Have you ever been talked about behind your back? Has anyone ever tried to destroy your reputation by malicious lies and gossip? You’re not alone. In fact, this is the meaning of Psalm 4.
As you will see, King David was a victim of ungodly rumors and defamation.
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What is the Meaning of Psalm 4?
There isn’t a specific description of the setting of this Psalm, but the theme and content are very similar to what we read in Psalm 3. However, Psalm 3 discusses physical protection for David from his son, Absolom, Psalm 4 is focused more on the protection of David’s reputation and honor.
Psalm 4:1 – David Call to God
Answer me when I call, God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer.
David begins this Psalm by appealing to the God of his righteousness. David knew that his righteousness was from God alone. He couldn’t acquire it on his own.
The word “distress” in the original language means ‘narrow, tight’. The word relieved means ‘make a broad place’.
The past tense of this phrase would seem to indicate that David was confident in the Lord’s relief for the present because he had experienced it in the past.
When we are struggling to trust God in the present, we can remember all the ways that He has proven His faithfulness to us in the past.
Verses 2-3 – Lord Has Set Apart the Godly
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? But know that the Lord has set apart the godly person for Himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him.
Here we see David shift from addressing God to addressing men.
The word “worthless” means “in vain, to no purpose”. These “sons of man” may have seen some short-term success in their attempts to destroy David’s reputation, but ultimately their efforts would fail.
David knew that the Lord hears the cries of those who have been set apart for Him.
Verses 4-5 – Offer Sacrifices of Righteousness
Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the Lord.
There are a couple of different thoughts on who David is addressing in this passage. Some scholars believe he is still addressing the sons of man. This is an encouragement for the ungodly to turn away from their ways and offer sacrifices of righteousness and trust the Lord.
Other commentators believe that David is addressing himself.
After my own further study and considering the context of the Psalm as a whole, I agree with the latter.
The word “tremble” can refer to either fear or anger.
David is angry at these people who are seeking to destroy his status and character. I believe this verse is an inner dialogue of David encouraging himself to do right and trust in the Lord despite his circumstances.
This is also connected to the prayer in verse 1 where he appeals to God as his righteousness. David is needing the Lord’s help to do the right thing in the midst of his anger.
Verses 6-8 – Our Source of Joy
Many are saying, “Who will show us anything good?” Lift up the light of Your face upon us, Lord! You have put joy in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine are abundant. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, Lord, have me dwell in safety.
This inner dialogue of David continues into verse 6. The quote “Many are saying…” is the voice of the cynic ringing in his ear.
But then, we see those doubtful thoughts contrasted with David’s knowledge of God’s goodness.
The joy that the Lord gave him was not dependent on outward circumstances, pleasures, or man’s good opinion.
The source of David’s gladness was knowing that he had been set apart for God.
Psalm 4 Devotional
I got a lot out of this passage.
First of all, this meaning of this Psalm, like so many others, encourages us, as those who have been set apart for the Lord, to trust Him. Although we have been redeemed and sin no longer reigns in us, we still struggle with the flesh. We live in a fallen, sinful world. Our struggle against sin and temptation remains for now. There are moments when we must lean into the strength of God to do what is right instead of acting in accordance to our feelings of fear and anger.
Another thought I had as I was reading is how our world is full of noise. There are many voices that would attempt to pull our gaze away from the Lord and towards our circumstances. Like David, we can choose what voices we will listen to. Are we going to listen to the voices of our culture spewing it’s lies, accusations, and insults? Or will we tune our ears to the frequency of our Savior. His voice is our source of joy and gladness.
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