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2. Know that the Lord Sets Apart the Godly for Himself

Thoughts from my journey with JESUS.

Bible reading Psalm 4:1-8 (all).

I am not a Hebrew/Greek language scholar but I do use good language dictionaries in preparing Bible teaching. I am very respectful of language developers and Bible translators. It is of vital importance that God’s word is heard clearly in as many local ‘heart-tongues’ as are needed. If God calls you to that life changing and society transforming work, please don’t disobey Him! It is a foundational ministry, affecting people groups for many generations to come.

Psalm 4:3 is openly instructive simply by comparing several English versions of Scripture, where qualified translators have opted to use different words (which I have put in italics) to capture and express the meaning of the Hebrew original:

“But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself [and dealt wonderfully with] the godly man [the one of honourable character and moral courage—the one who does right]. The Lord hears and responds when I call to Him”. (italics mine for emphasis, in all references), Amplified Bible.

“Know this: the Lord takes personal care of the faithful. The Lord will hear me when I cry out to Him”.

Common English Bible.

“Remember that the Lord has chosen the righteous for His own, and He hears me when I call to Him”.

Good News Translation.

“You know that the Lord has chosen for Himself those who are loyal to Him. The Lord listens when I pray to Him”.

International Children’s Bible.

Since 1975 when the New International Version was first published, and when I was pastoring my first local church, I have mainly used it for study, preaching and devotional reading. I deliberately put this restriction on myself so that I would memorise Scripture more easily, something the Bible itself encourages us to do. You may not always have good enough eyesight to read! Constantly reading, thinking about and speaking the same wording is an invaluable aid, helping to hide God’s lifestyle and behaviour changing words in our hearts, see Psalms 1:1-3; 37:30-31; 119:11.

Psalm 4:3 in my NIV reads: “Know that the Lord has set apart His faithful servant for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him”.

I confess I still recite it best from the Bible I used before 1975:

“But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto Him”.[1]

“The godly” person” is described by compilation as someone “of honourable character and moral courage; one who does right; the faithful; the righteous; loyal to Him (God); the faithful servant”. When I read that God sets apart such people for Himself I am immediately challenged. Am I the kind of person God wants to be a Special Friend with?

I recently read a sermon by English preacher Charles Spurgeon on this verse. God used it to impress on me that writing down the messages He gives to me and producing them in book form (plus electronically these days) preachers can minister to many people generations after they themselves will have died. About 140 years after Spurgeon preached it in London, I read his sermon in my personal quiet time, and God touched my heart so that I could write and – hopefully – touch yours by the Holy Spirit.

Nobody knows better than God what godliness is! Let Him share with you about your life with Him.

1. A godly Christian is God-fearing, with Holy Spirit led religious behaviour, piously and devoutly living according to the biblical moral code of revealed thought and conduct for a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2. A godly Christian is God-trusting, believing that God will look after all things for you as you do your part, quietly confident that He always has your ultimate best interests at His heart.

3. A godly Christian is God-loving, caring and showing enjoyment in pleasing God with every attitude and act. You are attracted to God more and more intensely and exclusively as you allow your Christian perspective to correct all other perspectives you may have on life.

4. A godly Christian is God-knowing. Just as in marriage and family life, you want to know more and more about this One you increasingly love. And you want to know by experience, not just by words or second hand information. As Spurgeon preached, “How are you a child of God if you don’t try to know your Father?”

5. A godly Christian is God-like. Of course we can never be exactly the same as God, although humans are created in His image, Genesis 1:27.

I was sitting in my garden after a shower of rain passed by. The firethorn bushes against the end wall had water drops of glistening bright light, as it were winking at me. They were incredibly beautiful. Of course, they had no real light of themselves. They were simply reflecting the mighty and glorious sunlight which was behind me as the sun began to set in the west. In one sense there is no comparison between a shining raindrop and the sun in the sky. But in another sense there is. We Christian disciples of our Lord Jesus ought to reflect as much as we can of His greatness, goodness and graciousness to everyone who we meet.

6. A godly Christian is in awe of God. Awe involves respect, overwhelming wonder, amazement, reverence, often together with a touch of being correctly frightened.

