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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Psalm 4

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Talking to God and Men

This Psalm is titled, To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. In it David pours out his complaint against slanderous enemies and finds peace and refuge in God.

A. David talks to God and to men.

1. (Psa 4:1) David talks to God.

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.

a. Hear me when I call: There is passion in David's cry. He doesn't want to just cast up words towards heaven. He needs God's attention to his present problem.

i. Often power in prayer is lacking because there is little passion in prayer. It isn't that we persuade God by emotional displays, but God wants us to care deeply about the things He cares deeply about. The prophet Isaiah spoke with sorrow about the lack of this in Israel: And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You (Isaiah 64:7). This is a good example of David stirring himself up to take hold of God.

b. O God of my righteousness: David knew that his righteousness came from God, and not from himself. He calls upon the God who makes him righteous.

c. You have relieved me … Have mercy on me: In a familiar pattern, David uses past mercy as a ground for future help. "God, I know you haven't blessed me thus far to abandon me, so have mercy on me."

i. "This is another instance of David's common habit of pleading past mercies as a ground for present favour." (Spurgeon)

2. (Psa 4:2-3) David talks to men.

How long, O you sons of men,
Will you turn my glory to shame?
How long will you love worthlessness
And seek falsehood? Selah
But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly;
The LORD will hear when I call to Him.

a. How long: David asks a valid question. Just how long will the ungodly keep to their way? They can't keep to it forever, so they may as well abandon it now and be blessed.

i. If we find ourselves on a compromising course, it is valid to ask, "How long? If I extend this course of action out to its logical and inevitable conclusion, where will I be? Knowing this, how long will I play around with this sin?"

b. How long, O you sons of men, will you turn my glory to shame? Many try to connect Psalm 3 with Psalm 4, thinking that this was also written in connection with Absalom's rebellion. This is probably incorrect because the focus in this psalm isn't David's physical safety or kingdom but his reputation. Wicked men slandered David.

i. "In this psalm the problem is one of malicious slander and lies. It is the psalmist's reputation rather than his person that is being attacked." (Boice)

ii. Turn my glory to shame: Jesus experienced what David experienced. Wicked men tried to turn almost every glorious thing in His ministry into shame.

c. The LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly: David knew that he and other godly people were set apart for God. There are many reasons why we set things apart.

- We set things apart for our own enjoyment
- We set things apart for greater purity
- We set things apart for special service

i. For all these reasons and more, God sets us apart unto Himself.

d. The LORD will hear when I call to Him: The ungodly have a disaster waiting for them, but the godly have a great reward in the LORD. This is why David knows the LORD will hear when I call to Him.

i. Each Christian should have the same assurance. They should be confident that God will hear their prayers. When prayer seems ineffective it is worth it to take a spiritual inventory to see if there is a reason for unanswered prayer. The Bible tells us there are many reasons why prayer may not be answered.

- Not abiding in Jesus (John 15:7)
- Unbelief (Matthew 17:20-21)
- Failure to Fast (Matthew 17:21)
- A Bad Marriage Relationship (1 Peter 3:7)
- Unconfessed Sin (James 5:16)
- Lying and Deceitfulness (Psalm 17:1)
- Lack of Bible Reading and Bible Teaching (Proverbs 28:9)
- Trusting in the Length or Form of Prayer (Matthew 6:7)

B. David talks to himself.

1. (Psa 4:4-5) David calms himself before the Lord.

Be angry, and do not sin.
Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And put your trust in the LORD.

a. Be angry, and do not sin: With the ungodliness around him, David had reason to be angry but he had no reason to sin. He reminds himself to not sin in his anger, and to find solace in meditation before the LORD.

b. Meditate within your heart: David speaks of the Christian practice of meditation, not the eastern practice of meditation. In Christian meditation we fill our heart and mind with God's word. In eastern meditation the idea is to empty the heart and mind, leaving it open for deceiving spirits.

c. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord: David knew the value of religious observance (offer the sacrifices), yet he also knew that they could not replace trust in the Lord. When religious observance is coupled with true trust in God, we draw near to God and experience the benefits of drawing near.

2. (Psa 4:6-8) David receives blessing from God.

There are many who say, "Who will show us any good?"
LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.
You have put gladness in my heart,
More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.
I will both lie down in peace, and sleep;
For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

a. Who will show us any good? The voice of the ungodly cynic echoes in David's ear. After continual disappointment from man, one begins to doubt if God will show us any good.

b. LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us: Despite what the cynics say or think, David trusts that the LORD will show him good.

i. He claims it upon the Aaronic promise of blessing in Numbers 6:24-26:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

c. You have put gladness in my heart: When we know that the face of God shines favorably on us, it puts gladness in the heart. Though David was in distress, vexed by ungodly men all around he could still have gladness in his heart, because the LORD put it there.

d. More than in the season that their grain and wine increased: The ungodly can be happy when the money is coming in and everything is prosperous. David can be happy even in distressing times because the LORD put gladness in his heart.

e. I will both lie down in peace, and sleep: David can sleep well at night, even in distressing times and surrounded by the ungodly. He sleeps well because his safety is from the LORD, not from circumstances or even feeling.

i. We can imagine a man lying down to sleep, tormented by all of what his enemies or pretended friends say about him. David could be that man, but he trusts in the LORD. He has a gladness that the world can't take away, even with all their slander and lies.

ii. In his proverbs from Poor Richard's Almanac, Ben Franklin had some good advice: "Since I cannot govern my own tongue, tho' within my own teeth, how can I hope to govern the tongues of others?"

f. For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety: G. Campbell Morgan points out that the idea here is not that it is the LORD and none other. Instead, the idea is that David finds safety in solitude with God.

i. "The thought of the word alone is 'in loneliness,' or as Rotherham renders it 'in seclusion'; and the word refers to the one going asleep. This is a glorious conception of sleep. Jehovah gathers the trusting soul into a place of safety by taking it away from all the things which trouble or harass … the tried and tired child of His love is pavilioned in His peace." (Morgan)

© 2006 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission


The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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