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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 4

Verse 1


It is possible that Psalm 4 is directly related to Psalm 3 in terms of circumstances. In Psalm 4, David seems to express feelings he has when he is fleeing from his son Absalom (Psalms 3:1).

Psalm 3 can be called a morning prayer (Psalms 3:5). This is also above Psalm 3 in the NASB. Psalm 4, as put above this psalm by the NASB, can be called an evening prayer (Psalms 4:4; Psalms 4:8). It describes the situation in which it is getting darker and darker for the believing remnant. The tribulation increases. Nevertheless, they continue to put their trust in the LORD.

That these two psalms belong together is evident not only from the subject – morning prayer and evening prayer – but also from corresponding words used in both psalms, such as “many are saying”, “lie”, and “sleep.

God of My Righteousness

In this psalm, David shares his personal experiences that he has had with his enemies and with his God. He does so in a way that others can also benefit from it. In fact, he has composed this psalm “for the choir director” (Psalms 4:1). As a result of this, what he communicates in this psalm can be sung by others who recognize such experiences in their own lives. The wording in which David expresses his feelings here can be used by others to express their feelings in a God-pleasing way.

We can also see in the choir director a picture of the Lord Jesus, Who in the church starts in us the singing of the song of praise to the glory of God (Hebrews 2:12). The song is a great gift from God. A song of praise is a special way of singing about God in response to what He has revealed about Himself.

Singing this psalm is also meant to be done “on” or accompanied by “stringed instruments”. Although it is not a psalm of praise, but more a prayer, the support of stringed instruments is prescribed. Even a prayer of distress has something sweet about it. We may know that even our lamentations are euphonious music to God because in them we focus on and to Him. He loves to hear our supplications.

For “a Psalm of David” see at Psalm 3:1.

David appeals to God in his distress (Psalms 4:1). He knows that he is righteous before God. That is his pleading ground before God, Who he calls here “God of my righteousness”. God is his righteous God. He knows that his case will be judged by God righteously. He can say that with confidence because he has a good conscience, because he lives righteously. His heart does not condemn him and therefore he has boldness to draw near to God as his righteous God (1 John 3:21).

He does not ask that God would justify him, but that God would deliver him from his enemies as the God of his righteousness. The enemies that surround him enclose him, they oppress him. But through his prayer, the distress disappeared and he is relieved. God has relieved him.

David asks God to hear him because he is righteous, that is, he is not aware of any sin in his life that would make answering him impossible. That is not the only ground for an answer. Immediately afterwards, he appeals to the grace of God to listen to his prayer. There is no posturing or exercise of compulsion in his prayer for an answer. He is aware that he deserves nothing and depends on grace for an answer. Grace is the experience of God’s favor on the basis of His faithfulness, without any input from man.

Verses 2-5

But Know …

In these verses, David addresses the “sons of men” (Psalms 4:2). With the sons of men are meant men of renown, people with a high position in life. They are the aristocrats, the upper class of society, the nobility. They derive the meaning of their existence from their high social position. For them David is a failed king, a man with a humble attitude and therefore does not correspond to their idea of a powerful leader. They drag his honor, which has been granted to him by God as His anointed king (Psalms 3:3), through the mud. David is aware of this and addresses them about it.

There is impatience in his voice when he tells them ‘how long’ they will “love what is “worthless”. Since honor has been given to him by God, their effort to disgrace his honor is “worthless”, ‘empty’, and therefore pointless. He speaks to them of loving what is worthless because they are working diligently for something that is nothing. In addition, they “aim at deception”, meaning that they consult idols to carry out their ungodly plans.

The foolishness of their living in emptiness and deception is further underlined in Psalms 4:3. They must realize that the only thing God reckons with is “the godly man” He has “set apart” for Himself. The value and weight of each human life is determined by God according to the esteem which such a person holds for His godly man.

The basis of the faithful remnant’s confidence –and of ours as well –is that God has set apart a godly man, a pious or gracious man, someone on whom God’s pleasure rests. This is primarily about David himself, the man whom God has set apart as a godly man to rule over His people. Beyond David we see the great Son of David, Jesus Christ, the Godly Man of God, His Messiah.

Every man, and especially the men of renown who thinks so highly of himself and so contemptuously of God’s Godly Man, must know Who is the Man on Whom God’s special pleasure rests. Every appeal made to God He answers only in connection with Him. This awareness gives the believing remnant confidence that God will hear when they cry out to Him in faith.

