Psalm 4: A Meditation in Four Parts
Psalm 4: A Four Part Meditation
This is a meditation on Psalm 4. The Psalm can be divided into four sections, which may be titled as follows:
i. Prayer to God
ii. Plea to the world
iii. Practical advice to fellow-believers
iv. Peace of God
Prayer to God
The psalm begins with a prayer, like most of David’s psalms. Prayer should play a major part in the life of a child of God. David was constantly pouring out his heart to God. We remember Paul the apostle saying, ‘Pray without ceasing!’
David addresses God with a new term – God of my righteousness! To David it might have meant: ‘God who maintains my righteous cause.’ But to us it means ‘My righteousness comes from God, and not from myself or from anything that I have done.’ It is not self-righteousness, nor the righteousness of works, nor the righteousness that comes from the law, but the righteousness that comes by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His finished work on the Cross. Christ is our righteousness - Jehovah Tsidkenu, Jer 23:6.
David remembers past mercies. ‘You have relieved me in my distress; You have freed me when I was hemmed in.’ The God of my righteousness is also the God of my redemption. David is saying, Lord,it is You who have delivered me, set me free and brought me into a ‘large place’.
Plea to the World
The second section begins with a plea to the secular and godless world. David says, ‘O you sons of men, how long will you turn my honor and glory into shame?’ We know from the previous psalm that the Lord is his glory, Psalm 3:3. Look at the world today. The amorality, the perversion and the continued rebellion of men against their Creator. There is no fear of God. David says, ‘How long will you love vanity and futility and seek after deception and lies?’ Solomon the wise king made it clear that life without God is vanity of vanities (Ecclesiastes 1:1, 2). It is a life of folly and frustration. But men will not admit it. Rather , they declare that there is no God and they can do as they like without fear of judgment. It is like the days of Noah before the Flood. The ungodly seek after ‘chaff’ and God will judge them as chaff – they will be blown away by the wind (Psalm 1:4), and burnt in unquenchable fire (Matt 3:12). People today will laugh if you tell them there is a hell. They will brand you as a hell-monger and consign you to the loony-bin.
In a Godless and God-hating world, David declares, ‘The Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself!’ Are you a chosen one of God? Have you been called out of this wicked world? Remember, multitudes followed Christ for selfish benefits, but only a few were called to be His disciples. Let me add, however. We are chosen not because of any merit in us. God has chosen us out of the garbage heap of this world; we are foolish, weak, despised and contemptible by worldly estimates and standards. The world looks down upon a true Christian, while applauding the fake one. (Do not be deceived by popular Christianity; remember what John the apostle wrote in 1 John 4:5.)
Practical Advice to Believers
The third section encapsulates practical advice to fellow-believers. David is speaking from long, painful experience. He says:
i. Tremble, and do not sin. Tremble: stand in awe of God. Have a holy reverential fear of God. Then your habitual sinning will stop. You will work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Phil 2:12.
ii. Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Commune with God. Spend time alone with God. Do you have a daily Quiet Time with the Lord? Meditation leads to a restful heart and we get to know God in a deeper way. The Christian life begins with rest, and we carry that ‘rest’ with us wherever we go. Even while lying on our beds, we learn to meditate on God, His ways, His word. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Sabbath rest – seven days a week!
iii. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness. To the God of righteousness, we offer sacrifices of righteousness – prayer, worship, praise, thanksgiving, service, good works, etc. We must perform our spiritual duties faithfully, and go ‘further’ in witnessing for the Lord, standing for the truth, and being rich in acts of kindness and love. (1 Timothy 6:18; Titus 2:14, 3:1)
iv. David rounds off his advice, by declaring that we should trust in the Lord, keep exercising faith in God (even in the most difficult situations)... and never give up – because we (the righteous, the children of God) live by faith, Rom 1:17. Faith is the vital ingredient of victory.
Peace of God
The final section ends with a wonderful picture of the peace of God ruling in the heart of God’s chosen one. ‘In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You, O Lord, alone make me dwell in safety.’ Every child of God is safe and secure in the arms of God, John 10:28, 29.
Our Lord said, ‘My peace I give unto you.’ John 14:27. A real, abiding, perfect peace. Peace that grows like a river, peace that every believer must possess – because it is our privilege!
The section opens negatively, in a mood of listlessness and despair. Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?’ It seems most people of God are out of touch with God. But a true believer longs for God. The human heart is so shaped that the vacuum within it can only be filled by God! But the world stubbornly seeks its pleasures outside of God - in material and temporal benefits which will never last. Whereas spiritual blessings last forever! Jacob was materially prosperous when he returned from Laban’s house, but he was dissatisfied. He wrestled for God’s spiritual blessing that fateful night by the river Jabbok (Genesis 32:26). David declares, ‘Lord, You have put more gladness into my heart than the pleasure men experience in a harvest of grain and new wine.’
What is this ‘gladness of heart’ David is talking about? Certainly it is the Presence of the Lord. There are times when you feel that you are carried along by the power of God, when you are bathed in the love of God. Psalm 97:11 says ‘Light is sown like seed for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.’ Esther 8:16 too associates light with gladness. Nothing can match the joy we feel when the Lord reveals Himself more and more to us, not only through His Word, but also in answers to our prayers in the circumstances of our life. Nothing can match the feeling of ‘the good hand of the Lord’ upon you. There is that special touch, the loving visitation of the Lord – ‘It is the Lord!’ John 21:7.
Even a paradise on earth is a wilderness without the presence of God.