Miracle Cures


1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger,

nor discipline me in your wrath!

2 For your arrows have sunk into me,

and your hand has come down on me.

3 There is no soundness in my flesh

because of your indignation;

there is no health in my bones

because of my sin.

9 O Lord, all my longing is before you;

my sighing is not hidden from you.

10 My heart throbs; my strength fails me,

and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.

11 My friends and companions stand aloof from my plague,

and my nearest kin stand far off.


15 But for you, O LORD, do I wait;

it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

18 I confess my iniquity;

I am sorry for my sin.


21 Do not forsake me, O LORD!

O my God, be not far from me!

22 Make haste to help me,

O Lord, my salvation!

Miracle Cures

Every few months a new vaccine or treatment is hailed as being an answer to some form of ailment. The cutting edge of medicine in our day seeks cures for cancer, AIDS, Hepatitis C, and other harmful if not lethal illnesses. Our modern day is not too far distant from that of our ancestors. They sought miracle cures, and we seek miracle drugs.

This is one Psalm of which some commentators believe to be part of what are psalms for healing. In medieval Judaism and Christianity this psalm was used by chaplains at many a sick-bed.  David offers us plaintive prayer for healing with three main emphases:

1. Overbearing Burden

The Psalmist clearly faces an overwhelming burden of both the physical and spiritual nature. Physical Ill health is not directly linked in every occasion to spiritual ill heath. Often sickness and disease is simply the product of living in a world that has been thrown into cosmic disarray and often not of our own choosing. “For creation was subjected to futility, not willingly,” (Rom. 8:20).

However, David in this Psalm believes his sickness to be rightly merited. “O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath!” (v. 1). He is aware, as even our common sense will tell us, that actions have consequences. The psalm is penitential yet gives us no context. There is no descriptor like so many other David Psalms which give us a glimpse into the poetry behind each situation. But it seems to indicate that he has an external skin ailment that “stinks and festers” (v.5).

A pompous and pedantic theorist might argue that prayer detailing one’s sickness is superfluous in view of God’s omniscience(v.9); but our Lord points out that only faithless chatter is superfluous (Matt. 6:7ff.).

2. Outcast man

David’s physical ailment is in some sense a parable of his deep inner ailment.

The word plague is perhaps chosen for its associations with leprosy (e.g. four times in Lev. 13:3,), for this is how his friends were treating David. He is experiencing being a social outcast, a physical outcast and ultimately a spiritual outcast. David feels like an outcast not only from his human friends but  from his ultimate friend, the God of Israel.

3. Only Hope

Hope is our patient awaiting for an expected outcome. David is outstanding in any company for his ability to wait (15) for God. His fugitive years, his Hebron period and his attitude to Absalom’s revolt, all proved the sincerity of his prayer in 15f., and of his advice in Psalm 37. His hopes have never been in military might, family success, or a nation’s acclaim. His hope is in YHWH the “The Lord who will answer”(v. 15)

This final plea, with its pathetic urgency, shows that David’s capacity to wait God’s time, mentioned at the start of this section, owed nothing to a placid disposition or to a situation well in hand, but everything to the God he knew by name (Yahweh, 21a) and by covenant (my God), and as Master and Saviour (22b).

Despite the feelings of pain and suffering and abandonment the Psalmist does not end with a hopeless cry such as “Do not rebuke me.” v.1 and “Do not forsake me.” v.21.  His final cry and only hope is in the Lord, ‘[his] salvation. (v.22). He knows that God will never forsake him for the sake of the Forsaken, Crucified One.

David realizes that the deepest healing he needs is not physical healing – though nice – it is a deep inner spiritual healing: the Healing of Forgiveness.

May we walk in the healing of forgiveness.

Close Calls


Close Call
Close Call

Psalm 34


1 I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

10 The young lions suffer want and hunger;

but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.

11 Come, O children, listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted

and saves the crushed in spirit.

19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,

but the LORD delivers him out of them all.

20 He keeps all his bones;

not one of them is broken.

22 The LORD redeems the life of his servants;

none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.


Part of the beauty and charm of driving down the backroads of the Scottish Highlands are the passing lanes. These roads are fun and yet they can be harrowing. This Psalm has a quick superscript telling us that is one of those close calls for David. He ingeniously “changed his behavior,” or better said, pretended to be “bonkers” in order to avoid the wrath of the king of Gath.

