New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 4:1 For the Chief Musician; on stringed instruments. A Psalm by David- This Psalm is clearly related to Psalm 3, concerning David's prayer at the time of Absalom's rebellion. It has been observed: "In its metrical structure it very much resembles Ps. 3:1-8; being composed, like that, of a short strophe (verses 1,2), a short anti-strophe (Ps. 3:3,4), and a longer epode (Ps. 3:5-8). The divisions are marked, as in Ps. 3:1-8; by the introduction of the word selah, perhaps meaning "pause," or "rest"". I suggest that Psalm 3 is as it were the raw prayer of David in the heat of the moment; and Psalm 4 is now a more formal arrangement for "stringed instruments".  

Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness. Give me relief from my distress. Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer-
The request for mercy may appear to clash with the statement about "God of my righteousness". David may simply mean that he is 'right' in the controversy with Absalom. But Absalom's rebellion was after his sin with Bathsheba, when he had learned the wonder of imputed righteousness. And perhaps it is to this which he alludes. See on :3,5.

Psa 4:2 You sons of men, how long shall my glory be turned into dishonour? Will you love vanity, and go seeking after falsehood?-
Vanity and falsehood are terms often associated with idolatry. And this was never far from the surface amongst Old Testament Israel. It could be that he laments that Absalom's new ruling junta was devoted to idolatry rather than to Yahweh. David's "glory" was in his God, and Yahweh was being dishonoured by this idolatry.

Psa 4:3 But know that Yahweh has set apart for Himself him who is Godly: Yahweh will hear when I call to Him-
I suggested on :1 that David has in mind the righteousness imputed to him after his sin regarding Bathsheba. "Him who is Godly" is a term he has used about himself in his marvel at God's grace to him at that time, believing that his trust in God's grace and justification by that grace was to be the pattern for all who afterward would be "Godly" (Ps. 32:6). If God had heard his calling upon God's grace at the time of his sin with Bathsheba, He surely would do so now that he was facing the consequences of that sin. We see here how in His grace, God is willing to save sinners like David even from the consequences of their sins. 

Psa 4:4 Be angry, and don’t sin. Search your own heart on your bed, and be still-
I suggest this, as often in the Psalms, is a soliloquy- David talking to himself. He was naturally angry with Absalom and those who had betrayed him, but he urges himself not to sin in that anger. He accepts that anger is of itself not sinful, but that it can easily lead to sin. I noted on :1 the connection with Ps. 3, here to Ps. 3:5, where he recalls how whilst on the run from Absalom he had laid down to sleep and awoken assured of God's ultimate salvation. But before he had laid down to sleep that night, he had searched his own heart. It was that good conscience with God which was the basis for his peaceful sleep. Paul quotes this verse as relevant to us all (Eph. 4:26).

The prophets were up against the same passionless spirit that pervades our societies today. The Jews came to discount the existence of God as a person, and condemned any form of anger or passion: “God loves him who never gets angry” (Pesahim 113b); “He who gets angry is regarded as if he would worship an idol” (Maimonides, Mishne Torah, Deoth, Vol. 2, 3). “Do not get angry and you will not sin” (Berachoth 29b). By contrast, consider Ps. 4:4 (quoted in Eph. 4:26 and exemplified in the anger of the Lord Jesus): “Be angry and sin not”. The Rabbinic commentaries changed this to “Tremble before God, and you will not sin”.

Psa 4:5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, put your trust in Yahweh-
This is again David talking to himself (:4). He was exiled from Jerusalem. The sacrifices he has in view were therefore those he had been driven to make in his heart at the time of his sin with Bathsheba (Ps. 51:17)- those of a broken heart. At this point of Absalom's rebellion, he was aware that he was suffering the consequences of that sin, and as noted on :1,3,5, is alluding to the lessons he had learned then. 

Psa 4:6 Many say, Who will show us any good? Yahweh, let the light of Your face shine on us-
These "many" are the many who had joined Absalom's rebellion (Ps. 3:2,6; 2 Sam. 15:12). But they wonder "who will show us any good". Perhaps amongst those faithful to David there was the idea that nobody, not even God, would show them any "good" or grace now. But David asks for the light of God's face to shine, the sign of His acceptance. And that is what is so critically important when we are rejected by men. As noted on Ps. 3:8, David alludes to the high priestly blessing (Num. 6:24).

Psa 4:7 You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and their new wine are increased-
The allusion is to how Absalom was feasting in celebration now that he had apparently taken the throne (as happened at the rebellion of 1 Kings  1:19,25). But the gladness of a good conscience with God meant far more to David than such rejoicing and secular feasting. We note that God can operate directly upon the human heart, the outcome of His Spirit working upon the human spirit or heart. And He can do so today just as much.

Psa 4:8 In peace I will both lay myself down and sleep, for You, Yahweh alone, make me live in safety
- This connects with Ps. 3:5. At his very nadir, with the insurrection apparently gaining momentum on every hand, David was able to lay down in peace and sleep, probably near the roadside somewhere on the way. As he awoke, he reflected that Yahweh had sustained him, and would ultimately 'awake' him to salvation. We likewise marvel how Peter could sleep soundly in prison the night before his planned execution. This is the peace which comes from true faith. And let us too not fail to be impressed by God's grace in awaking us each morning. Let our first thoughts on awakening be of Him, in prayer. God will keep us in "perfect peace" if our mind is "stayed" or 'sustained' upon Him (s.w. Is. 26:3). If we allow our mind to be sustained upon Him, He will sustain us. So often the Psalms reflect the mutuality possible between a man and his God. See on Ps. 4:4.