Christian Copyright Licensing International (CCLI) | Streaming Licensing # 20105663Worship Guide
God Our Refuge: The Gift of Contentment
Psalms 4:1 - 4:8
August 14, 2022
Reverend Chris Hildebrand
In Psalm 4, David teaches us that we should not shy away from coming God with our unsettled hearts. Remembering what he has done for us and crying out to him should lead us to repentance, which will allow our hearts to become content and joyful no matter our circumstances.
View Sermon Transcript
We have been spending the second half of our summer in the Psalms. We're in a series called God Our Refuge: Finding and Delighting in the God Who Saves Us. It's been our hope that as we spend some time in these early Psalms—some of the Psalms might be familiar to you, some might not be familiar—that they would become the commentary of our lives, that these Psalms would give us words of our own to offer in all sorts of different circumstances, that they would captivate our imaginations, that they would stir our faith, and that they would ultimately point us to Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith.
Two sermons ago, we looked at Psalm 3. That's where David was on the run from his son, Absalom. Absalom was trying to garner an army, to overthrow David, and ultimately to kill him. David is fleeing from him. He made it through the night, and he realized that God had been protecting him and watching over him in orchestrating those events that night.
In this sermon, we're in Psalm 4. David is not out of the woods just yet, so to speak. His life is in danger. He's made it through one night, but conflict, anxiety, and fear have not ceased. They are still there. They have not faded. Therefore, David's heart is unsettled. You can hear it in this Psalm, and in many of the Psalms of David. His life, at this point, is still marked by chaos and uncertainty. Psalm 4, is part prayer to God, and it's also part conversation with others—with Israel or friends, but also with David’s enemies. It's a conversation with those whose hearts and lives are unsettled, which makes Psalm 4 a perfect Psalm for anytime, but most definitely when your life is not going according to your plans.
I know that you're familiar with this phenomenon. This is so much of life, where you've got the script for how you're hoping your life will turn out. You're putting in the right inputs, and then expecting the proper outputs. You've worked so hard to curate your life, to try to make the right decisions at every turn. You know what you want, you know what you desire, and you've done the best to carefully orchestrate your desired outcomes. For whatever reason, for reasons that you might be aware of and for other reasons that you might not be aware of, your life, or a season of your life, or an aspect of your life is not going according to your plan. That is the cause of an unsettled heart. David is all too familiar with this, but David is God's anointed king, and as the one who is to lead Israel, he shows us how to move from an unsettled heart to a heart that finds peace, joy, comfort, refuge, and contentment. That is Psalm 4.
We're going to jump in, and take a look at it, and see how it might help us in our unsettled hearts as well.
To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
1Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
2O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
4Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
6There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
7You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
8In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
This is the word of the Lord. It's absolutely true, and it's given to us in love.
Would you pray with me?
Our gracious God and Heavenly Father, we pray that this Psalm would offer a place of refuge and hope in the midst of our hearts, which are so oftentimes unsettled, filled with anxiety, and fear, and the lack of contentment that we so long for. God, I pray that by the power of your Spirit, you would help us to see, and to hear, and to know how you call out to us and how you provide for us, and we, like David, would be able to bring our unsettled hearts to you and find peace, and hope, and joy in you and you alone. We pray this all in Jesus' name. Amen.
One of the things that surprises me most about the Psalms is how inviting they are to people who are agitated, or people who are frustrated with their lives. I think a common misconception that many share—and I fall into this as well—is that in order to pray, in order to approach God, in order to really have any relationship with God, we first have to come to a place where we are settled in our hearts, we are certain in our minds, we are clean with our hands, and we are clean with our actions in order to approach God. It's not really come as you are. It's kind of come as you think you ought to be. Come as yourself, but reach some standard that you think is worthy before you approach God—whatever standard that is that you have for yourself.
