Notes on Psalm 4: Dwelling in Safety

1 To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David. Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: you enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.

2 O you sons of men, how long will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love vanity, and seek after lying? Selah.

3 But know that the LORD has set apart he who is godly for Himself; the LORD will hear when I call to Him.

4 Tremble and do not sin, speak within your own heart on your bed, and be still. Selah.

5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

6 There are many who say, “Who will show us any good?” LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.

7 You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.

8 I will both lay down in peace, and sleep, for You alone, LORD, cause me to dwell in safety.

 

The Fourth Psalm is another Psalm of David when he is encountering trouble. Some believe it is meant to go along with Psalm 3, and like Psalm 3 it carries the idea of a man who has confidence in God because he has seen God deliver him many times.

Like Psalm 3, it also has an explanatory note: it is directed to the Chief Musician. The Chief Musician occupied an important position in the Davidic worship. Here he is told that the music is to be performed with musical accompaniment – the neginoth, or strings.

This Psalm is full of what another era would have called “homely wisdom,” down-to-earth nuggets of faith which we as believers have often heard but of which we should still remind ourselves often.

Psalm 4 contains a pattern found in many Psalms:

  • A prayer to God
  • A rebuke to the wicked
  • A declaration of faith and trust in God

 

1 To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David. Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: you enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.

2 O you sons of men, how long will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love vanity, and seek after lying? Selah.

A. David says He is the God of his righteousness. He is the God who upholds us: He guards our integrity and He vindicates us when we are slandered or wrongly accused. He reminds God of the times He saved David and took him out of trouble. The idea of the distress is a military picture: it means that David was in a narrow strait like a valley and the Lord brought him out of that situation. We can imagine David being in an ambush with his enemies looking down on him from the tops of the hills. Somehow God brought him through it, and this situation will be no different.

B. His enemies continue to mock his fame, and to seek what is worthless. The idea of “vanity” is an interesting concept in the writings of both David and Solomon. It carries the idea of worthlessness or fruitlessness. The Bible speaks of laboring in vain or travailing in vain. This means much effort with little result. David had seen many times the elaborate efforts men went to in order to destroy God’s people and God’s anointed, and it was all for nought. We are reminded of Psalm 2, when he wonders why they nations imagine a vain thing. If it is vanity to fight God, then it is also worthless to fight His people.

C. These enemies also love lies. The Devil is the father of lies, and all his works are founded upon a foundation of lies. All the theories of destructive political philosophies are built upon lies – remove the lie and the whole building will crash to the ground. The “big lie” tactics of the 20th century are still with us today.

D. He ends with a selah, asking us to reflect on the vanity and lying ways of evil men.

 

3 But know that the LORD has set apart he who is godly for Himself; the LORD will hear when I call to Him.

4 Tremble and do not sin, speak within your own heart on your bed, and be still. Selah.

A. Now David rebukes these evil men by confidently asserting that God has set apart godly men for Himself. The idea of being set apart or sanctified means that God has reserved something for a special purpose. When we become God’s special possession, we become “the apple of his eye” and He will uphold us. He warns these men (and reminds himself at he same time) that when he calls, God answers!

B. In verse 4, he warns these men to be afraid of God. The fear of the Lord is the missing ingredient in today’s society, as it was in many sectors of David’s world. If a man can tremble before God, there will be an inward check on his behavior which will keep him from trouble. The counsel to speak within your own heart and be still is a call to people to simply be quiet and reflect on the words and ways of God. Modern society desperately needs this advice from David. Noise is everywhere, and we need to ask if this is because people are trying to drown out the convicting sound of the voice of their consciences. The evening is a perfect time to lie still before God and contemplate His ways. David holds out hope that these men will reflect on their ways and turn back to God.

C. David invites us to do the same by making another selah.

 

5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

6 There are many who say, “Who will show us any good?” LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.

7 You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.

8 I will both lay down in peace, and sleep, for You alone, LORD, cause me to dwell in safety.

A. David’s first remedy for these people is that they offer the sacrifices of righteousness. For the unbeliever, this means the sacrifice of righteousness that God has appointed for us – the Blood of His own Son. For the believer, it is those spiritual sacrifices such as thanksgiving and praise. These and these alone will keep us from living a life of vanity and fighting against God, because they focus us and center us on the Lord. The second remedy is simply to trust in Him.

B. Verse 6 deals with the common problems of negativity and cynicism. Cynicism is a common sin of the young and of the old as well. “Who will show us any good?” This kind of negative and gloomy outlook will destroy real faith, and it is all too common in our day. One popular Web encyclopedia notes, “In underscoring how widespread cynical impulses had become in western society, in 2005 Yale University researchers presented findings that children as young as eight years old regularly discounted what they heard from others as being tarnished by self-interest.” David says the answer is found in the Presence of the Lord – the light of His countenance shining on people.

C. David himself had experienced joy and not cynicism, and he rejoiced in his relationship with God – it brought him more satisfaction than the material blessings of the harvest had done for the wicked.

D. The outcome of the matter is that he will sleep in peace and safety because of the Lord’s love and care.

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About Nick

I’m a pastor, a writer, musician, and recovering lawyer. Blessed to serve the people of Harvest Time Church as Associate Pastor. I direct the discipleship ministries there and occasionally they even let me lead worship. In my spare time I enjoy losing to my wife in Words With Friends.

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