Studying Psalm 4 this morning, I observed a kind of cycle of worship. The Psalmist, David, expresses a whole range of emotions and perspective that reflects the gamut of how we approach God in the face of harsh reality. As always, scripture doesn’t present a softer version of life; in fact, we’re often confronted with a more bleak perspective of life than most middle class Ameri
cans will ever experience. So, here’s the “cycle of worship as I observed it in this Psalm:
Trial & Cry
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
Angry, the psalmist is overwhelmed with life. He has an accusation against God and against the people around him. People are practicing evil and God seems to be absent or at least silent. The cry of anger is a cry of faith because it expects a response, and it expects that there is someone listening.
Truth & Humility
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
In a moment of clarity, the psalmist meditates on God’s promise. The tone of accusation seems to change direction from being directed at God to begin directed toward someone else. Is he speaking to himself? Is this the voice of something like a Greek chorus speaking to the complaint? He seems to be sermonizing, but it comes in humility. He has seen the content of his own heart and it makes him afraid. The truth exposes him and he is humbled.
Trust & Worship
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
In the light of the truth, by the humiliation of pride, the psalmist melts into trust and worship. “What was I thinking?” he seems to say. Confronted with his own frailty, he can only look to his Father’s care. Confronted by his own bitter anger, he repents and offers worship in the form of the sacrifices of the righteous. The lies and the rage are washed away in the light of God’s glorious gaze.
Restored: Joy & Peace
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
The cycle becomes complete as the psalmist is restored to a place of joy and peace. Trust and worship have produced a renewed and transformed mind which rests in humility and truth. Nothing in his circumstance has changed! The enemies were not routed; they still get fat on grain and drunk on wine. But the psalmist, at the place of worship, is filled to overflowing with joy in his heart. No longer will he grind his teeth in anger as he’s trying to sleep, mentally recounting all the ways that God has sold him short and the wicked have made him suffer.
In peace, he sleeps in safety…until the next morning when the cycle starts over. The cycle of worship is a daily (sometimes hourly) experience of being transformed again and again.