A Reformed Congregation. Sierra View Presbyterian Church, Fresno, California

Tag: Sierra View

O God of My Righteousness

O God of My Righteousness – Psalm 4


The question of identity and being, known formally as ‘ontology,’ is a difficult one to sort through. What makes you who you are? On the shallow end, there are things like possessions and hobbies, that sort of thing. On the much deeper end there is family, passions, giftedness, community and things most surely believed.

If you’re like most people, your sense of who you are is something of a combination of all the above. And, if you’re like most people, indeed like me, then nearly everything above is in a constant state of flux. Things can feel fluid and unsteady, depending on how we react to current circumstances. With fluidity comes a certain amnesia. We forget who we are.

That’s why Psalm 4 is offered to the believer as a balm to the soul. David wrote it to be included in public worship because it speaks in a timely fashion to the constant need of the hour: the declaration of God’s triumph against the ever-present backdrop of shifting answers to the question, ‘who am I?’

David plants his feet in the bedrock of God’s personal care, and it gives him an unshakeable foundation. “O God of my righteousness.” This is the only time this phrase is used in the bible. It’s as though David is raising a banner or, if you like, planting a stake in the ground and saying to the shifting world, and to his own soul, “This is my God, the God of my righteousness. Here I take my stand against all foes and enemies. For God is my rock and my fortress. He is my righteousness, and He has made me glad.”

It’s not easy for David. He’s in a time of hardship, as seems to be the constant companion to the man of God. Men are bringing his honor to shame and elevating vain words against him. (v. 2-3) It’s a highly personal attack on his very identity. It’s forcing him to ask the question, ‘who am I? Am I worth so little that men dance happily over me as they run after lies?’

One might find a crisis rising within David. How could it not, given the things he’s enduring? He needs something good. Something permanent and foundation-like for his soul. And he finds it in verses 1 and 6, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness.” (vs. 1). Charles Spurgeon said of this verse, “Herein is wisdom, let us imitate it and always take our suit not to the petty courts of human opinion, but into the superior court: the King’s Bench of heaven.” When we go to God and ask, “Who am I?” God will answer, “That’s the wrong question. The question is, ‘Who am I. And the answer for you is, “I am the God of your righteousness.” When God looks upon the hearts of His people, he finds righteousness because of the Cross. When I find myself with David in the wilderness, I say with him “Turn from me, o nations of my discouragement…but answer me, o God of my righteousness.” That’s the foundation: that God is His righteousness. He has lifted up the light of His face upon the righteous. (vs. 6).

If that is true, then how tender and timely is verse 7, “You have put more joy in my heart than (the wicked) have when their grain and wine abound.” That’s why there is relief (vs 1), silence (vs. 4), peace and safety (vs. 8) that attend the sojourning Christian in the wilderness of this world, wondering who he really is. God puts more joy in our hearts than the wicked have in abundance, because our possession surpasses the highest riches on earth: we have a God, Who is our righteousness.

Deal Bountifully With Me

Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.” – Ps. 119:17

Psalm 119 is by far the longest chapter in the bible. It’s 176 verses, arranged according to the Hebrew alphabet in an acrostic, of sorts. The lines of each section begin with the sequential Hebrew letter. Verses 1-8 each begin with ‘aleph’, and so on. You understand. It’s elegantly displayed. One  centuries-ago preacher  said of Psalm 119, “It is theological matter in a logical manner.” He’s right, too. The entire Psalm is dripping with theological weight.

Throughout the psalm the author is intent on magnifying the Word of the Lord, because steadfast devotion to God through regular time in the Word is the way of the righteous. He even says in verse 105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” You see how the emphasis is on devotion to God through the power of His word? This is the way of the righteous.

But there’s a curiously important turn of phrase in verse 17. “Deal bountifully with your servant…so that I may live and keep your word.” Do you notice the ordering of the words? The psalmist’s desire is to live unto God and keep His word. This is the language of sanctification. It’s the heart of the redeemed that desires to walk with God more and more, die to the flesh more and more. And to walk in a renewed manner according to the power of God. This is what sanctification is. John the Baptist best summarized the entire doctrine of sanctification by the little phrase, “He must increase, I must decrease.” – John 3:30.

