Many believe that this fourth psalm was written on the same occasion as the one just before it. There are reasonable arguments against this, but at the very least, it was written in the same kind of situation. ” Hear me when I call O God of my righteousness; thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress ; have mercy upon me and hear my prayer. . . .” (Ps. 4:1-8).
Here is the flow of the psalm. The heading of the psalm gives it to the chief musician. This shows the intent that it be used in public, corporate worship. It also shows the importance of musical leadership. The word neginoth refers, as we would put it, to the strings. The psalm has three sections — v. 1, vv. 2-5, and vv. 6-8.
What is the import of the first verse? This is David’s cry to the Lord. God is called the “God of my righteousness.” This gives us two precious truths. The first is that God is Himself righteous. The second is that God is David’s rightousness as well. In this crisis, David depends upon what God has done in the past. Past deliverance is solid ground to plead for present deliverance. The saint in trouble is encouraged by Scripture to say with importunity —hear me.
But having addressed God, David takes an interesting turn here — he addresses his adversaries.”Sons of men” is a noble form of address. David combines an acknowledgment of their greatness and their folly (v. 2). The glory refers to David’s honor and glory, the glory God had given him. He asks how long they will treat the one God has honored with contempt.Driven by envy, they will say anything. How long will they love vanity, and chase down leasing — an old Saxon word meaning falsehood.
We do not set ourselves apart. This is done for us and to us. Note that God sets the godly apart for Himself (v. 3). This being the case, the Lord will hear.
What is the central problem? Lack of reverence, a lack of a true fear of God, is what drives the sinful mind. This is particularly true when the sinful mind adopts a religous posture. David’s charge therefore is for his adversaries to “stand in awe,” and to cease from their sin. They should think about their lives when they are on their beds — they should stop their sinful chatter, and reflect. They should be still (v. 4). Paul’s quotation of this in Ephesians probably does not reflect a translation preference (except at the point of quotation, obviously). When they have reflected, and consequently repented, then they should approach God with their sacrifices, trusting in Him (v. 5).
In the spirit of contentment, David returns to his prayer to the Lord. In doing this, he remembers the central folly of his adversaries. “Who will show us good?” (v. 6). The answer is found in the light of God’s countenance. If God looks down on His saints with pleasure, then sinners are madmen. Contentment in adverse circumstances is the gift of God (v. 7). God puts gladness in our hearts. What kind of gladness is it? Better than a glorious harvest. In this condition of glad trust, the saint can safely rest, and sleep (v. 8).
In all this, we see how worship is warfare. David offers up his personal experience, but does so in a way that enables the whole church to say amen.
So where do we go? What do we do? In the worship of the church, we address God, one another, and those not present. The worship of the church is not a religious meeting in a room. Worship is warfare, and it is a deadly instrument in the hand of God.
How long? Men in an unconverted condition love vanity, and they seek after falsehood. This includes many who grow up in the church. Lies are the currency of the devil; those who use it are citizens of his kingdom. The lies are not represented by them as lies — they wouldn’t work if they were. “Who will show us good?” can be made to appear as a reasonable question.
There is therefore a necessary collision. If true worship is warfare, and if men in their sins are opposed to the good, then a comfortable compromise is not a possibility.
What is the fundamental issue here? There are two important applications. First, God will hear. When we offer God’s word back to Him, as much of it as we can, He hears our prayers, and our songs. When we assimilate God’s word, and we speak to Him having assimilated it, He hears us. Secondly, faith knows that God hears. This is why we can have an unearthly confidence. When everything appears hopeless, the trusting saint can lie down, and sleep peacefully.