Jean’s Gospel: Psalm 4: Give Us Hope – Part 3
Psalm 4 is a psalm of prayer, comfort and instruction. It teaches us to trust in God when things go wrong.
This is Part 3 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 read 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.”
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. 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.
“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.”
In Part 2 we read that anger is a human impulse, which, if not quenched, may lead to vanities and lies. Therefore, David admonishes us to not consent to our anger; not to act on it; but to quench it before it becomes sin.
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 trusting confidence.
Let us pick up Psalm 4 at verse 6:
“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.”
David here describes how unbelief responds to distress: “Who will show us some good?” They must have their “good,” if not from God then from something or someone else.
The greedy man hopes in God while the job promotions come and his bank account is growing. The strong man hopes in Him also so long as His strength and health are sound. The ambitious man hopes in God so long as his authority and prestige are intact and growing. They see these things as good signs that God is gracious towards them. But if any of these things should fail, their hope fails with it, unless some other or greater sign shows itself for their support.
Jesus was acquainted with this type of unbelief: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (John 4:48). Paul also: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom” (1 Cor 1:22). To unbelief, the Word of the cross and the doctrine of faith are offensive: If God is happy with me, why would he allow me suffer? If God is happy with me, why would He not bless me with some temporal good?
By contrast, this is the hope of faith: “For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Rom 8:24-25) And this is what David commended to his adversaries when he advised them to put away their vanities and lies and “put your trust in the Lord.”
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!’
Here David replies to his adversaries: Instead of looking in unbelief for a temporal sign that God is for you, I will commend to you a better and true sign – the light of the Lord’s face upon you. This is the only sure sign!
Faith is rightly called the light of the Lord’s face, because it is the illumination of our mind through the power of God’s Word, and a ray of the divinity (i.e., the Holy Spirit) conveyed into our hearts, by which everyone who believes is saved and led. See also: “Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face” (Ps 89:15); and “The Lord is my light and my salvation; who shall I fear?” (Ps 27:1)
In his request “Lift up,” David prays that the Lord would speak His Word and promises to the people through faithful priests, so that the divine light might turn the unbelievers from their unbelief to faith in the Lord. Then they will experience true joy, comfort and hope, not in what is seen, but what is not seen: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)
“8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Please pray: Heavenly Father, satisfied and assured by the light of your Word, that my Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed me from my sin and that You are with me and for me, I will in peace both lie down and sleep. For I am sure that when I lie down and sleep, You, O Lord, will awaken me. Amen.
Thank you for reading. This concludes our look at Psalm 4.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps 23:4) Amen.