Psalms 4 summary

Psalms 4 summary DEFAULT

Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Psalms 4

Psalm 4

David was a preacher, a royal preacher, as well as Solomon; many of his psalms are doctrinal and practical as well as devotional; the greatest part of this psalm is so, in which Wisdom cries to men, to the sons of men (as Prov. 8:4, 5), to receive instruction. The title does not tell us, as that of the former did, that it was penned on any particular occasion, nor are we to think that all the psalms were occasional, though some were, but that many of them were designed in general for the instruction of the people of God, who attended in the courts of his house, the assisting of their devotions, and the directing of their conversations: such a one I take this psalm to be. Let us not make the prophecy of scripture to be of more private interpretation than needs must, 2 Pt. 1:20. Here

  • I. David begins with a short prayer (v. 1) and that prayer preaches.
  • II. He directs his speech to the children of men, and,
    • 1. In God's name reproves them for the dishonour they do to God and the damage they do to their own souls (v. 2).
    • 2. He sets before them the happiness of godly people for their encouragement to be religious (v. 3).
    • 3. He calls upon them to consider their ways (v. 4).
  • III. He exhorts them to serve God and trust in him (v. 5).
  • IV. He gives an account of his own experiences of the grace of God working in him,
    • 1. Enabling him to choose God's favour for his felicity (v. 6).
    • 2. Filling his heart with joy therein (v. 7).
    • 3. Quieting his spirit in the assurance of the divine protection he was under, night and day (v. 8).

To the chief musician on Neginoth. A psalm of David.

Psa 4:1-5

The title of the psalm acquaints us that David, having penned it by divine inspiration for the use of the church, delivered it to the chief musician, or master of the song, who (according to the divine appointment of psalmody made in his time, which he was chiefly instrumental in the establishment of) presided in that service. We have a particular account of the constitution, the modelling of the several classes of singers, each with a chief, and the share each bore in the work, 1 Chr. 25. Some prophesied according to the order of the king,v. 2. Others prophesiedwith a harp, to give thanks, and to praise the Lord,v. 3. Of others it is said that they were to liftup the horn,v. 5. But of them all, that they were for song in the house of the Lord (v. 6) and were instructed in the songs of the Lord,v. 7. This psalm was committed to one of the chiefs, to be sung on neginoth-stringed instruments (Hab. 3:19), which were played on with the hand; with music of that kind the choristers were to sing this psalm: and it should seem that then they only sung, not the people; but the New-Testament appoints all Christians to sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), from whom it is expected that they do it decently, not artfully; and therefore there is not now so much occasion for musical instruments as there was then: the melody is to be made in the heart. In these verses,

  • I. David addresses himself to God, v. 1. Whether the sons of men, to whom he is about to speak, will hear, or whether they will forbear, he hopes and prays that God will give him a generous audience, and an answer of peace: "Hear me when I call, and accept my adorations, grant my petitions, and judge upon my appeals; have mercy upon me, and hear me." All the notice God is pleased to take of our prayers, and all the returns he is pleased to make to them, must be ascribed, not to our merit, but purely to his mercy. "Hear me for thy mercy-sake" is our best plea. Two things David here pleads further:-
    • 1. "Thou art the God of my righteousness; not only a righteous God thyself, but the author of my righteous dispositions, who hast by the grace wrought that good that is in me, hast made me a righteous man; therefore hear men, and so attest thy own work in me; thou art also the patron of my righteous cause, the protector of my wronged innocency, to whom I commit my way, and whom I trust to bring forth myrighteousness as the light." When men condemn us unjustly, this is our comfort, It is God thatjustifies; he is the God of a believer's righteousness.
    • 2. "Thou has formerly enlarged me when Iwas in distress, enlarged my heart in holy joy and comfort under my distresses, enlarged my condition by bringing me out of my distresses; therefore now, Lord, have mercy upon me, andhear me." The experience we have had of God's goodness to us in enlarging us when we have been in 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 thou art God, and changest not; thy work is perfect."
  • II. 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, the Son of David, to reign over them.
    • 1. He endeavours to convince them of the folly of their impiety (v. 2). "O you sons of Men" (of great men, so some, men of high degree, understanding it of the partisans of Saul or Absalom), "how long will you oppose me and my government, and continue disaffected to it, under the influence of the false and groundless suggestions of those that wish evil to me?" Or it may be taken more generally. 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."
      • (1.) "You debase yourselves, for you are sons of men" (the word signifies man as a noble creature); "consider the dignity of your nature, and the excellency of those powers of reason with which you are endued, and do not act thus irrationally and unbecoming yourselves." Let the sons of men consider and show themselves men.
      • (2.) "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 in his honour: or, if David's words, the term glory may be understood of God, whom he called his glory,Ps. 3:3. Idolaters are charged with changing the glory of God into shame, Rom. 1:23. All wilful 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 which are due to God only. Those that profane God's holy name, that ridicule his word and ordinances, and, while they profess to know him, in works deny him, do what in them lies to turn his glory into shame.
      • (3.) "You put a cheat upon yourselves: You love vanity, and seek after leasing, or 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 that love the world, and seek the things that are beneath, love vanity, and seek lies; as those also do that please themselves with the delights of sense, and portion themselves with the wealth of this world; for these will deceive them, and so ruin them. "How long will you do this? Will you never be wise for yourselves, never consider your duty and interest? When shall it once be?"Jer. 13:27. The God of heaven thinks the time long that sinners persist in dishonouring him and in deceiving and ruining themselves.
    • 2. He shows them the peculiar favour which God has for good people, the special protection they are under, and the singular privileges to which they are entitled, v. 3. This comes in here,
      • (1.) As a reason why they should not oppose or persecute him that is godly, nor think to run him down. It is at their peril if they offend one of these little ones, whom God has set apart for himself,Mt. 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 none dare to do them any injury, for God will hear their cry and plead their cause, Ex. 22:23. It is generally supposed that David speaks of his own designation to the throne; he 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 therein you fight against God, and it will be vain and ineffectual." God has, in like manner, set apart the Lord Jesus for himself, that merciful One; and those that attempt to hinder his advancement will certainly be baffled, for the Father hears him always. Or,
      • (2.) As a reason why they should themselves be good, and walk no longer in the counsel of the ungodly: "You have hitherto sought vanity; be truly religious, and you will be truly happy here and for ever; for,"
        • [1.] "God will secure to himself his interest in you." The Lord hasset apart him that is godly, every particular godly man, for himself, in his eternal choice, in his effectual calling, in the special disposals of his providence and operations of his grace; his people are purified unto him a peculiar people. Godly men are God's separated, sealed, ones; he knows those that are his, and has set his image and superscription upon them; he distinguishes them with uncommon favours: They shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that daywhen I make up my jewels. Know this; let godly people know it, and let them never alienate themselves from him to whom they are thus appropriated; let wicked people know it, and take heed how they hurt those whom God protects.
        • [2.] "God will secure to you an interest in himself." This David speaks with application: The Lord will hear when I call unto him. We should think ourselves happy if we had the ear of an earthly prince; and is it not worth while upon any terms, especially such easy ones, to gain the ear of the King of kings? Let us know this, and forsake lying vanities for our own mercies.
    • 3. He warns them against sin, and exhorts them both to frighten and to reason themselves out of it (v. 4): "Stand in awe and sin not" (be angry and sin not, so the Septuagint, and some think the apostle takes that exhortation from him, Eph. 4:26); "commune with your own hearts; be converted, and, in order thereunto, consider and fear." Note,
      • (1.) We must not sin, must not miss our way and so miss our aim.
      • (2.) One good remedy against sin is to stand in awe. Bemoved (so some), 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."
      • (3.) 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 unsaid." A thinking man is in a fair way 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; employ them in solemn pious meditations; let your thoughts fasten upon that which is good and keep closely to it. Consider your ways, and observe the directions here given in order to the doing of this work well and to good purpose."
        • [1.] "Choose a solitary time; do it when you lie awake upon your beds. Before you turn yourself to go to sleep at night" (as some of the heathen moralists have directed) "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 your peace." David himself practised what he here counsels others to do (Ps. 63:6), I remember thee on my bed. Upon a sick-bed, particularly, we should consider our ways and commune with our own hearts about them.
        • [2.] "Compose yourselves into a serious frame: Be still. When you have asked conscience a question be silent, and wait for an answer; even in unquiet times keep you spirits calm and quiet."
    • 4. He counsels them to make conscience of their duty (v. 5): Offer to God the sacrifice ofrighteousness. We must not only cease to do evil, but learn to do well. Those that were disaffected to David and his government would soon come to a better temper, and return to their allegiance, if they would but worship God aright; and those that know the concerns that lie between them and God will be glad of the Mediator, the Son of David. It is required here from every one of us,
      • (1.) 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 our neighbour, and all the instances of a religious conversation, which are better than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. "Let all your devotions come from an upright heart; let all your alms be sacrifices of righteousness." The sacrifices of the unrighteous God will not accept; they are an abomination, Isa. 1:11, etc.
      • (2.) That we confide in him. "First make conscience of offering the sacrifices of righteousness and then you are welcome to put your trust in the Lord. Serve God without any diffidence of him, or any fear of losing by him. Honour him, by trusting in him only, and not in your wealth nor in an arm of flesh; trust in his providence, and lean not to your own understanding; trust in his grace, and go not about to establish your own righteousness or sufficiency."

