1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.
The author of the psalm is calling out to God in the midst of distress. He’s asking for relief and mercy. By three words he is showing he knows the character of God and he is well within his right to call out to God with expectation of an answer. The three are calling, relief and mercy. If you are aware that God hears you when you call, then you will. Many people go to other sources rather than to God first. They’re not sure He really wants to or will answer. They’re not sure He is merciful and loving. They’re not sure He will intervene as a good parent would to help their child.
James says in chapter 4 verse 2 of his letter that “You do not have, because you do not ask God”. I have witnessed this with my own children. They have a need and I’m waiting for them to say, “Daddy” but they don’t. I don’t want to jump in where I’m not wanted but I do want to help. God is waiting for us to ask for His help.
2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? "Selah"
This verse addresses the cause of so many of our problems. God is asking how long we will go to the wrong sources and seek help from those who are not gods. We turn His glory into shame when we seek advice from those who are promoting delusions. There is a commercial that deals with fraud. In the commercial one person is telling the other what a great opportunity they have for them with absolutely no risks involved. Guaranteed 12% return on investment with no chance of a loss is a scam. One of the people close enough to over hear the conversation intervenes telling them it’s a fallacy and not to get taken in. The Lord is saying “Selah”, pause, think, interrupt your course of action and exalt Him. Stop doing the same old thing over and over again expecting a different result.
James in chapter 4 says, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”. Some times we are asking Him with the wrong motives for His blessing on something we shouldn’t even be involved in. Wisdom would be to understand His lack of response to our prayers is His answer to our wrong motives. Despite that answer I have gotten myself into many a fix believing the lies, often by very spiritual people, where they promised the moon for a small investment. My motives were wrong. It was all about what I wanted and what I would spend it on. The consequences of my actions didn’t bring glory to God as people say things like “isn’t he a Christian? How could he have gotten involved in this?”
3 Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him.
Our situation could be difficult if it weren’t for this “praise sandwich”. Have you ever heard of a “praise sandwich”? This was a teaching technique that the professors of the Education Facility taught young aspiring teachers. If you want to bring correction to someone in a manner where they will cooperate rather than resist the change, you use a praise sandwich. The first time I encountered this I was writing some instructions on the black board (remember those – used chalk) and the professor said to me, “Wow, you have great handwriting! Why don’t you try rounding the top of the letter ‘e’ a bit more? Great, looks wonderful!” I corrected the ‘e’ without even giving it a second thought. Then he said, “gotcha” and told me what he had done. I thought it was a little corny but it stuck with me.
Psalm 4 is a super praise sandwich. Verse 1 the author calls out to God in his distress because he knows God will hear, answer with mercy, providing relief from the situation. The “Selah” moment is an opportunity to reflect on what got us into this situation and how it hurts the Lord when we go to false gods falling for their delusions. Now the correction could take us out if it weren’t for verse 3.
The Lord has set us apart for Himself. He called us. He made a way through His son, Jesus, for us to become the godly. He did it all for us while we were yet sinners. Because He did He hears when we call to Him. He does not ignore us. He doesn’t leave us in the midst of our problems. He doesn’t say, “well, you got yourself into this, now get yourself out”. He will intervene for us and deliver us.
We can be assured the Lord loves His people. He is transforming us into the image of His son but He will never leave us nor forsake us. His mercy is overwhelming, undeserved and unmerited, but ours all the same. As a father loves his children so He loves us and delivers us.
Prayer: “Lord, open the eyes of my understanding to know you. Let me know I can call on you in all situations and be confident that you will answer, showing me your mercy. Amen!”