More Joy in My Heart

May 21, 2023

Book: Psalms

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Scripture: Psalm 4

It’s God who puts joy in our hearts, not the world.

One of the most important tasks in developing a church service like this one that we’re all sitting in here this morning is thinking through the music. And I don’t mean the style necessarily, although that is a consideration. I mean, the lyrics of the song, some people have asked how we decide what songs we use in our worship services here at Calvary. And you might be surprised to learn that the most important criteria in song selection is theology. As by far the most important criteria that we have for how we choose our songs. We don’t choose what’s popular or what’s catchy, what’s memorable. We don’t choose based on age. A couple of weeks ago, we did a song from the early 80s. It was in a different arrangement than I remembered it, but it took me right back to my childhood as soon as we did it, and I thought, that song is 40 years old. Wow. It would not be weird for us in a church service to do a song from 1820, 1920 and 2020, all in the same service. The number one criteria for choosing a song here at Calvary is content, specifically the biblical content and the gospel clarity of the songs. Think about it like this. Have you. Have you ever. Have you ever thought about the reason that we sing in church? Have you thought about that? People aren’t singing at other gatherings. Right? No one stands up and leads a couple of songs that your kids basketball game, right? You don’t stand and sing a song before math class starts. So why do we sing? Why is it singing such a prominent part of a church service? Well, it’s because when we look at the Bible for instructions on how to live faithfully as followers of Christ, and we’re faithful to the Lord in everything that we do, when we when we look to scripture to find that instruction, we find singing. It’s modeled to us. On the very night that Jesus was going to be arrested and put on trial after communion, it says that Jesus led him in a hymn. He sang a hymn with his followers. It’s instructed to us. Paul tells us in Ephesians chapter five, verse 19, to address one another in Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. So there’s something about the heart that’s been changed by Christ that would cause someone to go into song. And perhaps the clearest indication that God’s people are to sing comes from the book of Psalms, where God’s songs for his people are recorded for us. So if you’re wondering if you’re wondering whether singing should be a necessary or important part of what we do as Christians, I don’t think you can do better than to just simply note that God included 150 songs in His word to us.

The Book of Psalms, sometimes called The Psalter; you’ll hear it called the Psalter. It’s a compilation of the songs that God’s people use to praise the Lord with their hearts. And to my earlier point, what’s been recorded for us is not the musical arrangements of these songs, but their words. The words are what have been preserved for us. Because to rightly worship God, we need to reflect Him properly. We need to say true things about Him. God is glorified when we, as His worshippers, declare His Majesty and his beauty. And we can’t do that unless we have an accurate song about who he is. But in addition to that, in addition to rightly worshiping God with correct theology, the words we sing are also a reinforcement in our own minds and hearts about the character and nature of God. So our songs not only praise God, but our songs teach us. We’re learning while we sing. That’s why we read the Psalms. These are God inspired scripture songs. We go to them to learn about God through human experience and how to think about our experience, rightly through the lens of God’s Word. So, so content in the songs is so important. The content of what we sing is so incredibly important. It teaches us in ways that other things can’t teach us. This week, when you are going through something difficult and surely at some point this week you’ll go through something, something difficult. And when your mind and your soul is weary or when you don’t know what to do; or on the other end of things, when you’re full of joy and you want to praise and you want to you want to lift up the glory of God, you want to even just to simply pray. The first words that come to your mind will probably be lyrics. It’ll probably be some song that you have in your heart. See the songs that we have, the songs that we know, they become the filter and the philosophy that you have for processing life. So the song content really, really matters. Do you remember a little? I almost I almost don’t want to do this to you. I almost don’t want to do this to you. But. Do you remember a song from about a decade ago that went. “Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team”. Some of you know, some of you are singing it right now. I give you this thing, some of you who had this on repeat in your head constantly since 2014. I am so sorry. I know I have ruined your afternoon nap with this. I might have ruined your tomorrow morning with this. I get it. As a song, this is infectiously catchy. As a philosophy for life, it’s lacking in some crucial areas.

