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A Psalm of Supplication
1. The prayer of Cornelius. As an introductory to the study of Psalms 4:1-8 , which sets forth a great prayer of David, we thought we would give some other Bible characters, in the Book of Acts, which show various phases of the prayer life.
The prayer of Cornelius in Acts 10:1-6 is outstanding because it is the prayer of one who was a sinner in darkness, seeking for light. Here is the statement of our Scripture: "A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway."
Should I have called such an one a sinner? Yes, all have sinned. Remember, however, that Cornelius was a sinner seeking to know God. We know that his alms and his prayers both came before God as a memorial of honesty, integrity, and earnest desire. May a sinner pray? Cornelius prayed. The publican prayed. I prayed.
2. Prayer in the Early Church. The Church was born on her knees, baptized with the Holy Ghost the day it was born. Just after Pentecost Peter and John went up to the Temple at the hour of prayer. The three thousand baptized at Pentecost continued in the Apostles' doctrine, in the breaking of bread and in prayers. It was as the Apostles prayed that the place was shaken.
3. A prayer for power in witnessing (Luke 24:49 ). Here the disciples were commanded to tarry in Jerusalem until they were endued with power from on high. In Acts we read: "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brethren."
4. Prayer mingled with praise (Acts 12:5-12 ). Here is another phase of prayer. Peter was in jail but prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God. That night Peter was loosed by the angel of the Lord, and when he was come unto the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark, he stood before the gate. Within the house it says: "Many were gathered together praying." As Peter entered, their prayers were turned to praises as Peter told them how the Lord had brought him out of prison.
5. Prayer and fasting (Acts 13:1-4 ). It was in Antioch that a group of brethren, including Saul and Barnabas, had gathered together in prayer and fasting. As they continued, the Holy Ghost said, "Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." When, therefore, "they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." This vision of prayer suggests the place of prayer in service, and how those who are praying and fasting will have the Holy Spirit to guide them in their work.
6. The prayer of a sinner for help (Acts 16:9 ). As Paul was waiting for guidance, there appeared unto him a vision in the night, and behold, "There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us."
7. Prayer and praise in persecution (Acts 16:25 ). "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them." This is a beautiful picture of how we should meet our difficulties.
These few examples of prayer we have given, as found in the Book of Acts. Our lives should be just as filled with prayer as were theirs. If God the Holy Ghost should write a book delineating the experiences of the present-day church, would it be filled with the story of prayer?
I. A PRAYER FOR MERCY (Psalms 4:1 )
1. An acknowledgment of God's righteousness. The 1st verse of our study reads: "Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness." It is far better for us to plead God's righteousness than to plead our own. If we seek approach unto the Most High upon our self worth we will find ourselves excluded.
There was a certain man who prayed thus within himself, saying, "I thank Thee, that I am not as other men." He then paraded his own piety. He, however, went away unaccepted.
2. An acknowledgment of God's enlarging. David said, "Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress." Here is a word with very significant meaning. It is as much as to say, "My distress, my difficulties were the basis upon which I was enlarged." In other words David might not have so large a blessing, if he had not had so much of distress.
This remains true unto this day. When we are in trouble we throw ourselves, in our need, more fully upon Him; then He hears our cry and comes to us in answer to our plea. Remember that Christ used the troubled waters of Galilee, which were about to swamp the ship in which the disciples rowed, as the very steppings which brought Him to them.
3. Past blessings, the basis for a plea for future blessings. David cried, "Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer." He said this after he had said, "Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress." That is, Thou who hast helped me, can, and will, still help.
Let us feel free to plead God's past blessings as the ground for present needs. It is far better, methinks, to make an appeal upon His bounty, than upon anything that we have, or can do. He blesses according to "His riches in Glory," and not according to our accumulation of good deeds.
II. A WICKED AND PERVERSE GENERATION (Psalms 4:2 )
1. They make our glory our shame.
2. They love vanity,
3. They seek after leasing.
1. The wicked would make our glory, our shame. He is our Glory and the Lifter up of our heads. Those experiences in life which men may call our shame, He may well call our glory. Here is an example in line with David's words. The Cross of Christ was a cross of shame. Have we not read He "endured the Cross, despising the shame"? The Cross was to the Jews a stumblingblock, but to us who believe, it is the power and wisdom and the glory of God.
Here is the Divine sense of values, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive * * glory." So also was David's shame, as men counted it, His glory; so is ours.
