Psalm 4:1

Verse of the Day Devotion.  Psalm 4:1

“Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer.” – Psalm 4:1

First, I want to clarify that David is not telling God to answer him, but asking Him. David has been through a lot in those days. In Psalm 3, we read about him dealing with the troubles brought about by his son Absalom who rebelled against him along with the vast majority of Israel who followed Absalom.  Now, in chapter four, we see that many great men were lying about David, speaking ill of him, and ultimately defaming his character. “You sons of man, how long will my honor be treated as an insult? How long will you love what is worthless and strive for a lie?” Psalm 4:2. David’s life as king was not an easy one. He found himself suffering through all kinds of trials. But he understood with full clarity what would truly bring God’s people through rough times, that being the Almighty God. “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly person for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him.” Psalm 4:3.

Then David lays out four basic imperatives directed at the people there, and to us as well. First, we are to tremble but not sin. “Tremble, and do not sin;” Psalm 4:4a. We are to understand that to go against what God commands is sin and thus we must focus all our efforts and thoughts on not sinning against Him. Unfortunately, too many people ignore this and twist the verse such that they see, ‘sin, but tremble not’. We see so many people, who call themselves Christians, going about sinning and not thinking anything about it. This is especially true of many who believe that once you are saved God forgives anything you do going forward. This concept is known as antinomianism which has the idea that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of following any moral, religious or social norms or laws. The word itself is from the Greek that means ‘against the law.’ Our hearts must be such that we tremble at the thought of sinning at all. Next, we are to think about what we are doing. “Meditate in your heart upon your bed and be still. Selah” Psalm 4:4b. On your bed, calmly consider and meditate on these things in the silence of night, when you are at leisure from distracting business. Be still and compose your tumultuous minds. Think about what you do, and if it is right then continue, but if it is wrong, then stop and ask forgiveness and no longer continue in this way.

Next, “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the LORD.” Psalm 4:5a. Do not attempt to offer a sacrifice to God for prosperity in your present rebellious conduct. Such a sacrifice would be a sin. Turn to God from whom you have revolted; and offer to him a righteous sacrifice, such as is lawful and such as He can receive. In other words, do not just offer something to God so that you can receive something from Him, or offer up to God something that is not acceptable to Him. And finally, we are to trust in the Lord. He loves us, wants the best for us, and can do anything. This is the God we serve, and He is the only one we can trust completely.

Then David finishes this with the following. “Many are saying, who will show us anything good?” Psalm 4:6a. He starts this by asking a rhetorical question ‘Who will show us anything good?’ After continual disappointment from man, we may begin to doubt if God will show us any good. But not David. He says, “Lift up the light of Your face upon us, LORD! You have put joy in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine are abundant. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, LORD, have me dwell in safety.” Psalm 6b-8. Despite what the cynics said about God not being there or ignoring them, David trusted that the LORD would give him joy beyond what the ungodly had in their prosperity. And because he trusts in God, he can lie down and sleep in peace because the Lord provides them safety in all their ways. We can imagine a man lying down to sleep, tormented by all of what his enemies or fake friends say about him. David could be that man, but instead he trusted in the LORD. He therefore had a gladness that the world could not take away, even with all their slanders and lies.

In closing, no matter which way we read the psalm, one aspect of David’s faith is clear: it is to God that he turns for vindication, and it is in God that He trusts. To the extent that the language of the psalm implies an attack on the David’s honor, David names the Lord as God of my righteousness, which put another way, the God who vindicates me. And in wisdom, we must see life the same way. Life for the Christian can be very difficult,  because the enemy hates us and desires to destroy our faith. We need to trust God that no matter our situation, as Christians He is with us and will bring about a good, even if we do not see a good ourselves. Those whom God knew would give their lives to Him can be assured that all things will turn out great. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, President and Founder of True Devotion Ministries.

James 1:27

Verse of the Day Devotion: James 1:27 

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” – James 1:27           

In our focus verse, we see the word ‘religion’ used, which is seldom used within the scriptures.  The word here generally speaks regarding keeping the external requirements.  This is how the devout Jews of that day saw true religion, especially those who were in leadership.  James here does not see true religion this way.  He sees it as a much deeper idea.  For purposes of clarity, I will use the phrase ‘Christian Walk’ rather than religion going forward.

He starts out with the phrase ‘pure and undefiled’.  This refers to a genuine and sincere walk with Christ. We should strive for this type of walk which is real and sincere.  It should be one that God Himself sees as genuine.  The Jews believed that as long as they fulfilled all the rituals of the Law, then everything was OK.  They saw the outward expression as a picture of what was a true or false type of religion. However, James lays out the premise that there are two ideas regarding a genuine walk with God:  the external and the internal. 

In the verse prior to our focus verse we read the following, ”If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”  James 1:26. There is an external component with a genuine Christian walk.  James uses the words we say as an example; however, it encompasses all of our behavior.  As I heard many years ago, we must not only do the do’s, but we also must not do the don’ts.  Yes, we must focus on both sides.  We must not yell and curse at anyone, but we must also encourage and show others we love them. 

So, in our focus verse, James mentions two things that show a genuine Christian walk.  First, that we are to love and assist others where needed.  “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress,” James 1:27a.  In this we imitate God.  And this is what we should do.  “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.” Psalm 68:5.  In the days of James, the Jewish leadership did not regard the widows and orphans as important.  So, he uses this as a clear example of how we are to act.  We are to help those who have no means to help themselves, and in this we show them the love of God. 

In the same verse we see an internal component.  “and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27b.  Paul put it like this, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2.  We must no allow ourselves to act as the world does, no matter what pressure is placed upon us.  We must strive for perfection, not just better.  “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48.  Unfortunately, we will not always be perfect.  But when we do sin, then we must confess it to God, and He will forgive us. 

It is important we see that our Christian walk must be lived both internally and externally.  This is the mark of a genuine relationship with God.  That we show love by meeting the needs of those who need us, and to strive to be like Him.  By fulfilling the internal, the external will come naturally.  This is what God desires of us, and He will be with us to help in making it happen.  He wants us to be genuine and real, both in our desire to have our heart changed, and in the love we have for Him and our fellow man.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.