Psalm Chapter 4: David Calls on the Lord

Jan 26th, 2012 | By | Category: Psalms, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Psa. 4:0 To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David.

Remarks such as this one, which preface many Psalms, were in the original manuscripts. Thus “To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David” is in the text itself. Since the remark is instructional, it was not put in the main part of the Psalm but serves as a signpost or preface telling something about the Psalm. Many Psalms do not have a heading, but for those that do, this is one reason the Hebrew manuscripts are frequently one verse out of sync with the King James and other Bible versions we are accustomed to reading. Generally speaking, the Psalms in the Hebrew text are one verse longer.

The “chief Musician” led, or directed, the singing of the Psalm. Similarly today, with either an orchestra or a choral group, there is a conductor, or leader. The title “chief Musician” is frequently used in prefaces to the Psalms, indicating that the instruction was given to him. Moreover, the preface usually tells whether a stringed or a wind instrument was to be used or if the Psalm was to be sung without instruments. Of course the music would be in harmony with the content of the Psalm itself.

“Neginoth,” which pertains to the fingers and includes the thought of strings, is in the plural. Therefore, the music accompanying the singing of Psalm 4 was played predominately with stringed instruments such as a harp. The particular stringed instrument to be used would depend on the nature of the Psalm itself. With the Fourth Psalm, the mood frame is apparent almost from the beginning.

Psa. 4:1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

David wrote, “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness … Have [now] mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.” The preface does not tell, as it did in the previous Psalm, what gave rise to the particular comments of this Psalm. Since David is sometimes called “the sweet psalmist” or “the sweet singer,” he evidently had a very good voice, and on certain occasions, he may have sung the Psalm he composed (2 Sam. 23:1). Only the Tabernacle existed when David was alive, and the instructions for the Tabernacle made no provision for singing, at least not during Moses’ time. There is an absence of information on any particular organization of a choir. To the contrary, when the Temple was built in the days of Solomon, instructions were given for singing. However, the interim period between the days of the Tabernacle in the wilderness wanderings and the building of the Temple was quite different. Now the Israelites were in the Promised Land, and the Tabernacle was presumably residing at Shiloh.

On one tour of the Holy Land, we visited Shiloh, and as we were exiting the place, we were rather shocked at Israel’s lack of respect and paucity of understanding, for the site where the entrance to the Tabernacle would have been was being used as a garbage dump. As a nation, Israel pays little attention to the sayings of the prophets and of the Psalms. Fortunately today, a remnant in Israel are going back to singing the Psalms, and some have even accepted Jesus in one manner or another. Possibly some services were performed when the Tabernacle was at Shiloh, but we can see why David was anxious to have the structure brought to Jerusalem. Therefore, even during his lifetime, he began to make arrangements for transporting the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle.

Q: Did David make the musical instruments himself?

A: According to tradition, he invented some of the stringed instruments. We would not be surprised if that was the case, for he was musically oriented. Music and songs with words are like prayers, and they are very effective when one is in the right mood frame and the proper spirit of reverence. The Heavenly Father hears the hymns being sung to His honor and praise.

Q: Will the Third Temple have singing?

A: Yes. There will be two singing chambers in the future Temple. In addition to serving in the Temple, all of the priests will be singers. Incidentally, one does not have to be a soloist. When congregational singing is properly directed, the multitude of voices blends together beautifully, especially if the singers are in sympathy with the mood of the song. Thus the singers do not necessarily have to be experts.

Q: Are instruments mentioned in the instructions for the Third Temple?

A: No, although there are hints. The words of many of the Psalms will probably be sung on the appropriate occasion in the future Temple arrangement.

In verse 1, David was pleading with God, acknowledging that any righteousness he now had was of Him—“O God of my righteousness.” Of course the Ancient Worthies did not have the robe of Christ’s righteousness, but God encouraged those who were of the right heart condition. As one drew near to Him, God drew near to the individual in a “friendship” type of justification, particularly during the Jewish Age.

“Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.” In what way would a person in distress be enlarged? A hymn expresses the sentiment that sometimes in the depth of sorrow, one encounters a world of experience that teaches certain lessons. This is especially true when God’s providence responds to a prayer uttered in the depths of despair and depression. As a result of the prayer being answered, the individual appreciates the Heavenly Father that much more.

Even in David’s day, answered prayer enriched one to a further development of faith and obedience. Thus those who experience sorrow can be taught, and can learn to appreciate, things in a way that might not otherwise be possible.

Psa. 4:2 O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.

The word “leasing” means “lies,” as stated in the Revised Standard: “O men, how long shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah.” The Psalmist David was being moved by the Holy Spirit. “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). Sometimes they did not fully understand the words coming out of their lips, but the nature of whatever was exhaled through the power of the Holy Spirit was dependent on the messenger’s being in a proper disposition or mood frame.

