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Psalms 4:1 « To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David. » Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me [when I was] in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.
To the chief Musician ] Or, To the most excellent music master, 1 Chronicles 25:1-13.25.2 , to the chief chanter, Asaph, was this, and some other psalms, committed, that they might be sung in the best manner, and with greatest care. So Alexander, on his death bed, left his kingdom τω Kρατιστω , Optimatum optimo, to him that should be the best of the best. Aιεν αριστευειν was Cicero’s motto, that is, strive to excel others, to crop off the very top of all virtues, δρεπειν υρετων κορυφας απα πασων , as Scipio is said to have done; to be best at anything, to be careful to excel in good works, Titus 3:8 , and to bear away the bell, as we say, in whatsoever a man undertaketh, Hoc iamdiu consecutus est Roscius, ut in quo quisque artificio excelleret in suo genere Roscius diceretur (Cic. de Orat.).
On Neginoth ] i.e. Instruments pulsatilia, stringed instruments, such as are to be touched, or played upon with the hand. Lord, saith Nazianzen, I am an instrument for thee to touch. Let us lay ourselves open to the Spirit’s touch; and so make music.
Ver. 1. Hear me when I call, O God of my riqhteousness ] That is, O thou righteous Judge of my righteous cause, and of my good conscience. David speaketh first to God, and then to men. This is the right method. We therefore speak no better to men, because no more to God. It is said of Charles V, that he spent more words with God than with men. When we are vilified, and derogated by others, as David here was, let us make God acquainted with our condition, by his example. But why doth David beg audience and mercy in general only, and not lay open to God his particular grievances? Surely because he looked upon the favour of God as a complexive blessing, that perfectly comprehendeth all the rest; as manna is said to have had all good tastes in it. For particulars, David was content to be at God’s disposal. "I humbly beseech thee, that I may find grace in thy sight, my lord, O king," said that false Ziba to David, 2 Samuel 16:4 ; q.d. I had rather have the king’s favour than Mephibosheth’s land. David really had rather have God’s love and favour than all this world’s good; and therefore so heartily beggeth it above anything.
Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress ] Heb. Thou hast made room for me. Hoc autem in prophetia dictum est, saith R. David. This was prophetically spoken. Thou hast, that is, thou wilt enlarge me who am now in distress. God will surely be nearest unto his in their greatest straits; and because they have made him the God of their mountains, he will be the God of their valleys also.
Psa 4:2 O ye sons of men, how long [will ye turn] my glory into shame? [how long] will ye love vanity, [and] seek after leasing? Selah.
Ver. 2. O ye sons of men ] Ye nobles, Psalms 49:1-19.49.2 , who think to carry all before you with those big looks, and bubbles of words: ye who are potent at court, and therefore insolent above measure. David, having poured out his heart to God in prayer, takes heart of grace thus freely to bespeak these great ones his enemies.
How long will ye turn my glory into shame? ] i.e. Attempt to put me beside the kingdom, whereunto God hath designed and destined me? You think, belike, to jeer me out of my right, and, by casting upon me cart loads of calunmies and contumelies, to make me desist, and hang up my hopes. But it is otherwise, believe it. Psalms 14:6-19.14.7 , "Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge." But will he therefore stop praying? No; for in the next words he falls on, and says, "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!" &c.
How long will ye love vanity? &c. ] i.e. Trouble yourselves to no purpose, while ye plot and plough mischief to him who is blessed, and shall be blessed, ingratiis vestris? You love, you seek; that is, you both inwardly affect wickedness and outwardly act it; but all in vain.
Psa 4:3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.
Ver. 3. But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly ] Quod separatum asseruerit, that God hath destined mine head to the diadem of the kingdom, and therefore it shall not be in your power to hinder me; sit voluntas Dei, necessitas rei, and this I would have you to know and rest assured of. Let us be no less confident of the crown of glory: Luke 12:32 , "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom." And 2 Timothy 2:19 , The foundation of God abideth sure, having this double seal, i.e. The Lord, for his part, knoweth who are his; and we, for our parts, may know, that if we but name the name of the Lord in prayer, and depart from evil, we shall certainly be saved.
