has been to have long life in the land but the promise here is the ability to take the land. So the obedience to the Law needs to start right now for it impacts all that is going to follow.

But now it is followed by yet another call to remember the past, but this time it is a call not only to remember it, but understand it, understand what was going on and why! Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (v.2) The basic facts of their recent history were that God had led them while they wandered for forty years in the desert having originally failed to enter the Promised Land. But what was going on while that was happened? God was humbling them and testing them.

When you look back on the records of that time they are limited mostly to different crises that occurred – lacking water, lacking food etc.   Now, says Moses, that wasn’t coincidental, that was God testing you to see how you would react. The crucial issue at every crisis was would they turn to the Lord, would they stick to what they had been told about Him, would they adhere to the Law?  Rather than just waste that forty year period, the Lord used it to teach and train Israel.  The most important thing was that they had to learn to trust the Lord and stick to Him.  Often they hadn’t done very well, but a learning process is like that, you don’t do very well initially but you get better as you learn.

But there was a specific aspect to this teaching: “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” (v.3) When they had eventually decided to enter the land on the previous occasion it was a pure example of self-confidence, not confidence in God.  They had to lose that self-confidence because it was not the thing that would see them through in the centuries to come, it was a confidence in the Lord, which is what the Sinai covenant of love was all about – about coming into a relationship of trust in God. So a number of times they had a crisis of provision and the Lord looked to see if they would turn to Him for provision – they didn’t, they grumbled instead, but nevertheless the Lord DID provide for them – manna.  They had to learn that their future lives did not simply depend on material provision, but also provision of the wisdom of God, every word that comes from Him!

He reminds them of what happened: “Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.” (v.4)    Not only did the Lord provide manna, quails and water.   He also ensured that their clothes did not wear out.  One pair of sandal for forty years!!!  Then comes the key principle behind all this: “Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.” (v.5) There it is! What had been going on throughout those years had been God’s disciplining. Now don’t misunderstand this.  So often we equate discipline with punishment but in the Bible, discipline is God training His people. Yes it does involve correction and yes sometimes it is painful, but the purpose is always good. It is that the people of God learn to trust God.

When crises happen today, how do we view them?  Panic?   Or do we turn to the Lord to hear from Him to see what provision He wants to bring us to cope with the present?  These are profound questions and they deserve some careful thought so that we may trust Him more and more.