How do you cope with bad news? If you are like David and his followers then it takes time to sink in. At first there is just disbelief and shock. Then the panic sets in as you try and find the best way to respond to the difficulty you are facing. For these people and their families their immediate objective was to walk with all the stuff they could carry the roughly twenty miles to the Jordan River and get safely across to the other side. The darkness of the first night on the run was the cover they needed to accomplish this goal. To the royal party used to a comfortable life in the palace it must have been a great shock to live at such a basic level simply trying to survive those first few days.
This meditation by King David in Psalm 4 relates to the end of the second day on the run. The ground under foot had been uneven and far from easy to cover at any speed, even without the presence of elderly people and young children. I picture them camped for a second night out in the open. There in the sight of the starry sky, not dimmed by modern light pollution, the weary travellers eagerly laid down to rest. How did David view their situation at that time? What did he have to say to God in his prayers?
(1)The upwards call (Psalm 4:1-3) Answer me when I call to You, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer (Psalm 4:1). David had many flaws and weaknesses that were well known. He lived his whole life in a very public way. Yet he was never too proud to admit it when he got things wrong and let God down. He was well aware that God was a holy God who knew him better than he knew himself. He had no right to obtain favours from God. Instead, he humbly sought mercy from Him. This is a wise step for us all. God knows our hearts and we cannot hide anything from Him. The wonderful blessing is that God is so gracious to those who come humbly before Him seeking His assistance. David also had a real confidence that God would hear and answer his prayers. Psalm 4:3 states: Know that the Lord has set apart His faithful servant for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him. I hope each one of us shares this same confidence that David had in God hearing his prayers.
(2) The inward conviction (Psalm 4:4-6) David recognised so well that we are all sinners and he was anxious that no sin would come between him and God. He wanted to take the necessary time to ensure his heart was right before God. Search your hearts and be silent (Psalm 4:4b). He wanted to make sure that though there was rightful anger at the injustice of what was happening in their land that it did not lead to ill-considered actions. He wanted to make sure that God was approached in the right way during such a tough time (Psalm 4:5). David knew that there were other people resigned to despair. Many, Lord, are asking, ‘Who will bring us prosperity?’ Let the light of Your face shine on us. (Psalm 4:6).
Another writer of Psalms, the Jerusalem Temple worship leader Asaph wrote in Psalm 77:6 these words: I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked… But he later admitted his own serious doubts of his struggles being resolved satisfactorily. ‘Will the Lord reject for ever? Will He never show His favour again? 8 Has His unfailing love vanished for ever? Has His promise failed for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld His compassion?’ (Psalm 77:7-9). God did bring him through his difficult time and will do the same for you and me if we put our faith in Him. One of the blessings for some people in recent months has been for more time to spend on other things while confined at home. There is a time to be still in God’s presence reflecting or meditating on His Word and coming before Him with our prayers.
3. The secret of contentment (Psalm 4:7-8) You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. There are two blessings David says he is enjoying even in these most distressing of circumstances. You have filled my heart with greater joy… He is not saying God has supernaturally made him so happy. No! Happiness is based on feelings and in times of serious crisis we are anything but happy. However, joy is contentment and a security in knowing that God has things under His control, even if I cannot see the evidence for it. Then and now God’s people are called to live by faith not by sight (II Corinthians 5:7). Will you and I entrust our futures to the Lord? When we can truly say ‘yes’ to this question it is remarkable how much easier we find it to be at peace with ourselves and also to sleep at night. David here writes: In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. I sincerely hope and pray that this is your experience as well, as you and I trust God to take care of our futures.
Our song for reflection today is: ‘In Christ alone’