I believe we often spend too long thinking about what we want from God and too little time thinking about what He wants with us. “Be still and know that I am God”, Psalm 46:10-11. “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress”.[2]

If you stay ‘still’, you stay in the same position and do not move. I have found that without any distractions it makes it easier to begin to ‘know’ more of Who God is.

Looking again at those different English versions of our text we saw earlier I notice that God “sets apart for Himself” the godly; He “takes personal care” of them; He “has chosen (them) for Himself” “as His own”. This means that God really wants our friendship, our partnership, our company. It matters to Him. So as a pastor I must ask, ‘Does it matter to you?’ Not what you want from God, but what God wants from you?

God sets us apart, takes personal care of us, and chooses us because He plans to use us. As a teenager I had two jobs to earn some pocket money for myself. Early mornings before school I delivered daily newspapers to some 150 homes six days per week. Then Wednesdays after school and Saturday afternoons I delivered groceries to people’s homes, using a bicycle built especially with a frame in front of the handlebars to carry large cardboard boxes. I was glad for the discipline God taught me through this work, how to be industrious in helping to provide for my own needs. God provided for me as I contributed by working hard myself.

God-willing Brenda and I will celebrate later in 2019 49 years of ‘living by faith’, trusting God to meet all our needs as we minister together following God’s call to us. We have never had much of this world’s goods, but we have always had enough to live on. Not as much as we (or our dear children) may have wanted, but always as much as we needed.

What more does anyone need than enough? We can agree with the Psalmist in 4:8,

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety”.

It is our responsibility to always keep ourselves clean in personal and public life so that we are ready for God to take us and use us, as He wants, in His work. We must dare to be different from other people around us, whatever the price to pay. God Himself is always enough for the godly person. As Spurgeon preached: “God wants nothing of you but that you will agree to let Him be everything to you”.[3]

“On reading this Psalm, it is very clear that this “godly” man is a man misunderstood, or, not understood on earth. The ungodly cannot comprehend the godly; they scoff at them, they turn their glory into shame because they themselves love vanity and seek after lying. The godly man is not understood by the people among whom he dwells; God has made him to be a foreigner and stranger in their midst. They who are born twice have a life which cannot be comprehended by those who are only born once. Those who have received the Spirit of God have a new spirit within them which is so singular that the carnal mind cannot perceive what it is. Spiritual things must be spiritually discerned. When a man has become a new creature in Christ Jesus, the old creatures round about him cannot make head or tail of him".[4]

Psalm 4:1 and 3 records the writer thinking about answered and unanswered prayer. Verses 1-2 imply strongly that David has spent time praying to God, but not getting the results he wanted from God. Verses 4-5 show he had examined his own heart to see any hidden reasons for this. My NIV reads, “The Lord hears when I call to Him”, 4:3. This is true even when it does not appear that He does. Sometimes God withholds an answer to prayer because His priority is dealing with things in our lives that displease Him. These may be things we do that we should not do, or, things we do not do that we should. Either must be dealt with God’s way so we can get closer to Him, becoming more the friend He is looking for.

I read that Sudan produced 93 tons of gold, worth about US$4 billion, in 2018. This brings about US$3 billion income to the country’s treasury per year, hopefully for use in balancing the country’s accounting books while providing good public services for all of the people.[5] More international partners are being sought to help with the processing, smelting and refining of gold, as well as to stop illegal tax avoidance in the sector. Apparently gold of a high yield will give more than 20 grams of gold per ton of ore. Just think about that! What a tremendous amount of work is involved in the processes of

cyanidation, oxidisation, leaching and agitation just to get such a tiny amount of high carat gold from huge piles of rock.[6]

Godly Christians are ready to spend time alone with God on their own so that God can get rid of all the rubbish from their hearts and lives, to have for Himself pure and spotless friends thanks to the provision and processes of the blood of Jesus Christ. It may be painful, but it is oh so profitable for any Christian. Remember, pain is part of God’s creation, increased by the Fall into sin, Genesis 3:16-19. Godliness makes you grieve more over personal sin. Strangely, the closer you get to our Holy God the more sinful you will likely feel. Spurgeon preached that instead of saying, “I am a sinner”, as David once did, our text describes a man who would write “I AM A SINNER” in capital letters so big the whole sky and sea would not be big enough to write those terrible words on.[7]

God is the very best refiner of the human beings He has created. My sisters and brothers, put yourself often into His hands for the Christian discipleship process of confessing sin and receiving cleansing by the blood of Jesus, the only Saviour.