The Lord will hear when I call unto him ] Being that I am a godly man, a gracious saint, one that have obtained mercy, and am thereby made merciful to others (for so much the word signifieth), I doubt not of audience and acceptance in heaven. God regards not the prayer if the person be not right. For witches some plead that they use good prayers; in answer whereunto one saith well, Si magicae, Deus non vult tales; si piae, non per tales. God heareth not good prayers from a bad man; as that state in story would not hear a good motion from an ill mouth; or, as we cannot endure to hear sweet words from a stinking breath. The blood of a swine might not be offered in sacrifices, though better to look upon than the blood of a sheep.
Psa 4:4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.
Ver. 4. Stand in awe, and sin not ] Be stirred, or commoved, or troubled. Tremble and sin not. But today the word and the world too is altered; for men sin and tremble not; being arrived at that dead and dedolent disposition of those heathens who were past feeling, Ephesians 4:18-49.4.19 . St Paul rather alludeth to this text, Ephesians 4:6 , than citeth it, as some think.
Commune with your own heart upon your bed ] Advise with your pillow what you have to do in a business so important as the practice of repentance, whereunto I am now exhorting you. Here, then, examine yourselves, prove your ownselves, as 2 Corinthians 13:5 . Sift you, sift you, Zephaniah 2:2 . Recoil, turn short again upon yourselves, thrust your hands into your bosoms, as Moses did, and took it out again leprous, white as snow. Take a review of your hearts and lives, converse with yourselves; a wise man can never want with whom to discourse, though he be alone. But as it is a sign that there are great distempers in that family where husband and wife go several days together and speak not the one to the other; so in that soul that flieth from itself, and can go long without examination of self. A good man’s business lieth most within doors, and he taketh the fittest time (night or day) for the better despatch of it, though thereby he abridge himself of his natural rest. Mr Bradford, the young Lord Harrington, and sundry others, kept journals, or day books, and oft read them over, for a help to humiliation.
And be still. Selah ] Or, make a pause, dwell upon the work of self-examination till you have made somewhat of it, till you have driven it up to a reformation, as Lamentations 3:39-25.3.40 , Let us try, and turn. The word signifieth be dumb and hereupon all our silentiaries have founded their superstitious opinions and practices; such as were those old monks of Egypt, who, saith Cassian, were umbrarum more silentes et αλαλοι , as speechless as ghosts. So the Carthusian monks at this day, who speak together but once a week. Some kind of Anabaptists also will not speak a word to any but those of their own sect.
Psa 4:5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.
Ver. 5. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness ] Confess your sins, and slay them; run to him who is the propitiation, Jesus Christ the righteous, present your bodies a living sacrifice, bring a contrite spirit; to do good and to communicate forget not, &c., else you offer the sacrifice of fools, as Ecclesiastes 5:1 , and not of righteousness, as here. The Chaldee hath it, Domate concupiscentias, sacrifice and subdue your lusts.
And put your trust in the Lord ] It is well observed that God brings men home by a contrary way to where they fell from him. We fell from him by distrust, by having him in a jealousy, as if he aimed more at himself than at our good. We return to him by having a good conceit of him, that he loves us better than we can love ourselves, and therefore that we ought to put our trust in him, both in life and death.
Psalms 4:6 [There be] many that say, Who will shew us [any] good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.
