Confidence in the Face of Adversity
This past Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent and today is the first Sunday of Lent. Christians have traditionally used these forty days leading up to Good Friday to remember Christ’s final journey to the cross. It was a journey marked with confidence for Jesus. Luke marks the beginning of this journey by recalling this story:
When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. And he sent messengers ahead of him, who went and entered a village of the Samaritans, to make preparations for him. But the people did not receive him, because his face was set toward Jerusalem.
Most commentators agree that Luke used the phrase “set his face” because he understood Jesus’ actions to be a fulfillment of Isaiah 50:7 which reads...
But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
Jesus clearly knew what lay ahead—hatred, slander, suffering and finally death—yet He “set His face like a flint.” What gave Him such confidence? What can give us such confidence? That is the topic we will be exploring today from Psalm 4. Let us now turn to our text and hear God’s Word to us today.
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! O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
This Psalm consists of two prayers of confidence in response to two attacks. The first is an attack by people and the second is an attack by the circumstances of life. In response to each of these attacks David finds confidence in God through prayer. The first prayer and attack are found in verses 1-2 and shows us how we too can have...
Confidence When People Go Against Us
Confidence When People Go Against Us
Like most people, I don’t have many memories of my life as a very young child, but one memory I have of that time was the first time I experience a conflict with another child and the first time I experienced injustice. It happened in a church nursery. I must have been three or four at the time and I remember I got into a conflict with other boy and as a result I had my mouth washed out with soap by an older lady working in the nursery. Like most early childhood memories, this one is probably highly unreliable. “Older lady” probably means the women was older than my then 26 year old mother and as far as I know, I was deserving of the punishment I received, but what is important for our purposes today, is that I felt so wronged that this is one of the few memories I have from those early years.
I tell this story to illustrate that it does not take long for us to experience the pain of human conflict, injustice and persecution. Nor are such stories isolated incidents, since that time I have experienced hundreds, if not thousands of pains at the hands of others and I am not alone! You only have to turn on a country western radio station and you will hear one song of lament after another about someone being wronged!
David, as a type of Christ, experienced more than suffering at the hands of others than most people and Psalm 4 was written at one of those times. Let us look once again at verse 2:
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
If this Psalm was written at the time of Absalom’s rebellion and I think it was, this is what David is saying:
“As the anointed of the Lord, you should be honoring me as king, but in your rebellion, you are despising me. Why are you plotting against me in vain as the gentile nations do? Why do you believe the lie that your plot will succeed? Do you not remember the promises God gave me in Psalm 2 as His anointed one?”
As we have already learned, these Lament Psalms find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus. When Jesus “set his face towards Jerusalem,” He knew the leaders of both the Gentiles and the Jews would conspire together to put Him to death. Yet both Jesus and David found confidence in God, and we can too. Listen again to David’s prayer:
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!
What is David basing his confidence upon? He is basing his confidence upon the fact that God is “God of my righteousness.” By this, David is not simply saying that God is “righteous” in His nature, but that God always does “right” by His covenant people. In Isaiah 54:17, God gives this promise to His people.
no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”
In this life, we will be attacked by other people, but every plot devised against us is in vain, because God does “right” by His people!
What evidence is there of this you ask? David says just look at the past, “You have given me relief when I was in distress.”
We too must look back to the past to gain confidence in God. The apostle Paul writes:
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
The great salvation event of every Christian is Christ dying for us on the cross. That is why we take this journey of Lent every year as Christians. For 40 days we set our face like flint towards the cross, because in the cross of Jesus we find our confidence!
But not only does this give us confidence when people go against us, it also gives us...
Confidence When Circumstances Go Against Us
Confidence When Circumstances Go Against Us
We find this in Psalm 4:6:
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
Notice that here the people are not speaking against David, they are speaking against God! They are taking the Aaronic Benediction and saying to God, “Where is the blessing you promises us?”
So, you can see this clearly, let me place the Aaronic Benediction before you.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
We don’t know all the details of the rebellion at this time, but rarely will there be a rebellion against a king unless things are going badly. David’s response in verse 7 seems to suggest that the nation had fallen on hard times economically for he says...
You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In an agricultural society, economic blessing was judged by having enough to eat and drink. What a great reminder to all of us when our circumstances go south—true joy is found in the Lord. The parallels between Psalm 4 and Philippians 4:4-7 are so close that I cannot help but think that Paul had this Psalm in mind when he wrote...
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
When we placed our greatest joy in the Lord, we will find freedom from anxiety and experience peace. This is what David found...
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Again, we see that David’s confidence is based on what God has done for Him in the past, “for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” That word “thanksgiving” in Philippians 4:6 is so powerful. When we make it a habit to fill our prayers with joyful thanksgiving, we will experience a confidence in God that frees our hearts from anxiety and fills it with “a peace that surpasses understanding”!
It is not normal to be able to sleep when your own son is hunting you down with the intent of killing you, yet we have seen in both Psalm 3 and in Psalm 4 that David was able to do just this. I don’t know about you, but I have spent sleepless nights because of far less troubling circumstances. O how I longed for the blessing of sleep on such nights! It would have taken a miracle for me to have gone to sleep.
Such a miracle is what we find promised to us in Psalm 4 if we will but just remember what God has done for us in the past and trust in God as we offer up our prayers in joyful thanksgiving!
So, like David and Jesus before us, let us “set our faces like flint” to complete the journey before us, knowing the Lord is our righteousness.
Let us pray: