John T. Willis

Thursday, March 20, 2014

God Answers our Prayers--Psalm 4

Psalm 4 is brief, but powerful. The psalmist expresses his assurance that God answers prayers. The psalm reads:
      "ANSWER me when I call, O God of my right!
            You gave me room when I was in distress.
             Be gracious to me, and HEAR MY PRAYER.
        How long, you people, 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 faithful for himself;
             the Lord HEARS when I call to him.

        When you are disturbed, do not sin;
             ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
        Offer right sacrifices,
             and put your trust in the Lord.
        There are many who say,
             'O that we might see some good!
              Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!'
        You have put gladness in my heart
              more than when their grain and wine abound.
         I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
              for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety."

I. The superscription reads:
         "To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David."
    a. All superscriptions in the psalter are apparently later additions. It would be a mistake to force ideas into a psalm through means of the superscription. The composer or author of Psalm 4 is anonymous.
    b. For later audiences, Psalm 4 is led musically by a profession or competent musician. And Psalm 4 is to be intoned with the accompaniment of stringed instruments.

II. The Psalmist declares that Yahweh HEARS his prayers. Psalm 4:1-3.
     a. First the psalmist addresses Yahweh directly, asking him to answer his prayer. He reminds Yahweh that Yahweh has already responded when he was in distress. Now he beseeches Yahweh to be gracious now and hear the psalmist's prayer. 4:1.
     b. Suddenly the psalmist addresses his unnamed audience. These "people" he addresses seek to dishonor the speaker by uttering "vain words" and "lies" to other people, perhaps even in the court. 4:2.
     c. In response to his hostile audience, the psalmist declares that the Lord has set apart the faithful, of whom he is a part, for himself, and the Lord HEARS when he calls to him. 4:3.

III. The Psalmist encourages his fellow-worshippers to trust in Yahweh. Psalm 4:4-8.
      a. The psalmist admonishes his companions not to sin when they are disturbed, but rather to ponder on their beds and be silent or calm or at peace. 4:4.
      b. The psalmist encourages his faithful companions to "offer right sacrifices," that is, sacrifices which come from a true heart and right living--see Psalm 51:15-19, and to trust in Yahweh. 4:5.
      c. To further encourage his faithful companions, he reminds them that MANY others turn to the priestly blessing, "The Lord make his face to shine upon you [and be gracious to you]" in Numbers 6:25 [see the entire blessing in Numbers 6:24-26] so that Yahweh will work good in their lives. 4:6.
      d. To further encourage his faithful companions, the psalmist turns to Yahweh with the assurance: "YOU [Yahweh] have put gladness in my heart." Yahweh's gifts of food and drink are wonderful, but Yahweh's answer to his prayers are even more wonderful and meaningful. 4:7.
      e. Finally, the psalmist resolves in the presence of his faithful companions: "I lie down and sleep in peace" BECAUSE YAHWEH ALONE makes him lie down in safety when his enemies threaten him. 4:8.

Share you insights and fears and reversals and concepts and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Wrath of God

Another aspect of God's feeling is his wrath. It is sad that in our society many people refuse to accept the reality that God in his heart of hearts contains wrath or anger. The Bible consistently STRONGLY, CONSISTENTLY and THROUGHOUT (Old and New Testament) teaches clearly that God manifests his anger or wrath in various circumstances. It would be very helpful to get a good concordance and study all the texts in the Bible which teach and explain and expound on the wrath of God. Garnered from such texts, several important truths emerge.

1. God's wrath is a natural manifestation of his love.
    a. True love shows genuine concern for the well-being of all people.
        Proverbs 3:11-12 says: "My child, do not despise the Lord's DISCIPLINE
                                                    of be weary of HIS REPROOF,
                                               for the Lord REPROVES the one he LOVES,
                                                    as a father the son in whom he delights."
    b. The author of Hebrews quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 and elaborates on the significance of the wrath of God in Hebrews 12:4-11:
          "In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
           And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses your as children--
                      'My child, do not regard lightly the DISCIPLINE of the Lord,
                       or lose heart when you are PUNISHED by him;
                       for the Lord DISCIPLINES those whom he LOVES,
                       and CHASTISES every child whom he accepts.'
           Endure trials for the sake of DISCIPLINE. God is treating you as children;
           for what child is there whom a parent does not DISCIPLINE?
           If you do not have that DISCIPLINE in which all children share, then you are illegitimate
                                       and not his children.
           Moreover, we had human parents to DISCIPLINE us, and we respected them
           Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live?
           For they DISCIPLINED us for a short time as seemed best to them,
           but he DISCIPLINES us for our good, in order that we have share his holiness.
           Now DISCIPLINE always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time,
           but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those have been TRAINED by it."

2. The wrath of God demonstrates the seriousness of sin.
     a. Human beings establish habits. When we establish evil habits, God loves us so much that he manifests his wrath against us because sin is serious and destroys our hearts and lives.
     b. The author of Hebrews writes in Hebrews 10:26-31:
          "For if we WILFULLY PERSISTS IN SIN after having received the knowledge of the truth,
            there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a FEARFUL PROSPECT OF JUDGMENT,
            and a FURY OF FIRE that will consume the adversaries.
            Anyone who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two
                                                or three witnesses.
            How much worse PUNISHMENT do you think will be deserved by those who have
                   spurned the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant which you were sanctified
                   and outraged the Spirit of grace?
            For we know the one who said, 'VENGEANCE is mine. I will repay.' And again, 'The Lord
                    will JUDGE his people.'

3. God's intention in manifesting his wrath is to bring sinners to repentance and to serve God.
    Paul emphasizes that no one can escape the judgment of God. He writes in Romans 2:4-10:
      "Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience?
        Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
        By your HARD AND IMPENITENT HEART you are storing up WRATH for yourself
                       on the DAY OF WRATH, when God's RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT will be revealed.
        For he will repay according to each one's deeds:
             to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality,
                                    he will give eternal life;
             while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness,
                                    there will be WRATH AND FURY.
             the Jew first and also the Greek,
        but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek."

These texts only barely touch the surface. PLEASE consult a concordance and study carefully what the Bible teaches about the wrath of God.

God's anger or wrath is not malicious or immediate response. Again and again, the Bible reminds us that God is SLOW TO ANGER--see for example Exodus 34:6; Psalm 103:8; Joel 2:13. But it is a huge mistake to conclude that God contains no anger or wrath in his heart when human beings establish evil and rebellious hard-hearted hearts and lives.

Share YOUR insights and beliefs and reservations and thoughts and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis