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AGAIN the psalm has a title, "To the chief Musician on Neginoth. A Psalm of David;" literally, "to the superintendent or foreman," which, in this instance, would be the choir-leader, or "precentor" (Kay). "On Neginoth" is supposed to mean "for stringed instruments" (Hengstenberg, Kay, 'Speaker's Commentary,' Revised Version, etc.); comp. Isaiah 38:20. The authorship of David is generally allowed; but there is nothing to mark the exact circumstances under which the psalm was written. In its metrical structure it very much resembles Psalms 3:1-19.3.8; being composed, like that, of a short strophe (verses1, 2), a short anti-strophe (Psalms 3:3, Psalms 3:4), and a longer epode (Psalms 3:5-19.3.8). The divisions arc marked, as in Psalms 3:1-19.3.8; by the introduction of the word selah, perhaps meaning "pause," or "rest."
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness. Not "the God who imputes to me righteousness," as some render, but "the God who sees that I and my cause are righteous," and who wilt therefore certainly lend me aid. Thou hast enlarged me; or, made room for me—"set me at ease" In the language of the Old Testament, "straits" and "narrowness" mean trouble and affliction; "room," "space," "enlargement," mean prosperity. David has experienced God's mercies in the past, and therefore looks for them in the future (comp. Psalms 3:7). When I woe in distress; literally, in [my] distress. Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. This is David's usual cry, repeated in a hundred varied forms throughout the Psalms (see Psalms 5:2; Psalms 6:2; Psalms 9:13; Psalms 27:7; Psalms 30:10, etc.).
O ye sons of men. "Sons of men "—beney ish—is not a mere periphrasis for "men." It is a title of some honour and dignity. Kay translates, "sons of the brave;" but that is scarcely the meaning. The phrase is rather equivalent to our "sirs" ('Speaker's Commentary.'). How long will ye turn my glory into shame? By your misconduct. See the clause which follows. The appeal is, perhaps, to Joab, Abishai, and others of David s own party, whoso proceedings were a disgrace to his reign, and tended to bring their master to shame rather than to honour. How long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? i.e. after lying. Joab's treachery and falsehood were notorious (2 Samuel 3:27; 2 Samuel 20:8-10.20.10).
But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself. The best order of the words would be, "Know that the Lord hath set apart for himself the man that is godly." The godly man is not contaminated by the evil doings of those who associate with him, and profess to act in his interest, if he neither authorizes nor condones their conduct. David had protested against Joab's proceedings on one occasion (2 Samuel 3:28), and never at any time pardoned them (1 Kings 2:5, 1 Kings 2:6). The Lord will hear when I call unto him Although I am disgraced (Psalms 4:2), resisted, in many ways brought to shame, by you, yet still I am God's servant, set apart to his service, and therefore 1 shall be heard by him. He will hearken to and grant my prayer.
Stand in awe, and sin not. The LXX. render, Ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἀμαρτάνετε, "Be ye angry, and sin not;" and this meaning is preferred by Dr. Kay, Hengstenberg, and ethers. It may also seem to have the sanction of St. Paul in Ephesians 4:26. If we adopt it, we must suppose the exhortation to be addressed mainly to David's own followers, who are warned against excessive anger and its natural result, undue violence. Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still (compare St. Paul's injunction, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath"). Anger cools if a little time be suffered to pass—if a night be allowed for reflection, and no action be taken till the morrow, Παύει γὰρ ὀργὴγ ὁ χρόνος (Aristotle). Selah. The second strophe being ended, another "pause" is to take place, during which the psalmist's exhortation may be made the subject of consideration.
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness. Sacrifices of victims are scarcely meant; certainly not, if the time of the composition is that of David's exile, since victims could be offered nowhere but at Jerusalem. We may suppose a reference to those sacrifices which are most truly "sacrifices of righteousness," vie. "a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart," which God "will not despise" (Psalms 51:17). And put your trust in the Lord. Sacrifice without faith is vain. Even "sacrifices of righteousness," to be of any service, must be accompanied by trust in the Lord.