Spending time in the Psalms shows us that that approach where we first fix ourselves up and then come to God is not the life that God intends for his people. It's actually a misguided belief. David is wrestling with this. He is wrestling with his circumstances, and he's bringing everything—every joy, every frustration, all his circumstances—to God. Each and every day, each and every night, he's crying out to God. It's David's unsettled heart, it's his frustration, that actually leads him towards God, not away, but towards God. I think the sad reality is that our natural tendency is to move away from God in those moments, but as we'll see in this sermon and Psalm 4, this is exactly when David invites us to draw closer because he knows that only God can offer true refuge and true contentment.
David Models The Prayer Of An Unsettled Heart
First, let's look at the prayer that David models for us. He starts with the prayer of an unsettled heart. In all of Book 1 of the Psalms—from Psalm 1 to Psalm 41—David is in constant trouble. He's under constant threat, and danger is around every corner. You'll frequently find in these early Psalms, prayers that sound more like cries of desperation or pleas for help—almost demands. You get it in v.1, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!” I don't know when the last time your prayer started with “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!” but this is how David is dealing with his unsettled heart. His first instinct isn't: OK, how do I get out of this jam? What kind of scheme do I need to hatch? What do I need to do in order to get through this? His plan rather is to take whatever he has and bring it to the Lord. Right now in this Psalm, all he has is a plea. All he has is a cry for help, so that's what he brings. “Answer me when I call.”
He's doing this because he knows that God has already delivered him in the past. That's why he continues with this prayer: “You have given me relief when I was in distress.” The translation here literally says, when I was in a tight place, you made it broad for me. In other words, when I was in a jam, you delivered me. David is remembering and recalling the ways that God had delivered him and rescued him in the past, which is now giving him hope for his future.
The Psalms mirror reality that is our lives. You get through one difficulty only to face another. You go from one tight spot, get out of that one, and now another crisis or another challenge arises, something else comes up. This is true of your work, it could be true of your personal life, in parenting, with school, in your relationships. You're rescued from one thing only to find yourself in trouble in another way. Because of this, this is also David's experience, he's really good at two things. The first thing is remembering. David knows how to remember God's past faithfulness, and he's good at remembering the ways in which he has been rescued, so that then he can look forward with hope to the future, in the next difficult spot that he's in. The second thing he's really good at is crying out to God. Notice David is never sheepish or reluctant to approach God. Here's another jam that he's in, and what does he do? He prays. He cries out every time. He's not concerned with bothering God again, bothering God too many times, overwhelming God with his own problems, or having too many problems, or too many requests, or having those requests too close together. That never gets into David's mind because David knows that God never grows tired. He never grows weary, and so he cries out yet again. This is the prayer of an unsettled heart. It remembers, and then it cries out again.
This is why despite the constant trouble and the constant jams that David finds himself in, he never loses hope. Here he prays, “Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” This prayer for grace rests in the promise that there's relief and that there is blessing for those who take refuge in God. You may recall that the Psalms began in Psalm 1 with the first word being “blessed.” “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The first word of the Psalms is blessedness, this promise of blessing, of grace. Then the blessing was promised again in Psalm 2:12, where it says, “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” Blessed are all who take refuge in the Son, the King, the Anointed One. Here again is a promise of blessedness. Here the word used is grace. “Be gracious to me.” In other words, Lord, may I find my blessing in the God of refuge. David is modeling for us the prayer of an unsettled heart, as he himself wrestles with his own circumstances, with his own restless and unsettled heart, given what's going on in his life and the danger that he's facing.
David Shows Us The Danger Of An Unsettled Heart
Then David also shows us the danger of an unsettled heart. David models for us the prayer in the beginning, but he also reveals the dangers of an unsettled heart. What we find in this Psalm is that it’s not only David whose heart is unsettled, but it's also everybody else as well. You have his friends. You have Israel who's still looking to him as king, and their hearts are unsettled because they're most likely living through a drought and they're seeing all the other nations around them having abundant crops and having a hopeful future. They're going to be able to have a bountiful harvest. There's grain and wine abounding and they're getting news of this and they're wondering what about us?