Everything is not in fact, awesome. And not everything is cool about being on a team. But you know what will help you? You know what will help you this week? ‘My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.’ Put that on repeat in your mind. You see why song lyrics are so important. They stick in there. This summer we’re going to study some of the Psalms in God’s Songbook. The hymns of God’s people We’re going to study them for their rich beauty, for the picture that they paint of our faithful, all powerful, loving and all-knowing God. We’re going to learn about his protection and his grace from people who trust in him. And one of the things, by studying the Psalms, is that we’re going to learn these truths about God, but we’re going to learn them through the emotions and the joys and the struggles of God’s people trying to live faithfully in an unfaithful world. See the Psalms give us rich doctrine through human experience. It’s not just it’s not just doctrine. It’s doctrine Through experience. We’re going to hear God’s people lavishing with praise, cry out to him in distress, look to him when they’re in fear. Call for his justice in the face of evil and rest in him when they’re weary. We’re going to start off our series in Psalm four, which you heard read earlier.

Psalm 4 is a personal reminder of faithfulness in the midst of an unfaithful world. Some scholars have called this psalm a personal lament. I think it’s better described as a personal encouragement, because it’s one guy reminding himself of where his joy in his life comes from. It’s God who puts joy in our hearts, not the world.  So let’s walk through this psalm a section at a time, Psalm four. You can open up to there if you want. It’ll be on your on the screen as well. And you’ll notice there are a few places where David, who’s the writer of this psalm, seems to change perspective. And so we’re going to follow that line of reasoning that he has as he changes his perspective through the Psalm. Let’s begin in Psalm 4:1 “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.” Now, in a lot of the Psalms we study this summer, we’re going to see a common theme. We’re going to see a desire for God to hear and for Him to respond. And all of us, all of us resonate with that. All of us have been in situations where we wonder if God hears us and whether he’s going to answer us.

Sometimes that’s an academic question. So somebody might say, Is there a God who is active in this world? And does He listen to the prayers of people? But more often, that question is more of a cry of the heart. God, please hear me. God, please hear me. I need you. I’m reminded of the lyrics of a song by Chris Rice written many years ago now who echoes what we see here in Psalm 4. He wrote a song called Big Enough, and some of the lyrics go like this: ‘God, if you’re there, I wish you’d show me. And God, if you’re there, I need you to know me. I hope you don’t mind me asking the questions, but I figure you’re big enough.’ For some those questions, those lyrics, that way of thinking, coming from a Christian, feels a little uncomfortable. Can a faithful person feel this way and speak this way about God? What we find in Psalm 4 is a real wrestling with God over what is happening around us. We see this in a lot of the Psalms, not just Psalm 4. A lot of the Psalms contain this. And there are two things that we can learn from this, this aspect of the Psalms. The first is that this sort of wrestling with God and searching for God and asking for God to act, that’s okay. It’s okay. It’s not just part of the human experience. It’s part of the Christian experience, to go to God in this way. Some of you grew up in church environments where the mere suggestion of questioning God about anything was a sign of unbelief and that you really didn’t trust God if you had a big question. But if the Psalms are the worship script for God’s people, then this Psalm and many more allow for faithful people to go boldly before God and ask Him for help and direction. We can lament the situation that we are in. We can wonder what God is going to do about it. That’s one thing we learn about it.

The second thing that the Psalms teach us about this kind of questioning, though, is that this questioning needs to be rooted in trust. It needs to be rooted in trust. You will see a pattern in the Psalms. They allow for questions and laments. We can cry out to God and even question what God is up to and where He is. But the Psalms always return to a place of trust and praise. Usually that trust is rooted in a review of God’s faithfulness in the past. So the Psalmist will look back and say, God, you were faithful before, and that will give confidence that he will come through this again. That’s what David does here in Psalm 4:1. Do you see that there in the second line? You have given me relief. He knows that he’s experienced it. So God, now do it again. I need you to do it again. So David is truly crying out, and he’s searching for the Lord. But he’s not questioning God’s justice here. Okay? He’s not questioning God’s justice. He calls him the God of righteousness. That means God is just and right. God has not become unfair to David. He’s not declaring that God is unfair. And God hasn’t become untrustworthy to David. David is simply saying, you’ve answered me in the past. Now I need you to answer me again. And by the way, this will develop more. This is why you will develop more trust in the Lord as you follow Christ longer. As you as you walk with Christ through your life, longer and longer, you will develop this trust more. When you have seen him faithfully bring you through trials, you have more history with the Lord to be able to look back on. So if your walk with Christ is newer, you do not have this history of faithfulness to be able necessarily to look back on. And so if you’re struggling, what you’ll need to do is you’ll need to talk to somebody who has that history. You’ll need to go and you’ll need to meet with someone who’s been walking with Christ for a while and say, Here’s what I’m going through, can you help me? And they will be able to give you perspective because they have seen God be faithful.