David offers us two quick ideas in this psalm of thanksgiving 1. Rejoice with me (1-10). 2. Learn from me (11-22).(see Derek Kidner, IVP Psalms)

Rejoice with me

Life is filled with these crazy moments of divine rescue and human ingenuity. This is Davids story. “This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.”(v6) David referring to himself as a ‘poor man’ is a positive acknowledgment of humility and selfless enthusiasm. He gives us the secret of contentment. “I will bless the Lord at all times.”(v1)  Much like Paul, we can almost hear David say “Rejoice at all times”(1 Thes 5:18).

Learn from me

In verse 11 the psalmist doesn’t want us to simply have a moment of ecstatic enjoyment, rather he is looking for ecstatic engagement. He wants us to learn the secret of contentment. “Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.” (v11). Often in Hebrew wisdom literature the teacher or schoolmaster (whether in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, or the Psalms) would refer to his pupils as benim [Hebrew for children]. The Psalmist clearly wants us to learn from him.

The last twelve verses bid us reflect on our circumstances and learn about the “awe of the LORD” (v11). These close calls are not just coincidental near misses, they remind us of a caring Father who knows us full well. This amazing divine rescue confirms to David what his heart already knows, that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28)

David prophetically and unknowingly speaks about the greatest event, where not just near misses, but actual distress and catastrophe still work together for good. “He keeps all his bones; / not one of them is broken.”

The New Testament authors understood this Psalm to be fulfilled in Jesus on the cross. The trials that crushed Jesus will now no longer have power to break us. Christ has delivered us. Now no matter what happens to us, God will not allow us to be broken, only molded.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!

Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (v8)


This is the secret of contentment.

Attitude of Gratitude – Hymn of the Week








Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;

Praise him, all creatures here below;

Praise him above, ye heavenly host;

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

(words by Thomas Ken, 1674)


Songs have Backstories

“I am dying,” Bishop Thomas Ken wrote, “In the Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West; and, more particularly, in the Communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from both Papal and Protestant innovation, and adheres to the Doctrine of the Cross.” There is no finer statement of “mere Christianity” to be found anywhere.

Bishop Ken died on 19 March 1711 and at dawn the following day, whilst his faithful friends sang the tune of this hymn, Bishop Ken’s remains were laid to rest beneath the East Window of the Church of St. John in Frome – the nearest parish in his old Diocese of Bath and Wells.

Songs have Meaning

This well-known hymn falls in a category known as “doxology’ [lit. words that give glory from the Greek ‘doxa’ – glory and ‘logos’ word].  It follows in the vain of many Jewish and Christian Doxologies (see Rom 11:36; Rev 5:13b; 1 Tim 1:17) with its many variations and expansions: “To whom/him/you (be/is) the glory for ever. Amen.”

Jews and Christians typically used such doxologies as a conclusion to a prayer, a sermon, a letter, or a part of any of these. These were an expression of monotheistic worship. It is the One God of Israel to whom glory belongs eternally.

Songs bring Challenge

Bishop Ken’s doxology brings a challenge. Avoid old silliness and avoid new silliness, “adhere to the Doctrine of the Cross”. The oldest innovation in the book is the idea of independence. Notice the opening line “Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow.” This hymn bids us to acknowledge our dependence. Every single benefit in our life is a product of God’s goodness and not our own. It is not a begrudging dependence but a spirit of thankfulness and praise.

The newest innovation Ken warns us against is the idea of materialism. By this it is not the idea of consumerism and material goods but the idea that life is only what we can observe and perceive with our natural senses. The Common Doxology tells us the best way to recapture the wonder of worship is to get a glimpse of Glory. When we see the universe not as simply a material machine, but a canvas awash with the wonder of its Author. This eternal perspective will allow us to praise as both “creatures below” and join in with “heavenly host[s]”

Reflect on your past experience of worship. Do you experience genuine, fulfilling worship each Sunday? How much time is specifically allotted to worship (narrowly defined)—that is, to times of praise and thanksgiving to God? Would you like the time to be longer? What aspects of the worship time do you find most meaningful? Which aspects are least meaningful? How could you take steps to strengthen and deepen your experience of worship?