It's not just David’s friends, it's also the enemies of which there are many, including Absalon, David’s son, and all of the army that Absalom is raising up, who don’t want David to be king of Israel. They want another king. They want to follow after someone else. Their hearts are surely unsettled as they are no doubt trying to dethrone David and ultimately to kill him. Therefore, David wants us to see that the problem lies not in the fact that our hearts are unsettled, but it's what we do when we face restlessness, when we face our disappointment, that can be the problem. In v.2, David says, “O men, how long shall my honor be put to shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?” The danger is when we are unsettled, and when our unsettled hearts go unchecked, an unsettled heart can turn into a divided heart. That's v.2.
When David asks, “How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?” he's again taking us back to Psalm 2. This is a picture of the nations. You might recall that Psalm 2 starts with, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?” That's the picture of the nations. We chase after vanity. We believe lies about who God is and lies about ourselves, and our hearts then become divided. Israel now wants another king, another god to lead them, and so they're chasing after other idols. In other words, they're chasing after vanity and lies.
When we grow restless, this is what we do as well. We pursue relationships, and prosperity, and success as the ultimate pursuit, the ultimate goal, and our hearts and our allegiances become divided—divided between the promises that God makes to us and the promises that these lesser gods and idols are making to us. David is telling them and he's telling us, don't chase after those lies. It's simple vanity, and it amounts to nothing.
Jesus will refer to this too in his ministry. In Matthew 6 he talks about the divided heart. This is what he says in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” There is Jesus talking about the divided heart, and the danger of a divided heart, but notice also here, in Psalm 4:7, David also shows us that an unsettled heart leads to a divided heart, but it also then leads to an envious heart, which ultimately will turn into a bitter heart.
In v.6, he anticipates the question his opponents, or even some of his friends are asking or will ask, and it's this, and it is a powerful question: “Who will show us some good?” I think that's the equivalent of when am I going to catch a break? When will I get what I've wanted for all these years? When will I get what I've worked so hard for all these years? When will I finally get what I deserve? There's a bitterness that has set in for Israel, a bitterness that looks out at the other nations and says, “they have material blessing. They seem to have a harvest. They have abundant crops and when are we going to get ours?” There's a modern day equivalent for us, and I think it goes something like this: “God, I follow you. I'm doing the best I can. I try to be faithful. So, where's my…fill in the blank? Where's my better story? Who will show me some good?” There's a bitterness that creeps in and takes hold of us when an unsettled heart is left unattended.
Maybe you don't ever say exactly that, or perhaps you won't even dream of thinking those words, but the danger of an unsettled heart is oftentimes really far more subtle. That's what makes it so dangerous. Our hearts are like gardens. They need constant care and attention, and they need to be tended to. If we're not weeding out the false gods, and the vain desires, and the lies that we're so often given to, if we're not coming to terms with the alternate stories that we tell ourselves, and if we're not being honest with ourselves that we actually ask this question—”Who will show us some good?”—in 1,000 different ways, if we're not tending the garden of our hearts, then the unsettled heart becomes divided. Then it becomes bitter, and then finally grows completely cold and unresponsive to the God who makes us, to the God who calls out to us, and the God who ultimately redeems us.
David Shows Us The Response To An Unsettled Heart
Before we move on to the response of that unsettled heart, I just want to see that this is why community is so important and why we spend so much time talking about Community Groups and fellowship, and seeking ways for us to make connections together as a church because our hearts are so unsettled. It is because the danger of our heart growing cold and bitter is so subtle, we need other people reminding us and revealing to us the ways our hearts are divided, that our hearts are envious, bitter, and cold, and that ask, “Who will do us some good?” It's a dangerous question of a bitter heart. When we're left for ourselves, it's the question we will ask, and so what we need are trusted, kind, gracious friends who, like David, lead us back to the God who fills our hearts with joy. We need friends who bring us back to Jesus, who is the one who offers the hope and promises that we are longing for, especially when we are growing bitter, especially when our hearts are in a season of being completely unsettled by the circumstances around us. We need to foster and cultivate community and work for it, and take the time and effort to seek out and build those relationships. In addition to finding trusted friends, who we can rely on to return us, how else do we seek after and how else do we move from an unsettled heart to joy, and contentment, and peace? David shows us.
