Jean’s Gospel: Psalm 4: Give us Hope – Part 2
Psalm 4 is a psalm of prayer, comfort and instruction. It teaches us to trust in God when things go wrong.
This is Part 2 of a three-part series on Psalm 4
“To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.
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!”
In Part 1 we looked at how David prays to God “of my righteousness!” Although men may mock and judge the godly for their faith in the Lord, the godly will not contend for their own righteousness, but commit their case to God who judges righteously.
David does not pass over his own sin in his distress. The godly approach God in contrition. God hears our prayers because He is gracious to us for the sake of Christ who redeemed us from our sin and death.
“2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.”
In Part 1 we read that David’s honor and reputation are tied to his faith in Lord. David rebukes his adversaries for mocking and dishonoring him and by extension his trust in God.
Without faith, David’s adversaries had sought in men that which they should have sought in God: “How long will you love vain words and seek after lies.” True vanity is being ignorant of or rejecting the cross and grace and seeking salvation and help, not in God, but in something or someone else; for man can find neither salvation nor any other good in anything but in God.
The “godly” are the people who through faith have obtained mercy and have been justified by grace: “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity” (Ps 32:2). It is God who, through His Word, calls men out of darkness and shines the light of the Gospel of His Son upon us. The Lord will not forsake the work of his hands. Therefore, He will defend the godly and hear their prayers.
Let us pick up Psalm 4 at verse 4:
“4 Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
5 Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.”
When in distress, David admonishes: “Be angry, and do not sin”. It is anger which often leads us into vanities and lies. This is not a command to be angry, but more of a concession that as emotional creatures, we will become angry from this or that trouble. However, David admonishes us not to consent to our anger; not to act on it; but to quench it before it becomes sin.
Paul similarly teaches: “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16); “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions” (Rom 6:12); and “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Rom 13:14). Although there are evil desires and the lust of anger in us, we are admonished to strive against them so that we do not obey them.
“ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent”
[“The heart of fools is in their mouth: but the mouth of the wise is in their heart.” (Sirach 21:26)]
David instructs us in what we should do to prevent ourselves from sinning when moved with anger: “ponder” (NIV: “search;” NASB: “meditate;” KJV: “commune;” HCSB: “reflect”) in our own hearts privately and be “silent.” Paul also writes: “do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph 4:26).
Silence is more than simple verbal silence. It is silence with both patience and trust in the Lord. “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Ex 14:20) Silent reflection and prayer restrains our impulses, helps us to cool off, and directs us back to the Lord and the implanted Word in us.
“Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.”
Instead of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and malice (see Eph 4:31), or enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions and envy (see Gal 5:20-21), David instructs us: “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” What are the right sacrifices of the godly?
“The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me” (Ps 50:23)
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Ps 51:17)
The ungodly trust in men and see strength only in wrath, whereas the godly trust in God and find their strength in Him. As it is written through the prophet Isaiah: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isa 30:15).
In the midst of our distress, this psalm instructs us to suffer in silence without unrest; confessing our sins, committing our cause into the hand of God, and expecting his mercy with believing confidence. For He that will come will come! Christ will execute judgment in favor of them who suffer injury and will avenge the innocent. Thus Jesus will make His strength perfect in our weakness (see 2 Cor 12:9).
There may be no greater source of injustice in the entire world than men’s demands for justice. How many fights, broken friendships, murders, wars and other calamities have been brought about over someone’s cry for justice? Concerning the unbridled tongue, James wrote: “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 5:3b)
Committing one’s cause to the judgment of Christ may be among the most difficult crosses that a Christian may suffer. It is so contrary to the ways of the world that suffering in this way is a divine work of God in us. And if our suffering is a divine work, then it is for our benefit.
May God strengthen us with faith and comfort us with the Holy Spirit, so that we may bear our crosses with thanksgiving, patience, trust and hope; in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thank you for reading. Next week, we will pick up Psalm 4 at verse 6. Amen.