The Gospel for Real Life

Christ in Psalms – 4

Psalm 4 is very similar to the preceding psalms in many of the truths that it communicates.  In this psalm, David essentially compares the differences between the godly and the ungodly.  In the midst of this psalm calls the ungodly to trust in the LORD because of the joy and peace that eternally exists in Him.

David begins his plea to God- calling on Him to answer.  Keep in mind, when someone in the Scriptures asks for God to answer or “hear” them, the implication is that they are looking to God for aid – not merely an acknowledgement that their prayer has been “heard.”  David calls out to Yahweh for a couple of reasons.

  1. God is righteous.  The Hebrew word for “righteous” bears with it not only the understanding of God’s character being righteous, but also that His actions correspond to his character.  Therefore, if God is righteous, it makes sense for David to call out to God.
  2. David says that God is his righteousness.  This is a key theological concept.  David does not say “Answer me according to my righteousness apart from You, LORD.”  Instead, David says, “Answer me when I call, O God of myrighteousness!”  David completely sets his hope in God and receives a righteous standing in Him.  On the basis of that standing, David has confidence that God will answer him.
  3. David recounts God’s past faithfulness to him.  This is vital for those who trust in God to do.  When going through difficulties and pains, God’s children must remember that He has always been faithful in the past, He will always remain faithful.  “You have relieved me in my distress.”  This phrase can literally be translated, “I was hard pressed, and you did set me at large.”  It is similar to when one says that “I’m in between a rock and a hard place.”  And, to be set at large indicates freedom and release.  One way to understand this word imagery is to imagine a time when you had a migraine disappear after taking medicine.  Remember the release you experienced?  David says, “God, you have released me and set me free in the past.  Answer me.”

David now recounts the unfaithfulness of some people.  The word for “men” in this psalm refers to people in prominent positions.  Again, we cannot know for sure the details surrounding this psalm, but we can be confident that people have risen against David, the anointed one (who is a picture of the Anointed One who was to come, Ps. 2).  David describes their actions as worthless – while seeking falsehood and glorying in shaming God’s chosen one.  We can see similarities of this psalm with Romans 1.  People glory in their shame – shaming God and His ways by continuing to pursue their own passions above what is right.  As you move to Romans 2 and 3, you realize that the entire human race has shamed God in pursuing anything else other than God.  Yet, God has made a way for rescue through Christ (Rom. 3:21ff).

David sees the ungodly as following worthless pursuits and is very concerned.  He knows that God has set him apart and will hear him when he calls, but he is confident that God will not hear them.  This is a scary reality for the ungodly.  Therefore, David calls the ungodly to repentance.  He gives six commands:

  1. Be angry.  In the context, they’re angry with God’s King.  Given the next couple words, we can be confident that David doesn’t want them to be angry with them, but David does give them the permission to be angry.
  2. Do not sin.  This adds to our understanding of what he is saying.  It seems as though David is saying to unbelievers (and I think believers should heed this word as well), “Make sure that you are angry about the right things.”  In other words, “You are angry, but do you have your facts straight and are you angry with the right attitude – desiring God’s glory?”
  3. Meditate within your heart.  This means to ponder.  Think about for what you are living.  “Be angry about the right things and meditate as to whether you’re really living for eternal joy.”
  4. Be Silent.  This is one of the hardest things for us to do when we are angry, isn’t it?  Just to be silent.  Sometimes we call someone or we talk to our friends or family members or husband or wife.  Do you realize that could be keeping you from seeing things clearly?  David says that sometimes silence is golden.  Be still.  Stop.
  5. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness.  It is by God’s grace that upon deep contemplation the ungodly will see what they need to do.  They will respond with right actions.  But, right actions without a right heart are still ungodly.  This word for “righteousness” reminds us of verse 1 – “God of my righteousness.”  David says that God is his righteousness.  Therefore God acts righteously.  If actions of righteousness flow out of the character of God’s righteousness, then it is the same for His created beings.  A heart that has been transformed by God is a godly heart.  It is a heart that loves him and is faithful to him.  Therefore, we have the final command.
  6. Put your trust in the LORD.  We saw in Psalm 3 that “Salvation belongs to the LORD” – seeing that the LORD is Jesus Christ.  We saw in Psalm 2 that the ones who are blessed by God are the ones who put their trust (take refuge) in Him.  Now, Psalm 4 puts together these two thoughts very clearly.  How are we ever going to be forgiven?  How are we ever going to hope in Him?  How are we ever going to get away from lies?  It is only through the salvation that the LORD brings.  And, anyone who trusts in Yahweh is blessed.

David reiterates his concern for the people in that they pray to God, but God does not answer them (v. 6).  Yet, David’s prayer is answered (vv. 7-8).  Some may ask, “So, God does not hear when the ungodly pray to Him?”  He does hear, but not in the sense of giving rescue.  When Jesus talks about the scribes and Pharisees praying to be seen by men, He says that they have their reward (Luke 6:5).  This concept is reiterated in Romans 1 and even earlier in Matthew 6.  If someone is calling out to God yet they really desire something else to rescue them, God will give them to that other thing.  If someone is calling out to God and really seeking Him, He will pick them up and rescue them.  This is why it is so important for the ungodly to see their sin and “put their trust in the LORD.”

David says that God has given him gladness (aka – “joy”) and peace.  In the New Testament, both of these words are picked up as part of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).  The ungodly might have real semblances of joy and peace, but according to David, they’re just pictures of the real joy and peace that is found in God.  The reason?  Because the eternal joy we have is found in our right relationship with God – the everlasting Creator.  The peace that we have is not merely with men, but with God.  While we can be happy when stocks are high and our jobs are going very well, the godly’s greatest source of joy is found in God – the One who makes them safe.

“. . .put your trust in the LORD” (Psalm 4:5b).

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