The individuals who were mechanically moved were no doubt surprised at what was specifically spoken, but they had to be in the right mood frame and have some experience that would be in harmony with what came forth from their lips. Here the words “my glory” indicate that David was speaking as the mouthpiece of God. In the Third Psalm, for example, David, who was still king, was fleeing from Absalom. In David’s old age, his son Absalom was planning to put David out of office and, through devious means, wanted the people to proclaim him as their king. Thus David was in the right mood when he penned the Third Psalm because the purpose of kingship was to honor God. The king was to be the servant of God and His mouthpiece particularly in civil matters. (The two offices of king and priest were separate under the Tabernacle arrangement.)

In verse 2, David was in the right mood frame, but with an insurrection occurring, it was as if God were talking. In other words, the Lord was speaking, but David was having an experience in harmony with what was being expressed. “O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame [through your negligence in worship and your disobedience]? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing [lies]? Selah.” Two sons of David, Absalom and Adonijah, were planning to overthrow their father. First, Absalom tried to endear himself to the people.

In fact, he seems to be a type of Satan. With his handsome appearance and excellent bearing, he was a natural leader. What got him in trouble in the final analysis was his hair—his glory. Usually hair is the glory of the woman, but Absalom‘s hair was so luxuriant that when he let it grow for one year and then had it polled, the weight was 200 shekels (2 Sam. 14:25,26).

Incidentally, as a race, some Jews have thick, curly hair. Pride and the desire to honor self brought Absalom’s demise, and the same sins will bring about Satan’s eventual destruction.

The insertion of the word “Selah” shows David’s depth of feeling. Probably only a person going through a similar situation would fully appreciate the depth of his feeling here.

Comment: In regard to the question “How long will ye love vanity?” Solomon said that everything was vanity except the Lord (Eccl. 12:8,13,14). Anyone who looks in another direction is seeking vanity.

Reply: Yes. David used “vanity” a number of times, although not as prominently as the word is used in the Book of Ecclesiastes, where Solomon, the son of David, recorded his experiences and observations in life (Psa. 10:7; 12:2; 39:5,11; 62:9; 94:11; 144:4).

In a recent talk on the topic of pride going before a fall, Bro. David Bruce pointed out that where there were two sons, the younger son was usually the one to be honored. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18).

Psa. 4:3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.

Comment: Verse 3 teaches sanctification.

Reply: The word “sanctification” means “setting apart” or “both hands full.”

This Psalm and the previous one were probably written in the latter part of David’s life, yet in Holy Writ, they are the Third and Fourth Psalms. It seems they were placed consecutively because they are the same mood frame. The point to be noticed is that these Psalms were not written or placed according to the sequence of events, for they were included in Book One of the five books of Psalms. Since there were too many Psalms for one scroll, they were put in multiple books, or on scrolls made of animal skins, for reasonable handling.

Comment: In verse 1, David pleaded with God to hear his call. By verse 3, David was sure God would hear his call.

Reply: David had sinned, but if the sins weighed on his mind throughout his entire life, that spirit would have dampened many of the Psalms. Instead he was continually praising God with a joyous spirit, as is especially noticeable in the later Psalms. How did David know he was forgiven?

Comment: (1) David was allowed to continue his reign. (2) He paid the price of retribution. For example, his first son of Bath-sheba died. (3) God told him to collect the materials, and Solomon would build the Temple.

Reply: When David was in a somber, depressed mood, he did what we are sometimes advised to do; that is, we get out of that rut by counting our blessings, naming them one by one, as the hymn goes. By taking inventory of God’s leadings in the past and tracing them as far as possible up to the present, we begin to have confidence and reason with more sanity while we are in a down mood. The anchor of faith does not loosen its hold.

David knew that he loved God. When we take inventory, we examine what we have done. We may even ask, “Do I wish I had never consecrated?” It is encouraging to find that no matter what our experiences may be, we are glad we consecrated our life to serve and obey the Lord.

Unfortunately, we sometimes hear brethren express doubts and misgivings such as, “Perhaps the Lord did not accept or recognize my consecration.” Such doubts must be stopped lest they lead to the dangerous situation of leaving the truth and going back into the world. Critical times of testing come, especially as we mature. In those trials, we should take serious inventory to see that God did miraculously call us. Unless we make a full consecration, it is not possible to understand the truth in depth. Past providences become very meaningful as we reflect upon them. Just as Jehovah proved, or tested, natural Israel to see how they would react to His providences, so that is the experience of the Christian. At times, it will appear for a little while as if the Lord has forsaken us, and such experiences are necessary for our development and enlargement. When these tests are passed  successfully, our Christian experience is enlarged, and we are strengthened for the next experience that will come upon us in due time.

Psa. 4:4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

Comment: Sometimes it is advisable to just be quiet so that we will not get ourselves in trouble.

Awe is a form of reverence. We “stand in awe” that God even called and dealt with us in the first place when the whole world is in darkness. We were privileged and honored to receive the invitation to give our heart to the Lord. How many of the human race are given that privilege?

