1, Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
2, O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
3, But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for Himself; the LORD hears when I call to Him.
4, Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
5, Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.
6, There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!”
7, You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
8, In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
There seems to be a connection between this psalm and the previous one—like a follow-up of Psalm 3. David appears to be in distress again and he expects an imminent relief that can only be received from a merciful God—the “God of his righteousness,” indicating that any righteousness we have comes only from God. Any righteousness not from God is self-righteousness—a self-deception of a kind. David knows that because God has relieved his distress in the past, He will do it again. Thus, David calls upon God to be heard in his prayer.
In verse 2, it appears that people who have not only turned from him, but have also turned from God to pursue delusions, are dishonoring David. What sort of delusions are they pursuing? “Vain words” and lies, it says. This could be anything. For example, there has been an ongoing development of Christians turning from true doctrine and pursuing false ones, such as pursuing and/or supporting the homosexual lifestyle or the heretical prosperity gospel that Joel Osteen and his wife preach, in spite of what God’s Word says against such beliefs. Through such behavior, they abandon God and His true Church. They dishonor God’s true people by discriminating against those who choose not to abandon His inerrant and infallible Word. Even worse, they dishonor God by living unrepentantly in sin while simultaneously redefining sin and spreading false doctrine. As God set David apart from those who abandoned him, so God sets His true Church apart form those who abandon Him to chase after useless delusions of false doctrine and heresies, and God will sort them out during the Judgment. God hears us when we call to Him, but His ears are closed off to those who abandon Him.
While there are similarities between Psalms 3 and 4, there are also some differences. In Psalm 3, David prays that God “break the teeth of the wicked” (v. 7). In Psalm 4:4-5, however, he appeals to his enemies to not allow their anger to lead them to sin and to repent and “offer right sacrifices,” as well as to trust in God. Why the sudden change of heart—from cold wishes to warm admonition? Remember that David was a sinner like the rest of us—capable of failure and being flawed (indeed, we see his human frailty in his sin with Bathsheba and poor fathering skills in dealing with his sons’ poor behavior). Perhaps he realized his harshness towards his enemies and regretted it. Or perhaps it’s the desperate plea of a father to a wandering son (Absalom).
Whatever the reason, we can all take his advice here. Even the apostle Paul borrowed his advice in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Never go to bed angry. When the night falls and you find that you’re still angry about something, eliminate that anger before you go to bed. Whether it’s through prayer, confronting and resolving the issue, or talking to someone to help calm you down and see more clearly, do whatever you need to do to get rid of that anger (so long as it’s done healthily, of course). If you don’t do this, it doesn’t mean that you’re sinning. Getting rid of your anger before you go to bed at the end of the day just makes living your life that much easier and stress-free. It’s okay to be angry, so long as it does not lead you to sin.
When we desire goodness, only God can give it to us. When we ask for good providence in our lives, only God can supply it. In verse 7, David acknowledges that God gives greater joy than the joy that people have when they lavish in their material riches. The joy of the Lord is eternal; the joys of materialism perishes. Just like in Psalm 3, David can sleep assured that God will keep him safe, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b). Happiness is based on your circumstances; the joy of the Lord is based on the eternity of God’s mercy having saved us from the burden of sin.
Psalm 4 Prayer
O Lord, You never fail to preserve me. It is by Your strength alone that I need not worry under cover of night. For those who have separated themselves from You, I ask that You guide them to You — help them to conquer their sins as You have helped me, as Your will be done. Silence my anger — calm the raging seas of my desire for vengeance. Bless me with Your joy so that it may infect others around me. In the name of Jesus I pray, amen.
Garrick Sinclair "Ricky" Beckett first started his Christian writing on a blog titled "The Lutheran Column" where he hires proficient Lutheran writers to convey biblical truth. Along with the blog, he also writes poetry, string quartets in music composition, enjoys doing photography, reading, and playing video games. Ricky is a graduate from Concordia University-Ann Arbor from the Pre-Seminary program with a major in Christian Thought and a minor in Theological Languages. Currently, Ricky is a seminarian at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis as he works on his Masters of Divinity to become a pastor in the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).
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