In singing these verses we must preach to ourselves the doctrine of the provoking nature of sin, the lying vanity of the world, and the unspeakable happiness of God's people; and we must press upon ourselves the duties of fearing God, conversing with our own hearts, and offering spiritual sacrifices; and in praying over these verses we must beg of God grace thus to think and thus to do.

Psa 4:6-8

We have here,

  • I. The foolish wish of worldly people: There be many that say, Who will show us any good?Who will make us to see good? What good they meant is intimated, v. 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 sense. Thus far they are right, that they are desirous of good and solicitous about it; but there are these things amiss in this wish:-
    • 1. They enquire, in general, "Who will make us happy?" but do not apply themselves to God who alone can; and so they expose themselves to be ill-advised, and show they would rather be beholden to any than to God, for they would willingly live without him.
    • 2. They enquire for good that may be seen, seeming good, sensible good; and they show no concern for the good things that are out of sight and are the objects of faith only. 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 Co. 4:18. We look with an eye of faith further than we can see with an eye of sense.
    • 3. They enquire for any good, not for the chief good; all they want is outward good, present good, partial good, good meat, good drink, a good trade, and a good estate; and what are all these worth without a good God and a good heart? Any good will serve the turn of most men, but a gracious soul will not be put off so. This way, this wish, of carnal worldlings is their folly, yet many there be that join in it; and their doom will be accordingly. "Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, the penny thou didst agree for."
  • II. The wise choice which godly people make. David, and the pious few that adhered to him, dissented from that wish, and joined in this prayer, Lord, lift thou up the light of thycountenance upon us.
    • 1. He disagrees from the vote of the many. God had set him apart for himself by distinguishing favours, and therefore he sets himself apart by a distinguishing character. "They are for any good, for worldly good, but so am not I; I will not say as they say; any good will not serve my turn; the wealth of the world will never make a portion for my soul, and therefore I cannot take up with it."
    • 2. He and his friends agree in their choice of God's favour as their felicity; it is this which in their account is better than life and all the comforts of life.
      • (1.) This is what they most earnestly desire and seek after; this is the breathing of their souls, "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy 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 have a prayer by themselves, which, though others may speak the words of it, they only offer up in sincerity; and this is a prayer which they all say Amen to; "Lord, let us have thy favour, and let us know that we have it, and we desire no more; that is enough to make us happy. Lord, be at peace with us, accept of us, manifest thyself to us, let us be satisfied of thy loving-kindness and we will be satisfied with it." Observe, Though David speaks of himself only in the 7th and 8th verses, he speaks, in this prayer, 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 and we shall have never the less for others sharing in what we have.
      • (2.) This is what, above any thing, they rejoice in (v. 7): "Thou hast hereby often put gladness into my heart; not only supported and refreshed me, but filled me with joy unspeakable; and therefore 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; nor is any joy comparable to that which gracious souls have in the communications of the divine favour, no, not the joy of harvest, of a plentiful harvest, when the corn and wine increase. This is gladness in the heart, inward, solid, substantial joy. The mirth of worldly people is but a flash, a shadow; even in laughter their heart is sorrowful,Prov. 14:13. "Thou hast given gladness in my heart;" so the word is. True joy is God's gift, not as the world giveth,Jn. 14:27. The saints have no reason to envy carnal worldlings their mirth and joy, but should pity them rather, for they may know better and will not.
      • (3.) This is what they entirely confide in, and in this confidence they are always easy, v. 8. He had laid himself down and slept (Ps. 3:5), and so he will still: "Iwill lay myself down (having the assurance of thy favour) in peace, and with as much pleasure as those whose corn and wine increase, and who lie down as Boaz did in his threshing-floor, at the end of the heap of corn, to sleep there when his heart was merry (Ruth 3:7), for thou onlymakest 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." If he have the light of God's countenance,
        • [1.] He can enjoy himself. His soul returns to God, and reposes itself in him as its rest, and so he lays himself down and sleeps in peace. He has what he would have and is sure that nothing can come amiss to him.
        • [2.] 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 (Lu. 2:29), being 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.
        • [3.] He commits all his affairs to God, and contentedly leaves the issue of them with him. It is said of the husbandman that, having cast his seed into the ground, he sleeps and rises night and day, andthe seed springs and grows up, he knows not how,Mk. 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 easy, leaving it to his God to perform all things for him and prepared to welcome his holy will.

In singing these verses, and praying over them, let us, with a holy contempt of the wealth and pleasure of this world, as insufficient to make us happy, earnestly seek the favour of God and pleasingly solace ourselves in that favour; and, with a holy indifferency about the issue of all our worldly concerns, let us commit ourselves and all our affairs to the guidance and custody of the divine Providence, and be satisfied that all shall be made to work for good to us if we keep ourselves in the love of God.

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Psalm 4:4 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Psalm 4:4, NIV: "Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent."

Psalm 4:4, ESV: "Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah"

Psalm 4:4, KJV: "Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah."

Psalm 4:4, NASB: "Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah"

Psalm 4:4, NLT: "Don't sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude"

Psalm 4:4, CSB: "Be angry and do not sin; on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still. Selah"

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This is our lesson studying the Psalms. We started last time studying a sub-set of psalms known as lament or complaint psalms. Last week we dealt with Psalm 3. Now we’ll move one psalm further onto Psalm 4.

Psalm 4’s Genre

We’re again talking about a lament Psalm. So we can expect a certain type of structure in this psalm. We can also expect to be able to sit and listen in while the Psalmist develops a strategy for mastering a crisis in his life.

Psalm 4’s Underlying Situation

Now, let’s talk about the situation underlying this Psalm. And it’s not nearly as easy to figure out the underlying situation in this psalm as it was in Psalm 3. In Psalm 3 we had the context given to us right in the superscription. David was fleeing from his son. And that story is well-documented in the Old Testament books of Samuel. So, that was easy.

But it’s really hard to figure out Psalm 4’s context. It’s not plainly stated. So we need to try to piece together details from this psalm to give us an idea of why exactly the Psalmist wrote this psalm. I’m aware of two good possible interpretations. I’ll tell show you both and give you the one that I prefer and why.

Here’s the first possibility of why this psalm was written. Look at Palm 4:1. What does David call God? “Oh God of my – what?” Righteousness. OK, then God is the one who can attest to David’s righteousness. But despite David’s righteousness and God’s willingness to back up the fact that David is righteous – look at what David needs to tell certain Israelites in Palm 4:2. How long will you guys make my honor a reproach? In other words, David is righteous and that’s his honor. But these guys are making it seem like David isn’t righteous. They’re reproaching him. They’re calling into question his integrity and righteousness. But it’s obviously all nonsense what these guys are saying. Why? Because, again, God will vouch for David’s righteousness. And so David tells these enemies in the 2nd line of Palm 4:2 that they’re loving what’s worthless and aiming at deception. Their accusations against David are worthless in reality. And the only way the enemies can make their accusations seem legitimate is to use deception – to aim at deception. Contrast what the enemies are saying of David to the reality presented in Palm 4:3. The Lord has set apart the godly man, no matter what these enemies are saying. And God hears David. So, to sum up, David is righteous. But some people are lying about him and making it sound like he isn’t. And that’s the underlying situation here in this psalm.

So, this interpretation of the underlying situation is plausible so far. And this is actually the way I was leaning at the beginning when I first started studying the psalm. But then you start into Palm 4:4 and really in my mind this interpretation just falls apart. Nothing else after Palm 4:4 makes much sense if the psalm’s context is David’s being slandered by enemies. Why would David tell the slanderers to tremble and not sin? Why tell them to meditate on their beds? He tells them to offer righteous sacrifices and trust the Lord. What does that have to do with slandering David? Then some of them are asking who will show us any good. How does that fit in with the rest of the psalm if it’s all about David being slandered? And on, and on. As I say – the rest of the psalm is still kind of a closed book if we’re trying to understand it as stemming from David being slandered by some bad guys.

So, that’s the first possibility for the underlying situation in this psalm – that David’s being slandered. One of the commentaries I purchased that comes highly recommended by conservative Christians is Peter Craigie’s book in the Word Biblical Commentary series on the Psalms. And in that book he endorses this kind of way to look at Psalm 4.

But I don’t think this is the best explanation for why Psalm 4 was written. I think there’s a scenario that better explains why certain things are said in this psalm. So, let’s try to discover the real underlying situation of Psalm 4.

And we need to start with Palm 4:7. Look at the mention of “corn and wine” abounding. That happens during a harvest time. And harvest time in ancient Israel would have been a joyous time. The food finally comes! Who wouldn’t be excited? And yet, look at Palm 4:6. These words don’t sound very joyful. Some were asking “who’s going to show us any good?” Well – what do you mean? I mean, it’s harvest time. There’s grain and new wine. Right? Well, there should be. And yet, those of us who live out in the country or who need to drive through the countryside on the way to work or church – we know what it’s like to drive past fields and fields of corn or beans. And if it’s been a particularly rainy summer and now it’s time for harvest, you might see a lot of produce that’s unusable because the fields have actually been too wet. Or if maybe we’ve had an unusually dry summer, the harvest in the fall isn’t going to be real satisfying. In fact, it’ll probably be pretty disappointing – especially to the farmers who depend on the crop to come in. And that’s what most of ancient Israel was – farmers. That wasn’t just their job, either. It was their life. If they didn’t have food they’d starve eventually. And this was one of the main attractions that ancient Canaanite fertility gods held out for disobedient and faithless Israelites. Sometimes it may have seemed like God didn’t care if the Israelites lived or died. Sometimes he’d withhold rain because of Israel’s sins. And instead of repenting of their sins, they tried to find a way to still indulge in their sins while also getting the rain they needed. Well, enter Baal – the Canaanite rain god. You pray to him and he answers you and you’re going to get your rain. Because that’s what he does, according to those nice pagan neighbors down the road – yeah, the ones Israel should have driven out of the land, but didn’t. They have a way for us Israelites to have success with our crops while also enjoying our sin.

Well now, where is there any mention of Baal or false gods in this psalm? Look at Palm 4:2. David is addressing these faithless Israelites in his mind and he asks them rhetorically how long they’d turn his glory into shame. Who was David’s glory in Psalm 3? It was God himself. So somehow these guys are shaming David’s God. How are they doing that? Next line. These folks are loving emptiness – in the Hebrew – and seeking a lie or a delusion. These men are turning from the Lord and are turning to empty delusions. One possibility is that these men are actually turning to these idols in order to make life work for them. They need rain. Yahweh ain’t giving it. Let’s see if Baal will do it for us.

So, what’s the underlying context of this lament psalm? A drought, probably around the time of harvest. And it’s providing a temptation for faithless Israelites to abandon the Lord and seek false gods whom they hope will help them overcome this drought and make sure they have food to put on the table.

This is the position held by Gerald Wilson’s book on the Psalms which is a part of the NIV Application Commentary series. Goldingay in the Baker commentary series also approaches Psalm 4 this way. And I happen to think it presents a more credible context for this psalm. I think it better explains the presence of the statements that we read in Psalm 4.

Psalm 4’s Structure

Now, with that understanding of the context of this psalm, let’s look at Psalm 4’s structure. Remember – lament psalms have five parts to their structure. Let’s find them.


Psalm 4:1 serves as the invocation.

“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.”

Now, you might wonder if this verse also serves as the petition. But I don’t think it does. That part is yet to come. It’s true that the Psalmist is asking for something. But it’s simply that God would answer his prayer. Well, what is his prayer? We see that later in Psalm 4:6. So, I think this verse serves only as the invocation.


Then Psalm 4:2-5 serve as the lament. And it’s a strange kind of lament. David isn’t describing the faithless idolatrous Israelites to the Lord. Instead, David actually addresses them as if they were standing right there in front of him. He says,

“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. 3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him. 4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.”

So, that’s the lament.


Psalm 4:6 – as I said – is a petition.

There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.”


I think Psalm 4:7 then is David’s statement of confidence in the Lord.

“Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.”

These idolaters are willing to abandon the Lord for some food. But David says – they can have their food, but I want the Lord.


And lastly, I think we can take Psalm 4:8 as the statement of praise.

“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”

Just like in Psalm 3, we see the Psalmist praising the Lord for something that only he can do. In this case, it’s that the Lord alone can make David dwell securely.

So, that’s the 5-part structure of this lament psalm. Its context is a drought that’s tempting Israelites to turn to idols.