2. The wicked love vanity. Moses, when he was come to years, turned his back upon all of Egypt's treasures and pleasures. He chose rather to suffer affliction with the children of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.
The wicked run after vanity. The lure of gold and the glitter of honor is, to the men of sin, a sweet morsel. The true Christian prefers to go outside the camp, bearing the reproach of Christ. He prefers shame and spittle with Christ, to worldly honor and pomp. How often are the rich immeasurably poor; and the poor immeasurably rich!
3. The wicked seek after leasing. They will run after the lie of the devil, faster than they run after the truth of God. They will seek false gain, more than the lasting riches. They follow the lustings of the flesh, more than the leadings of the Spirit.
How great is the folly of the ungodly! Satan comes to them in the cunning of deceitfulness, with signs and lying wonders. The ungodly refuse the love of the truth, and therefore God sends upon them strong delusions that they may believe a lie.
Let us not go coveting after the things of this world, but seek the things which are freely given us of God.
III. THE LORD'S PEOPLE (Psalms 4:3 )
1. Ye are "special people."
2. "Ye are not your own."
3. "Call unto Me, and I will answer thee."
1. Ye are a special people. Our key verse says: "The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself." This is in line with the words of Peter, as, in the Spirit, he said: "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."
God loves all men, and gives His call to whosoever will. However, it is those who come to Him by faith, believe in His mercy, and follow fully in His will, who are especially His. A godly person is one who walks with God, worships God, and centers His life in God. Such an one, God sets apart for Himself.
How significant are the words: "These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth." In their mouth there was found no guile, and they are without fault before the throne of God.
2. Ye are not your own. If we have been set apart by God unto Himself, we certainly do not belong to our own selves. Is it not written: "Ye are not your own"? For my part, I am glad to acknowledge Divine ownership. I would feel it the greatest honor of my life to know that I had walked before God in so godly a way that He had set me apart for Himself.
We remember that from among the disciples Christ chose twelve whom He called Apostles. From among the Twelve, there were three who were given particular recognition. Let us seek that we may be counted among His holiest and His best.
3. Call unto Me and I will answer thee. The concluding word of our key text is: "The Lord will hear when I call unto Him." Who is the one who has assurance in prayer? It is the one who is godly. It is the one who walks daily with his Lord.
IV. HOW TO APPROACH (Psalms 4:4 )
1. Awe-filled adoration.
2. Approaching God with a pure heart.
3. Meditation of Him.
1. Awe-filled adoration. " Stand in awe." These are the words with which our verse opens. We believe that the greatest need of the hour is a new sense of the greatness of the Lord. There is too much cheap talk about Deity, and too much familiarity in approaching Him.
Some people seem to think that they have a right to glibly address the Almighty. It is written: "Let all the earth keep silence before Him." Jesus Himself taught the disciples to say, "Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name."
We may indeed come to Him as a child, trustingly; but we should also come as a servant, in all humility. We should likewise come as a worshiper, giving adoration to His Name.
2. Approaching God with a pure heart. Some people imagine that they can live as they list, during the day, and then come to God to pass the compliments of the eventide. It is written, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart."
We grant that none of us are clean in ourselves, but we may approach the Lord clothed in the robe of His righteousness.
3. Meditation of Him. Our verse concludes with "Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." We need to ponder and to think upon the ways of our God. We need to meditate in the quietness of the nighttime. By day, we need to think upon Him as we move among men. While we are upon our bed, however, shut out from the world, that is the time when we can recount His many blessings. We like the verse which says: "Remember * * Jesus Christ."
If we love Him as we should, He will be always in our hearts and minds.
V. ACCEPTABLE OFFERINGS (Psalms 4:5 )
1. Offering the sacrifice of righteousness.
2. Offering our bodies as a willing sacrifice.
3. Offering a heart filled with trust.
1. Offering the sacrifices of righteousness. There is a verse in the Book of Isaiah where the Lord says: "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me?" The people were coming before the Lord and offering the blood of bullocks and of lambs, but the Lord said unto them: "Bring no more vain oblations." He told them that their solemn meetings were iniquity unto Him. Then He cried: "Wash you, make you clean: put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes."
In the New Testament God calls upon us to present our bodies as a Jiving sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto Him. If our hearts are unclean, if we are walking in known sin, and in every evil way, it is impossible to offer a sacrifice of righteousness.
