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Psalm 4

David, though harassed and lied about, does not fret

Summary

This Psalm by David was for the choir director, probably to be used in congregational worship. It Psalm may be related to Psalm 3. As often happened in David’s life, he is harassed and attacked by others who seek to dishonor and overthrow him. David appeals to God who has helped him in the past, to once again show grace and answer his prayer. He then counsels those who challenge his honor, discredit him, and lie about him to think about what they are doing and stop the attack. They cannot change the LORD’s choice. He is confident that the LORD set him apart for his service and so will answer his prayer.  David further tells them to think through their activity and return to the LORD through appropriate sacrifices and faith. Though many question David as the LORD’s leader, David asks that the LORD show his favor to him and his people. In faith he goes on to say the LORD has made him glad even more so than in prosperous times, and he will sleep peacefully because the LORD protects him.

Outline

  1. Psalm 4.1. David, the psalmist, calls to God who has helped him in the past, to once again show grace and answer his prayer.
  2. Psalm 4.2-5. David counsels those who challenge him. They challenge his honor, embrace wrong values, and deceive him, but he is confident that the LORD set him apart for his service and so will answer his prayer. David further counsels them think through their activity and return to the LORD.
  3. Psalm 4.6-8. Though many question David as the LORD’s leader, David asks that the LORD show his favor to him and his people. He goes on to say the LORD has made him glad even more than in prosperous times, and he will sleep peacefully because the LORD protects him.

Explanation

  1. Psalm 4.1. David, the psalmist, calls to God (Elohim) who has helped him in the past, to once again show grace and answer his prayer. Verse one has three imperatives (answer עָנָה `anah, be gracious חָנַן, hear ). He addresses the God of his righteousness. That phrase emphasizes that God has taken David’s side. God has vindicated or freed David from accusations and declared him right. He is God’s choice. The second line has the word for enlarge, make room (רָחֹב rachob) in the perfect. God has relieved, or we might say given David room in his distress. David implores God, who has already relieved him, to answer, be gracious, to hear his plea for help.
  2. Psalm 4.2-5. David counsels those who challenge him. They challenge his honor, embrace wrong values, and deceive him, but he is confident that the LORD (Yahweh) set him apart for his service and so will answer his prayer. David further counsels them think through their activity and return to the LORD.
    1. Psalm 4.2. David questions his critics about how long will they continue to harass him. They attack his honor (glory, cabod) by criticizing him. The focus on the worthless or vain propaganda about him (worthless is the same Hebrew word in Psalm 2.1 (רִ֑יק riq emptiness vanity). They lie about him.
    2. Psalm 4.3. David now addresses his enemies. He wants them to realize that Yahweh has separated (פָּלָה palah make separate, set apart, hiphil pf) out David and considers him special. David’s answer is one of security and confidence. The LORD has set him apart for his own work as king of Israel, and head of the Davidic monarchy and Messianic line. And very important, Yahweh has set him apart for Himself—fellowship. This implies a closeness of relationship that goes with appointed service. This verse and Psalm 4.8 are the punch lines of the psalm. David knows his position (Psalm 4.3a), his relationship (Psalm 4.3b), and his protection (Psalm 4.8).  The godly man (חָסִיד chasid, one who is faithful, devote, pious) refers to David here. Because of his position and faithfulness, the LORD hears when David calls him. That should make the foes tremble. One clear general application for all godly believers serving in God’s will is that each is distinct, set apart, and under Yahweh’s care.
    3. Psalm 4.4. David now tells those who challenge him to tremble, to be afraid (רָגַז ragaz, to be agitated, to quiver, to quake, to be perturbed, to be upset; qal imperative). This is a warning. Think about your fate. Think about where your actions will lead you. Do not sin (qal jussive with imperative meaning). The attempted overthrow of David is sin. The next line expands on this. Meditate (אָמַר ’amar, qal imperative) is actually the word for talk, in the sense of talk to yourself about this. Then be silent (דּמם damam,  another qal imperative that can mean be silent or wail, but silent fits the context better). Simply put, you had better realize the seriousness of your sinful action and stop what you are doing. Think about it, then put it behind you.
    4. Psalm 4.5. Once the rebels recognize the dangerous activity they have embarked on they need to make the appropriate sacrifices and trust in Yahweh. Both sacrifice (זָבַח zabach) and trust (בָּטַח batach Psalm 56.3-4) are qal imperatives directed to those conspiring against David. The sacrifices are righteous in that they are the correct ones (Psalm 51.19; Deuteronomy 33.19). The remedy is spiritual life forgiveness for the sin and ongoing faith in the LORD.
  3. Psalm 4.6-8. Though many question David as the LORD’s leader, David asks that the LORD show his favor to him and his people. He goes on to say the LORD has made him glad even more than in prosperous times, and he will sleep peacefully because the LORD protects him.
    1. Psalm 4.6. The first line has the question, “who will show us good?”. The conspirators may be saying this about David and his friends. Or, David could be saying what is companions are saying. The latter seems the best understanding. The request is for the LORD’s favor to be shown. The second line expands the first line. To lift up the light of the LORD’s countenance is asking for his blessing (Numbers 6.24-26; Psalm 31.16; 67.1; 80.3,7,19).
    2. Psalm 4.7. David knows that the LORD has set him apart to be king of Israel (Psalm 4.3). The LORD’s choice of David makes him glad (שִׂמְחָה simchah, gladness, joy). He compares his gladness to that associated with a good crop with the attendant prosperity. This reminds us that our spiritual happiness comes from the LORD—We know him and his blessings for us and we believe him.
    3. Psalm 4.8. Knowledge believed gives one confidence and lack of fear. In peace David lay down and slept. The first word in the verse is peace (the Hebrew word  שָׁלוֹם shalom, welfare, completeness, well-being, peace). This describes David. He sleeps in peace. The last word in the verse is safety (בֶּ֫טַח betach, which is related to the verb בָּטַח batach which is used often for trust (Psalm 56.3-4). David sleeps peacefully and knows that he is safe. Why is this possible? Because David knows that the LORD is the source of protection, safety, and all blessing. See Psalm 3.5. David relies on the LORD. His spiritual and physical rest, safety, and kingship are in the LORD’s care.

So what for us?

  1. Since God has accepted us, we are able to ask him to hear us and show favor to us when we are troubled.
  2. If the LORD has selected us for certain service, people may criticize and try to hinder us, but they will not alter God’s plan. They cannot stop the servant he has appointed.
  3. There may be times of doubt about success in our service. Even others may have doubts about us. If we know that God has set us apart for that service we should have confident trust in him to see us through.
  4. In very practical terms, we ought not to upset ourselves with worry. The LORD has accepted and appointed us. We are under his authority and protection. Therefore, when you have done what is necessary, do what David did, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For you alone, O LORD, make me to dwell in safety.” Believe the LORD and rest in him.