Psalm 4’s Topic and Theme

So then, since we know all this now, finding the topic and theme of this psalm shouldn’t take too much more work beyond what we’ve already done. Remember – the topic is what the psalm is about. It’s brief – probably one or two words usually. The theme is then what the poet says about his topic.


So, what’s the topic? I think it’s about increase. Material provisions, something like that. Let me try to demonstrate that.

In Psalm 4:1 where David is invoking the Lord he says that the Lord enlarged him when he was in distress. I appreciate that the KJV used this word “enlarge”. Some translations say “relieved” or something else that’s fairly abstract and doesn’t give you a very good picture of what’s going on. But this verb translated as “enlarged” here means to make wide or to extend or to provide wide room for something.

And the Lord did this for David in the most impossible circumstances. Because the word translated “distress” can also be translated as “narrow place”.

So, in a very narrow-feeling spot in David’s life, the Lord extended David. He increased David in some way that we don’t know about yet. But that’s how David starts off this psalm – with a reference to increase.

And when David addresses the idolatrous Israelites in Psalm 4:2-5, he’s really taking them to task for going about seeking increase in the wrong way. They’re shaming the Lord – Psalm 4:2. They’re not seeking the Lord to provide the increase that they need. They’re seeking after leasing or deception or falsehood – false gods to help them attain the increase they’re looking for – to help them get some rain so that their grain and new wine can abound, as we hear about later in the psalm. And so David gives these faithless ones some counsel. And that’s what occupies him through Psalm 4:5. So, again, the focus is on increase – in this section, about how not to go about looking for increase.

Next in Psalm 4:6 David goes about seeking increase the right way. You want a harvest, as a farmer? Don’t seek Baal to give your rain so that your crops can increase. Seek the Lord and pray to him, like David does here. Ask the Lord to bless your efforts – to lift up the light of his countenance upon you.

And Psalm 4:7 gives us David’s heart about the matter. Just because David was godly doesn’t necessarily mean that God exempted David from the effects of this drought. His fields would have been suffering, too. And yet, here’s where David nuances what increase truly is. Is physical, material increase the only kind that a person ought to be interested in? Not in David’s mind. David derived more joy from the Lord himself than when idolaters got their crops in. And let me tell you, idolaters are really happy when their crops come in. That’s what they’re living for. It’s what they work for. It’s their main goal and primary end in life. And when it happens, they’re happy. But the Lord makes David happier than that – even when he’s being deprived of these things that make these other folks so happy.

So, where’s true increase to be found? Not in temporal things in and of themselves. But from the Lord.

And then lastly in Psalm 4:8, David praises the Lord for the security he knows. He won’t fear if the crop doesn’t yield. He knows the Lord who will provide for all his needs. No need to lose sleep. The Lord will give his people all the increase of every kind that they truly need.


So, again, the topic under discussion is “increase”. And we’ve basically seen the theme – what David says about increase. True Increase Comes from the Lord. Right? It doesn’t come from idols. The Lord might withhold the kind of increase we think we need. But don’t go turning to idols. They won’t help you. Keep serving and trusting in the Lord. And he’ll give you what you need when you need it. Not a moment too late. And not a moment too soon.

Commentary on Psalm 4

And speaking of things not happening too soon, we need to get to explaining the details of this psalm. We’ve dealt with overarching matters in Psalm 4. Now let’s go through the psalm one more time pointing out details that might help us understand the psalm better.

Psalm 4:1

Let’s read Psalm 4:1.

“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.”

Let’s think a little more about the imagery in this verse. David pictures himself as one who was in a tight spot. Literally. He was in distress – which again can be translated as “narrowness”. He felt himself to be squeezed in some way. Isn’t that interesting? He’s experiencing a drought along with the rest of Israel. He’s suffering need and lack of material provisions. When money is hard to come by for us, don’t we say something like we feel pinched? Or what about this phrase – “money is a little tight right now”. That’s exactly what David is saying here. He’s in a tight spot with material provisions. And yet the Lord is going to enlarge him. The Lord is going to cause him to expand or increase or abound in the midst of his tight trial.

Psalm 4:2-5

And this consideration of God’s enlarging the righteous David leads David to a heartfelt admonition to his compatriots who apparently weren’t acting very righteously and were turning to idols for their increase.

“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. 3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him. 4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.”

What should be the response to the questions posed in Psalm 4:2? Would we expect the idolaters to respond with something like “well, just a little longer” or “well, I intend to keep doing these things.” No, I think if the idolaters would have heard the questions posed this way they would have seen the obvious errors in their thinking. I mean, who thinks it’s a good idea to turn something glorious – like the Lord – into something shameful – like a piece of wood that one bows down to? Who thinks it’s a good idea to love worthless things? Who really thinks it’s a good use of one’s time to pursue “leasing” or deception? No one does. It’s like – come on guys! Can’t you see the utter foolishness of turning from God to idols in order to achieve what only the Lord can give you?

So, now that David has the idolaters seeing the folly of their way, he counsels them to change their course. By the way, do you ever find yourself confronting your enemies in your mind and heart? Do you ever feel a little embarrassed about doing that? Do you wonder if it’s ungodly? It can turn into ungodliness, for sure. But David here is doing it and it’s being modeled for us as a way to master a crisis that is pretty universal – not having enough material provision. So, anyway, feel free to address those who are troubling to you in your heart as you’re brushing your teeth or whatever else! It might help you master whatever crisis they’re causing in your life.

So, anyway, here’s what David reminds these idolaters of. The Lord has set apart the godly man for himself. The Lord has a special place in his heart for the man who is godly. That word translated “godly man” is related to CHESED – loyal covenant love. The godly – the righteous – have experienced God’s kind loyal love and they turn around and express it to others. God hears that kind of a person when he calls. David was such a person. And God heard him. And that’s the problem with these idolaters. They’re not being heard by the Lord. Why? Because they won’t embrace God’s loyal covenant love. Their lives are void of such love in their own hearts. And so they’re chasing after idols who can’t do a thing for them.

So, these guys are just hopeless, I guess. No, not really. David leads them to know how to remedy this situation. How should these idolaters react to this news that what they’re doing is completely useless? They should stand in awe and not sin. The phrase “stand in awe” is literally “tremble”. This trembling can indicate that the one who’s trembling is angry in some contexts. But in this case I think David is not counseling the idolaters to be angry. He’s telling them to tremble with fear. Why? Because they’re just now recognizing that they’ve offended the only true and living God. They’ve been completely wrong about how to approach attaining material provisions. Idols have no power. And so, they need to fear and stop their sinning – stop their idolatry.

Sometimes in the Old Testament, wicked people are pictured as plotting evil schemes in their beds. But David commands these men – if they find themselves in bed, they better not be hatching evil schemes. They better talk things over with themselves and reconsider their choices. Don’t sin. Be still, David tells them.

And ultimately, they ought not be sacrificing to false gods – to demons. They ought to be offering sacrifices to the Lord. And it’s not the mere form of offering a sacrifice that pleases the Lord. The Lord wants righteous sacrifices. Ones that are done right – with clean hands and a pure heart. Not with hands that shed innocent blood. And ultimately – even in the Old Testament – the Lord demanded that men trust in him. Sacrifice without trust was an affront to the Lord. He wanted both.

Psalm 4:6

And yet, at the present time in this Psalm, there were many that sought idols for help with this drought. David testifies — “There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?”