“So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, (going to live with God in heaven) make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him”, 2 Peter 3:14. Regularly remember that “(Jesus) Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; ‘by His wounds you have been healed’”,

1 Peter 2:24.

The godly set time apart for themselves to know God better and, as they do so, they discover that they do it because God has been setting them apart in order to do so! We can never 'out-God God'! Live in cooperation with Him, not in conflict with Him.

Psalm 4:3 “But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for Himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto Him”.[8]

But you may say, “‘I am the man who has seen affliction’. Are you dear brother? Then you are the very man who ought to pray, and to say, ‘The Lord will hear when I call unto Him’. He will either take your trouble away, or else make you glad that it ever came. He will either take your burden off, or else He will give you a stronger back to bear it. You know the deeper your troubles, the louder shall be your song at the last; and God will get more glory out of you by a life of trial than if you had a smooth path all the way. Come then, call unto Him: ‘The Lord will hear when I call unto Him’”.[9]

I remember watching the Nile boat builders down river from the Shambat bridge, in the Abu Rof area of Omdurman. The men were very skilled in working with wood (as our Lord Jesus was, being trained in Joseph’s carpentry shop). My wood working skills are so poor that I would never dare step into a boat I built if it was floating on water! These men measured, cut, trimmed, positioned and fitted with precision. Local fishermen used the boats for overnight fishing for the delicious ‘Nile perch’, (which I did enjoy eating).

Safely in your Heavenly Father’s hands you are being made more and more like your Lord Jesus Christ Himself, of Whom the Father said twice from heaven, “This is my Son, with Whom I am well pleased”, Matthew 3:17; 17:5; 2 Peter 1:17. When you rest in His hands, with complete confidence in Him, you are being set apart by Him to become more and more godly, more and more the Christian man or woman He wants you to be.

Let me ask you, surely that is what you want for yourself don’t you? There is no better life than life as God intends it for you. And there is no better ‘you’ than the ‘you’ God intends making for this life.

The following prayer may help you as you meditate on Psalm 4:3 and this chapter we have just looked at together:

It is Psalm 51, of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned

and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are right in Your verdict and justified when You judge. 5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6 Yet You desired faithfulness even in the womb; You taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones You have crushed rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, so that sinners will turn back to You. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, You who are God my Saviour, and my tongue will sing of Your righteousness. 15 Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare Your praise. 16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; You do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart You, God, will not despise.

18 May it please You to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then You will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole; then bulls will be offered on Your altar.

Discussion guide

1. Do you think it is a good idea to memorise Scripture? Why? / Why not? How does using largely one Bible translation help this? Mention any downsides to this.

2. List the plusses and minuses of writing your sermons and Bible teaching, then carefully keeping them. (This can apply to pen with paper or storage on a computer). Think about who God may reach with His gospel this way?

3. I suggest in this chapter six descriptions of “a godly Christian”. Identify which one challenges you the most. Then share this with your group – perhaps noting if the majority of people select the same one or almost everyone is different. If you can, share why you picked the one you did.

4. Discuss my belief that, “we often spend too long thinking about what we want from God and too little time thinking about what He wants with us”. Justify your understandings from the Bible if you can.

5. Read 2 Peter 3:13-14. Then share the ways you have found to live “at peace with God” in spite of the sinful world around us. How does God help you to develop your godliness?

End notes: [1] The Authorised (or King James) Version of 1611, (Oxford University Press: London), undated edition. [2] For further help in ‘knowing God more’ see my Christian Theology in a Sudanese Context on my website . Book available in Arabic and English in Sudan. [3] C.H.Spurgeon Sermons on the Psalms (Marshall, Morgan, Scott: London) 1960, page 74. [4] C.H.Spurgeon Sermons on the Psalms (Marshall, Morgan, Scott: London) 1960, page 8. [5] tons-of-gold-in-2018-ministry. [6] [7] C.H.Spurgeon Sermons on the Psalms (Marshall, Morgan, Scott: London) 1960, page 67. [8] The Authorised (or King James) Version of 1611. [9] C.H.Spurgeon Sermons on the Psalms (Marshall, Morgan, Scott: London) 1960, pages 16-17. italics mine.


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