There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Pessimists are numerous in all ages. Among David's adherents in his times of distress (Psalms 4:1) would be many who doubted and desponded, anticipating nothing but continued suffering and misfortune. Theft would ask the question of the text. Or the scope may be wider. Men are always seeking for good, but not knowing what their true good is. David points it out to them. It is to have the light of God's countenance shining on them. Lord, lift thou up, etc.; compare the form of Levitical benediction (Numbers 6:24-4.6.26), and see also Psalms 31:15; Psalms 80:3, Psalms 80:7, Psalms 80:19. If we bask in the sunshine of God's favour, there is nothing more needed for happiness.
Thou hast put gladness in my heart. David is an example to the de-spending ones. Notwithstanding his sufferings and calamities, God has looked on him, and so "put gladness in his heart"—a gladness which far exceeds that of his adversaries. Though they are in prosperity, and have their corn and wine increased, and enjoy all the "outward material blessings promised to Israel—the wheat and the grape—for a supply of which he is indebted to the generosity of friends" (Kay), yet he would not change places with them. The spiritual joy which fills his own heart is preferable to any amount of material comforts and pleasures.
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep (comp. Psalms 3:5). His confidence in God enables David to lay himself down calmly and tranquilly to sleep, whatever dangers threaten him. He seeks his couch, and at once (יחדּו) slumber visits him. No anxious thoughts keep him tossing on his bed for hours. For thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety. David has a satisfaction in thinking that it is God only who watches over him. All other help would be vain, superfluous. God alone brought Israel through the wilderness (Deuteronomy 32:12); God alone established Israel in Canaan (Psalms 44:2, Psalms 44:3). David feels that he needs no second helper and protector.
God's care for the righteous.
"But know … for himself." A tone of solemn calm, like summer twilight, pervades this evening psalm, which naturally follows Psalms 3:1-19.3.8; a morning psalm. But here is no sound of war or peril from foes. The psalmist speaks, not as king to rebels, but as prophet to the "sons of men"—the unbelieving world. "My glory" (Psalms 3:2) may be taken as in Psalms 3:3. Idolatry tams worship from man's most glorious to his most debasing act (Psalms 106:20; Romans 1:23). Israel was a little isle of light amid heathen darkness. The psalmist warns his fellow-men—especially Israelites tempted by the gorgeous impure heathen rites—that idolatry is "emptiness" and "lies" (Psalms 3:2). In contrast, he affirms two glorious certainties:
(1) the righteous is God's special care;
(2) God does hear prayer.
I. THE RIGHTEOUS IS GOD'S SPECIAL CARE. The Lord hath set apart," etc. This is just the most offensive view in which salvation can be presented to a great many. They have no objection to a religion that deals in generalities, involves no personal distinctions, consists in doctrines which all can assent to, rites all can join in. But a sharp separation "between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not" (Malachi 3:18) is intolerable to them. They resent it, as narrow, Pharisaical. Yet, on the reality and certainty of such severance, here and hereafter, the whole religious teaching of the Bible, Old Testament and New Testament alike, turns. You and I stand each in personal relation to God, for good or for ill.
1. "Set apart" by forgiveness of sin. Pardon is universally proclaimed (Luke 24:47), but can be bestowed and received only personally (Matthew 9:2). "He pardoneth and absolveth," etc. (English Liturgy). True repentance and unfeigned faith are personal; so, therefore, is forgiveness. As it cannot be collective, so neither can it be partial. You are forgiven or not forgiven; reconciled or not reconciled (John 3:36; 2 Corinthians 5:20).
2. By the illumination, guidance, strength, quickening and sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8:9.)
3. Hence, by practical discipleship; personal obedience. (John 8:12; John 14:21-43.14.24.) "For himself." No higher glory and happiness are conceivable than that promised (Malachi 3:17). There is nothing narrow or arbitrary in this. God says, "All souls are mine." But we have the fearful, power of ignoring this claim, refusing God's offers, disobeying his commands, despising his promises and warnings; practically denying our relation to him; and, if so, must take the consequences (1 John 5:12).