Ver. 6. There be many that say, Who will show us, &c. ] This is Vox populi, the common cry; Studium improborum vagum, good they would have, but pitch not upon the true good. It was well observed that he who first called riches bona, goods, was a better husband than divine; but the most are such husbands. O siquis daret ut videamus bonum? Who will help us to a good bargain, a good estate? &c.; but God, the chief good, is not in all their thoughts; they mind not communion with him or conformity to him, which is the Bonum hominis, good of a man Micah 6:8 , the totum hominis, whole of a man Ecclesiastes 12:13 , the one thing necessary, though nothing is less thought upon. What are these outward comforts, so much affected and admired, saith Plato, but Dei ludibria, banded up and down like tennis balls, from one to another? A spiritual man heeds not wealth, or at least makes it not his business. What tell you me of money? saith Paul; I need it not, but to further your reckoning, Philippians 4:1 . And David, having spoken of those rich and wretched people that have their portion here in all abundance, Psalms 17:14 , concludeth, I neither envy their store nor covet their happiness; it is enough for me that, when I awake, sc. at the resurrection of the just, I shall be full of thine linage, Psalms 17:15 . Christ, who had all riches, scorned these Bona scabelli, earthly riches; he was born poor, lived poor, died poor; for, as Austin observeth, when Christ died he made no will, &c., and as he was born in another man’s house, so he was buried in another man’s tomb. And yet he was, and still is, God blessed for ever. Cicero indeed, writing to Atticus, would have one friend wish to another three things only, viz. to enjoy health, possess honour, and not suffer necessity. How much better Paul’s wish, grace, mercy, and peace, or David’s desire here!
Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us ] One good cast of God’s countenance was more to David than all this world’s wealth, than a confluence of all outward comforts and contentments. He had set up God for his chief good, and the light of God’s loving countenance was the guide of that way that leadeth to that good; and hence his importunity; he cannot draw breath but in that air, nor take comfort in anything without God’s gracious aspect, and some comings in from Christ. It is better, saith one, to feel God’s favour one hour in our repenting souls, than to sit whole ages under the warmest sunshine that this world affordeth. Saith not David so much in the next words?
Psa 4:7 Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time [that] their corn and their wine increased.
Ver. 7. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than, &c. ] Joys unspeakable, and full of glory, 1 Peter 1:8 . We read of some godly men, that they have been overwhelmed with spiritual joy, till they have cried out, Hold, Lord, stay thine hand, I can bear no more; like weak eyes, that cannot endure to bear the light. Indeed, this is not every good man’s case, witness that saying of sweet Master Bath, I thank God in Christ, sustentation I have, but suavities spiritual I taste not any. And that of holy Rolloc, While I live I never look to see perfect reformation in the Church, or to feel perfect ravishing joys in mine heart. But those God’s people have are far beyond all carnal comforts.
Than in the time that their corn, &c. ] These indeed are the precious fruits of the earth, James 5:7 , but they seal not up special favour. A man may have together with them animam triticeam, as that rich fool had. Animas etiam incarnavimus, as a Father complaineth. These outward things are got within men, and have stolen away their warmest and liveliest affections from God. Not so in the saints; they must have God, or else they die. The people mourned and put on black when they heard that God would not go with them himself, but send an angel with them, Exodus 33:2-2.33.3 . And when great gifts were sent to Luther, he sent them back again with this brave speech, I will not be put off with these poor things; I look for better. Let God bestow himself upon me, and it sufficeth. As with manna there fell a dew, so to a good soul, together with corn and wine (be it more or less) there is a secret influence of God, which the carnal heart is not acquainted with. A fly cannot make that of a flower that a bee can do. The treacherous Shechemites had plenty of grain and wine, Judges 9:27 , but having not the grace of God with it, they were soon after destroyed by Abimelech.
Psa 4:8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
Ver. 8. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep ] Heb. In peace together will I lie down and sleep; that is, saith the Syriac interpreter, Non solum cubabo sed etiam dormiam, I will not only lie down, but also sleep; which many cannot do for fears and cares, those gnats that keep them waking. The Arabic hath it, I sleep as securely in adversity as those can that are in prosperity. Others thus, I will lay me down together with the joy before spoken of, and confidence in God; this shall be my bed fellow; and then I am sure to rest sweetly and safely. For, Thou, Lord, only makest, thou settest me in safety, thou givest to thy beloved sleep, Psalms 127:2 ; that is, extraordinary quiet refreshing sleep, as the learned note upon the Aleph quiescent in שׁבא which is not usual.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 4". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent