Psalms,  Special Services,  William Daly

Psalms 4 | Held By Him Who Hears Us


  • One of 73 written by King David.
  • David: something of a Preacher; a “proclaimer” of the truth. A royal one at that.
  • A follow-up to Psalm 3, these two Psalms are often taken together (with Psalm 3 being called a “Morning Psalm” and with Psalm 4 being referred to as an “Evening Psalm”).

The title of Psalm 4 gives us no indication or clue as to its occasion or specific reason for why it was written. In Psalm 3, David was on the run, fleeing from Absalom who was in rebellion against him.

ALL scripture is God-breathed and profitable for our good, says Paul (2 Tim 3:16-17). So we can draw the conclusion that since the Lord is speaking through His word to us, no matter the occasion of a particular letter, Psalm, or otherwise, it is for our benefit as His children. Since we know that God’s will for our lives is holiness by greater and greater degrees, our sanctification (1 Thess 4:3), then we must be open to His transformational work in our lives.

(Read Psalm 4)

Verse 1:

David is opening his prayer with the (implicit) recognition that ultimately, the basis for divine intervention rests with God alone, not the person praying. GOD is Sovereign. Not us. And David knew that. Like David, let’s settle the fact that God is not a half-stepper. He will never stop helping us (Isa 41:10), never stop providing for us (Psalm 91:1-16), never stop keeping us (2 Thess 3:3), never stop loving us (Jer 31:3).

David goes on to further address the Lord as the God of his righteousness. God is indeed the Author, the Judge, and the Rewarder of my righteousness – the righteousness imputed to me in Christ.

All believers at one time or another question their salvation, their assurance. That’s perfectly normal in the life of the Believer. It often results from the warfare between your old sin nature and your new man. Paul says (in 2 Cor 5:17) that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. But remember, that new man is still incarcerated by our flesh. When we come to Christ, we don’t push a personality “reset” button. We bring what we used to be to Christ, we bring our old self to the Cross. That’s what sanctification entails: being transformed day by day, more and more, into the image of Christ’s likeness. Remember what Paul tells the Romans (Rom 7:15) about the fact that the good things he wants to do, he doesn’t. And the bad things which he wants to stop doing, he does. If you’re TRULY in Christ however, there is now no longer any condemnation (Rom 8:1). Our righteousness comes from Him. Our righteousness is a result of the finished work of Christ.

The 2nd part of the verse David writes, “You have given me relief when I was in distress…”. David is bringing to remembrance, God’s past deliverances. As we know, God doesn’t need reminding – but what a comfort to David’s soul in remembering (and acknowledging) for himself God’s providence in times of prior distress. What an encouragement to our faith when we pray to God like that.

I think it’s probably easy to pray for relief from a situation. To pray that God delivers us out of something. But let us never forget that God is Sovereign and He ordains all things for His glorious purposes and for our benefit. That includes the hard stuff. The stuff we don’t much like. The trials. It’s been said before from this very pulpit: don’t pray so much to get out of a trial; rather, pray that we get everything out of a trial. That we learn everything we are to know. To see everything that God has intended we see.

Finally at the end of verse 1 here, David is seeking God’s grace and pleading with the Lord to hear his call when he writes, “…Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!”. Who am *I* that the Most High God should listen to my cries? He shouldn’t even know my name. I shouldn’t even be allowed to look up to heaven and address such a Perfect and Holy God as He. For my sin, I deserve to be in the worst part of Hell for all eternity.

Consider this: Our righteousness is as filthy rags. The people in Hell deserve to be there. The people in Heaven don’t deserve to be there. The difference is that the ones in Hell have received Justice, and the ones in Heaven are recipients of Grace. We were ALL born dead in our sin and trespasses. There isn’t one good among us, not even one. “The only thing you contribute to your salvation is the sin that made it necessary.” [Jonathan Edwards].

Just one sin separated our ancestors Adam & Eve from God. Just one sin kept Moses from entering Canaan. Just one sin caused Ananias & Sapphira to fall dead. God will NOT suffer sin. In my sin, I’m worse than dirt. How can I say that? Because at least dirt doesn’t sin against the Most High. *I* do. And yet, in His infinite Grace, because of WHO HE IS, He not only hears my prayer, but He grants me Grace!

