BOOK ONE Psalms 1–41
David was a preacher and many of his psalms are doctrinal and practical as well as devotional. In this Psalm 4 wisdom cries out to the sons of men (as Prov. 8:4, 5), to receive instruction. Many of the Psalms were designed in general for the instruction of the people of God in assisting them in their devotions, and the directing of their conversations. This is one of them.
Psalm 4 – A Psalm of David
Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. How long, O you sons of men, Will you turn my glory to shame? How long will you love worthlessness And seek falsehood? Selah But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The Lord will hear when I call to Him.
Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the Lord. There are many who say, “Who will show us any good?” Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. You have put gladness in my heart, More than in the season that their grain and wine increased. I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Appointed to sing
Henry says – We are all appointed to sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). This is a psalm that was played on a stringed instrument and sung. If no instruments are readily available then melody can be made in our hearts, Ps. 4:1-5. David addresses himself to God, Ps. 4:1. He hopes and prays that God will give him an audience, and an answer of peace: “Hear me when I call, and accept my adorations, grant my petitions: have mercy on me, and hear me.” Any notice God is pleased to take of our prayers, and the returns He is pleased to make to us must be ascribed purely from His mercy, not our own merits. “Hear me for Your mercy-sake” is our best plea.
David pleads “You are the God of my righteousness; not only a righteous God, but the author of my righteous dispositions, who has by the grace wrought the good that is in me. You have made me a righteous man.. To You I commit my way, and I trust You to bring forth my righteousness as the light.” When men condemn us unjustly, this is our comfort, It is God who justifies. He is the God of a believer’s righteousness.
You are God and You change not
“You have formerly enlarged my heart in holy joy and comfort under my distresses, bringing me out of my distresses. Therefore now, Lord, have mercy on me, and hear me.” God’s goodness to us in the past in assisting us in our distress is not only a great encouragement to our faith and hope for the future, but a good plea with God in prayer. “Thou hast; wilt thou not? For You are God, and You change not; Your work is perfect.”
He addresses himself to the children of men, for the conviction and conversion of those that are yet strangers to God, and that will not have the Messiah to reign over them. He endeavours to convince them of the folly of their impiety (Ps. 4:2). God, by the psalmist, here reasons with sinners to bring them to repentance. “You that go on in the neglect of God and His worship, and in contempt of the Kingdom of Christ and His government, consider what you do.” “Consider the dignity of your nature, and the excellency of those powers of reason with which you have been given, and do not act so irrationally and unbecoming of yourselves.”
Those who seek after the world, seek vanity
“You dishonour your Maker, and turn His glory into shame.” They may well be taken as God’s own words, charging sinners with the wrong they do Him. Idolaters are charged with changing the glory of God into shame, Rom. 1:23. All willful sinners do so by disobeying the commands of His law, despising the offers of His grace, and giving the affection and service to the creature instead of to God, the Creator. Those who profane God’s holy name and ridicule His word while professing to know Him, but in works deny Him, turn His glory into shame.
“You cheat yourselves: You love vanity, and seek after lying, or that which is a lie. You are yourselves vain and lying, and you love to be so.” Or, “You set your hearts upon that which will prove, at last, but vanity and a lie.” Those who love the world, and seek the things that are beneath, love vanity, and seek lies. They also who please themselves with sensual delights, and seek after the wealth of this world will be ruined. “How long will you do this? Will you never be wise for yourselves? When shall it be?” Jer. 13:27. The God of heaven thinks the time is too long that sinners persist in dishonouring Him and in deceiving and ruining themselves.
Those who touch them, touch the apple of His eye
He shows them the peculiar favour which God has for His people, the special protection they are under, and the privileges to which they are entitled, Ps. 4:3. This is the reason why they should not oppose or persecute him that is godly. It is at their peril if they offend one of these little ones, whom God has set apart for Himself, Matt. 18:6. God reckons that those who touch them touch the apple of His eye and He will make their persecutors to know it, sooner or later.
They have an interest in heaven, God will hear them, and therefore let no one dare to do them any injury, for God will hear their cry and plead their cause, Exod. 22:23. David in this psalm is the godly man whom the Lord has set apart for that honour, and who does not usurp it or assume it to himself: “The opposition therefore which you give to him and to his advancement is very criminal, for you fight against God, and it will be vain and ineffectual.”
Be faith-filled and be truly happy
God has, in like manner, set apart the Lord Jesus for Himself. Those who attempt to hinder His advancement will certainly be baffled, for the Father hears Him always. They themselves should be good, and walk no longer in the counsel of the ungodly: “You have sought after vanity; be truly faith-filled and you will be truly happy here and forever. For “God will secure to Himself His interest in you.”
The Lord has set apart him who is godly, every particular godly man, for Himself, in His eternal choice and in His effectual calling. His people are a peculiar people. Godly men are God’s separated and sealed ones. He knows those who are His, and has set His image and mark upon them. He distinguishes them with favours: They shall be Mine, says the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels. Know this; let godly people know it, and let them never alienate themselves from Him. Let wicked people know it, and take heed how they hurt those whom God protects.