May our lives be a living Doxology:

Deep honor and bright glory

to the King of All Time—

One God, Immortal, Invisible,

ever and always.

Oh, yes!

1Tim. 1:17

listen to Dave Crowder Band perform “Doxology

God Save the King!

Psalm 20


1 May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble!

May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!

2  May he send you help from the sanctuary

and give you support from Zion!

3 May he remember all your offerings

and regard with favor your burnt sacrifices! Selah

4 May he grant you your heart’s desire

and fulfill all your plans!

5 May we shout for joy over your salvation,

and in the name of our God set up our banners!

May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

6 Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed;

he will answer him from his holy heaven

with the saving might of his right hand.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.

8 They collapse and fall,

but we rise and stand upright.

9 O LORD, save the king!

May he answer us when we call.

God Save the King!

Plato once remarked, “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

The psalm presupposes that a battle or military campaign is about to begin, though no details are provided. From a military perspective, such a battle required careful planning, well-trained troops, superior military resources (e.g. chariotry) to those of the enemy, and the courage to fight. But in Israel, something more was required before departure for battle. It was fundamental to the faith of the Hebrews that success in battle depended primarily upon God, not only upon military planning and strategy. And so, before a campaign could commence, there must first be a retreat to the temple.

This passage tells us three contrasting things about the community of believers: 1) We are fighting but we have won (we are militant and triumphant) 2. We are a small part of the big picture (we are a particular expression of the universal church) 3. The are deeper things at work than our eyes can see (we are part of the visible and invisible church).

A fundamental characteristic of the experience of ancient Israel was the frequency of warfare. It characterized the historical experience of Israel, as it did that of all nations in the ancient (and modern) world. The practice of warfare in ancient Israel was intimately related to religion; the Lord, a “Warrior” or “Man in Battle,” participated with his people in the experience of warfare (Exod 15:3).

1. We are militant, yet triumphant

The first verse is a statement of the difficulties of life (“day of trouble”), and yet it honestly realizes that in the midst of trial there is triumph (“May the Lord deliver you”).

2. We are a particular body of believers, yet part of the universal body of believers

Every Israelite would have been arrayed for a fight, yet each one would have had a particular task and a particular expression that was unique to them and necessary for the proper functioning of Israel. Modern denominationalism can be much like this ancient tribalism, acknowledging that each tribe may have its emblem and standard but meanwhile centring around the Banner of Christ. Regardless of their expertise or their tribal affiliations each swore allegiance and sought help from the Messiah (lit. “anointed”)(v6). Any help sought from Zion (v2) is now seen as sent from heaven itself.

3. The Invisible intersects with the Visible

Israel through this psalm acknowledges that it must “retreat to advance.” Before Israel can face their enemy, they must face their God. Any soldier worth his weight would weigh up a situation and come up with a plan taking into account the enemies capabilities (“some trust in chariots and some in horses”). Chariots and horses were the most formidable force of ancient times, but they brought memories to Israel of miraculous victories, e.g. at the Red Sea and the river Kishon (Exod. 14; Judg. 4). Israel recognises that their weakness is in fact their strength.

We see the invisible intersect with the visible supremely on the Cross. The victories of our King are imputed to us, our defeats and shame are laid on him. Our Champion has won the day and we did not even lift a finger in our struggle. The Psalm ends with the phrase which it coined and is immortalised in almost every western coronation service:  “God Save the King!”

May we see the King and His Kingdom intersect with our lives. May we see his triumph in the midst of our trials. May we see our particular story collide with God’s Great Story. “God Save the King!”

Dangerously fun

Psalm 16

 1 Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. 2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you.” 3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. 4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.  5 The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. 6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. 8 I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Jonathan Edwards once said, “True Religion, in great part, consists in the affections.”(The Religious Affections)

Affections can seem ethereal, changeable, and sometimes untrustworthy. However, this is not the definition that the reformers gave it. The definition of these “affections” (or what most people today mean by feelings) is: “the more vigorous and sensible exercises of the inclination and will of the soul.” In other words, the feelings that really matter are not mere physical sensations. They are the stirring up of the soul with some perceived treasure or threat.

That is what this Psalm is all about. It’s theme is one’s affections centred on God. It is “affection” that gives this psalm its unity and ardour. In so far as it can be divided, it sings of the chosen loyalty in verses 1–6, and the blessings that come to meet it in 7–11.