II. GOD DOES HEAR PRAYER. "The Lord will hear," etc. This follows as an inference.
1. Such personal relationship to God would be impossible unless we can speak to him and be sure of an answer. Prayer is the natural language of faith; the obvious condition of pardon; the appointed means of obtaining the Holy Spirit (Luke 9:9, Luke 9:13).
2. Prayer is the expression and exercise of our personal relation to God (Psalms 119:73, Psalms 119:94). That God should invite and bring us into this personal relation, and then refuse to hold converse with us, is utterly incredible. It would be to deny himself. This is the testimony of experience. Reason says it must be so. Experience says it is so.
Fear of sin.
"Stand in awe, and sin not." There is no cowardice in being afraid of sin; no true courage in daring to break God's Law and defy God's anger, Joseph was no coward, but a brave man, when he said, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" "Perfect love," St. John tells us, "casteth out fear, because fear hath torment." Here slavish fear is meant—the fear that drives men from God, makes them hypocrites, hating God all the more because they make believe to love him. But there is a fear which has no torment, but is akin to love, not love's foe; a fear that does not drive us from God, but makes us flee from ourselves to take refuge in him; a fear that has nothing base or weak in it, but ennobles and strengthens the soul.
"Fear him, ye saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear."
To such fear our Saviour gives a place of honour and power among evangelical motives (Luke 12:4, Luke 12:5). Proposition: To point out some chief reasons for cherishing the fear of sin.
I. BECAUSE OF WHAT SIN IS IN REGARD TO GOD.
1. It insults the majesty of God. Sin practically denies the existence or else the authority of God; and puts scorn on his warnings, as though he means not what he says, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Scripture represents sin as atheism (Psalms 14:1; Titus 1:16). Yet Plato was not correct when he thought all sin ignorance. Sin is often wilful, against light (Romans 1:32; Luke 12:47). There is a way of talking of the love of God which tends to rob love itself of all moral character. People talk almost as if they thought of the eternal Creator as the almighty servant-of-all-work of the universe, whose business is to minister to his creatures and make them happy, whether they obey him or not. Take away the authority of God, and you take away worship. How could we worship a Being who made laws to be kept or broken at pleasure, and uttered threats he never meant to fulfil; affixed nominal penalties, only to make his justice the jest of the universe? This is what sin would do, if allowed to run to its full length—what every wilful sin tends to. Imagine an insult publicly offered to the sovereign of this great nation. What indignation! Why? Because, in the person of the sovereign, the whole nation would be insulted and injured. But the Divine majesty does not represent the universe—is not derived from it. God is the sole Fountain of all that is glorious, noble, right, good, happy.
2. Sin grieves God. How can we think otherwise? He is "the Father of spirits." Does not he desire to see in every spirit the filial likeness, the image of himself? Scripture uses very bold language; but its strongest figures do not exaggerate, but fall below the truth (Genesis 6:6; Amos 2:13; Isaiah 43:24). It was no light burden, no imaginary load. when the Son of God "bare our sins." We might go on to speak of how sin robs God by destroying all that is precious. But this leads to another reason for fearing sin.
II. BECAUSE OF WHAT SIN IS TO THE SINNER.
1. Sin breaks the inward law of man's nature; defaces God's image; destroys man's power to know God. People complain that the Bible is over-severe regarding sin; too hard on human nature in representing it as fallen, corrupt, dead. They forget the reason—the noble and lofty view the Bible takes of man. "A little lower than the angels;" "The offspring of the Godhead;" "Made in the image of God." A ruined hut is no great matter, but a palace in ruins is a woeful spectacle. We need not go back to Paradise. We see what human nature ought to be, and, but for sin, would be, in Jesus (Romans 8:3).
2. Sin is the bitter fountain of human misery; it is spiritual death. Sin must die, or we must die in our sins (John 8:24; Romans 6:12, Romans 6:21).