Stand in awe
“God will secure to you an interest in Himself.” This David speaks with application: The Lord will hear when I call to Him. Is it not infinitely worthwhile to gain the ear of the King of kings? He warns them against sin, and exhorts them both to be frightened and to reason themselves out of it (Ps. 4:4): “Stand in awe and sin not” (be angry and sin not Eph. 4:26). “Commune with your own hearts; be converted, consider and fear.” ) We must not sin, must not miss our way and so miss our aim.
One good remedy against sin is to stand in awe. Be moved in opposition to carelessness and carnal security. “Always keep up a holy reverence of the glory and majesty of God, and a holy dread of His wrath and curse, and dare not to provoke Him.” One good means of preventing sin, and preserving a holy awe, is to be frequent and serious in communing with our own hearts: “Talk with your hearts; you have a great deal to say to them; they may be spoken with at any time; let it not be understated.” A thinking man is to be a wise and a good man. “Commune with your hearts; examine them by serious self-reflection, that you may acquaint yourselves with them and amend what is amiss in them.
Let your thoughts fasten upon that which is good and keep closely to it. “Choose a solitary time; do it when you lie awake upon your beds. Before you turn yourself to go to sleep at night”. “Examine your consciences with respect to what you have done that day, particularly what you have done amiss, that you may repent of it. When you awake in the night meditate upon God, and the things that belong to peace.” David himself practiced what he counsels others to do (Ps. 63:6), I remember You on my bed. Upon a sick-bed, particularly, we should consider our ways and commune with our own hearts about them.
“Compose yourselves into a serious frame: Be still. When you have asked your conscience a question be silent, and wait for an answer; even in unquiet times keep you spirits calm and quiet.” He counsels them to (Ps. 4:5): Offer to God the sacrifice of righteousness. We must not only cease to do evil, but learn to do good. It is required here that we serve Him: “Offer sacrifices to Him, your own selves first, and your best sacrifices.” But they must be sacrifices of righteousness, that is, good works, all the fruits of the reigning love of God and love toward our neighbour. All the instances of faith-filled conversation. “Let all your devotions come from an upright heart; let all your giving be sacrifices of righteousness.”
Trust in Him
Serve God without any indifference to Him. Honour him, by trusting in Him only, and not in your wealth nor in an arm of flesh. Trust in His provision, and lean not to your own understanding. Trust in His grace, and do not try to establish your own righteousness or self-sufficiency.”
In singing Ps. 4:1-4 we must warn ourselves of the provoking nature of sin, the lying vanity of the world, and the unspeakable happiness of God’s people. We must press upon ourselves the fear of God, conversing with our own hearts, and offering spiritual sacrifices. In praying over Ps. 4:1-4 we must beg of God grace to think and to do accordingly.
Look with the eye of faith
The foolishness of worldly people say, Who will show us any good? What good they meant is intimated, Ps. 4:7. It was the increase of their corn and wine. All they desired was plenty of the wealth of this world, that they might enjoy abundance of the delights of the senses. They inquire, in general, “Who will make us happy?” but do not apply themselves to God who alone can. So they expose themselves to be ill-advised, and show they would rather be beholden to anyone than to God, for they would willingly live without Him.
The source of idolatry was a desire of gods that they might see, therefore they worshipped the sun. But, as we must be taught to worship an unseen God, so to seek an unseen good, 2 Cor. 4:18. We look with an eye of faith further than we can see with an eye of sense. They enquire for any good, not for the chief good. All they want is outward good, good meat, good drink, a good trade, and a good estate. But what are all these worth without a good God and a good heart? This wish of carnal worldliness is their folly, yet many there be that join in it, and their doom will be accordingly.
God’s favour is their happiness
David and the pious few that adhered to him, dissented from that wish, and joined in this prayer, Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. He disagrees from the vote of the many. God had set him apart for Himself by distinguishing favours, and therefore David sets himself apart by a distinguishing character. “They are for any good, for worldly good, but I am so not; I will not say as they say. The wealth of the world will never make a portion for my soul, and therefore I cannot take up with it.”
He and his friends agree in their choice of God’s favour as their happiness; it is this which in their account is better than life and all the comforts of life. This is what they most earnestly desire and seek after; this is the breathing of their souls, “Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us. Most are for other things, but we are for this.”
Good people, as they are distinguished by their practices, so they are by their prayers, not the length and language of them, but the faith and fervency of them. Those whom God has set apart offer up in sincerity a prayer which they all say Amen to; “Lord, let us have Your favour, and let us know that we have it. That is enough to make us happy. Lord, be at peace with us, accepting of us, manifest Yourself to us, let us be satisfied in Your loving-kindness and we will be satisfied with it.”