Let’s look at David’s dark time that’s causing him to search for God. “Oh, men. how long shall my honor be turned into 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.” So here the song shifts. Instead of talking to the Lord, David is now talking to his enemies around him. Now he’s not actually talking to his enemies here. This is a song, okay? They would be singing this. This is more of a rhetorical statement, but it does tell us the kind of struggle that David faced. There were people in David’s life who tried to take him down by telling lies about him. They wanted to turn people who honored him into people who were ashamed of him. And the way to do that, by the way, is to tell lies. You tell a story, you twist the truth. You make it seem like someone isn’t worthy of honor and respect. This is exactly what happened to Jesus Christ. And David. David was the King of Israel who pointed us to the ultimate king of all of God’s people. So it’s not surprising that they went through the same thing, that their experiences were very similar. When Jesus did miracles to show that He had the power over sickness and death and creation, His enemies said that He did these works by the power of Satan. When Jesus cared about sinners enough to eat in their homes, His enemies came along and they questioned His integrity and they called Him a drunk. Do you know that they called Jesus a drunk for doing that? Check it out. Matthew 11:19. When Jesus’ enemies wanted to kill him, they made it seem like Jesus was a threat to the Roman Empire because that’s what they needed to have happen in order for Rome to kill him, so they told that story.

The world does not want Jesus or His gospel or his kingdom. And so to deter themselves and others from it, they replace the honor of Christ with some sort of shame. And we see that today in various ways. People attack the church. They’ll say that the church is full of hypocrites or they’ll attack the church as judgmental or the church has failed to address whatever social ills that that person thinks is the big problem in the world. And of course, all of these critiques and attacks don’t take into consideration what a church actually is and what it’s supposed to be doing. Yes, there are people who sin in the church, roughly 100% of them. That’s because we’re sinners saved by grace through faith in Jesus. Work that’s not our work. We are recovering sinners. So what you call hypocrisy, the Bible calls progressive sanctification. Yes, there are times we make judgments concerning sin in the church, but that’s because we take sin very seriously. Our own sin. Primary of all sin. Our mission is to call sinners to repentance so that they’ll find grace and forgiveness in Jesus. That’s why we talk about sin. That means we don’t simply accept it as normal. We’re gracious with sinners. We sit, we eat, we love those who are far from Christ. But we will also lovingly persuade people, right? We lovingly persuade people to come to follow Jesus and move away from God dishonoring activity. And yes, it’s true that the church has not solved every social ill that there is in the world, but our mission is not actually to solve every social issue that’s in the world. It’s to proclaim the gospel and to demonstrate the love of Christ. I guarantee you, if everyone in the world were to trust in Christ and live under his rule, you would see massive social reform because it would look like the righteousness and justice and love that we find in the character of Christ. Unfortunately, those who are opposed to the Lord will be opposed to his people. That’s just going to be the way it is in many respects, Church. The truth is going to be twisted and there will be times that you will feel misrepresented, and you will feel attacked. But we know that the lies of others don’t give us our identity. The Lord tells us who we are. The Lord has set aside the Godly for himself. God doesn’t abandon his people. He sets them apart. They belong to him. And then he listens to them. When you are faithful to Christ and you go before God in prayer, he hears you. Your words are not disregarded. You are heard. So here’s what we’re called to do in light of this truth. Be angry and do not sin. Ponder in your own hearts, on your beds and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord. That’s probably not the instructions you were anticipating. Kind of sounds a little bit here. Like you get what you get and so just be quiet. Doesn’t it? Sort of sounds like that? Is that what he’s saying?

