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Every Christian wants to experience Gods presence, and God wants us to spend time in communion with him. Here is the way a seven year-old girl understood Gods relationship with humanity, "In the beginning God was lonely, so He made people to play with.... You could talk to them better than you could talk to dinosaurs."
It is true that God wants to talk to us, but sometimes we get so busy with all our responsibilities and activities that we never spend some quiet time alone with God waiting to feel his presence in our life. This is why we are calling on the church during the 50 days from Easter Sunday, April 4, to Pentecost Sunday, May 23, to spend time each day waiting before God and allowing him to fill our hearts with his presence.
Answer me when I call, O God of my right! Thou hast given me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
If we want to experience Gods presence, we must call out to him in prayer. We must be willing to spend some time alone with God. You may think that its just too difficult to find time in the day for a quiet interval with God especially if you have a growing family with all the attendant responsibilities. But we somehow find time to do the things that we really want to do. If spending time with God is a priority, we will find time to do it.
When we are sick, we go see the doctor to make us feel physically well. When we are hurting, we go to our family or friends for emotional comfort and support. When we are ailing spiritually, we too often feel we have to just suffer in silence. But this has never been Gods plan for us. God wants us to spend time in his presence.
If the doctor prescribes medication, we faithfully take it every day. We dont just talk with our family or friends when we are hurting, but we are refreshed from being with them often. So why do we spend so little time in Gods presence? We need to learn to faithfully every day wait on God until we experience his divine presence ministering to us, comforting us, and renewing us.
VanGemeren comments, "God is righteous in himself; but his righteousness is expressed as he relates to his people, as a father to his children. He has promised them his presence and victory over adverse circumstances. ... The psalmist expresses his need for the favor, grace, and mercy of the covenant God, who stoops down to help needy human beings."
O men, how long shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.
I look at verse 2 as portraying Gods anguish with humanity. People say they believe in God and claim to want to have a spiritual experience, but their words are vain words, and they are really lying to themselves and others. We say a lot of things, but do we really mean them? We say we honor God, but spend little time doing it. We may think we dont have any time to spare, but we suddenly find we have time if someone calls to talk with us on the phone or if someone unexpectedly drops by our house. Meanwhile, God is trying to reach us and we give him a busy signal and we wont answer his knock at the door of our heart.
We need to realize what David writes here in verse 3 we have been set apart by God for himself. We are special to God and important to him. He wants to spend time with us to encourage, strengthen, and help us grow spiritually. As Spurgeon remarks, "O beloved, when you are on your knees, the fact of your being set apart as Gods own peculiar treasure, should give you courage and inspire you with fervency and faith."
Let us be willing to spend time with God to make experiencing Gods presence a priority each day.
Be angry, but sin not; commune with your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
The Hebrew word here translated "be angry" is < w%zg:rI> rigzu and it means to tremble or quake. This use could mean to be angry, but it more likely means to stand in awe before God or to tremble. Perhaps the psalmist is saying that even though there may be cause to tremble, dont give in to those fears. Instead, commune with your own heart and be silent.
This one verse gives us wonderful instruction on how to find fellowship with God. David tells us to commune with our own hearts on our bed. In other words, get alone where there is only you and God. Allow your heart to reach up to the Savior. Allow him to minister to you and to touch you.
Then, the psalmist tells us to be silent. We cannot experience God unless we are willing to be hushed and allow him to minister to us. We need to be willing to wait in silence for that still small voice of God speaking to us and for that loving, caring divine presence to embrace us. If you truly want to experience God, spend some time quiet before him.
Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.
David tells us to offer right sacrifices. Sometimes allowing God to minister to us requires some sacrifice on our part. We need to not only be willing to spend time in prayer and meditation with God, but we also need do those things that will make our heart receptive to receive Gods message, such as regular Bible reading, regular fellowship with other believers, regular times of worship and praise, and a willingness to place our confidence in God and believe him for all our needs.
Next, the psalmist tells us we must put our trust in God. If the emphasis of our life is to trust our own efforts, our own ability, our own financial planning, and the reliability of others, we may discover that we really are not trusting God for anything in our life. None of these items mentioned is a bad thing, but we can sometimes be so busy with our own priorities that we leave God out of our decisions, our focus, and our trust.
There are many who say, "O that we might see some good! Lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, O Lord!"
If we want to experience Gods presence, we must desire it. David writes, lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, O Lord. Is this your prayer? Do you long to experience the presence of God in your life?
The Treasury of David tells us, "The true believer is a man of a very different mould. His face is not downward like the beasts, but upward like the angels. He drinks not from the muddy pools of earthly materialism, but from the fountain of life above. The light of Gods countenance is enough for him. This is his riches, his honour, his health, his ambition, his ease. Give him this, and he will ask no more. This is joy unspeakable and full of glory. Oh, for more of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, that our fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ may be constant and abiding!"
Sometimes we are seeking an emotional experience instead of a godly experience. There are times when Gods presence sweeps over us in waves of spiritual glory. It is natural to want to experience this kind of blessing all the time. But most of the time Gods presence is with us to help us through the everyday mundane things that we face. It may not be as emotionally rewarding during those times, but it is far more spiritually rewarding as God is teaching us how to walk and grow in faith.
You can take five gallons of gasoline. Pour it out and light a match to it and you have an instant explosion of light and fire. But that fire will soon burn out. You can take the same five gallons and put it in the gas tank of your car and you can drive 100 miles on it. Sometimes Gods presence explodes in our soul and we are overwhelmed with spiritual joy. But other times Gods presence fills us and sustains us so that we can go the extra miles down the road of our spiritual journey.
Thou hast put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
As we experience Gods presence, we will find we have more joy than anything in this world can provide. As Spurgeon points out, "Christ in the heart is better than corn in the barn, or wine in the vat. Corn and wine are but fruits of the world, but the light of Gods countenance is the ripe fruit of heaven. ... Let my granary be empty, I am yet full of blessings if Jesus Christ smiles upon me; but if I have all the world, I am poor without Him."
I think we can only get to the place where we truly experience the fullness of Gods presence as we learn to let go of the attractions and the seductions of this world. We seek Gods presence because we genuinely think it is more important than the grain and the wine and all the other worldly trappings. If our happiness is based on how much money we have, how much financial security we have, or how large our house is, then we will never be able to truly receive the full joy of Gods presence. It is only when we are willing to find happiness in God that we learn how worthless and unimportant worldly treasure really is. Not that any of these things are wrong, but God should be our priority, not things.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for thou alone, O Lord, makest me dwell in safety.
As we experience Gods presence, we will find peace for our soul. Then we will have rest and not be anxious. This is why its so important to be willing to spend time each day waiting on God until we sense the reality of his being in our life.
Notice that David ends this psalm by saying that the Lord makes us to dwell in safety. As we allow God to minister to us with his peace and comfort, we will discover that he is keeping us from harm and causing us to dwell in safety.
There are tremendous benefits from seeking Gods fellowship. We are ministered to physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But we must be willing to spend time alone with God. We must be willing to be silent before him. And we must be willing to wait to experience Gods presence.
As we spend time with God, we will find our mind will be refreshed, our soul will be renewed, and our spirit will be transformed. Isnt that worth a little extra time each day?
This study on Psalm 4 © 1999 by David Humpal. All rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the Revised Standard Version © 1971, A. J. Holman Company
Childrens saying from Just Build the Ark and the Animals Will Come pg. 4 © 1994, Kensington Books
VanGemeren: The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 5, pg. 81-82 © 1991, Zondervan Publishing House
Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. 1, pg. 35, MacDonald Publishing Company
The Bell of the Angels from Gray and Adams Bible Commentary, vol. 2, pg. 460, Zondervan Publishing House
The Treasury of David, vol. 1, pg. 36, MacDonald Publishing Company. In the quote I substituted earthly materialism for the authors use of the Old English word Mammon.
Spurgeon: The Treasury of David, vol. 1, pg. 36, MacDonald Publishing Company