This Psalm is peppered with references to affections: delight (v3), sorrow (v4), pleasant places (v6), beautiful inheritance (v6), glad (v9), rejoices (v9), fullness of joy (v11), pleasures forevermore (v11).

This psalm bids us to embrace our privilege, the privilege of joy, and our inheritance (v3). It warns that turning away from God at whose right hand there are pleasures evermore (v11) will only lead to a multiplication of sorrow (v4),

Dorothy Sayers once said, “The Dogma is the Drama.” Often we have made God and the godly life the most boring thing out there. There is no one more exciting more enjoyable, more thrilling and more challenging than God himself. Yet we have sought to tame Him or turn from Him.

Often we can be like the child who is offered a holiday at the sea and choose to stay in our own little muddy puddle because we are unaware of the stunning beauty, or sheer joy of the offer. Thinking that mud and muddy water is more beautiful than the seaside and the sea.

The Psalmist speaks of the root that drives us humans and that root is pleasure. We seek for pleasure granting experiences, relationships, jobs, holiday and the like whilst forsaking He who is Pleasure itself.

Jesus came to unleash us into a life of joyful pursuit of Him and free us from the addiction of false pleasures. Both Peter, in his sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:25–28), and Paul, in the synagogue at Antioch (Acts 13:35), interpret this Psalm as about Jesus, the Holy One, who delivers us from the grave and leads us into joy. The pleasure that has begun in this life will continue into its fullness in the world to come. (v11)

The motivating factor for Jesus’ self-sacrifice was pleasure, “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame.”(Heb 12:2). You can hear Him say, “Nothing would bring me greater pleasure than rescuing you.”

May our heart cry to God, “Nothing would bring me greater pleasure than gloryfing You and enjoying You forever.” (Westminster Catechism)

Shaken, not Stirred

Psalm 11

To the choirmaster of David.

1 In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. 2 For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. 3 When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” 4 The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. 5 The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates. 6 On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. 7 For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.


Shaken, not Stirred

This Psalm is not too different from the lyrics of the award winning Scottish singer Emeli Sandé:

When the skies are grey and all the doors are closing
And the rising pressure makes it hard to breathe
When all I need’s a hand to stop the tears from falling
I will find him, I’ll find him next to me

What do we do when our foundations are shaken?

David does not give us much of a historical context for where this Psalm falls. He hints at arrows being “fitted…to the string”(v.2) and a sense of flight. We do not have a helpful superscript telling us it was a coup attempt like Psalm 3 with Absalom, or fleeing from Saul as in Psalm 57. However, it is not unlikely that he routinely faced physical, spiritual and even social threats during his life. It is precisely this lack of superscript that makes it a timeless treasure.

The psalm contains two basic sections: (1) the sense of despair (11:1–3); and (2) the restoration of confidence (11:4–7). Verses 2 and 3 most commentators place in quotation as statement from counselors. It is verses 1 and 4-7 that are David’s response. The sense of despair asks two questions 1. Where is our Foundation? And 2. Who is on the throne?

A Foundation

With everything going awry David’s counselors speak of this lack of any foundation. David’s response is a heartfelt praise in prayer to God. Though it feels like the foundations are shaking socially, economically, politically or even physically as he fears for his life, the sweet singer of praises of Israel confidently replies to his advisers, “The King, The LORD, is in residence, not in flight: his city ‘has foundations’ (v.4).”

A Throne

The Psalmist has discovered that the biggest source of his stress and worry has come when he has not recognized that the King is in residence and enthroned. It is precisely when David sat on the throne of his life and tried to run his world that he became the very source of his own stress. Martin Luther once told his good friend and worry-wart Philip Melanchthon, “Let Philip cease to King” and let God reign.

A Face

It is precisely because we have other foundations than Christ and others sitting on the thrones of our life that we experience stress. There in the middle of our stress, God is both immanent, and therefore present with us in crisis, but also transcendent, and therefore in control of the apparent chaos of that crisis. It is this God who will not hide his face from us, even if we hide our face from him (Is 53:3)

Let us seek his face. Let us look for that unshakeable city “that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)


Hymn: Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.


“Rock of Ages” is a popular Christian hymn by the Reverend Augustus Montague Toplady written in 1763 and first published in The Gospel Magazine in 1775.