And furthermore, who is David talking to now? Is he talking to his enemies or to himself? Or is David even the one talking here? Church, it’s kind of hard to determine in this part of the psalm who is speaking and who is being addressed. But I think based on the way it’s phrased, it’s one of three options. So is the closest I could break it down for you. David might be telling his enemies to keep their rage within themselves and not to sin against him. So he might be talking to his enemies. He might be warning them to turn from their sin and offer sacrifices of repentance and to trust in the Lord like He does. So this could be the evangelistic portion of the Psalm. I don’t think so, but it could be.

This may be David talking to his own people and by extension to himself, to his own soul. He may be remembering what it looks like to be faithful to God in the midst of a struggle and recognize that he doesn’t need to speak. He just needs to trust. He just needs to trust. Or it could be that this is David prophetically sharing what God would say to him and to his people. So like Job whom God told to be silent in the midst of his suffering, God now tells David to do the same thing. I think that the reason that it’s so ambiguous here is that in all three cases the message is the same. In all three cases, regardless of who’s speaking or who’s being told, it’s the same message. Everyone needs to hear the same thing. The only hope for the enemies of God and his people is to turn from their sins and to trust in the Lord. And in the same way, David needs to be quiet too, knowing God is at work, even through His suffering, so he can ponder in his heart what God is up to. But he’s not wiser than God.

And this is why I mentioned earlier. Psalms gives us the license to cry out to God to ask for his intervention, to wonder where he is. But ultimately, we need to come to the place where we trust in God and we continue in our worship. It’s interesting that we’re here, that we’re told to make right sacrifices. Do you see that? We’re told to make right sacrifices. Now, of course, a good Israelite would hear that and they would think, worship, I need to I need to continue to worship. I just need to go before the Lord with my sin, trust that he’s covering it over and rest in the firm conviction that I am saved by grace. And by the way, that’s true of us as well. We’re being called back to worship, although we don’t make ‘right sacrifices’ the way they did because our ‘right sacrifice’ was already made for us. Jesus is our right sacrifice, who bore the punishment of our sin. So when we respond in worship and we put our trust in the Lord, we don’t do that by making sacrifices, but by remembering the sacrifice. That’s how we worship and continue in worship. So God is calling us to remain silent in our anger. Ponder the mystery of what He’s doing in our hearts and resume worshiping as normal while fully trusting in him. Boy, Kyle, that sounds an awful lot like Just shut your mouth and be faithful without any answers, doesn’t it? It may seem like that, but here’s what David knows. God has a track record of answering prayer. Verse 1. God has set apart the godly for himself and he listens to their prayers. Verse 3. So in this present struggle, in this struggle that David is going through, he has every reason to trust that God is going to come through again. And because of that, listen to this grand finale. “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 with 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.”