David knows that God hears him when he calls to Him on the basis of the fact that he has been set apart by God. He knows that there is no merit in himself. He is set apart because Christ is set apart. Likewise, we may know that we are chosen by God because the Lord Jesus is the Chosen One (Isaiah 42:1; Matthew 12:18; Luke 23:35). We are chosen in Him (Ephesians 1:4). David is God’s godly man because His great Son is God’s Godly Man.

The relationship to God’s godly man must be in order for God’s blessing to come. Whoever rejects God’s choice calls down God’s anger upon himself. That is why David tells the sons of men, the men of renown, to “tremble” (Psalms 4:4). They should realize that they will perish if they do not kiss the Son (Psalms 2:12). The exhortation “tremble” means that they should become inwardly restless about their attitude toward God. It should cause them to reflect on their lives instead of continuing to sin.

The first line of Psalms 4:4 is quoted by Paul in the letter to the Ephesians (Ephesians 4:26).He does so from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, to prove that there is righteous anger [the word tremble means tremble with anger or fear]. In doing so, he points out at the same time that in case of a justified anger there should not be a sinful reaction. In the case of the sons of men to whom David speaks, it is about a wrong attitude. This is evident from what follows.

He admonishes them to speak in their hearts when they are lying on their beds. At night, man can contemplate his life. There is nothing to distract him then. The big mouth he opens to others during the day is then silent. “Be silent” implies the command to stop arguing in order to continue living without God.

When opposition to God is given up, David comes up with the recommendation to “offer sacrifices of righteousness” (Psalms 4:5). This expresses the need for sacrifice in order to come to terms with God. It means the realization that an innocent animal must die in his place.

These are sacrifices of righteousness, that is, sacrifices that are offered to God because He is entitled to them. They are sacrifices made with a devoted heart and in accordance with the righteous demands of God. He determines what sacrifices a person must come up with. It means that a man is accepted by Him only on the basis of the sacrifice of His Son. This is as the Lord Jesus said: “No one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

In drawing near to God, the inner attitude toward God is also important. This is what David points out in the second line of Psalms 4:5. It comes down to trusting God. This trusting in Him has two aspects. God wants us to trust that He has accepted the sacrifice made by His Son. God also wants us to trust that He accepts every person who comes to Him on the basis of the sacrifice of His Son.

Verses 6-8

Light, Gladness, Peace and Safety

In these verses, David addresses the LORD. He answers the question posed by “many” (Psalms 4:6), which are the adversaries (Psalms 3:1-Exodus :). Their question is who will show them any good. The question is a reproach from “many”, referring to the apostate mass of God’s people. They lack prosperity and wealth in their lives and resent God and His anointed King for it. This attitude stems from the fact that they persist in their evil ways and do not take to heart the testimony of the faithful remnant.

For David, the good thing is that God lifts up the light of His countenance “upon us”, that is, upon himself and his people (cf. Numbers 6:24-Ezekiel :). This is opposed to hiding one’s face, which results in dismay (Psalms 30:7; Deuteronomy 32:20). David personally experienced that the joy of the light of God’s countenance is a greater blessing than the temporary blessings of what people call “the good” (Psalms 4:7).

The good that people want, they find in “their grain and new wine”. If only they have that they have what they want, but without being truly satisfied. They think only of here and now. Tomorrow they want something else and more. The good for these people is the reign of Absalom (2 Samuel 15:4-Joshua :), and prophetically it is the reign of the antichrist and the beast.

David realizes that those temporary blessings can be taken away, while life in the light of God’s face is an eternal delight (cf. Habakkuk 3:17-Psalms :). The joy he has in his heart is God’s gift to him. This is not an imagined, manufactured joy, but real joy. Circumstances no longer worry him, his many enemies with their mockeries are no longer a threat. God fills his heart. Then there is no room anymore for worry and threat. There is peace and safety because God cares and protects.

He can both lie down and sleep peacefully because the LORD not only protects but makes him dwell in safety, that is, he is completely at ease with God (Psalms 4:8).There is not only absence of enemies and enmity, but also the presence of inner peace. This situation of peace and safety is what God will work out for His people in the realm of peace, but is already present in the heart when it becomes night.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.