It’s as if the idolaters are trying to justify their faithless acts. They’re going around saying – well, we tried the Lord. But he ain’t workin’ for us anymore. He won’t send rain. We need rain. And so if we’re not allowed to seek Baal for help – who’s going to help us? The Lord won’t. We’ll starve! We’ll die! What’s the solution?

Here’s what David suggests. He prays to the Lord. This is his petition to the Lord. And at the same time it’s an example to the idolaters of what they need to be pursuing. He says, “LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” This phrasing should remind us of Numbers 6:22-27. David is using what we call an allusion – an indirect reference to something. In this case, David is calling to mind the priestly blessing in Numbers 6. Let me read that for you.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 23 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, 24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee [there’s the familiar part], and give thee peace. 27 ¶ And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.”

That’s it! That’s what these idolaters needed. That’s what David needed. These folks all needed God’s blessing. Not the supposed blessing of idols. They needed the Lord to bless – and the Lord to keep – and the Lord to shine – and the Lord to be gracious – and the Lord to lift up – and the Lord to give peace – and the Lord to bless. Idols won’t do it. Israel needed the Lord. And so David prays that the Lord would indeed do these things for his people.

Psalm 4:7

And at the same time, David is filled with peace that God will provide him all the increase he needs. He testifies, “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.” The source of gladness for those who don’t know the Lord – it’s stuff. Corn/food, wine/drink, money, clothes, houses, land, vehicles, whatever else. And that’s the extent of it. When those things pass – or in this case – they never come – then the gladness leaves, too. But the Lord never leaves us and the joy he gives is unending. And it’s better than the joy that anyone can derive from stuff.

Psalm 4:8

And so what more can the psalmist do than to praise the Lord? He says, “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” In Psalm 3 David said he could lay down and sleep as well. But circumstances are different here. In Psalm 4, David isn’t fleeing for his life and afraid that someone will kill him. But his life is still in danger. If that rain doesn’t come and he doesn’t eat, he will die. But he’s just not worried about it. The Lord – not the idols – the Lord alone makes David to dwell securely. He won’t fear famine and drought. Because the Lord is with him. And so, he can praise the Lord for doing what only he can do – provide increase to sustain David’s life.


So, that’s Psalm 4. True Increase Comes from the Lord.

Is that your conviction? In the midst of lean times – tight times, are you going to seek the Lord and his blessing and his provision? Or are you going to go along with the crowd and seek expedients to provide the increase you think you need? The Lord sets apart the godly for himself – didn’t you know that? And if you are one of the godly – one who has experienced God’s loyal covenant love and as a result shows that kind of love back to God and to others – if that’s the case, then you know that the Lord will hear when you call to him and provide for you whatever you need when you need it. And he’ll give you gladness that surpasses anything this temporal life has to offer. So, don’t lose sleep in lean times. Let the Lord cause you to dwell securely.


Psalm chapter 4

New International Version

1 For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David. Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. 2 How long will you people turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods

3 Know that the LORD has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. 4 Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous and trust in the LORD. 6 Many, LORD, are asking, 'Who will bring us prosperity?' Let the light of your face shine on us.

7 Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound. 8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.

English Standard Version

1 To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. 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 honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah 3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. 4 Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. 6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” 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 LORD, make me dwell in safety.

King James Version

1 {To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David.} 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. 2 O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah. 3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him. 4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. 5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

6There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. 7 Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. 8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.

New American Standard Bible

1 Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. 2 You sons of man, how long will my honor be treated as an insult? How long will you love what is worthless and strive for a lie? Selah3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly person for Himself; The LORD hears when I call to Him. 4 Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the LORD. 6 Many are saying, 'Who will show us anything good?' Lift up the light of Your face upon us, LORD! 7 You have put joy in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine are abundant. 8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, LORD, have me dwell in safety.

New Living Translation

1 For the choir director: A psalm of David, to be accompanied by stringed instruments. Answer me when I call to you, O God who declares me innocent. Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

2 How long will you people ruin my reputation? How long will you make groundless accusations? How long will you continue your lies? Interlude 3 You can be sure of this: The LORD set apart the godly for himself. The LORD will answer when I call to him.

4 Don't sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent. Interlude 5 Offer sacrifices in the right spirit, and trust the LORD.

6 Many people say, 'Who will show us better times?' Let your face smile on us, LORD. 7 You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine. 8 In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O LORD, will keep me safe.

Christian Standard Bible

1 Answer me when I call, God, who vindicates me. You freed me from affliction; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.

2 How long, exalted ones, will my honor be insulted? How long will you love what is worthless and pursue a lie? Selah 3 Know that the LORD has set apart the faithful for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him.

4 Be angry and do not sin; on your bed, reflect in your heart and be still. Selah

5 Offer sacrifices in righteousness and trust in the LORD.

6 Many are asking, "Who can show us anything good?" Let the light of your face shine on us, LORD. 7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound. 8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, LORD, make me live in safety.


Summary psalms 4

Psalm 4 – Talking to God and Men

This psalm is titled To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. The title of the psalm indicates that it was directed toward the Chief Musician, whom some suppose to be the Lord GOD Himself, and others suppose to be a leader of choirs or musicians in David’s time, such as Heman the singer or Asaph (1 Chronicles 6:33, 16:5-7, and 25:6). The title also tells us that the song was deliberately written to be accompanied with stringed instruments. In this psalm David poured out his complaint against slanderous enemies and found peace and refuge in God.

A. David talks to God and to men.

1. (1) David talks to God.

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.

a. Hear me when I call: There was passion in David’s cry. He didn’t want to just cast up words toward heaven. He needed God’s attention to his present problem.

i. Often power in prayer is lacking because there is little passion in prayer. It isn’t that we persuade God by emotional displays, but God wants us to care deeply about the things He cares deeply about. The prophet Isaiah spoke with sorrow about the lack of this in Israel: And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You (Isaiah 64:7). This is a good example of David stirring himself up to take hold of God.

b. O God of my righteousness: David knew that his righteousness came from God, and not from himself. He calls upon the God who makes him righteous.

c. You have relieved me…Have mercy on me: In a familiar pattern, David used past mercy as a ground for future help. “God, I know You haven’t blessed me to this point to abandon me, so please have mercy on me.”

i. “This is another instance of David’s common habit of pleading past mercies as a ground for present favour.” (Spurgeon)

2. (2-3) David talks to men.

How long, O you sons of men,
Will you turn
my glory to shame?
How long
will you love worthlessness
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.

a. How long: David asked a valid question. Just how long will the ungodly keep to their way? They can’t keep to it forever, so they may as well abandon it now and be blessed.

i. If we find ourselves on a compromising course, it is valid to ask, “How long? If I extend this course of action out to its logical and inevitable conclusion, where will I be? Knowing this, how long will I play around with this sin?”

b. How long, O you sons of men, will you turn my glory to shame? Many try to connect Psalm 3 with Psalm 4, thinking that this was also written in connection with Absalom’s rebellion. This is probably incorrect, because the focus in this psalm isn’t on David’s physical safety or his kingdom, but on his reputation. Wicked men slandered David.

i. “In this psalm the problem is one of malicious slander and lies. It is the psalmist’s reputation rather than his person that is being attacked.” (Boice)

ii. Turn my glory to shame: Jesus experienced what David experienced. Wicked men tried to turn almost every glorious thing in His ministry into shame.

c. The LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly: David knew that he and other godly people were set apart for God. There are many reasons why we set things apart.