He puts gladness in the heart
Though David speaks of himself only in the Ps. 4:7, 8, he speaks for others also,—“upon us,” as Christ taught us to pray, “Our Father.” All the saints come to the throne of grace on the same errand, and in this they are one, they all desire God’s favour as their chief good. We should beg it for others as well as for ourselves, for in God’s favour there is enough for us all.
This is what, above anything, they rejoice in (Ps. 4:7): “You have often put gladness into my heart; not only supported and refreshed me, but filled me with joy unspeakable. This is what I will still pursue, what I will seek after all the days of my life.” When God puts grace in the heart He puts gladness in the heart. There is no joy comparable to divine favour. This is gladness in the heart, inward, solid, substantial joy. “You have given gladness in my heart”. True joy is God’s gift, not as the world gives, John 14:27.
“I will lay myself down (having the assurance of Your favour) in peace, and with as much pleasure as those whose corn and wine increase, and who lie down as Boaz did on his threshing-floor, at the end of the heap of corn, to sleep there when his heart was merry Ruth 3:7). For You only make me to dwell in safety. Though I am alone, yet I am not alone, for God is with me. Though I have no guards to attend me, the Lord alone is sufficient to protect me. He can do it Himself when all other defences fail.”
To be safe with Him
If one has the light of God’s countenance, they can enjoy themselves. His soul returns to God, and reposes itself in Him as its rest, and so he lays himself down and sleeps in peace. He fears no disturbance from his enemies, sleeps quietly, and is very secure, because God Himself has undertaken to keep him safe.
When he comes to sleep the sleep of death, and to lie down in the grave, and to make his bed in the darkness, he will then, with good old Simeon, depart in peace (Luke 2:29). He will be assured that God will receive his soul, to be safe with Himself, and that his body also shall be made to dwell in safety in the grave.
Leaving all to his God
He commits all his affairs to God, and contentedly leaves the issue of them with Him. It is said of the farmer, having cast his seed into the ground, he sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed springs and grows up, he knows not how, Mark 4:26, 27. So a good man, having by faith and prayer cast his care upon God, sleeps and rests night and day, and is very at ease, leaving it to his God to perform all things for him and prepared to welcome His holy will.
In singing and praying over Psalm 4, let us earnestly seek the favour of God and pleasingly solace ourselves in that favour. Let us have a holy indifference concerning all our worldly concerns, commit ourselves and all our affairs to the guidance and custody of the divine Providence. May we be satisfied that all shall be made to work for good to us if we keep ourselves in the love of God.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Holy Revelry Live with Me, work with Me, Ever delight to do My holy will. Let this be the satisfaction of your life. Revel in it now as you stand by the waters still. Let the wonder of My care for you Be so comforting this day That you may see no dullness In drudgery, in delay. The glory of My leading, The wonder of its intimacy ever fresh and new Reveals such tender knowledge, Past and future for you Let this reveal Me to you And so daily increase Your knowledge of Me Through My inner peace. By the late Andrew Feakin [passed away 16th March 2019]
Prayer for the Day
Father, I come to You. Thank You for the comfort of knowing that when men condemn me unjustly, it is You who justifies. Help me not walk in the counsel of the ungodly or seek after vanity but to be truly faith-filled for I know then You will secure Your interest in me. May I always keep up a holy reverence of Your glory and majesty and dare not to provoke You.
May I be frequent and serious in communing with my own heart: talking with my heart; examining it by serious self-reflection, that I may acquaint myself with it and amend what is amiss in it. Help me fasten my thoughts upon that which is good. At night remind me to examine my conscience with respect to what I have done that day, particularly what I have done amiss, that you may repent of it. When I awake in the night may I meditate upon You, and the things that belong to peace
Teach me to be still. Even in unquiet times help me keep my spirit calm and quiet. May I willingly offer the sacrifices of righteousness: good works with all the fruits of Your reigning love in my heart toward You and my neighbour. May I be faithful and offer the sacrifice of righteousness in all instances of conversation.
Teach me to honour You, by trusting in You only, and not in wealth nor in the arm of flesh. I choose to trust in Your provision, and lean not on my own understanding. I will trust in Your grace, and not attempt to establish my own righteousness or sufficiency. Help me O my God to have the grace to think and to do accordingly. Let me have Your favour enough to make me happy.
Lord, be at peace with me, accepting of me, manifest Yourself to me, let me be satisfied in Your loving-kindness and I will be satisfied with it. I beg also for Your favour for others dear to me for I know there is enough for all of us. You alone makes me to dwell in safety. Though I may be alone, yet I am not alone, for God is with me. Though I have no guards to attend me, the Lord alone is sufficient to protect me. He can do it Himself when all other defences fail.
I commit all my affairs to You, and contentedly leave issues with You. I leave all to You to perform all things for me and I am prepared to welcome Your holy will in all my circumstances. May I have a holy indifference concerning all worldly concerns. I commit myself and all my affairs to the guidance and custody of the divine Providence. I declare that I will be satisfied and that all shall be made to work for good to me as I keep myself in Your love. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.