Verse 6 starts a really interesting conclusion to David’s argument here in this Psalm, because it’s for the doubters. Verse 6 is for the doubters. It’s for the group of people who reason like this. If God is so good, if God is so good, where is he? If he listens to prayer, why hasn’t he given us the answer to the prayer and given us the thing we want? Where’s the light of the face of the Lord? How come, how come that light hasn’t shined down on us, if God is so good. And David’s answer to that is he already has. He already has. God’s blessings have already been showered down. He already has the light of God’s face shining on him. But hold on a moment. Hold on a moment. Did we miss something? Is there a verse missing somewhere in this psalm? Is there a director’s cut of Psalm 4 somewhere that I didn’t see? How do we go from answer me when I call, hear my prayers in verse 1 to you’ve given me joy and safety in verses 7 and 8? How do how do we go from there to here? I didn’t see God vanquish any enemies in there. Did you see any? I didn’t see any. I didn’t hear a voice thundering down from the sky answering all of David’s questions for him. Oh, here we go. Let me give you all the answers so you can feel comfortable about things. Nowhere in there. So I kind of understand where these doubtful voices are coming from in verse 7. When does the good get here? This may be where you’re at this week. You feel like – God, when’s the good get here? When do the blessings shine down? But David’s answer is that God’s goodness has already arrived. It’s the joy that God himself has placed in David’s heart. A joy that’s there, that God has placed in his heart, regardless of his circumstances. David says, I know everyone can see who is rich and who isn’t, who’s got grain and wine that’s abounding and who doesn’t. I know everybody can see that. Everyone can see who is winning and who is losing from a worldly perspective. But that is not the measure of true joy. That is not where joy comes from. Enemies of the Lord and his people don’t know true joy, true contentment, true safety. They may know pleasure and comfort. Maybe. But they don’t know the true contentedness that comes from resting in the Lord. From truly resting in the Lord. “You have put more joy in my heart than when their grain and wine abound.” You know what the problem is with thinking that God’s blessings and love are evident only when things are going well for you? You’ll think that God is gone when they’re not. That’s the problem. Your joy will ebb and flow with stuff. Joy in, joy out, with stuff. And that means that your joy isn’t really rooted in the joy of Christ. It’s rooted in the joy of stuff. And that stuff is fleeting. That stuff won’t last. What you have today may not be here tomorrow. For an example, see the entire world. March 2020. Right? It may not be here. “In peace. I will both lie down and sleep. For you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Remember earlier when we were pondering in our beds with silence, trying not to sin in our anger, not hearing from God. But here David, at the end, is sleeping like a baby. What changed? Nothing in his external circumstances changed. Nothing. Nothing changed in the psalm. The only thing that changed is how he is now resting in the truth that God knows his situation. God hears his prayers. God has set him apart for his purposes, and God will make him dwell in safety. Church, if you are in Christ, there is nothing this world can dish out that can remove you from God’s possession. You can rest in that. Nothing. We’ll take the joy of God away.

I had the opportunity this week to talk to our friends, Vasyl Ostryi and I actually got to meet Mykola, who is the senior pastor of Irpin Bible Church in Ukraine. We are so close to being able to give that gift, to get that gift into their hands that we raised here at Christmas time. It’s been a lot of work to try to figure out how to get that over there into a war zone. But God is good and we’re very, very close. So thanks for being patient on that. I hope to give you some updates on that very soon. But as we were discussing the details on how to get the money transferred to them for the for the projects, we got to hear an update on how things are going there in Ukraine. And they are working so hard. Oh, they are working so hard. The the people are rebuilding. But right now what’s happening is inflation is out of control. And so a lot of people are are suffering there. There was an article in the British publication The Guardian, where they interviewed Vasyl. Vasyl was interviewed in The Guardian about the work that the church is doing among the poor there. It’s  great that people are aware now, more aware of what’s happening on the ground with the people, not just the war, but what’s happening to the community. And that article said that poverty had increased nationwide. Now get this from 5.5% before the war to 24.2% nationwide. That means about one in every four people is now living unsustainably in the nation of Ukraine. Unemployment is skyrocketing. Vasyl said in the interview that people would be willing to work for peanuts, but there just aren’t any jobs because all of the industries, all the businesses have picked up and they’ve literally physically moved west in the country, so there are no jobs remaining anymore. The volunteer centers are doing their best to care for everybody, but the need is great and it’s incredibly exhausting. And these pastors, these pastors we talked to, they’re not immune to that. They’re suffering, too. I am sure that they have had their ‘God where are you’ moments as they’ve been going through this really difficult time. But that’s not all they see. If you talk to these guys and I’m sure if you talk to the people in their church, you would hear a more complex story than just, ‘we’re suffering. God, where are you?’. Mykola, especially in our conversation, was so excited. He listed off the numbers of people that are being baptized by the church plants, the volunteer centers that have become church plants and all the people that are being baptized through them, that these folks would not have been reached were it not for the needs that were caused by the war. Vasyl talked about all the people living in the neighborhood right around Irpin Bible Church, right around in their own neighborhoods that they did not know. They knew of them, but they wouldn’t ever come to the church. But now they’re being helped by the church. And now those folks are seeing Christ differently. And Irpin Bible Church is baptizing, seeing people come to faith in Christ. And so while they’re suffering, while they’re talking about how horrible things are right now and how awful it is, they are excited. These men are full of joy, not because they have all the answers. And not because they enjoy the sting of war, who would, but because God has given them joy in their hearts and He’s given them a promise of protection. And there is not a bomb that can take that joy away. Let’s pray.

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