·We set things apart for our own enjoyment.

·We set things apart for greater purity.

·We set things apart for special service.

i. For all these reasons and more, God sets us apart unto Himself.

d. The LORD will hear when I call to Him: The ungodly have a disaster waiting for them, but the godly have a great reward in the LORD. This is why David knew, the LORD will hear when I call to Him.

i. All Christians should have the same assurance. They should be confident that God will hear their prayers. When prayer seems ineffective, it is worth it to take a spiritual inventory to see if there is a reason for unanswered prayer. The Bible tells us there are several possible reasons why prayer may not be answered.

·Not abiding in Jesus (John 15:7).

·Unbelief (Matthew 17:20-21).

·Failure to fast (Matthew 17:21).

·A Bad marriage relationship (1 Peter 3:7).

·Unconfessed sin (James 5:16).

·Lying and deceitfulness (Psalm 17:1).

·Lack of Bible reading and Bible teaching (Proverbs 28:9).

·Trusting in the length or form of prayer (Matthew 6:7).

B. David talks to himself.

1. (4-5) David calms himself before the LORD.

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.

a. Be angry, and do not sin: With the ungodliness around him, David had reason to be angry, but he had no reason to sin. He reminded himself to not sin in his anger, and to find solace in meditation before the LORD.

b. Meditate within your heart: David spoke of the Biblical practice of meditation, not the Eastern practice of meditation. In Biblical meditation, we fill our heart and mind with God’s word. In eastern meditation, the idea is to empty the heart and mind, leaving it open potentially for deceiving spirits.

c. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD: David knew the value of doing religious things (offer the sacrifices), yet he also knew that those could not replace trust in the LORD. When religious observance is coupled with true trust in God, we draw near to God and experience the benefits of drawing near.

2. (6-8) David receives blessing from God.

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.

a. Who will show us any good? The voice of the ungodly cynic echoed in David’s ear. After continual disappointment from man, we may begin to doubt if God will show us any good.

b. LORD, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us: Despite what the cynics said or thought, David trusted that the LORD would show him good.

i. David seemed to claim it upon the Aaronic promise of blessing in Numbers 6:24-26:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

c. You have put gladness in my heart: When we know that the face of God shines favorably on us, it puts gladness in the heart. Though David was in distress, vexed by ungodly men all around, he could still have gladness in his heart because the LORD put it there.

d. More than in the season that their grain and wine increased: The ungodly can be happy when the money is coming in and everything is prosperous. David could be happy even in distressing times, because the LORD put gladness in his heart.

e. I will both lie down in peace, and sleep: David could sleep well at night, even in distressing times and surrounded by the ungodly. He slept well because his safety was from the LORD, not from circumstances or even feelings.

i. We can imagine a man lying down to sleep, tormented by all of what his enemies or pretend friends say about him. David could be that man, but instead he trusted in the LORD. He therefore had a gladness that the world could not take away, even with all their slander and lies.

ii. In his proverbs from Poor Richard’s Almanac, Ben Franklin had some good advice: “Since I cannot govern my own tongue, tho’ within my own teeth, how can I hope to govern the tongues of others?”

f. For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety: G. Campbell Morgan points out that David’s idea of alone here was not the LORD and none other. Instead, the idea was that David found safety in his solitude with God.

i. “The thought of the word alone is ‘in loneliness,’ or as Rotherham renders it ‘in seclusion’; and the word refers to the one going asleep. This is a glorious conception of sleep. Jehovah gathers the trusting soul into a place of safety by taking it away from all the things which trouble or harass…the tried and tired child of His love is pavilioned in His peace.” (Morgan)

(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik –

Psalm 4 (When I Call) (feat. Melissa Breems) - The Psalms Project

Psalm 4

An Evening Song

Psalm 4

An EasyEnglish Translation with Notes (about 1200 word vocabulary) on Psalm 4

Gordon Churchyard

Words in boxes are from the Bible. Words in brackets, ( ), are not in the Hebrew Bible.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you that work hard. Also, all of you that have a lot of trouble. I will give you rest". (Matthew 11: 28)

  (Tell the music leader) to use stringed instruments.
  (This is) a song of David.

v1   Answer me when I shout for help, O God.
  You are the God that makes me righteous.
  Give me help in my troubles.
  Show me that you are kind.
  Listen to me when I pray.

v2   Sons of man:
 ·  how long will you say that I am bad?
 ·  how long will you love stupid ideas?
 ·  how long will you want to hear lies?  SELAH

v3   Sons of man:
 ·  the LORD has chosen me
 ·  the LORD has made me separate for himself
 ·  the LORD will listen when I pray to him

v4   Get angry - but do nothing wrong. Go to bed.
  Argue with yourself - but say nothing (aloud).   SELAH

v5   Offer the right gifts and believe in the LORD.

v6   Many people say, "Who will do anything good for us?"
  LORD, shine the light of your face on us.

v7   You have made me feel happy deep down inside me.
  I feel better than I do at a harvest party.

v8   I will lie down in *peace. Soon I will sleep.
  This is because only you, LORD, keep me safe.

Word list

harvest ~ the time when they bring the fruits in

peace ~ when we are friends with God and with other people; or when we have no trouble in our minds.

Sons of man ~ here it is the leaders of God's enemies

stringed instruments ~ for making music: an example is the guitar

The Story of Psalm 4

Absalom was one of King David's sons. He tried to kill David because he wanted to become king. David ran away. One evening, David prayed to God, "Show my enemies that you are fighting for me". God answered David and made him very happy. David slept in peace. The peace that God gives means that we do not feel afraid deep down inside us.

What Psalm 4 means

Verses 1 – 2: DAVID PRAYS TO GOD. David was a good man. This did not make him righteous. Only God can make someone righteous. David asked God for help. "Listen to me" in Hebrew means "answer me". David told God what he (David) wanted to say to his enemies. He really wanted God to tell them. David wanted to say to them, "You cannot win". This is because the enemies of David were fighting God. Their stupid ideas were that they wanted David dead and that they wanted Absalom to become king.

Verses 3 – 4: IN HIS MIND DAVID TALKS TO HIS ENEMIES. David gives more reasons why his enemies cannot win:

  ·   the LORD chose David as king

  ·   the LORD did not choose Absalom

  ·   the LORD made David different from his enemies

  ·   the LORD will listen to David and answer him

This will make the enemies of David angry. They must do nothing wrong, though. They can argue in their thoughts. They must not speak their ideas aloud.

Verses 5 – 8: GOD GIVES DAVID JOY. "Offer the right gifts" means "kill animals on the temple altar". A part of the Bible called Leviticus tells us what they are. It also means offer bread and wine. Christians do not do that now. They offer themselves to become the servants of God. Many people still say, "Who will do anything good for us?" Our answer is the same as the answer of David: the LORD. He will shine the light of his face on them. This can mean many things. One is that the LORD will give help to poor people.

Something to do

1.  Learn Psalm 4: 8 by heart. Say it every evening at bed time.

2.  Pray that God will do something for poor people that you know.

The Temple

A temple is a building. It is usually very big. In it the servants of a god meet together. They think that the god lives there.