III. BECAUSE OF WHAT SIN IS TO OTHERS. Oh, the harvest of broken hearts, ruined lives, blasted hopes, wasted powers, desolate homes; of disease, agony, despair, death; which sin sows and reaps every day! "One sinner destroyeth much good." He perishes not alone (Joshua 22:20). This is a false proverb, "Nobody's enemy but his own." His own enemy is everybody's enemy. People gloss sin over with light words. One of the sweetest words in our tongue, "gay," is used as a perfume to drown the stench of the vilest sins. "He is only sowing his wild oats." His? Where did he get them? From what happy home did he steal them? Who gave him leave to steal them? What will be the harvest? and who will reap it? You say, "He will come all right by-and-by." Suppose he does; will those come right whom he has helped to mislead and ruin? "No man dieth to himself."
IV. Lastly, BECAUSE OF WHAT SIN HAS COST. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth of the gospel, stands the awful truth that he who knew no sin has been "made sin for us." "By his stripes we are healed." The cross is the mightiest persuasive to "stand in awe, and sin not."
Psalms 4:6, Psalms 4:7
The supreme quest of life.
"There be many," etc. Both the Church and the world were very different in David's day from what they were in our Lord's day; and in that from what they are to-day. But the contrast was as real, the opposition as strong. The cleavage between the party of God's will and the party of self-will went right through the heart of human life then, and does now. Consciously or not, we all rank on one side or the other. These words bring out the contrast very strongly as regards the supreme aim and quest of life.
I. THE WORLDLING'S MISTAKE. David looked out on the rush and bustle of life, and listened to the voices of the crowd. One cry came from all sides, "Who will show us any good?" Where can we find happiness? On all sides there is the same illusion and blunder—the notion that happiness means something outside us instead of within. It is the same to-day. Happiness, people think, can be purchased with gold, packed in bales and boxes, poured out of bottles, caught in crowds, assured by parchments duly signed. Everywhere are the broken empty cisterns, crying out against the folly of those who hewed them out; yet everywhere is the same din of hammer and chisel hewing out new ones, the same neglect of" the Fountain of living waters."
II. THE BELIEVER'S CHOICE. "Lift thou," etc. From the world, the psalmist turns to God. "Light" sometimes means knowledge (John 17:3; 2 Corinthians 4:6); but here rather the favour and manifested love of God. Smiles are the sunshine of the face, lighting up the inmost chambers of the heart (comp. Numbers 6:25; Proverbs 16:15).
III. THE SAINTS' EXPERIENCE. (Psalms 4:7.) The psalmist's prayer (Psalms 4:6) was not for a new blessing—not a sudden aspiration. It was the outcome of experience. He contrasts the golden harvests and "rivers of oil" of him who has "much goods laid up for many years," but "is not rich toward God," with his own portion—joy in the heart; and feels that this is "the true riches." If he has not what the world calls "happiness,'' he has something infinitely richer—blessedness. The worldling's quest is like chasing a will-o'-the-wisp; the Christian's, like steering by the north star. If we hare received God's greatest gifts, we may well trust him for the rest (Romans 8:32).
HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE
An evening song in perilous times, showing us the secret of happiness.
It is not difficult to be cheerful when we have everything we desire. But when life seems to be a series of catastrophes, disappointments, and vexations, buoyancy of spirit is not so easily attained. If our lives were in peril every moment through rebellion at home and plots and snares around, few of us would be found capable, under such circumstances, of writing morning and evening hymns. Yet such were the circumstances under which David wrote this psalm and the one which precedes it. Both of them belong, in all probability, to the time of Ahithophel's conspiracy, of Absalom's rebellion, when the king was a fugitive, camping out with a few of his followers. Such reverses, moreover, were none the easier to bear, when he had the reflection that because of his own sin the sword was in his house, and was piercing his own soul Yet even thus, as he had "a heart at leisure from itself to write his song of morning praise, so does he also pen his evening prayer. £ We picture him thus: Any moment a fatal stroke may fall on him. His adversaries prowl around. They have rich stores of provisions and of gold, while he himself has to depend for the means of subsistence on supplies brought to his camp from without. Unscrupulous rebels were in power, while David and his host were like a band of men who are dependent on begging or on plunder. But it was precisely this combination of ills that brought out some of the finest traits in his character. Even then he can take up his pen and write, "Thou hast put gladness," etc.; "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." Here, then, we have one of God's people, who has seen calmer days, writing in his tent and telling of a secret of peace and joy which nothing can disturb. It is a secret worth knowing. Let us ascertain what it is.
