1, Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
2, O men, how long shall my honour be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
3, But know that Yahweh has set apart the godly for Himself; Yahweh hears when I call to Him.
4, Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
5, Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in Yahweh.
6, There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Yahweh!”
7, You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.
8, In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Yahweh, make me dwell in safety.
There seems to be a connection between this psalm and the previous one—like a follow-up of Psalm 3. David appears to be in distress again and he expects an imminent relief that he can only receive from a merciful God—the “God of his righteousness,” indicating that he knows his righteousness with God comes only from God and not from himself. David also knows that because God has relieved his distress in the past, He will do it again. Thus, David calls upon God to be heard in his prayer.
In verse 2, it appears that people who have not only turned from him—but have also turned from God to pursue delusions—are dishonouring David. What sort of delusions are they pursuing? Empty words and lies, David says. This could be anything.
For example, there has been an ongoing development of Christians turning from true doctrine and pursuing false doctrines, such as pursuing and/or supporting the homosexual lifestyle or the heretical prosperity gospel that Joel Osteen and his wife preach, in spite of what God’s Word says against such beliefs. Through such behaviour, they abandon God and His true Church. They dishonour God’s true people by discriminating against those who choose not to abandon His inerrant and infallible Word. Even worse, they dishonour God Himself when they live in unrepentant sinful lifestyles, redefining sin and spreading their false doctrine.
As God set David apart from those who abandoned him, so God sets His true Church apart from those who abandon Him to chase after useless delusions of false doctrine and heresies, and God will sort them out during judgement. God hears us when we call to Him, but His ears are closed off to those who abandon Him unless they repent and rely on Him.
Whilst there are similarities between Psalms 3 and 4, there are also some differences. In Psalm 3, David prays that God “break the teeth of the wicked” (v. 7). In Psalm 4:4-5, however, he appeals to his enemies not to allow their anger to lead them to sin, to repent, to “offer right sacrifices,” and to trust in God. Why the sudden change of heart—from cold wishes to warm admonition?
It is important to remember that David—and all the people mentioned in the Bible—was a sinner like the rest of us, capable of failure and being flawed (indeed, we see his human frailty in his sin with Bathsheba and poor fathering skills in dealing with his sons’ poor behaviour). Perhaps he realised his harshness towards his enemies and regretted it. Or perhaps it’s the desperate plea of a father to a wandering son (Absalom). Either way, we have a reminder here to pray for our enemies, just as Jesus commanded (Matthew 5:44).
Whatever the reason, we can all take his advice here. Saint Paul himself borrowed David’s advice in Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” Never go to bed angry. This is not only good marital advice, but also good advice overall. When the night falls and we find that we’re still angry about something, it is best we eliminate that anger before we go to bed. Whether it’s through prayer, conflict resolution with the person with whom we’re in disagreement, or talking to someone to help calm us down and see clearly, we should do whatever we need to do to get rid of that anger (so long as it’s done healthily and without sin, of course). It’s okay to be angry, so long as it doesn’t lead us to sin.
When we desire goodness, only God can give it to us. When we ask for good providence in our lives, only God can supply it. In verse 7, David acknowledges that God gives greater joy than the joy that people have when they lavish in their material riches (I wonder what the prosperity gospel has to say about that!).
The joy of the Lord is eternal; the joys of materialism perishes. Just like in Psalm 3, David can sleep assured that God will keep him safe, “for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10b). Happiness is based on your circumstances; the joy of the Lord is based on the eternity of God’s mercy having saved you from sin.
Psalm 4 Prayer
O Lord, You never fail to preserve me. It is by Your strength alone that I need not worry under cover of night. For those who have separated themselves from You, I ask that You guide them to You—help them to conquer their sins as You have helped me, as Your will be done. Silence my anger—calm the raging seas of my lust for vengeance. Bless me with Your joy so that it may infect others around me. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.