The first temple that the Jews had was a tent. A tent is a building made from animal skins, like goats. They moved it from place to place. David moved it to Jerusalem. This is the temple in Psalm 4:5. David wanted to build a temple of wood and stone. God said, "No! Your son Solomon will build it". Solomon became king when David died. He built the temple in Jerusalem. When Solomon died the Jews divided into (or became) 2 countries:

  ·  Judah and Benjamin in the south

  ·  The other 9 tribes in the north, with Simeon south of Judah

A tribe is a very big family. The people of Israel had a temple at Gilgal. Gilgal was 30 kilometres north-east of Jerusalem.

King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon destroyed the temple in Jerusalem. This was 587 years before Jesus came to earth. The Jews built it again 517 years before Jesus. When Jesus came to earth, Herod was king of Judah. Herod made people do more work on the temple. The Romans destroyed the temple in the year 70.

In the temple was a special table. The Jews called it an altar. Priests killed animals on the altar. They burned parts of the dead animals. They thought that this made God happy. Priests are servants of God. The part of the Bible called Leviticus told them what animals to kill. It also told them the parts they had to burn. They ate the other parts. Christians do not need a temple now. There are 3 reasons:

  ·   each Christian is a temple where God lives

  ·   each Christian is part of a bigger temple (we call it the body of Christ or the Church)

  ·   God himself will be the temple in heaven (heaven is the home of God)

Make sure that you are part of this temple in heaven. Ask God to forgive you and come into your life. If you are not sure what to do, read the note at the end of Psalm 1 again, or ask your Christian friends for help.

© 2001, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level A (1200 words)

January 2001

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Please Answer me, God!


General idea: Here, David cries out to God. He knows Him and knows of His grace and ability to hear and care. He seeks communion and help: have mercy on me, God, and hear my prayer.

People have been taking advantage of David, seeking to harm him; he searches for the One who can help, but feels left out of the loop. He sees people ruining his name and reputation; and, tired of the gossip and slander, he asks when this will end and when these liars and manipulators will get what is coming to them. Then, David shows his confidence in God. He knows that even though it seems his prayers are not being heard or responded to, the Lord has set apart the godly for His purpose and plan, and He will answer in His time. David commits not to sin by letting his hurt, anger toward bad people, and his doubts in God who seems not to care get to him.

Instead, David commits to trust in God. He examines his life to make sure he is properly aligned with Him. We, too, must offer ourselves and our trust. Times will improve; but even if they do not, I will trust in God. I know He smiles upon me and loves me; therefore, He is my joy even when my situation is not joyful. I can trust Him, and I can have peace and security even when others come against me. My God will keep me safe in Him!

Contexts and Background:


This Psalm is by David who wrote it when he was in great distress. At the same time, he shows his love and confidence in God who seems not to show Himself. Even though he is facing perilous odds, certain destruction, and constant suffering, he still continues his confidence in his God. Yet, he is honest; he pours out his feelings without edit or whitewash. He tells God his fears and position, his plight and anguish, and asks why God does not answer him. This is about our covenant relationship with God. When we accept Him as Lord and dedicate our lives to Him, He does indeed respond. The bottom line, as David knew prior and was assured of later, is that there is no need to fear when our Sovereign God is in charge and is there. This Psalm also introduces to us how to use this as a hymn of worship with guidance on musical notes and structure. It was used also as a liturgy on how one comes to God and meditates on Him in honesty, humbleness, respect, and confidence, no matter what we go through in our trials, hostilities, and anxiety.

Commentary—Word and Phrase Meanings:


Verses 1-2: Our relationship with God is not without its fears and distresses, as with any relationship. We are in a world that is filled with distress and pain and there is no way to walk through it without stumbling onto suffering and distress. David is angry, and being angry is OK as long as we do not sin or curse God in it.

  • Answer me. In our need, where do we go? We go to God! David does so in boldness as well as in humility and respect. We can't be bold before God without reverence for Him, and we can revere Him while we are pouring out our heart, fears, and life to Him. We can go to God with an imperative, passionate, pleading prayer that is brave and bold and courageous, as long as we are also reverential (Jer. 23:6).

  • When I call. This is prayer. We are called to go to God in all times, good and bad. God will do right for the innocent, for those who suffer and are needy, and will act in His perfect time. We can drop to our knees and still commune in passion and seek His mercy.

  • Righteous God. This is referring to the relationship between God and His people, as He promises us His presence and guarantees us victory. God's character is perfect; He has no malice or jealousy that is wrong or misdirected. Therefore, when we pray to Him, we can be honest. He already knows our plight and fears and emotions anyway; we might as well let it out, knowing He will listen and have empathy and concern (1 Cor. 1:30).

  • Relief. Here is an appeal for God to hear us and have mercy, while we show respect for His holiness. God promises us He will come to our rescue, but it will not always be when and what we hoped for. His plan is best, even when we do not see it (Psalm 25:4-5; Isa. 45:13; Jer. 23:6).

  • Distress. Meaning trying circumstances that test our patience and ability to persevere, feeling out of control, or experiencing limits to what we want to accomplish, such as pain, suffering, or loss. Here, it is all of the above for David, including betrayal as well.

  • Merciful. An appeal for God to have "space or room for me."

  • Hear my prayer. And God will; this is the great gift we have—to personally commune with the Lord Almighty!

  • How long. A plea as well as a question, either as a query or rhetorical: how long will these people sin and come against me? Where is my relief?

  • Men. Referring to people of means and wealth, namely landowners and people of society. Most feel they have what they need and are deserving of it; they become prideful and forget who the real Person in charge is. These people scoffed at God and His servant; they had not learned that one cannot put one's trust in money, power, or positions—only in God!

  • Turn my glory/honor into shame. Meaning, what is bestowed by God to His faithful ones being twisted by evil people. It is referring to betrayal, when one says I will follow you or says he or she follows God but then turns away. Disloyalty, betrayal, and unfaithfulness are some of the most painful and destructive emotions experienced by people—and by God!

  • Love delusions/vain words and lies. Meaning "empty things," or what is fleeting and of no value or what leads someone down the path of self-destruction. It is thinking, I am OK; others are doing it—so can I, when one knows better. God had chosen David to be king and to lead; the antagonists sought to disrupt, mock, and betray what God had set up (2 Sam. 7:15).

  • Seek false gods/seek after lies. Meaning a hatred of God and His people and thus running after idols that are made of wood and made from the hands of men, which is reprehensible. Idols are not real; they are a lie and the result of sinful, greedy minds that seek its own and not God. They can do nothing but look pretty and take our passion and offering and return nothing but to lead us on a wrong path filled with hopelessness and pain (Jer. 3:9).

Verses 3-4: Our God has steadfast love for us and is here, even when people make difficulties and barriers against us. When we feel distressed and confused, and wonder if this is worth it, if this is all, God is there—even when we do not feel or see Him.

  • Godly/pious. Meaning blessed by God's grace. Referring to a convent relationship with God where He comes to us and saves us. This is significant as it echoes what Christ has done and will do for us. God is good, and the only ones who are good are those who are in right standing with God. Christ gives us this, which we do not deserve.

  • Anger/be disturbed. Here it means to be convicted about God, to think through what you are doing, and make the decision to submit your self to Him. God does not condemn anger; this is a natural emotion. The issue is what we do with it. Do we use it as motivate to solve problems or do we do bad things with it (Matt. 23; Eph. 4:26-31)?

