‘There are many who say, “who will show us some good?”…’ (Psalm 4:6, ESV)
As we continue our rugged journey of exploration into the many themes of the book Psalms, I want to remind us that often this book will force us to see God and his dealings with people in his world through his eyes, not ours. This is so true of Psalm 4.
In a country and culture that depended on agriculture, what happened when the crops failed? The answer: immense hardship and pressure. And in this environment many people turned their eyes away from the God of the Bible to other gods; gods that promised bountiful harvests and fruitful wombs. This was the powerful lure of pragmatic faith: If it works then that’s what matters!
This psalm shows with honesty the struggles and tussles the psalmist has when faced by hardship and the lure of other gods’ promises. However, even more penetratingly, this psalm challenges the way we see God! To paraphrase verse 6, ‘Does your God work? When you put the coinage of devotion, prayer or some other religious activity into his holy slot does he delivery the goods that you want?’
Suddenly this psalm feels very relevant and very penetrating in our 21st century world. How often is Christianity presented as do such-and-such and God will bless you; obey these spiritual steps and God will give you what you want? These are the voices of slot machine God-pedallers, and they are everywhere!
‘This Psalm shows us that pain and hardship don’t become pleasurable. God doesn’t twist our world that wrong becomes right. But with God at the centre there exists a rightness that is not obliterated by want or pain.’ (GH Wilson)
And that rightness is found in the pleasure and joy of God himself, not what we can squeeze out of him.
Psalm 4:6—8 shows us how to deal with these moments when God doesn’t seem to ‘work’:
‘You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.’(v7)