To Be Honest
First, the response of an unsettled heart, is to be honest. The first way we respond is to be honest. David says in v.4, “Be angry and do not sin.” I think David here is advising and inviting his friends, his enemies, and his followers to work through their rage against God, and against God's king, David, and work through their rage and anger at the announcement that has already been made in Psalm 2, which so much of this is building off of, that they will not overthrow God. They will not overcome God. He cannot and will not be overthrown, and neither will Yahweh’s King. \
Saul has already tried to overthrow David. Absalom now is trying to unseat and kill him, but as David reminds them here in v.3, “The Lord has set apart the godly for himself. The Lord hears when I call to him.” David is saying, “Go ahead. Be honest with your anger. No matter what you try to do, you cannot overthrow him. He will not be unseated as God. Yahweh will not be overthrown.” I think the same is true for us. That we also must be honest with God. Oftentimes when we're anxious, when our hearts are unsettled, when we're looking at the circumstances of our lives, or those around us, and we're wrestling with envy, we're also angry. We're growing in anger—angry that we are in this position in the first place, angry that our story isn't the same as someone else's story, and angry that we're not getting the outputs in after all the work that we've done in our lives. We have to be honest about the anger that we are facing. We're angry that we're not in control of our lives, and we're angry that we get through one problem one day, and the next day another problem arises. Therefore, David says, “Go ahead. Be angry. Be honest with God, but do not sin.”
I think we also need to realize this is so much of the reaction of the world, our friends, our neighbors, those we live with and work with, those we share buses and subways, and sidewalks and elevators. There's an anger that everyone faces that we ought to be able to, at least in part, relate to. It's an unmentioned and oftentimes deep seated anger: that God cannot be overthrown, no matter how hard the world tries, no matter the advancements humanity makes, no matter what we do, no matter what laws are passed, or who is in office, or what agendas are put forth, no matter what our culture decides is flourishing or good for us, we cannot overthrow God. It goes back to Psalm 2, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?”
But we should take this as good news, because the very one who we seek to overthrow when our hearts are unsettled, is actually one who loves us. He's actually the one who calls us by name. He's actually the one who has created us, and he's the one who's going to rescue us. He's the one who's actually going to give us the better story that we are longing for, and hoping for and always seeking after, so we should take great joy and delight that this God, despite our best efforts, and despite the best efforts of the world, is not going to be overthrown.
David is saying to everyone, “Go ahead, be angry,” but he's also saying there's a limit to your anger. It cannot go on. At some point, after you're honest, you're also called to repentance. We're all called to repentance. The only right response is repentance. That's the second part of v.4, when David says, “ponder in your own hearts on your own beds, and be silent.” That's a picture of one who's been in rebellion, and then realizes their error and begins to think through their way of repentance and submission to God. David says, “Go ahead, work through your anger, work through your rage, and then repent, and then put your trust in the Lord.”
If you're here and you're trying to figure out Christianity or the Christian faith, or your friend or your parents dragged you here, and you're not quite sure what I'm talking about, the only thing I can tell you is to ask someone who's been a Christian for a while, ask them about this dynamic. Ask them for an example in their own life, where they finally came to the place where they realized that not only can they not unseat God, but finally in submission to his power and in belief and trust in his goodness and in his loving kindness, they realized they no longer wanted to. They no longer want to unseat God from his throne. I know there are many of you here who have stories that reflect Psalm 4, where having pondered in your hearts, you have come to this beautiful, glorious realization that God will not be overthrown. That is the best news that there could ever be. That's a Psalm 4 moment. I think we all need some Psalm 4 moments. I think we actually need a lot of them, often, throughout our weeks and in our lives. We need those times in our lives where having realized where our unsettled hearts have led us, we return in repentance to the one who actually saves us.
