Sunday Sermons

Sunday Sermons

Psalm 4 - An Evening Prayer


This psalm reflects the feelings of the righteous sufferer, and addresses something that most Christians have experienced, that is, others who seek to discredit their character.


4:1 “Answer me when I call”: When David is attacked he does not immediately turn to friends for sympathy, neither does he attack his enemy, rather he turns to God. David knew that his own help was in God, which is where this psalm ends. The last words of the fourth Psalm are, You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (4:8). “O God of my righteousness”: It is God who has made it possible for David to be right with Him. God has revealed the clear standard that we need to follow, and has given Jesus for us, that when we sin we can repent and get back on the right track (1 John 1:8-10; 2 Corinthians 5:21 “That we might be the righteousness of God in Him”). “Thou hast relieved me in my distress”: One reason that David prays to God is because God has delivered him in the past; therefore David can expect such faithfulness in this situation as well. “Here we see that power in prayer comes in part from our memories. Satan wants to make us forget the answers to prayer, which we have already received. As we pray, we need to remember the track record of God’s mighty works” (Psalms 1-72, Donald Williams, p. 47). “Distress”: The idea behind the Hebrew word here is being in a tight corner. “Be gracious to me”: Yet memory of God’s deliverances of the past does not result in presumption, rather note the balance in this prayer. On the one hand David is appealing to God’s justice to deal with his enemies, yet he also realizes that he needs mercy and is completely aware of his own shortcomings before God. “Before other men and in comparison with his enemies he is righteous. He can properly appeal to God for relief. But in relationship to God, he is a sinner like everyone else and can only ask God to intervene mercifully”(Psalms 1-41, James Montgomery Boice, p. 40).


4:2 “O sons of men”: The Hebrew here seems to infer that the “men” under consideration are significant enemies, or enemies to be taken seriously. “How long will my honor become a reproach”: Here we learn what bothered David-- men were seeking to ruin his reputation, and were seeking to turn his glory or honor into shame. We can certainly identify with David. We live in a time when it seems that many significant forces are continually seeking to discredit Christians and Christianity. “How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception”: Why are they doing this? It is because they love lies, deception or delusions (2 Timothy 4:3), and they are opposed to David’s religious convictions. Observe that David is appealing to his enemies’ “good sense”, and seeks to convert them, and yet in the process of doing so, he also helps himself.


4:3 “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself”: Here is something that David’s enemies needed to hear even though they might not want to hear it. David had been appointed king by God’s choice and not by some popular vote or movement among men. He had become king by a sovereign choice of the almighty and therefore he could not be attacked with impunity. In like manner, if I am a Christian, then God cares very much how I am treated by the world. God has such an intimate and loyal fellowship with His people that when people help us, He considers the help directly to Him; if people seek to hurt us, He takes it personally:


  • Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40).

  • Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4).


Observe how David begins with, “Answer me when I call” (4:1), and now that he had reminded his enemies that God cares for His people, David turned what began as a prayer into a statement of confidence, “The Lord hears when I call to him” (4:3). The ultimate answer for many of the aspersions and discouragements that we face from unbelievers is the reminder that we are on the Lord’s side and they are not. Unbelievers need to be reminded of this, for they need to hear for the sake of their own possible conversion that their efforts will not succeed, God’s truth will not go away, they cannot stamp out Christianity, because they are up against the Almighty.


4:4 “Tremble, and do not sin”: This also could be translated, “Be angry, and do not sin” (compare with Ephesians 4:26). Seeing that anger is a Divine attribute it should not be despised, for anger does not necessarily lead to sin. One thought is that David is telling himself, don’t take revenge, entrust yourself to God and let Him deal with the enemies. Another view is that this section is addressed to David’s enemies, “The evil you are planning should be abandoned, because God is against you in it. You should be able to see this when you are upon your beds searching your hearts silently” (Boice p. 41). “Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still”: The term “meditate” reminds us, “As we reflect, our minds actively consider the day now behind us, our plans for the future, our problems, our needs, and God’s word in relation to all of this” (Williams p. 49).

  • For the unbeliever this would mean, “Slow down, stop trying to avoid God or spiritual thoughts. Get your mind off of superficial and temporary things and really think about something meaningful and eternal”. Instead of spending all your time on the top ten news stories today or the current trends, stop and ponder for a moment that there is a God in heaven and you are His creation. Reflect upon your sins and ask yourself, “Why am I rebelling against Him?”

  • For the believer this verse would mean, “Stop fretting over injustices, and stop fluming over the inequities of life. God will deal with all rebellion (yours included), lie on your bed, stop plotting revenge, pray for your enemies (Luke 6:28), tremble at the judgment that awaits them, and rest confidently in both God’s protection, His undeserved mercy (you were once an enemy as well), and His future vindication.


4:4 “Be still”: Too often our prayer is one-way. We tell God what we want, we think over our problems, and then we complain that the Lord never responds. Be still and remember what God has said in Scripture. Stop talking and remember the answer.


4:5 “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the Lord”: We can fall into the trap of getting so upset with the injustices of life that we forget we are sinners who need to make sure we are right with God. Our enemies may indeed be sinning against us, but we have our own sins that need to be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15). In addition, the phrase “trust in the Lord” is an admonition to trust God for protection and elevation at the last day. The term “righteousness” reminds us that such sacrifices need to be the ones that God has commanded and also with the spirit or attitude that is commanded. We can become so preoccupied with the sins committed against us that we can fall into the temptation of coming to worship with a complaining attitude rather than one of gratitude.


4:6 “Many are saying”: The “many” are “always” talking – much of what we hear on a daily basis comes from “the many”.“Who will show us any good?”:


  • The “many” of this verse could include unbelievers who are constantly questioning either God’s existence or the common phrase, “Where was God when… such and such happened?”. Or, “If there is a loving God why does He allow… such and such to happen?”

  • It could include fellow Israelites who falsely believed there was absolutely nothing good about their circumstances at all.

  • This verse reminds us today that God’s people have always faced obstacles. We have always been surrounded by critics, scoffers, unbelievers, and even fellow believers who have a cynical or defeatist attitude.

  • It is significant that David’s positive “Trust in the Lord” is immediately followed by the negative attitude of the many, “Who will show us any good?” It reminds us that even after being encouraged in prayer, by a powerful section of Scripture, by Christian fellowship, worship, or a good lesson or class, we are often immediately confronted by a cynical response as we seek to relay to others the exciting truth we have learned.


4:6 “Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon, O Lord!”: He may be surrounded by cynics, unbelievers, and “friends” who are stuck in the past and long for better times, but He depends upon God to be His light out of despair and the light that enables him to see everything clearly, even his blessings.


4:7 “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abounded”:


  • David certainly enjoyed material blessings, yet the source of his confidence and happiness was not material prosperity or the good old days, rather, God has his source of joy. And if God was the source, then no one could take this joy from him, and external circumstances could not dim this joy.

  • Notice that it seems his “friends” (4:7) or even his enemies, derived all their joy from outward circumstances.


4:8 “In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for Thou alone, O Lord, does make me to dwell in safety”


The word “both” carries the idea of simultaneously, that is, “I lie down and sleep comes at once”. This would be in contrast to lying in bed and worrying or fretting. Consider the practical benefits of being right with God:


  • Those who love God experience joy that cannot be touched by any external event.

  • Peaceful sleep is often a result of peace with God.

  • Confidence and a real sense of genuine safety are given to those who have faith in Christ.

  • And in the end those who trust in the Lord will be far better off than their enemies.