  • Do not sin. This is about how one approaches God in worship as well as petition. We approach in fear and awe, shaking because we fully realize what is at stake. When we approach God, even with a good sacrifice, what is in our hearts concerns Him the most. Thus, we have to be right with Him; a righteous attitude is paramount—never pride or allowing ones hurt to hurt others (Lev. Chaps 1-7; Psalm 40:6-8; Isa. 32:10-11; Hab. 3:16).

  • Beds. Meaning you get what you deserve; also, doing evil secretly.

  • Search your hearts. A call to seek God, place Him first, think through your situation, and plan accordingly to do what is best and what honors God. Conversely, the wicked seek pride and temporary fixes, stepping over others, and bringing shame on God.

  • Be silent/wail. Reflect on your wickedness and hostility. What has it brought you and what will it do for you and for others? How will this make things better? It has only brought corruption and hurt, so mourn and wail and then stop it (Ex. 15:16)!

Verses 5-6: David the shepherd, the godly king, gives us great advice. God knows His sheep; we are to know the Shepherd. Thus, a person with a right relationship with God has no need to fear the world or the future, for we are already secured in Him. Even when we are in unfulfilled expectations or frustrated or anxious or in the midst of hurt, we are sheep that need the Shepherd!


  • Right sacrifices. A call to truly and sincerely repent and get right with God, and let one's attitude and commitment reflect it. This means to do what is right; submit and trust God—not your situation, whether it is good or bad (1 Sam. 15:22; Psalm 50:14).

  • Trust in the LORD. As it denotes, to place our faith in God so we have conviction and commitment to know Him and rely on Him (Ex. 14:32; Psalm 37:3; Prov. 3:5; Jer. 39:18; Nahum 1:7; Acts 14:23).

  • Show us any good. A retort common to skeptics of Judaism and Christianity: it is an ancient sin, saying there is no good in God, or any goodness at all, so we should do as we feel and not adhere to a Holy God. This can also occur and accrue when we doubt, as we focus on our fears and not on Him. The sin is when we taunt or mock God with this. It is good to be honest with God about our fears and doubts.

  • Face shine upon us/light of God's grace. God is the source of true blessing. This is in the form of a priestly blessing that shows us God who reveals Himself by His goodness and blessings.

This Psalm also shows us the role of God's plan of redemption and our response to follow God. This phrase is found in priestly prayers and royal letters and from those who consider blessings and curses to have real, tangible impact. Even the Egyptians made reference to this phrase as a request for their god's blessing, believing that if a king requests it, it will be done. Here in the Bible, it is used as a prayer and as a benediction asking that God would grant well-being, mercy, and blessing (Num. 6:24-26).

Verses 7-8: It is extremely foolish to taunt God or put down godly people to make one feel better or complacent. People think that when they tease or put others down, it elevates their worth and standing. In fact, it does the opposite; it just shows foolishness. Here God turns the tables on the ungodly, augmenting their mockery of Him and His righteous ones into personal blessings for His own. The end result is that we have a God upon whom we can rely and in whom we can have hope.

  • Filled my heart with greater joy. "Heart" refers to the inner being of who we are; it is from our spirit or soul that our emotions, thoughts, and motivations come. Joy means our unshakable confidence in God (Psalm 32:7-9; 34:1-8; Proverbs 4:23; 15:13; John 15:11; 17:13; 2 Cor. 12:9; 1 Peter 4:13- 19; 1 Thess. 5:18; James 1:1-4; Heb 10:34).

  • Sleep in peace/lie down. Meaning resting and trusting in God's intimate presence; this is also a trusting confidence in God and that His plan will work out in His time.

  • Dwell in safety. Means to live without anxiety. A play on words in the Hebrew, it means to have absolute confidence in God even in the midst of crises and anguish and includes a prayer for peace and a prayer for physical safety, but also a trust that our true security is to be in God's Will and the spiritual blessings we have are because of Christ in our lives.

Devotional Thoughts and Applications:


This kind of joy that David prays about and lives out will allow us to enjoy our relationship with God through Christ, His creation, and others, in spite of our situation. We can have anoutlook of enjoyment and real, authentic happiness—even in distress and uncertainty. This comes to us from our growing relationship with God and the godly people in our lives. We can trust that God can and will fulfill those desires for us that are aligned to His will, and restore to us what those who steal and are ungodly have taken. God wants us to be in His fullness; God-given joy is far more important than what we think it is.

Why is joy important? It helps us understand God's perspective and timing and sometimes even His trimming so we can have the confidence and patience to endure whatever life in this sinful world throws at us! Our circumstances may not be joyful, but our relationship with Christ and others can be. We need to affirm our relationship with Christ by seeing that we can be happy and fulfilled even when our circumstances are not. We can change our attitudes and ways of thinking when we focus on Him; then, we will realize the care and sovereignty of God and that He is in command and control, even when life seems to be out of control and frustrating.

Christian Life Principle: Do not think uponproblems, think on Christ!God hears us and responds, are you listening as much as you are talking? Trust in the Lord not in the situation, do all you can do to evade trouble, but trouble may come anyway. So, bring Him with you (Phil. 4:6-7).


The Essential Inductive Questions (for more Inductive questions see Inductive Bible Study):


  1. What does this passage say?

  2. What does this passage mean?

  3. What is God telling me?

  4. How am I encouraged and strengthened?

  5. Is there sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?

  6. How can I be changed, so I can learn and grow?

  7. What is in the way of these precepts affecting me? What is in the way of my listening to God?

  8. How does this apply to me? What will I do about it?

  9. What can I model and teach?

  10. What does God want me to share with someone?


Additional Questions:


  1. Are you an optimist or a realist? What causes you to lean to one or the other?


  1. When in need, where do you go? Why should you not just go to God in boldness? Why are humility and respect also needed?


  1. Have you experienced being taken advantage of, or have people who are close to you sought to harm you? How did you feel and respond? What do you think you could have learned from that situation to help you in the future?


  1. Have you ever anguished for the Lord's help and intervention? Have you said, oh my God; please answer me when I call? How does this Psalm help you?


  1. Do you feel God is distant and does not care about you, your situation, or your concerns?


  1. How have you cried out to God? How do you feel that He knows you and that He hears and cares and will give you grace and His presence?


  1. What does it take for you to have confidence in God? If you feel your prayers don't seem to be heard or responded to, what should you do?


  1. Explain your feeling that no matter what situation you are in, the Lord has set you apart for His purpose and plan, and He will answer you in His timing? What does it take to have peace and patience for this?


  1. What does it take for you to drop to your knees and commune with Him in passion, seeking His mercy and His face?


  1. What causes you to have doubts, focusing on your fears and not Christ?


  1. God promises us He will come to our rescue. So, how do you feel that it is not always when and what you may have hoped for? What do you need to do to have more confidence and see God's plan even when you do not understand it?


  1. What do you need to examine in your life to make sure you are properly aligned with Christ? How can you offer your self and your trust?


© 2008, 2016, R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word


Tags:Psalm 4, Psalm, Answer me God, cries out, grace, communion, mercy, hear my prayer, reputation, gossip, manipulators, purpose and plan, trust in God, security, distress, suffering, confidence, anguish, worship, fears, Righteous, Relief, Bible study


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