This hymn was regarded as one of the Great Four Anglican Hymns in the 19th century.

Traditionally, it is held that Toplady drew his inspiration from an incident in the gorge of Burrington Combe in the Mendip Hills in England. Toplady, a preacher in the nearby village of Blagdon, was travelling along the gorge when he was caught in a storm. Finding shelter in a gap in the gorge, he was struck by the title and scribbled down the initial lyrics on a playing card.  The fissure that is believed to have sheltered Toplady is now marked as the “Rock of Ages”, both on the rock itself and on some maps, and is also reflected in the name of a nearby tea shop.

Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages, Burrington Combe

The hymn though potentially inspired by an event in Toplady’s life, it is more probable that he drew the motif from the story of Moses hidden in the cleft of the rock. (Ex 33) It is the beautiful story of Moses’ deep desire to know God fully as he asks to see His face. God replies, “You cannot see my face and live, it is too beautiful, too holy, too powerful, too glorious.” But God has a remedy for Moses, if Moses is hidden in the cleft of the Rock he will be able to see God. His “terrible beauty” (Psalm 68:35, The Message) will not consume but will rather protect him. Paul speaks of this same Rock as a type and figure of Christ “and the rock was Christ”(1 Cor 10;4) He says that Rock which sheltered and provided sustenance for Moses, was in fact Christ.

Augustus Toplady poetically alludes to the wound in Christ side being the very cleft within which we find protection, comfort and sustenance. “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, / Let me hide myself in Thee;” We are hidden in the cleft of his wounds.

Jesus, this Rock, is not only protection from “terrible beauty” but rather makes us terribly beautiful. This Rock that was stricken in the desert and from which water flowed (Ex 17:6) becomes not only protection but the very Living Water that washes us whiter than snow, or as Toplady puts it so eloquently:

Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure,
Save from wrath and make me pure.

 Listen here



Please, Please, tell me a story

Please, please, tell me a story


Psalm 9

To the Choirmaster: According to muth-labben

A Psalm of David.

1 I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. 2 I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. 7 But the LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, 8 and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness. 9 The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. 10 And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you. 11 Sing praises to the LORD, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds! 12 For he who avenges blood is mindful of them; he does not forget the cry of the afflicted. 13 Be gracious to me, O LORD! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death, 14 that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation. 19 Arise, O LORD! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before you!

The Story

Stories grip us as human beings. I guess that is because we all have stories. As Plato said all stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Unless you are into bleak films, you probably like stories with a happy ending or in technical terms “resolution.”  Psalm 9 is one of those Psalms that has a resolution. The Psalm begins with a story, “I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”(v.1) It has conflict, when it speaks of the “oppressed … in times of trouble”(9) and it has a beautiful resolution “Be gracious to me, O LORD! … [that]I may rejoice in your salvation.” (v. 13).

Joseph Campbell in his book Hero of A Thousand Faces speaks of the fact that every story in the world is actually a story about a hero “who ventures … from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”

CS Lewis hints at this same idea in Mere Christianity when he hints that every story is simply a retelling of the “one, true story.” This Psalm begins with a Hero as its subject, the LORD, (“I will give thanks to the LORD”). David, as the storyteller, introduces these fabulous forces that are arrayed against him and confidently belts out “I will recount his wonderful deeds.”

So What?

Though trials come to shake David and us, our psalm and song should be that of wonderful deeds where the “righteousness” or right running of the world prevails (v7,8).  David though hard pressed sings about his Champion. This Champion is he one who bids us trade out shame and defeat for his glory and fame. It is the best deal ever, trading and whole lot of nothing for a whole lot of everything.

When troubles come our way David urges to sing the song of the wondrous story.

I will sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ Who died for me.
How He left His home in glory
For the cross of Calvary.

Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story
Of the Christ Who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory,
Gathered by the crystal sea.


I am sorry you feel that way

Psalm 6

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to the Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

1 O LORD, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath. 2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing; heal me, O LORD, for my bones are troubled. 3 My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD—how long? 4 Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. 5 For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise? 6 I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping. 7 My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. 8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. 9 The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer. 10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

This is the first of the seven so-called ‘penitential psalms’, viz. 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143.  When in tears and depression, says Derek Kidner, “this psalm gives words to those who scarcely have the heart to pray, and brings them within sight of victory.” This psalm encapsulates that “no excuse!” mentality.