Delight In God
It’s not only honesty that David invites us to. It's not only repentance
that we are called to. We're also called to delight in the God who is the giver of joy. What I want you to see is how the Psalms give us categories and language for our anger, for our disappointments, and then help us work through our unsettled hearts. They don't just leave it there. We're not called just to leave in a place of anger. That's why being schooled in the Psalms is vitally important for us. David says in v.6, “Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” Then in v.7, he says, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.”
For David, he's moved from his own heart being unsettled to now seeking after God's face, yearning to be in God's very presence. This is the Aaronic Blessing from Numbers, which is our sending word each and every Sunday:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
David realizes that when he has the light of the Lord's face upon him, he actually has everything he needs. It's the key to a settled heart. David is saying, “let the nations have their grain. Let them have their crops and their wine, and let it abound. Let them relish in their material, but fading prosperity. Let them have their physical success, for walking with God, being with him, and seeking his face far exceeds the greatest heights that are ever possible by worldly success, or ambition.”
This is the promise that you were sent out with, every time we gather, every Sunday. That by submitting to the fact that God will never be overthrown, you can now rest in the promise that God's face shines upon you no matter what comes your way each and every week, no matter what successes others may have in their relationships, no matter what successes that might come in their business, no matter what success their kids might have, no matter what schools they get into, no matter what the stock market is going to do this week, and no matter what jam you might find yourself in this week. You can now rest, because the Lord has put more joy in your heart, than what any other success might offer because he promises to shine the light of his face upon you.
David now has moved from an unsettled heart to one that is content with his life, even with his challenges. Ultimately, he's delighting in the God who calls him. This, then, is how we can lie down and sleep and do it with peace as David does here in the Psalm. That's how the Psalm ends because he can celebrate that God steadfastly protects and preserves his people.
In order to do all of this, in order to live like this, where we bring our concerns to God, where we remember all the ways that he's rescued us in the past, where we repent of our divided, and envious, and embittered hearts, we need a king, who not only knows the source and cause of our unsettled hearts, but is actually going to do something about it. David, here in Psalm 4, is hinting at the fact that the king will have to ultimately deliver his people. Eventually, the king can't be on the run. Eventually, the king can't be under the threat of death from others. Eventually, the king can't live with an unsettled heart. We need a king who is seated and ruling and reigning and is secure for us, for the story that we're longing for and the hope of the world to come. This is why this Psalm can only be understood in its fullest and most beautiful form as we see David putting his trust and asking us to put our trust in the greater king to come, the one who will never be on the run, who will subdue his enemies, who will turn the hearts and lives of his people to himself.
This Psalm is meant to lead us to Jesus. This Psalm will take you right to the heart, to the settled heart, of Jesus. He is our only place of true refuge. He is the only one who can actually bring us peace, the only one who can ultimately put joy in our hearts. He promises to shine the light of his face upon us, so that we will have life in him. One of the great promises that we carry with us as we come to the table, is that our unsettled hearts are being fed and nourished by the king, who ultimately invites us into his presence, who promises to shine the light of his face upon us, and the proof of that is here at the table. In this bread and in this cup, we are brought into the life and the communion of God, where we take refuge in him, so that our unsettled hearts, filled with circumstances from one trouble to the next, finally find their home, and their rest, and their peace in the God who rescues us, renews us, and calls us by name. This is the grace you're looking for. Come and bring your unsettled hearts to the one who rescues us, nourishes us, and gives us rest, so that we can lie down in peace and safety, not because of what we've done, but because of what our King Jesus does and offers to us, each and every day of our lives.
We give you great thanks, Jesus, that this Psalm that we've meditated on leads us right back to you and brings us to the table. It is the light of your face that we seek and what we so desperately need. It is your protection, it is your hand that delivers us each and every moment of our lives. God, I pray you would help us to see that and know that, and I pray that you would give us hearts that are settled, that are not envious, that do not grow in bitterness, but grow in being content with who you are and who you have called us to be. I pray that we would rejoice at how you are at work in our lives each and every moment of our time. We pray this in Jesus' mighty name. Amen.