Peace in Persecution: Standing for Truth

  • Cody Plesnar
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Let’s face it, God’s Word is unpopular. Many are willing to say they believe in the God of the Bible, most refuse to submit to Him according to His Word. They exchange the truth of God for lies and believe half truths. They refuse to submit to God’s Word, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we all deal with this failure to submit at some level deep within our hearts. The sinful flesh does not disappear at regeneration, but must be fought in the process of sanctification until glorification when in perfection we will receive our resurrection bodies. As if our own flesh didn’t attack us enough, we likewise receive attacks from the outside These attacks come because we stand in solidarity with God’s perfect Word. As a believer in 2020 we hear affronts to God’s word on a daily basis. These affronts make their way into our lives through the news, through social media and often through individuals we come in contact with daily. The less we conform to the world, and the more we conform to Christ, the more we recognize these attacks from our adversaries— God’s adversaries. Of course, we too were once adversaries to God and his kingdom (cf. Rom 5:10, 8:7; Col 1:21), so how do we respond to those who oppose God’s truth, whether implicitly or explicitly? Now that we know the truth, what would we say to ourselves before we came to know the truth of Christ in our hearts? As you remember your days as an adversary of Christ how would you want someone to respond to you during those days?

Psalm 4 gives the Christian insight when faced with false accusations and persecution. Psalm 4 records David’s response to his enemies’ false accusations. The context surrounding Psalm 4 is not entirely known, but one of two possibilities is available. David is in flight from his son, Absalom, or is in one of his many flights from Saul. Arguing for one situation or the other is extraneous at this point, but we can simply state that David was fleeing because his God-given authority was challenged. He was God’s chosen king for Israel (1 Samuel 16), but his pursuers (regardless of their identity) did not submit to God’s anointed. Essentially, they rejected God’s Word. What does David’s response to his enemies—God’s enemies— teach us? What can we learn from David’s response to God’s authority rejected and how can we biblically respond to those who reject God’s authority?

Psalm 4 is broken into three larger sections which will help guide us:

David’s Prayer to God (v.1)
David’s Petition to God’s Enemies (v.2-6)
David’s Peace in God (v.7-8)

David begins with prayer which reveals his dependance and confidence in God. Undoubtedly, he seems a bit shaken by the circumstances as we hear him cry out nearly demanding God’s response, “Answer me when I call oh God of my righteousness!” This is the same boy who killed Goliath, the giant, with a river stone, but his heart is not iron clad. He is a man with frailties just like me and you; however, notice the way in which David calls to God. He appeals to God’s own righteousness. He cries out to the “God of my righteousness.” David does not identify any righteousness of his own, but instead appeals to God’s righteousness as his own. Additionally, he remembers God’s faithfulness in the past and appeals to God’s grace (see remainder of verse 1). Make no mistake, David’s conscience is clear as he turns to petition his adversaries— God’s adversaries— in verse two. This is not a presumptuous appeal by David who failed to first look at his own heart before appealing to God’s righteousness. Contrarily, this is a man whose heart is wholly following God and, therefore, had the testimony of a clean conscience. This is made clear by David’s bold statement in verse three… “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call.” We must keep this as a frame of mind, that David is not only defending his own honor as King, but God’s honor.

David challenges God’s adversaries with two questions in verse two. In summary he is asking: “Why do you believe vain lies and allow these lies to shape your view of me?” David deconstructs his adversaries’ basis for truth. Engaging “their truth,” he does not shy away from disabusing them of their faulty mindset. Effectually, he is “taking every thought captive” before seeking to replace it with God’s truth.

David’s confidence here, as we have already observed in verse 3, is not based on himself but on God’s choosing him. This confidence should be no different for believers in 2020. Knowing that you are God’s child, not by your own will, but by God’s (cf. Rom 9:16; John 1:12-13), should manifest itself in humble confidence. Confidence in God and His truth because he chose you long before the foundation of the world (cf. Eph 1:3-6).

Now that David has challenged his adversaries’ basis of truth with pointed rhetorical questions we are privileged to see David’s eternal perspective, moving right to the heart of the issue— their sin, their enmity with God.

In verses four and five, David is fighting to regain God’s honor as His chosen King but more than that David is making a petition to the hearts of his enemies, to God’s enemies.

Starting in verse four, David petitions his adversaries to be angry over their own sin in their own hearts. Generally, hearing the word “angry” does not correlate to anger at ourselves. The Hebrew translated “be angry”, as some English Bibles translate it, may be better rendered “to tremble.” Why tremble? David is inciting his enemies to tremble in the fear of God in light of their sin in the presence of a holy God. After inciting them for their empty words and lies, he challenges them to tremble upon the state of their own hearts.

Secondly, at the end of verse four David calls for silence. He means do not make excuses for your sin, but rather, be silent and recognize your sinful heart and, consequently, your position before God.

Third, in verse five David calls for right sacrifices and trust in the Lord. For the New Covenant believer in 2020 this is a gospel presentation. The perfect Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, has already paid the price for our sins. The right sacrifice has already been made. What’s left is to fully embrace that sacrifice in repentance of sin and trust in Christ’s righteousness. Today, God’s adversaries must know that a sacrifice has already been made for their sins.

Verse six records David’s interlocutors’ response or perhaps David’s anticipation of their response to his call for heart repentance and trust in the Lord. Their response isn’t much different than what we might expect today. They ask for David to “show them something good,” meaning prove to us what you have just indicted upon our consciences or show us what good will come of what you say. David’s response is perhaps my favorite part of this Psalm. He turns to God’s Word and quotes in part and in summary Aaron’s blessing in Numbers 6:24-26. In short, David’s response is God’s truth from His Word. Our response should be no different when we petition those who are at enmity with God.

Finally, in verses seven and eight we see David’s peace. Peace that comes from God alone. Peace that comes from knowing that you are in a right standing before God. You have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. This peace brings joy and safety even in the face of persecution, just as it did for David, because we know that ultimately we are sojourning ambassadors with a message that there is peace and joy, absent of this world, in Jesus Christ alone.

In conclusion, the believer in 2020 is going to face opposition to God and His truth and when he or she does, it is going to feel much like it did for David— a personal attack. When this happens, we must put our pride aside knowing that what we have to offer is the greatest gift the world has ever known— God’s righteousness. This must be done with a heart wholly dependent on Him and His righteousness revealed through His Word and in light of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When God’s truth is reviled, don’t look upon that person as an enemy, but consider them as David did, one who’s soul is at stake. Remember they are the one who must see themselves as a sinner before a Holy God, repent of that sin, and put their trust in the Lord. Rely on God and His righteousness, engage the lost with the Word of God, and have joy and peace knowing that your eternity is safe in His righteousness as you stand for His Truth.