Everybody has probably had to ask forgiveness from someone within their lifetime. We inherently develop different ways of asking for forgiveness, we self-excuse, we appeal to extenuating circumstances and sometimes we simply say “No excuse.” Often our apologies can actually be underhanded ways refusing to express repentance. Think of the phrase, “I am so sorry you felt that way.” Blame is shifted from me to you. It is actually not my fault but yours for misunderstanding me. This is not the case with David in this Psalm we are acutely aware of is his refusal to self pity and lie in despair.

After confessing and admitting that his actions have brought on these circumstances, David does some deep theologising, “Turn, O Lord, deliver my life, save me for the sake of your steadfast love.” When David‘s conscience is uneasy, and he appeals to grace to temper the discipline he deserves, whether in sheer mercy or in covenanted love; for these are the nuances of the words used in 2a(“gracious to me”) and 4b(“steadfast love”).

Depression and exhaustion as complete as this are beyond self-help or good advice. Even prayer has died away. The foes (7) who would normally have roused David only crush his spirit now. If anything is to save him it will owe nothing to his own efforts. Such is the extremity which God is about to transform. (6, 7).

David understands that his actions and intentions rightly deserve exclusion (“depart from me”), but greater than this is his understanding of Grace. It is this loyal love, this covenant steadfastness display time and time again by God and supremely on the cross that David exultantly says, “The LORD has heard my plea, the LORD accepts my prayer.”(v. 9)

Jesus quotes this Psalm in Matt 7:23. “Depart from me all you workers of evil,” is not merely a hard-pressed sufferer rounding on his tormentors, but a sovereign asserting his power to purge his realm of mischief-makers, as his kingly vow demanded; But how does this King execute justice? He suffers exclusion that we may suffer inclusion. He suffers the ultimate exclusion of death and the grave (v. 5 “in death there is no remembrance and in Sheol there is no praise.”) He comes to execute justice FOR you not ON you.

As Micah rightly puts it:

Micah 7:8-9 Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.

How do you sleep at night?

Psalm 4:1-8

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.
As Psalm of David.

1 Answer 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! 2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah 3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. 4 Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. 6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” 7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. 8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

One of the biggest problems humans face is deep restlessness. Judith Shulevitz, famed New York Times columnist, described this deep restlessness and our need for deep peace this way:

“Most people mistakenly believe that all you have to do to stop working is not work. The inventors of the Sabbath understood that it was a much more complicated undertaking. You cannot downshift casually and easily, the way you might slip into bed at the end of a long day not only did drudgery give way to festivity, family gatherings and occasionally worship, but the machinery of self-censorship shut down, too, stilling the eternal inner murmur of self-reproach.”

When evening rolls around distracting situations vie for our attention. Often evenings can be such occasion.  The main theme of the psalm however is not just looking at sleeplessness, rather it is concerned with inward peace in a difficult  situation. The approach of night, with its temptation to brood on past wrongs and present perils, only challenges David to make his faith explicit and to urge it on others, as a committal of one’s cause (4f.) and oneself (, 8) to a faithful Creator.

Psalm 4 is traditionally classified as an individual lament, but more precisely it is a psalm of confidence in which the innocent worshiper rises above the grounds of lamentation with sure trust in God.

This Psalm hinges on David’s description of God. He does not appeal to God based on his “godliness” [literally devotion –chesed] (v3). Rather his answer will come from God’s own righteousness (v1). Neither pietistic, religious moralism, (“Who will show us some good?”) nor hedonistic self-discovery (those for whom “grain and wine abound”) will grant peace and rest. It is God alone who in peace will make us lie down and sleep, “for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (v8)

The Holy Spirit, speaking through David, challenges us to see where we derive our sense vindication or righteousness (v1). Any other way of seeking vindication will only lead to hotheadedness and disillusion, “O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?” (v.2) Paul challenges this very notion quoting this psalm in Eph 4:26 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” If Jesus is our righteousness then we don’t have to fight for our rights. If Jesus is our vindication we do not need to prove ourselves. It is this confidence in justification that leads to true, deep rest. It is Jesus who speaks to the restlessness of our life, “Peace, Be still.”