Verse 2:

So now in verse 2, David begins, “O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?…”. The word David uses here for “men” is more accurately translated as “men of rank”, possibly alluding to the notion that he was addressing the betrayal of his former generals, former advisors; men of rank.

Continuing on with the 2nd part of verse 2, “How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?”. David is asking how long they will persist in their unrighteousness.

In a general sense, we may say that God, through the psalmist, particularly in verse 2, is calling out to us, calling out to sinners to bring us to repentance. This is a great place to talk about our natural depravity. This is a great place for us to be reminded to reject our pride. For those of us who are in Christ, let us learn to lay down our pride, seeing as how we have no grounds whatsoever for keeping it.

Verse 3:

In verse 3 we read, “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him.” I think we can immediately see that God has a radically different agenda for David than He does for His enemies. It almost feels as though David is saying, “God has adopted me and placed me in His arms and when I call to Him, He hears me, so watch your step”. It is to the peril of anyone who comes against one who God has set apart for Himself, anyone who comes against the apple of God’s eye, so to speak.

But I would plead with you to be very careful in how we apply this point of interpretation in our heart. Perish any thought of revenge or justice upon those who come against you. God will be Just with who will be Just with and be Merciful with whom He wishes to be Merciful with. God forbid I should ever wish God’s divine Justice upon anyone! I wouldn’t wish for God’s Justice to fall upon even my worst enemies. If Christ be in me, and I am the object of His undeserved grace, why would I then want to turn around and “sic” God on someone who offended me? After all, *I* am the worst sinner I know! If *anyone* should deserve God’s divine Justice, it would be ME above all! Let us cry out that God be utterly Merciful to our enemies, that they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, that they find themselves in the Kingdom of God, forgiven of all their transgressions just as we have been!

In any case, it’s generally agreed upon that David is talking about his own appointment to the throne here; after all, he’s the godly man who he’s speaking of in verse 3. And David is effectively telling them that they don’t only fight against David – they fight against the Most High because God Himself ordained his throne.

And think about the immeasurable blessing of God setting apart those of us who are in Christ to Himself: that we who are in Christ are God’s “separated ones”, we are His “sealed ones”, that He has purposed uncommon favor and eternal riches for us. That’s the kind of thing I can’t help but to marvel at and sit in awe of. I mentioned earlier the fact that in my sin, I’m lower than dirt because at least dirt doesn’t sin against the Most High God. But it wasn’t dirt that God chose to save. It was me. It was those of us in Christ that He chose to save from Himself, by Himself, for Himself. What amazing grace indeed!

Verse 4:

David writes, “Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah” (ESV). In this context, the admonition to “be angry”, as it’s translated in the ESV, means to “tremble” or “shake” in the fear of the Lord so as not to sin. Sin is no flippant thing, yet we often treat it so casually. God is Perfect, Holy, and Just and He doesn’t wink at sin. He can’t! He’s Perfect, Holy, and Just. He always punishes it. Sin is either punished in Hell right along with the unrepentant sinner who wears it or it was punished on the Cross when Christ, a sacrifice of infinite value, took the full punishment of God upon Himself IN OUR PLACE. But it’s always punished. God’s Holiness demands that He is separated from sin. If God tolerated sin, He wouldn’t be Holy. If He didn’t punish sin, then He wouldn’t be Just. God will never compromise one of His attributes at the expense of another. Since that’s true, then how can a Perfect, Holy, and Just God reconcile sinful men to Himself? You might say, “Well, God is Love”. That’s true, but again, God will never sacrifice one of His attributes at the expense of another. God Loves, therefore He Hates. You say, “That’s impossible, there is no room for hate in love”. Let me give you an example: I love children, therefore I hate abortion. You’ve heard it repeated, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin” but the problem with that is that God’s hatred burns towards the sinner. Psalm 5:5 says “[He] hates all evildoers”. Psalm 11:5 says, “[He] hates the wicked”. He doesn’t throw the sin into Hell; He throws the sinner. Revelation 20:15 says that “if anyone’s name is not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire”.