2. Offering our bodies as a willing sacrifice. This we should do. He gave His all for us. Should we not give our all to Him? When we willingly bring our bodies, as instruments of righteousness unto God, they are a sacrifice of righteousness. We once yielded them as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin. Washed and made clean in His Blood, we now bring them to the Lord, to be used in His service. Miss Havergal well said:
"Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee."
We should bring our members and give them all as a willing sacrifice to God.
3. Offering a heart filled with trust. Our verse finally says, "Put your trust in the Lord." It is not enough to bring a sacrifice. We must bring a faith, a confidence in the One to whom we present ourselves.
VI. IN THE LIGHT OF HIS COUNTENANCE (Psalms 4:6-7 )
1. A question "Who will shew us any good?" We now have before us the pratings of the multitude. They are saying, "Who will shew us any good?" There is still that same crowd who are decrying the value of the Spirit-filled life. They vainly imagine that walking with God gets us nowhere. They say: "How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?"
These words fall from the lips of the ungodly, who prosper in the world. They speak loftily against the Lord. They imagine that to serve God curtails prosperity and brings sorrows and oppression.
2. A confidence "Thou hast put gladness in my heart." In contrast with the many who say there is no good coming to us who follow God, David said: "Thou hast put gladness in my heart." He had found God the source of every bounty. The Lord's countenance, to David, was a countenance of light. He was not afraid to come before the face of God. He even prayed the Lord saying: "Lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us." He acknowledged that the blessings of God were richly given, and that his walking with God had filled his heart with joy.
3. A precedence The light of His countenance is better than corn and wine. The Psalmist did not mean that he had nothing in the way of corn and of wine, or nothing in the way of temporal blessings. He did mean that the light of the Lord's countenance was of far more value to him than the things which he possessed.
Let the world have its corn, its wine, its silver, its gold. Let it have every blessing that is upon the earth. We would rather count our spiritual blessings, as our greatest joy.
VII. THE SECURITY OF THE SAVED (Psalms 4:8 )
1. The Lord makes us dwell in safety.
2. "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep."
1. The security of the saved. The saved are safe. They are not safe because of what they are, or do. They are safe because they are hid away in the hand of their God. The Lord said: "My sheep hear My voice, and * * they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
David said a great truth when he prayed: "For Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." If our safety depended upon our good works, we would never know when we had worked enough. If it depended on our good words, we would never know when we had spoken enough. The arm of flesh is a poor stay indeed. David sought to hide himself in the shadow of the Lord's wings. He said: "Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I."
If you had asked David where his safety lay, he would never have said that it lay in anything that was of the flesh. His trust was in the Lord.
2. "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep." There are some people who vainly imagine that the message of "security in Christ," leads to loose living and careless walking. This is not what it led David to do. It caused him to slip into the Covert, and to lay him down in peace to sleep. Should we not have that same spirit of confidence and trust?
The real believer, filled with Divine trust, is not afraid of the arrows that fly by day nor of the pestilence that walketh by night. He knows that he is safely sheltered in the arms of his Lord.
As the Apostle Paul thought upon these things, he cried out in the Holy Ghost, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" He mentioned tribulation and distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword. With all of these things closing in upon him, he said: "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus."
Praise and thanksgiving should be the great note of our worship.
Do you all know the story told by "Sister Abigail," of a day in George Muller's Orphanage at Ashley Downs, when there was literally no breakfast for the children in the house? "Sister Abigail" was a small child at the time, and her father was a close friend of George Muller's. One day, that man of faith took the child's hand and said: "Come and see what our Father will do," and he led her into the long dining room. The plates and mugs were on the table, but they were empty. There was no food in the larder and no money to supply the need. The children were standing waiting for the morning meal, when Mr. Muller said: "Children, you know must be on time for school." Then lifting his hand, he said, "Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat" A knock at the door was heard. The baker stood there and said: "Mr. Muller, I couldn't sleep last night; somehow I felt you had no bread for breakfast, and the Lord wanted me to send some. So I got up at 2:00 o'clock and baked fresh bread and have brought it." George Muller thanked the man and gave praise to God for His care, then said, "Children, we not only have bread, but the rare treat of fresh bread." No sooner had he said this, than there came a second knock at the door. This time it was the milkman. He said his milk cart had broken down, right in front of the orphanage, and that he would like to give the children his cans of fresh milk so that he could empty his wagon and repair it. Selected.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Psalms 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28