Charles Spurgeon said that this Psalm teaches us to approach God with our troubles before going to other men and women with them. He reminds us that the God we serve will not help us in the midst of six troubles and then leave us wanting in the seventh trouble. He reminds us that God does nothing by halves and he will never cease to help us until we cease to have a need.
Psalm 4: To the choirmaster: With stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. 1 Answer 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 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.
Again, Spurgeon points out that we will speak more boldly to other people if we have a more constant conversation with the Lord. He also reminds us that he who dares to face his Maker will not tremble before the sons of men. The petty courts of human opinion don’t hold a candle to the King’s Bench in heaven. Spurgeon had a way with words.
On A Personal Note…
When I sat down to write this message I was in a tough place emotionally. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the rhythm of this Psalm. I felt too weak to make sense of it. So I turned to Spurgeon’s commentary on the Psalms (known as the Treasury of David) and I found the content of what he says to be both healing and strengthening to my soul.
I struggle often with a fear of man. My mind and my heart get weighed down with worry about the court of public opinion. I find it too easy to forget that the Lord’s opinion of me in Christ Jesus along with Spirit empowered obedience to the instructions of His Word are all that matter in this world. Any person’s opinion of me that doesn’t align with the gospel originates from only one other source.
That only other source is the enemy of my soul. He is the accuser of the brethren. He is the lion who seeks to steal, kill and destroy. He is a liar and the father of all lies and in him there is no truth whatsoever. But I am grateful to know that when God saves a man he gives that man the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit leads saved men and women into the truth that sets them free. What does all of this have to do with Psalm 4?
Consider The Context Of Psalm 4…
The context for this Psalm appears to be the same context as Psalm 3 when David was running for his life from his very own son. It has a political feel to it. It seems like people are questioning David’s ability to lead the nation during or after the day when all hell broke loose with his son Absalom.
We have to remember that David was a highly visible public leader. As soon as the news about Absalom’s betrayal and subsequent attempts to dethrone and murder his father hit the news feeds people would have begun talking amongst themselves. They would wonder if he was still fit to lead. They would hold meetings to discuss their opinions about him and then pretty soon those opinions would hit the airwaves and then the entire country would be in an uproar. This is not unlike the steady flow and rising current of public opinions that we see everyday in our social media feeds.
It’s the same as the water cooler talk that happens in the break room at our jobs where we complain about our employers and coworkers. It happens when friends get together to gossip about other friends. It happens when children are upset with their parents for some decision they made. Everybody has an opinion about everyone and everything. And the people around David definitely had some opinions about him and they weren’t afraid to make their opinions known publicly. What do you do when the people around you have an opinion of you that aligns more with the enemy of your soul rather than the Savior of your life? Look at what David does in these circumstances.
#1: David Calls Out To The Lord (1)
David says “Answer 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.” David knew that there were some very powerful people who were dead set on smearing his name. How scary would this be to know that there was a large majority of people in your work place who wanted to see you removed from your position? How devastating would it be to know that your own child had stirred up the rest of the family not to mention the entire nation against you? This would have been a fearful and devastating season for David as he faced the courts of public opinion..
I would imagine that the knee jerk reaction would be to call everyone on the carpet or at least deploy some military forces to quiet the dissention. The equivalent in our day would be a social media rant and a bunch of gossip. But David does something different here. He calls out to the Lord. He begs the Lord to answer him. He refers to God as the God of my righteousness. He remembers that God has given him relief in the past when he was in distress. He asks the Lord to be gracious towards him.
In a nutshell here, David goes before the Lord before he goes before other men and women. He speaks with the Lord before he speaks to men and women. He remembers that the Lord is the justifier of his children. He doesn’t need to justify himself or to defend himself or to prove himself to the men and the women who are coming against him. This is such a beautiful picture of what to do when you are afraid of the court of public opinion.
When you are afraid you can come before the throne of God’s grace and be reminded that in Christ you are perfect. The blood of Christ has washed you clean. You belong to your Father in Heaven and there is nothing in all of creation that can reverse the signature on your adoption papers. Your Father will never leave you or forsake you. He will be with you in every storm to the end of the age. These truths are what give David the courage to stand up from his kneeled position in his prayer closet to address his enemies in public. And the way he addresses his enemies is fascinating.
#2: David Rebukes His Enemies (2)
David knew he had enemies in his kingdom. Even though he had pardoned the thousands of people who had risen up against him in his son Absalom’s rebellion, he still had some people who were talking trash. He addresses them in the form of a rebuke in verse 2 when he says “O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah. This is an honest and direct rebuke of his enemies. They loved to shame David rather than honor him. They loved the pursuit of a sizzling story filled with controversial lies. And David wants them to think about this. His use of the word “Selah” once again is meant to cause his enemies to stop and think about their sin against him.
We all should be in the regular business of pressing pause to reflect on how we’ve sinned against one another. We should regularly acknowledge how we’ve dishonored, shamed, and helped to spread lies about other people. We should especially think about how our sin is not just against other sinners but is actually primarily against our sinless God.
One of the things I love about David is his ability to wear his heart on his shirtsleeve. Psalm 51 is his prayer of repentance after reflecting on his sin against Bathsheba and her husband Urriah. David had committed political rape and used his power to murder her husband to cover up his sin. After he was confronted by the prophet Nathan he fell on his face before the Lord in anguish. And his prayer was a cry to the Lord to not take his Spirit from him and he recognized that against the Lord alone had he sinned. His prayer doesn’t diminish the fact that he had sinned against his best friend by sleeping with his wife and then having him murdered. It’s an acknowledgement that the greater sin was against his sinless Lord.
This is what all of us need to pause and reflect upon. We need to think about the ways that we dishonor and shame and buy into lies about our Savior. Every one of us has social media feeds rolling through our hearts and minds that are full of dishonor and wickedness. We need to feel the sting of this rebuke personally. We need to be reminded that although we feel the sting of other people’s sin against us we are still sinners in need of saving. And we not only need to feel the sting of our own sin we need to listen to the instruction of our Father in Heaven through other sinful people. This is exactly what David does next as he faces the court of public opinion.
#3: David Instructs His Enemies (3-5)
David says “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call him. Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” In the midst of being confronted with our sin it’s easy to forget that we belong to the Lord. It’s easy to get angry with the person who rebuked us. It’s easy to go to bed with our minds and our hearts swirling with anxiety and fear and hurt. It’s easy to go from bad to worse in our walk with the Lord as we begin to put our trust in our own strength rather than in the Lord.
This is why David simply instructs his enemies to remember that the Lord sets his children apart from the ungodly. There is a stark contrast between the ungodly and the godly once again. The Lord hears his children but he does not listen to his enemies. His children will not go to sleep angry. His children will lie down to sleep and ponder their sin and their need for a perfect Savior. The court of public opinion does not define a child of God.
A child of God will not be controlled by fear or worry or doubt because they know who and whose they are. Their hearts will be silent before the Lord because they have taken their fear and their pain and their doubts to the Lord and they have contemplated his faithfulness. This is the picture of what a believer does when the fear of man comes into the bedroom of their soul like the valley of the shadow of death. This is a clear picture of deep communion with the Lord in the midst of our battle against Satan, sin and death. This kind of communion or relationship with the Lord helps a person to rest in the Lord. And that’s exactly what David does when he closes out this Psalm.
#4: David Rests His Case With The Lord (6-8)
He calls out to the Lord once more and he says, “There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Some scholars have rightly pointed out that if Psalm 3 is the morning Psalm that David sang when he woke up on the day when all hell broke loose with Absalom, then Psalm 4 is the evening Psalm that he prayed when he went to bed that night.
In these final three verses David rests his case with the Lord. He returns from his public rebuke and public instruction of his enemies back to his prayer closet to commune once again with the Lord in prayer. He laments that many of his enemies are searching wildly for some new god to show them something good. They want some new king, some new relationship, some new drug or some new earthly pursuit to make them feel good. David begs the Lord to shine the light of his presence on his children. His heart is full of joy because the promise of Heaven has captured his conscience despite the court of public opinion.
Nothing on earth can compare with the hope of eternity. There’s no created thing that can bring more lasting joy than a relationship with your Creator. This truth will give you a kind of peace that allows you to sleep because you know that true safety is not bound up in the momentary pleasures of this world. True safety is bound up in the hope of the resurrection.
I don’t know what sin you struggle with and I don’t know what kind of fear or hurt or worry you walked in with today. But I do know this; God wants you to come to him with your worry, your doubt and your fear. He wants you to ponder your sin against him. He wants you to feel the sting of his rebuke. He wants you to surrender to his instruction. He wants you to rest in his salvation as you look forward to the hope of the resurrection.
God will not help you in the midst of six troubles and then leave you wanting in the seventh. God does nothing by halves and he will never cease to help you until you cease to have a need. You will speak more boldly to other people if you have a more constant conversation with the Lord. If you dare to face your Maker in prayer, you will not tremble when speaking to powerful men.
Whatever you walked in with today, you can lay it down at the foot of the bloody cross in the doorway of an empty tomb. You can rest your weary heart in the hands of your Savior because the petty courts of public opinion don’t hold a candle to the King’s Bench in heaven. – Amen!