Though the headings to the Psalms are not inspired, they reflect ancient conclusions or instructions. Commonly, the psalms were ancient Hebrew poetry set to music. Many of them were used in Israelite worship, and many of them were used for personal encouragement, much as Christians use their spiritual songs today.
A study of the Book of Psalms is a complex study. There is little agreement on the major issueswhen were they written, why were they written, what was their purpose, who were the authors, how should they be divided, what purposes did they serve, why were they collected into single book? Anthony L. Ash in the commentary he and Clyde M. Miller produced on Psalms (The Living Word Commentary, Volume 10, Sweet Publishing Company: Austin, Texas, Introduction, p. 30) wrote,
They are statements of faith, produced under Gods guidance . The prime concern, then and now, is the individuals confrontation with God.
You are asked to read Psalm 3 and Psalm 4. The headings suggest these psalms were often used to begin the day and to end the day. Some say this is a king facing his day, and some say this is an individual facing his day. Both psalms reveal that life was tough and uncertain. Trusting God was not a simple challenge! Such trust was not a natural, without a second thought happening, but a determined and essential happening. The problems that confront us can consume our attention! Without such trust in God, life was a journey from despair to despair. Such trust did not exist because it was easy, but because it was essential. The comfort and reassurance was the writers knowledge that he could depend on God.
In Psalm 3, things have not improved during the night. Those who were adversaries have increasedthe situation is worse! Many opposed him in their desire to destroy him. They were certain God is NOT his ally, and he was foolish to place his trust in God.
However, he knew betterGod was his ally! God protected him from his enemies attacks. Though he cried, God supported him. He was so assured that God was with him, he could sleep. God so sustained him that he did not fear his enemies.
As a result, he knew God would continue with him. His enemies had no chance! God would attack them and deliver him! He would not be delivered because he was so clever, but because God was his ally. It was not only he who would be blessed, but God would deliver all His people.
In Psalm 4, the writer petitioned God to hear and answer his call. Then, to his enemies, he asked why did they persist in making him miserable? Since God was his ally, there was no way that he would lose.
He reminded himself that it was okay for him to fear his enemies as long as he did not allow his fear to cause him to abandon God. Fear must not be allowed to turn into temptation, and temptation into sin. What he needed to do was to focus on God, not his enemies. The power lay in meditating on God, not in conceiving his own strategies for deliverance. He needed to focus on behaving like a godly person.
God was the answer! God was the lighted path through the mess he faced! God could touch him with a gladness that good food and new wine could NOT compete with! The key to safety day or night was God! Only God could allow him to live in safety.
In the two psalms, note the roles in which God served. God was a shield (3:3). He was the sustainer (3:3, 4). He gave peace and comfort (3:5, 6). He was the protector who delivered (3:7, 8). He answered (4:1, 3). He was light in darkness (4:6). He gave gladness (4:7). He gave safety (4:8).
Note carefully that the key to a safe existence is dependence on God. It was NOT (and is not) being without enemies. The person with the courage to be godly will have enemies! Those who determinedly refuse to walk with God will not appreciate those who depend on God. Living in safety does not mean that person lives the good life. It means the person depends on God.
For Thought and Discussion
1. Often the struggles in the psalms are like what?
2. The psalms assure us that righteousness does not lie in what?
3. The headings in the psalms are not what?
4. The psalms were Hebrew poetry set to music. How were they used?
5. Explain why the Book of Psalms is a complex study.
6. Psalms 3 and 4 reveal what two things about life?
7. In Psalm 3 what has not happened? The enemies were certain that what was true?
8. How assured was the psalmist that God was with him?
9. In Psalm 4, the writer reminded himself it was okay to do what as long as he did not what?
10. Discuss why God was the answer.
11. What roles did God serve in Psalms 3 and 4?
12. The key to safe existence is what, not what?
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 2
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