Who Will Show Us Any Good? Psalm 4
It is probably not a stretch to say that in our world there are a whole lot of troubling things going on today. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t really want to listen to the news any longer. It is so filled with vitriol that to listen pretty much means I’m going to be upset before it is finished. If I were to be completely honest, I’d have to admit that often I tune in around 10:20 – because I know that I’ll only have to listen to the weather and sports.
That is why our reading in the Psalms together has been such a blessing to me. Early in our trek together through the Psalms I read through Psalm 4 and came across these wonderful verses.
“Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound.” (Psalm 4:6-7)
As I read those two verses I agreed with the question that was being stated. Who will show us any good? The world seems to be filled with so many who want to destroy one another with words. There are marches with angry people shouting. There are protests – and even those who are protesting the protesters. It has gotten to the point where it seems we can’t even compliment someone for a good job – or for some positive act unless they have the right views (which by the way are those that agree with us).
The psalmist encountered the same thing. Many were saying back then – and they are still saying today, “Who will show us any good?” When I read those words my heart leaped in anticipation of what was going to be said next.
“Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O LORD!” was what God inspired the psalmist to write next. It was the perfect thing to hear in that moment. Please allow me to encourage you with what this means to us – if we will seek out what the psalmist is saying.
We live in a Genesis 3 world. Man has chosen sin – and sin has ruined everything. Man decided he could run his own life – and that he could decide for himself between good and evil. That choice has been disastrous to the human condition. That is what has led to our current malaise – and to a malaise in every generation prior to ours. Oh, by the way, it is what will lead to a similar malaise in the future as well. Sin with its inseparable partner, selfishness, has made a world where everyone wants their own way – and eventually will wrongs others to get it. Allow that to marinate among a worldwide population and things are going to get dicey. That is why looking to one another and at one another will result in what we have today. We have to take our eyes off of self – and put them on God. That was and is the answer to this question.
Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, God! We need to see You – to know You – to experience You in this world. But we may need to grasp a little better what it means for God to lift up the light of His countenance on us. So let’s see what we can learn about what that involves.
The phrase has its origins in the realm of relationships – especially those between a king and his subjects. To enter into the presence of a king was something not to be taken lightly. You just cannot barge into the presence of the king. Try that with any sitting president and you’ll learn quickly that uninvited and unknown guests are not encouraged before any world leader. If you were allowed to see the king’s face, you were being welcomed into his presence. This came to be known as the king “lifting up the light of his countenance” on someone. People were told to bow before the king when entering his presence – and if the king accepted you into his presence – he would have you lift up your head and you’d see the light of the king’s countenance. That meant you were in! You were accepted! You were welcome. You had received the king’s favor.
Take this back to the Psalm and we see that the problem of there not being any good is rooted in there not being any relationship with the king. If there were – then things would be different. Here we see why “there is no good.” Mankind has rejected God – and has decided we do not need His favor – His presence – or any kind of relationship with Him. What is left is a world without God’s favor – without God’s order – and without God’s blessing. That is a world without the fruit of the Spirit. It IS a world based in the deeds of the flesh. If you took the time to look at the difference between these two things in Galatians chapter 5, you’d quickly see why favor with God is so vital. The deeds of the flesh are a gateway into every kind of evil and ungodly interaction you can imagine. The fruit of the Spirit is an invitation into a world of people who don’t have to have their own way – and do not demand it from others.
You might ask the question at this point, “What has to be done to have the LORD lift up the light of His countenance on you?” That is a wonderful question, which immediately points us to the gospel and to God’s mercy and grace. To have God lift up the light of His countenance on us is to have God show us His favor. That presents a problem for us because being guilty of sin means being under His wrath – not being under His favor. There is no way for us in our own ability to gain the light of God’s favor and countenance. Only God can bring that about in our lives. Fortunately for us, God has been infinitely merciful in not consuming us in our sin. He has also been infinitely gracious in providing a way for our sins to be paid for and taken away. He has done this through Jesus Christ, Who died to pay the penalty of our sins. His death, burial, and resurrection pays the price for sin – and brings us once again back into the favor of God. When we repent and turn from sin and believe on Jesus Christ we can receive the favor of God. We believe that what Jesus did pays for our sin – and by a gift of God’s grace – makes us right with God. This is the only way that we can return to God’s favor – and know the light of His countenance again.
Therefore if we are going to answer the Psalmist’s question, “Who can show us any good?” The only way to answer is by turning to Jesus Christ to be forgiven of sin and made right with God. That is the only good God will accept. So to answer the question we have to first lift up the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the way to receive the light of God’s countenance. But, as we hear the gospel and receive it, God works salvation and wee are delivered from and out of this present world. No matter how bad it gets, we can be confident that the light of God’s countenance is ours in Christ. Thus we can say with the psalmist who writes elsewhere in Psalm 89
How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance. In Your name they rejoice all the day, And by Your righteousness they are exalted. Psalm 89:15-16 (NASB)
Why can we walk in the light of God’s countenance? Because it is by God’s righteousness we are exalted. It is not our own righteousness that does this for us. It is not by our own achievements. It is by the grace and mercy of our wonderful God that we can both see and hear good. May we be wise and lift our countenance up to see God often – for then we will see good – and we will be encouraged.