I. HERE IS AN INQUIRY PUT. "Who will show us good?" By which is meant, not so much What is good in itself? as—What will make us happy, and bring us a sense of satisfaction? Over and above our intellectual, we have emotional faculties. The emotions are to the spiritual part of us what the sensations are to the bodily part. Among the various fallacies of some wise men of this world, one of the wildest is that emotion has no place in the search after, and. in the ascertainment of, truth. It would be quite safe to reverse that, and to say that unless the emotions have their rightful play, few truths can be rightly sought or found. An equilibrium of absolute indifference concerning truth or error would be a guilty carelessness. Our craving after happiness is God's lesson to us through the emotions, that we are dependent for satisfaction on something outside us; and when such satisfaction is actually reached, it is so far the sign that the higher life is being healthfully sustained. Our nature is too complex to be satisfied with supply in any one department. Our intellectual nature craves the true. Our moral nature craves the right. Our sympathetic nature calls for love. Our conscious weakness and dependence call for strength from another. Our powers of action demand a sphere of service which shall neither corrupt nor exhaust. Our spiritual nature cries out for God, life, and immortality. Who can show us "good" that will meet all these wants? Such is the inquiry.
II. THERE ARE THOSE WHO KNOW HOW TO ANSWER THE INQUIRY. (Psalms 4:7, "Thou hast put gladness in my heart," etc.) The psalmist shows us:
1. The source of his joy. God—God himself. How often do the psalmists luxuriate in telling what God was to them—Rock, Shield, Sun, High Tower, Fortress, Refuge, Strength, Salvation, their Exceeding Joy! Much more is this the case now we know God in Christ. In him we have revealed to us through the Spirit nobler heights, deeper depths, larger embraces, and mightier triumphs of divinely revealed love than Old Testament saints could possibly conceive.
2. One excellent feature of this joy is the sense of security it brings with it in the most perilous surroundings (see last verse). (Let the Hebrew student closely examine this verse. He will gain thereby precious glimpses of a meaning deeper than any bare translation can give.) The psalmist discloses and suggests further:
3. The quality and degree of the joy. " More than … when their corn and their wine increaseth."
(1) The gladness is of a far higher quality. A filial son's joy in the best of fathers is vastly superior to the delight a child has in his toys. So joy in God himself for what he is, is infinitely higher than delight in what he gives.
(2) It is a gladness of greater zest. No joy in worldly things that a carnal man ever reached can approximate to the believer's joy in God. It is a joy "unspeakable, and full of glory."
(3) It is a gladness remarkable for its persistency. The worldling's joy is for the bright days of life. Joy in God is for every day, and comes out most strikingly in the darkest ones—David, Daniel; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; Peter, John, Stephen, Paul and Silas, etc. We never know all that God is to us until he takes away all our earthly props, and makes us lean with all our weight on him.
(4) The believer's joy in God surpasses the worldling's gladness in the effects of it. It not only satisfies, but sanctifies the mind.
(5) This joy never palls upon the taste. "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever."
