The Psalms in Practice

by Brent Lewis

The Psalms are practical. They are down-to-earth. They are sound, realistic. As we read them we readily empathize with the writer. He speaks of things we have experienced. He expresses emotions we have felt. His approach to life is valid and authentic. In the past two years of my life I have walked with the psalmist. I am much the better person because of it. He speaks of the God who will hear when the godly man calls unto him; and that has been my experience. He tells of his perplexity as he sees the evildoer prosper; and I have wondered about that, too. He talks of seeing the majesty and glory of God everywhere in the earth; I have seen that. He describes his hurt and anger at being slandered by both false friends and enemies; I also have some first-hand knowledge of that. But all of this is a part of life.

We do not study the Psalms. Perhaps it is because it is in the Old Testament and we feel that the
Old Testament has nothing to say to us of any real application today, If so, we are greatly mistaken, In this column, I wish to share my thoughts and conclusions drawn from the study of this book. It is my hope and prayer that in your reading these things you, too, will become better because of it,

One of the great exhortations I have gathered from the Psalms is found in chapter four, verse four; “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (ASV), Here are two vital rules to follow in overcoming sin:

Be afraid of it. ”Stand in awe.” It is not entirely clear from the original word, raghaz, whether it means ”to tremble” or “to be angry.” The Greek version of the Old Testament translates it with the idea of anger, and Paul evidently used this version in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry,and sin not,” showing that a Christian can express righteous indignation without being angry in a carnal way.

However, it seems that “stand in awe” or “tremble” is a proper rendering in this psalm. Also, it is possible that the idea is that we are to stand in awe of God. This is certainly found frequently in other places. But, I believe that the writer is saying that we are to stand in awe of sin, for to do so is at one and the same time to fear the God who tells us of sin’s dreadful power. We must cultivate the fear of sin. There is no cowardice in being afraid of sin. Paul says, “Flee fornication.” That is one sin you do not argue with. You either do what it says or you get out of its way. Joseph was not a coward, but a brave man, when he said, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” All sin is against God. To stand in awe of sin is to get out of its way, and it is to tremble at the feet of the Holy God.

So we must fear sin—not only because it is against God, but because it is against ourselves. Man is made in the image of God. Sin breaks the inward law of man’s nature. It defaces Gods image in me. It destroys my power to know and obey God. God is severe against sin in the Bible because sin is severe against man in life. Sin destroys us, and Cod knows it. He wants us to be all that we can be, all that we were made to be — a little lower than the angels, the offspring of God, made in His image. God created man great and noble, holy and pure. We must fear sin lest we ruin ourselves. “A ruined hut is no great matter, but a palace in ruins is a woeful spectacle.”

Be introspective. “Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.” Reflect upon what you do. Do not act rashly. A thinking man is a wise man. I have spent some time in the quiet hours of the night, reflecting upon the course of my life-—my actions, my decisions, my faults. This is good. We all need to do it more. Is my course of conduct base and reprehensible? Or is it good and pure? Listen to your conscience; don’t sear it. Consider your ways.

We think too little of sin. We do not contemplate its terrible tragedy. We do not consider its frightful
consequences. And while we are upon our bed, in our moments of serene reflection and serious contemplation, we must think about it! We need to let reason speak and allow the clamor of the world to be still for awhile. And while we are thinking, let us think of what sin has cost; the blood of the Son of God. He was made to be sin for us. By His stripes we are healed. If thinking upon the cross does not persuade us to ”stand in awe, and sin not” — nothing will.

Two things, then, I need to do. Be afraid of sin. Be introspective. In so doing, I will, with David, glorify God “when I remember Thee upon my bed, and meditate on Thee in the night watches.”

CHRISTIANITY MAGAZINE   JANUARY, 1984

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