Verse 5:

The fifth verse, we read “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord”. Here we see the exhortation to offer “right sacrifices”. In Deuteronomy 33:19, “…offer right sacrifices”. We see it also in Psalm 51:19, “…then you will delight in right sacrifices”. “Right sacrifices”? First let’s examine the context. When David exhorts to offer “right sacrifices”, he’s referring to the offering of sacrifices under the sacrificial system but he’s saying to do so with an upright heart, a pure heart. “Do so rightly” he is saying. This is reminiscent of our Lord’s exhortation when He was speaking to His contemporaries in Matthew 5:23-24, where Jesus says “…if you are offering your gift (korban/sacrifice) at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift (korban/sacrifice) there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (korban/sacrifice)”.

But looking deeper into the matter, and indeed when we look at the totality of this particular verse, David is telling these men not only to “offer right sacrifices” but then having done that, to “…put [their] trust in the Lord”. Salvation isn’t about “doing” and then “becoming”. It’s about “becoming” and then because of that, “doing”. In reality, there are only 2 belief systems in the whole world. Not hundreds, thousands, or even dozens. Just 2. The 2 systems are “DO” and “DONE”. That’s it. With the exception of Christianity, all world religions are based on attainment, on “DO”. DO lots of good things in your life and don’t do bad things. And when you die, hope that all the good things you’ve done will be placed on the scale against the bad things and then you hope your good outweighs the bad. That describes every religion except Christianity. Christianity says that we are all a broken, corrupt, sinful people who therefore can’t earn our salvation. It’s a system that says, “You DO nothing and you get everything, because it’s all been DONE FOR YOU”. It’s a system that even in the light of our depravity, our salvation was PAID IN FULL. Christianity says “Repent of your sin, place your trust in Christ, and you become a new creature”. And because you’ve become a new creature, you can’t help but do good works, empowered by the Holy Spirit as a result. But not one of those good works counts for your salvation. Salvation cannot be EARNED. It must be received FREELY (so that NO-MAN-MAY-BOAST).

Verse 6 & 7:

The last 3 verses of Psalm 4, David begins to shift the tone a bit here. Remember that in verse 1, David starts with a plea for help from the Lord. In verses 2-5, David reasons with his enemies in their sin and calls them to repentance. Here in verses 6, 7, & 8 David shifts to a tone of praise for a godly perspective on his situation.

In verse 6 for example, we read the words, “There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”. This seems to show two different thought processes all inside of one completed thought (notice the quotation marks). One school of thought on this verse is that David is preparing to encourage his own men in the following verses by capturing the question of despair in their hearts at present. Another school of thought would be that speaking of his enemies and the people in rank rebellion against his kingship, David is mocking their selfishness. “Oh poor us, who will show us goodness? O Lord, give us what we seek”. And we’re given a hint of that in the next verse (verse 7) where David mentions the joy his enemies receive from their booming economy. And how much more joy David has in his heart than they when “…their grain and wine abound”. This is agricultural language. It speaks of economic riches. And David is speaking of the joy THEY felt in those times of economic boom. He contrasts that with, get this, HIS JOY in the midst of the trial that called for the writing of this very Psalm! DAVID’S JOY in the WORST of times exceeded that of the joy his usurpers experienced in the BEST of their times! Wow! What’s MY excuse? As an adopted child of God, I’m indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Christ HIMSELF paid for my salvation with His own blood. My eternal future is secure. Does MY joy in the worst of times exceed the joy of sinners in the BEST of their times?

Verse 8:

David writes, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”. Even though David is hunted by bloodthirsty enemies, he sleeps soundly knowing that the Lord ALONE is his keeper. He knew that the kind of peace that God provides, the kind which surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7), was the kind of peace that would allow him to lie down and sleep, joyfully even, and not merely to rest but do so in the Lord to, “…DWELL IN SAFETY”. And don’t forget that by this time in his life, David’s a war hero. He’s a seasoned soldier, a war-hardened veteran, a capable and competent General. And look at what he says: he’s effectively saying “In peace [I’ll close my eyes and sleep because] you alone O Lord make me dwell in safety”.

No matter what comes, let us, LIKE DAVID, find our reassurance in the favor of God. Let us remember that though we may be alone, we are not so. God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). God, give me peace like that. Remind me always Lord, that I may joyfully lay down each night and sleep like your adopted child, knowing that even to the point of death, I will be given rest: rest that finds itself solely IN YOU. It’s one thing to accept this Divine truth. But it’s quite another thing for us to act upon it.