III. THE PSALMIST SHOWS US HOW THIS JOY IN GOD WAS ATTAINED. After his delights the worldling has many a weary chase. To ensure his, the psalmist sends up a prayer, "Lord, lift thou up," etc. This prayer had been taught him of old. It was a part of the priestly benediction (Numbers 6:22, ad fin.). Its meaning is, "Give us the sign and seal of thy favour, and it is enough." Truly in this all else is ensured. Forgiveness from God and peace with him prepare the way for the fulness of joy. Nothing is right with a sinful man till there is peace between him and God. If our view of the chronology of the Psalms be correct, Psalms 51:1-19.51.19. and 32, preceded this. If it be true that the believer attains the highest heights of joy, it is also true that he has first gone down into the deep vale of penitential sorrow. As in Christian toil, so in personal religion, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." Let the sinner "behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world," and then his hope, his joy, will begin.—C.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
Quieting thoughts for a time of trouble.
It is a mark of man's greatness that he can go out of himself. Some commune with nature, some with the great minds of the past, some with prophets and teachers of their own time. But the grandest thing is to commune with God. The evening is a fit time. Then we have rest; then we can retire from the stress and turmoil of the world, and in the secrecy of our hearts hold converse with God. Here we have some quieting thoughts for a time of trouble.
I. THAT GOD RULES OVER ALL. God is love. His Law is holy and just and good. Then it must be well with all those who do his will. There may be clouds and darkness, there may be grievous trouble; but God reigneth, and his truth and mercy are spread out as wings, under which we can always find refuge.
II. THAT IN FORMER STRAITS GOD HAS BROUGHT DELIVERANCE. (Psalms 4:1.) We can look back. It is sweet to remember God's loving-kindness. What he has done for us is not only a cause of thankfulness, but a ground of hope. His acts bind God as well as his promises. He does not change. Nothing can elude his eye; nothing can surprise his wisdom or baffle his power. He will bring enlargement in distress, room, breathing space, ampler freedom, and a diviner air.
III. THAT GOD IS AS ENTREATABLE AS EVER BY HIS PEOPLE. (Psalms 4:3, Psalms 4:4.) God does not tie his presence to place or ordinance. He regards character. There are times when he seems not to hear; but this is our infirmity. The throne of grace stands ever accessible. If we ask, we shall receive. We may be cast off and dishonoured by men; but God will never forsake those who trust in him.
IV. THAT TRUST IN GOD WILL SURELY BRING PEACE. (Psalms 4:5, Psalms 4:6.) Things may grow worse. Afflictions may come, not as single spies, but in battalions. For a time the machinations of the wicked may seem to prevail. But we know what the end must be. What can come from opposition to God but ruin? Reflection not only confirms our faith, but strengthens our attachment to God. The future of the wicked is dark; but the future of the righteous is bright as the heavens shining with countless stars. Whatever happens, therefore, let us hold fast to God. The priestly benediction (Numbers 6:20) finds an echo in the trusting heart. "Peace."
V. THAT IN THE END GOD'S PEOPLE SHALL SURELY HAVE JOY IN GOD. (Psalms 4:6-19.4.8.) He is the supreme good, true, satisfying, inalienable, the everlasting Portion of the soul.
"O thou bounteous Giver of all good,
Thou art of all thy gifts thyself the crown!
Give what thou canst, without thee we are poor,
And with thee rich, take what thou wilt away."
This psalm, as many others, ends with praise. Like the last strain of a cradle-song, its accents fall gently, lulling the child of God to rest, Luther, it is said, often sang himself to sleep with this psalm.—W.F.
Three great things.
I. THE QUESTION OF QUESTIONS. The feeling indicated is common. Amid disappointments and cares, evermore the cry is heard, "Who will show us any good?"
II. THE PRAYER OF PRAYERS. Somewhere there must be help. Gain, pleasure, worldly honours, and such-like, give no satisfaction. But when we turn to God we find all we need. He is gracious and merciful. Light and joy and peace beam from his countenance. Here we have the gospel preached beforehand.
III. THE JOY OF JOYS. The "joy of harvest" is proverbial. Here we have more, infinitely more. Not only rest from fear, and recompense for labour, and provision for the future; but this in the highest sense, spiritually and eternally—the Giver as well as the gift.—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
A cry for deliverance.
