Going Through the Psalms – Psalm 4 – King David Admonishes his Enemies

We continue in this series with Psalm 4, which is titled “To The Choirmaster; with Stringed Instruments. A Psalm of David” (ESV). Let us note here this psalm conveys instructions to a choirmaster. So this is the first psalm that is explicitly indicated to be performed to the accompaniment of music. Presumably given the information provided in 1 Chronicles 25 with singing, cymbals, harp, the horn (shofar?) and perhaps other hand instruments (Matthew Henry commentary; see also Charles Spurgeon commentary).

Let us imagine as we read perhaps moments where we might hear loud clashing cymbals, a chorus singing in unison or the sounding of the shofar. It may be worthwhile to think of yourself as a composer and think about what you feel the “sound” of this psalm should be and how you would score it (for those so musically inclined).

Here’s one modern rendition of this psalm I found on YouTube.

Also this for a more traditional take.

I personally imagine this psalm having a more operatic and “grand” sound; something like this in terms of instrumentation

But enough of the music for now, what of the words?

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!

(Psalm 4:1 ESV)

I love the way this psalm opens. Once again David is passionate, insistent and urgent. This echoes his cry in the previous psalm (“O, Lord, how many are my foes!” Psalm 3:1 ESV). This is discussed further in David Guzik’s commentary but King David was a man with a passion for God; a deep, fervent need for the God who he knew to be his salvation, his righteousness, his all in all…his God. David has a personal ownership of his relationship with God that I believe we should all strive to have. If we are so passionate about our wives (or husbands) and our children who are our kindred and feel a claim to them then all the moreso should we have a burning passion and thirst for the Lord and lay claim to him, for he is our portion and our cup.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit…Blessed Trinity, may you ignite a passion in us and may we seek you with fervency and urgency and may the divine flame in our hearts and souls only grow hotter and more luminous each passing day. May we lay claim to you as our God, our portion, our heavenly inheritance.

David’s faith is battle tested. He notes that God has delivered him before and by implication will deliver him again (Guzik id). Yet David, like Moses before him, still approaches the Lord and his heavenly throne with respect and no sense of entitlement: “Be gracious to me…” While the Lord is our Father and we have a right of familiarity let us treat him with the respect of a Lord (for he is the Lord of Lords) and always approach him with respect and humility. Be gracious to us Lord.

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.

(Psalm 4:2-3 ESV)

So now we are introduced to the impetus for David’s cry. If we have read the books of Samuel then we are familiar with David’s many persecutions and tribulations (and who knows how many have been omitted…) and we see here once again he is the subject of the ire of men. From Spurgeon’s commentary we are to understand that “men” here does not mean ordinary men but “mighty men”; perhaps the nobility or something of the like. Given the treacheries by Absalom and Adonijah this fits. We need only look at the reign of Louis XIV to understand the complicated relationships between the king and the nobility. Potential for treachery abounds and many would attempt to take the crown.

Attacks can be direct and backed up by true swords and bows but sometimes the “swords” and “bows” utilized are the tongue and its venomous words or “arrows.” It is the latter which we find being discussed here. In this instance David is the subject of slander and deception. In this age of twitter and other social media how quickly a fire of slander and gossip can be kindled, spreading itself like a plague with no limitation but an internet connection. But David does not fear these things for he knows the Lord has set him apart and will hear his prayer (these are the sentiments of a true man of prayer and “prayer warrior”).

Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.

(Psalm 4:4 ESV)

Here is instruction and the wisdom and grace of the King. As David has fasted for his enemies and prays for them (Psalm 35:13) so to he tries to teach them wisdom. Even as he is being slandered by his enemies he takes the higher ground and instructs them in right doing and so we too should be instructed lest we become like them. We are to be slow to anger and not give license to it. Let us instead reflect on these things that vex us and surmise the godly response to them, putting our trust in God to be our avenger and deliverer.

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.

(Psalm 4:6-7 ESV)

David, as representative of the people before God and God before the people, brings their murmurings before him and beseeches the Lord for favor. But lest we think David himself doubts God’s goodness, he immediately affirms that the Lord is his joy and this joy is greater than the sensual pleasures of the world (Spurgeon id; Henry id).

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell
in safety.

(Psalm 4:8 ESV)

Could there be a greater signal of David’s trust then this? He is so confident that his prayers have been answered, that he is ready to go to bed without any fear or presumably anxiety. He knows the Lord protects him and so he can sleep the sleep of the blessed and beloved.

Lord Jesus Christ, you are our rest throughout the tempestuous storms. You are our greatest joy and most fervent hope. Though others may seek to destroy us, you are a shield about us. May we honor your name in all that we think, say and do and meditate on your grace in the night as we lie on our beds.

*ESV=English Standard Version

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