We decrease and Christ increases in our lives as we live to God and keep His word. But what do you notice about the way verse 17 is written? Preceding any effort to walk with God or keep His word, is the sure experience and knowledge of God’s gracious bounty and dealing. In other words, the psalmist knows he has no hope of living according to the Word of God unless God has already poured out His love in him.

This is how it always is. Because God has loved us and freely given us all things in His Son, therefore, we love Him and walk according to His ways. What does it mean to ‘walk in His ways’ but to walk in a manner consistent with the scriptures? We, like the psalmist, must put off the things of the flesh and put on the things of the Word of God, by which He reveals himself to us.

The psalmist here is simply remembering that his desire and ability to walk according to the Word of God is entirely dependent on God’s love for him. “Deal bountifully with me…so that I may walk in your ways.” But here’s the rub…you will never walk in the ways of God, nor experience the lavishing bounty of God in your life if you are not committed to regular time in the Word of God.

The Word of God is powerful and sharp as a double edged sword, able to divide even body and soul. Keep the Word of God deep in your heart and let the Word dwell richly within you by spending regular time there. Maybe you need to resolve again to meditate on the Word both day and night (Josh. 1:8). The upshot? You will find your heart’s attitudes and desires changing more and more to reflect the bounty of God’s dealing with you.

Green is the New Green

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Ps. 63:1

This summer my family and I drove across the country. I mean, all the way across the country, and back again. It’s a vast space, this country of ours, and I recommend you see as much of it as you can. One inescapable observation after 6,000 miles: California is really dry. When I moved back here after some years in the South, I was struck once again with that same reality. Add to that an historic drought, and you’ve got the makings for a seriously thirsty place.  “Brown is the New Green!”

The story of Psalm 63 is the story of a thirsty soul. It’s the story of one who has tasted and seen that God is good, but who has found himself in a spiritual desert for a time. Ever experience that desert?  Psalm 63 is also the story of one who found his way out.  In God, Green is the New Green.

King David crafted this Psalm while he was in the wilderness, or the desert, while being pursued by his enemies, probably his own son Absalom. But his desert was more than the arid territory of the ancient near east. His was a spiritual desert that prompted his heart to seek God. If you glance through the Psalm, you’ll notice the penetrating language he uses to describe his pursuit of God in the wilderness: earnestly I seek you, my flesh faints for you, behold your power and glory. He even goes so far as to say that the love of God is of higher value than life itself: Your steadfast love is better than life!

In this Psalm we can detect David at his finest, not because all is well with his life, but because all is well with his soul. There is no better, more joy-filled place to be than at that place of absolute dependence on God. That’s where lasting joy and peace rise, where life in the Spirit feels most abundant. And that’s where the King finds himself in this wilderness exercise: he is in absolute dependence on God, which is the condition that God created us all to be.

The apostle Paul picks up on this idea in 1 Corinthians 1 and reminds us that God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. That is, the strong place their dependence on their own strength or ability, while the weak place theirs on the strength of God. Nothing is so perfectly aligned with the character of God, and so entirely out of step with the wisdom of man, as trusting in Christ in the deepest corners of your heart and soul.

Which brings us back to King David in the wilderness. It’s a dry land for him. His own son is after him. The men who seek his life were, at one time, his own trusted army. And he’s done nothing to deserve such treachery. Yet here he is, alone in the desert. What emerges from his depth, however, is a new indebtedness for the love that God has for him. David now seeks God from a pure heart, with pure motives, and a pure hope that is centered on God’s worthiness of praise.

As you consider the deepest recesses of your own heart, is God there in His glory? Does His power and glory (vs. 2) compel you to seek after Him with a full heart, David-like? Come and see that God is good, that His steadfast love for you is an amazing gift of His grace. Dwell securely in Him and enjoy the feast of His faithfulness until you are satisfied as with rich food (vs. 5). Remember how God has been your help in ages past, and has promised to be your guide, mediator and advocate both now and forevermore, through His Beloved Son. Let His faithfulness be your portion and the gladness of your heart, because fellowship with Christ pours the abundant rains of grace that turn even the driest of deserts into the green fields of delight.