This psalm refers (according to some) to the same event as the previous psalm—that composed probably in the morning, and this in the evening, of the same day. We have in it—
I. A CRY FOR DELIVERANCE FROM THE UPRIGHTEOUS PLOTS OF HIS ENEMIES. The appeal is based upon two facts.
1. His relation and fellowship with the righteous God. Thou art my God, and the God of my righteous cause, and therefore thou wilt not leave me to the wicked designs of my enemies.
2. His experience in former straits and troubles. "Thou didst set me at liberty when I was in trouble." What thou hast done once thou wilt do again, because thou art unchangeable.
II. THE SIN OF HIS ENEMIES.
1. They attempt to injure his personal and kingly honour (his glory). By false and evil reports, so as to promote his overthrow and downfall. Character and office are the two most precious things that a man has to lose.
2. They had set their hearts upon an enterprise destined to fail. In love with vanity, they were in love with a vain, hollow appearance, such as this rebellious world turns out to be. Such is the nature of all unjust and sinful undertakings.
3. It was an attempt to overthrow one of God's appointments. (Psalms 4:3.) An attempt to set aside one of the Divine decrees; therefore—like trying to upset a Divine law—utterly vain and futile.
III. AN ADMONITION TO REPENTANCE. Not a cry for vengeance. The way of repentance is here pointed out.
1. The thought of God was to fill them with an awe of their sin. If they blasphemed God's anointed, they were to stand in awe of God.
2. They were to examine the thoughts of their hearts in solitude. On their bed, in the darkness of the night, and in the privacy of their chamber. "Shut to thy door," etc.
3. They were to offer sincere and truthful "sacrifice," or service to God. Like Zacchaeus, "The half of my goods," etc. Good works are the best evidence of repentance.
4. They were to trust in the righteous God, and not in their unrighteous aims and objects. We become like the persons or things we trust in.—S.
The believer's ground of confidence.
David now turns from admonishing his enemies to the ease of his companions in trouble, who saw no ground of hope in the visible aspect of things.
I. THE DESPAIR OF UNBELIEF. "Who will show us any good?" No one can.
1. The grandest revelations are made to the mind, and not to the senses. The question, therefore, is beside the mark. God, Christ, immortality, justice, love, holiness, cannot be shown in visible material form. Christ showed them for a season.
2. The good that can be shown can work no cure of life's greatest evils. It is the inward deliverances, not the outward, that we most need. Talent, money, position, health, cannot work these.
II. THE HIGHEST GOOD COVETED BY THE BELIEVER IN GOD. "Lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us." As the sun lights the world.
1. Then we become intensely conscious of God. The thought of him fills every faculty and solves every problem. "In his light we see light."
2. Then we know that he is our Helper and Saviour. For what is the light of the Divine face?—the light of Fatherhood and love? The light of the warrior's face is that of courage; of the poet's and prophet's, inspiration; of the judge's, that of absolute justice; but the light of God's face is that of an infinite abundance of love for all his children.
III. THE SUPERIORITY OF THIS GOOD OVER THE RICHEST MATERIAL PLENTY. (Psalms 4:7.)
1. It creates a Divine joy and gladness. The excitement of the senses wears out the body and corrupts the mind; but the joys of the heart and mind impart the highest strength and the noblest impulses. Therefore "be not drunk with wine, … but be filled with the Spirit."
2. It gives a deep inward peace. (Psalms 4:8, "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep?) An intense consciousness of God and his favour has power to tranquillize the mind that is most disturbed by inward or outward trouble. It can calm the greatest storm, because we know the centre of rest, and are reposing upon it.
3. It gives a sense of security. (Psalms 4:8, "For thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.") He needed no guards to ensure his safety during sleep, because God was nigh. "Who is he that can harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?" But "though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." If we perish by shipwreck, or in battle, or railway accident, we are still in God's hands, and ought to trust in him. This is faith in God—to trust him in the darkness as well as in the light.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent