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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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PSALM 4

EVENING PRAYER OF TRUST IN GOD

(FOR THE CHIEF MUSICIAN; ON STRINGED INSTRUMENTS. A PSALM OF DAVID)

Ps. 4:1-2

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness;

Thou hast set me at large when I was in distress:

Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

O ye sons of men, how long shall my glory be turned into dishonor?

How long will ye love vanity, and seek after falsehood? (Selah)"

Regarding the inscription, Matthew Henry observed that in the Old Testament, "All of the singing was done by the choristers, not by the people; but the New Testament appoints all Christians to sing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16)."F1 We also should point out that the use of instruments of music by the Jews constitutes no authority whatever for Christian use of them in the worship of God.


 
Verses 1, 2
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness; Thou hast set me at large [when I was] in distress: Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. O ye sons of men, how long shall my glory be turned into dishonor? [How long] will ye love vanity, and seek after falsehood? [Selah
Barnes understood this to mean, O my righteous God;F2 but aside from the fact that there could be something in the Hebrew which justifies such an opinion, it appears to us that Matthew Henry gave a much more accurate meaning of the passage as it stands in our version.

Henry gave the meaning as, "God Himself is not merely a righteous God in his own right but He is also the author of my righteous disposition."F3 God is indeed the author of all the good that might be done by anyone.

Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer…
This is the dual petition which is the burden of this chapter. Note that the worshipper does not plead any merit or worthiness of his own but bases his petition upon the mercy of God.

O ye sons of men…
Some affirm that the meaning here is great men. In any case, the passage assumes that man is a noble creature, endowed with reason, and other marvelous gifts of ability and intelligence, indicating that it is shamefully degrading to men themselves who refuse to honor and obey their Creator. Of course, they also dishonor, not merely themselves, but their God also.

That love vanity and seek after falsehood…
Those familiar with the KJV on this verse might be puzzled by the word leasing which appears here instead of falsehood. As Barnes said, `Leasing' is the old English word for `a lie.'F4 It is the evil genius of humanity that very frequently throughout their history they have, Changed the truth of God for a lie and have worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 1:25).

Chrysostom is credited with having said that if he had the privilege of preaching to all mankind at one time and that he could speak only once that it would be from this text.F6

Thou hast set me at large…
Other versions render this: thou hast given me room, and thou hast freed me.F5

But know that Jehovah hath set apart for himself him that is godly:

Jehovah will hear when I call unto him.

Stand in awe, and sin not:

Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. (Selah)"

The greatest of all blessings is that of belonging to that special group of human beings whom God has set apart from all mankind as his very own people. God will nurture and encourage his children; he will hear them when they pray; he will forgive their sins and mistakes, provided only that they repent, acknowledge their lapses and seek the Father's loving forgiveness.


 
Verses 3, 4
But know that Jehovah hath set apart for himself him that is godly: Jehovah will hear when I call unto him. Stand in awe, and sin not: Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. [Selah
The perpetual danger to God's children is that they might presume upon his love and mercy and fail to manifest the proper fear and awe of all sinful indulgences whatsoever; hence the special warning here.

Commune with your own heart…
What is recommended here is the most serious consideration of one's actions with a constant view of making sure that they confirm to the will of God. When one has retired to bed at night is a good quiet time for such consideration. David himself practiced what he here counsels others to do, namely, meditating upon God's will while reclining in bed (Psalms 63:6).

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,

And put your trust in Jehovah.

Many there are that say, who will show us any good?

Jehovah, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us."


 
Verses 5, 6
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in Jehovah. Many there are that say, Who will show us [any] good? Jehovah, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.
This is a reference to keeping the Lord's commandments as diligently, faithfully, and continually as is humanly possible. Of course; Christian sacrifices are utterly unlike the bloody offerings of the Old Testament, as indicated in 1 Pet. 2:5.

Light of thy countenance upon us…
The literal Hebrew word here for countenance is face. James Moffatt's Translation of the Bible, 1929, rendered the passage Smile upon us, and the Good News Bible rendered it, Look on us with kindness.

Thou hast put gladness in my heart,

More than they have when their grain and their new wine are increased.

In peace will I both lay me down and sleep;

For thou Jehovah, alone makest me dwell in safety."

The dramatic contrast in these verses is between the pessimism, dissatisfaction, and unhappiness of the vast majority of mankind with the joyful gladness and satisfaction of the soul truly in harmony with God's will.

It is truly pitiful how little there is to cheer the human heart other than what is promised for those who seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

What can the unbeliever expect? At best, his life cannot extend very far into the future; the world's riches shall never be received except by a tragically small fraction of mankind; and those who do receive earthly affluence can never maintain their status except for a few fleeting tragic years. For every mortal life promises only a few days and much trouble. Sickness, disease, incompetence and death itself await every man.

But how wonderful are the precious promises to the children of God! The abundant life, the joyful heart, the happy souls are limited absolutely to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the pure in heart, the meek and lowly. Jesus came and suffered and died for the benefit of all men that indeed they might have "life and have it more abundantly"! How amazing it is that so few are willing to accept upon the terms under which God has made it available!

We like the concise way that Kyle M. Yates described the joyful gladness of Christian service, "God's help in time of need causes more gladness than bumper crops."F7


 
Verses 7, 8
Thou hast put gladness in my heart, More than [they have] when their grain and their new wine are increased. In peace will I both lay me down and sleep; For thou, Jehovah, alone makest me dwell in safety.
As Spurgeon said, They slumber sweetly whom faith rocks to sleep.F8

These are days when environmentalists are very loud and demanding in their postulations about how to save our earth; but they are totally wrong. Our earth is unequivocally doomed to destruction. God's Word has definitely projected "the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20); and we can be very certain of its ultimate termination; and those who have anchored their hopes in this world alone will also be terminated with it.


Footnotes for Psalms 4
1: Matthew Henry, On the Old Testament (Fleming H. Revell Company), p. 251.
2: Albert Barnes, On the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House), p. 34.
3: Matthew Henry, Ibid.
4: Albert Barnes, Ibid., p. 35.
5: Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House,), p. 23.
6: John W. Baigent, The New Layman's Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House,, 1979), p. 601.
7: Kyle M. Yates, Wycliffe Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1962), p. 497.
8: Charles H. Spurgeon, Ibid., p. 24.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Psalm 4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=004>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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