Many are born in nations where they do not hear the gospel at all, and some live in nations where there are very few Christians to communicate with. Of course conditions are changing with the computer and technology, but that was not true of most of the Gospel Age. It is essential for the Christian to communicate with God in prayer, making requests known, for we need assurances, providences, and companionship in order to recognize that He is still dealing with us. Sometimes when we ask for an assurance, the answer may not come for months, and then we get a distinct response to our earnest prayer.

“Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still.” In other words, we are to think upon the Lord. Sometimes after our closing prayer at night, we try to think on something good in God’s Holy Word or Providence. We stand in awe during the daytime, and we are in awe in thought upon our bed at night. Thus we are in constant communication with the Lord in one way or another, thinking upon Him, His people, and His Word—things we know would be pleasing to the Heavenly Father.

Q: Does “be still” mean to be at peace?

A: Yes. Verse 1 was the opposite condition where David was depressed, but as he remembered God’s past dealings, he got stronger in faith and was enlarged.

It is always good to reflect back on our consecration. We know we made that commitment, and in doing so, we obeyed God. To fully dedicate our life, giving our all to the Lord, is the most we can do. Reason tells us that if God called us and we did His bidding, He is pleased. This reflection should lift us out of our down position to stronger faith.

“Selah” is again mentioned in this prayer, showing how outgoing David was in his worship.

We are reminded of the Apostle John’s saying “Amen” in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 1:6,7; 7:12; 22:20,21). “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” John’s remarks show his responsive heart condition of thankfulness to God for what has been done for us.

Psa. 4:5 Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

Verse 5 pertains to offering the “sacrifices of righteousness.” At this time, there was no Temple, but there was a Tabernacle with services. David gave this advice to others: “Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.” Just as David put his total safety and security in God, so it is with us. Our safety under any circumstance is in God—especially when everything seems to be awry, for we have many enemies and relatively few supporters in our Christian walk. Of course we also trust in Jesus, in the robe of his righteousness, knowing that our prayers and petitions to the Heavenly Father will be heard.

If we put our confidence in God, who can be against us? David was saying, “I am putting my trust in God even under this circumstance where my reign over Israel is in jeopardy.”

Comment: A lesson for us in verses 4 and 5 is that we stand in awe as we reflect at night on God’s dealings in our life and offer our sacrifices of righteousness. Verse 5 is like a command to fulfill our covenant of consecration and trust in God.

Reply: Yes, verse 4 is related, for it speaks of communing with our own heart upon our bed at night. This Fourth Psalm is the nighttime Psalm.

Q: Is obedience a sacrifice of righteousness, the principle being that to obey is better than sacrifice?

A: Yes. A sacrifice is meaningless if it is not accompanied by a right heart condition, and the right heart condition has to be accompanied with obedience.

Psa. 4:6 There be many that say, Who will show us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

Psa. 4:7 Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.

It would be better to omit the supplied word “any.” Many said, “Who will show us good?” In his experience, David was in the minority, for his enemies were more numerous than his supporters. A few hundred were loyal to David, whereas the people at large were more comfortable with Absalom. Their affections were being turned toward David’s son.

“LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.” David was making a comparison between him and his supporters on the one hand, who were not in public favor, and their opposers on the other hand. David had confidence in God and in the anointing that Samuel had given him many years earlier. He trusted that the anointing was still with him, having that feeling of security. Even under this condition of turmoil, he was happier than his enemies, who seemed to be prospering. Their joy was ephemeral and relatively meaningless, whereas his joy was abiding, for he knew that he was in God’s favor and that he was trying to do God’s will to the best of his ability. Therefore, he felt that his lot was better than theirs. He had asked in verse 2, “How long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing [falsehood]?” David was contrasting the experience of his enemies with his experience. They had a false faith and a false confidence that were not based on proper obedience to God, whereas he was truly trying to do God’s will. His experience had more of a foundation and substantiality.

People were afraid to show support for David because they felt his was a losing cause. In fact, even the favored wise person whom David consulted changed his loyalty and went over to Absalom, believing that David’s son would be the new king. David felt that the turmoil he was experiencing was a test of his devotion to God, but knowing what was in his heart, he was confident and happy even under these circumstances. He knew he was fully dedicated to doing God’s will, and the others were not. David highly valued the spiritual experiences he was having, for he saw the vanity, falsehood, and emptiness of the material benefits and popularity his enemies were seeking and receiving.

Psa. 4:8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.

With the gladness that was in David’s heart, he could go to sleep in peace, confidence, and safety, for he knew he loved God and His Word and instruction. David knew there was a purpose in whatever experience befell him. He was happy in his experience because he was learning. David and those with him who put their trust wholly in Jehovah could sleep with a good conscience, which was more valuable than any silver or gold.


(2004-2006 Study)

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