The 4th Psalm bears certain similarities to, and in some respects it complements, the 3rd Psalm. As with Psalm 3, this song is written by King David. Unlike it’s predecessor this Psalm has not a title which reveals the circumstances when it was written. Some have conjectured that it was possibly written, also, during the time of Absalom’s rebellion. As with the 3rd Psalm, David in this place is a suffering man, and it is this agony that draws out the words. Yet, the suffering differs from the previous Psalm. There, David, was in a place of physical danger. In the 4th Psalm he is under psychological attack, being under the threat of malicious of tongues which were turning “his glory into shame.” This is a Psalm for those whose characters are being assassinated, who are the subjects of unjust criticism and who are the victims of malicious gossip. There is one other point of similarity between the Psalms 3 and 4. Both are beautiful expressions of peace and trust in cruel and difficult situations. In the Psalm 3 the words were written after a good night’s sleep. The 4th Psalm, was written in the darkness prior to the eyes being closed in rest. For this reason it was been called “An Evening Psalm”.
1: David’s Prayer v1
a His Agony
“Hear me when I call”;
The agony of soul and mind is palpable. The Psalmist must take his recourse to God; where else can he turn? Rather than being a place of last resort in seasons of extremity prayer ought to be our first port of call, to a God who hears and to whom we can appeal.
b His Address
“O God of my righteousness”;
When David believed he was being abused unrighteously he committed his ways to the righteous God. Whatever injustice was being meted out by the hands of men he was aware that there was one who would judge his cause honourably.
c His Adoration
“thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress”;
God had undertaken for him in all of his pain in the past. He was encouraged to prayer as a result of past responses in his time of need. He had never God to be failure.
d His Appeal
“have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”;
The writer was not so foolish as to protest his total innocence. He was aware of his sinfulness and corruption. He was a man in need of mercy. Therefore he made his appeal to the one who alone can dispense mercy. He approached God with humility, with reverence and with confession of soul.
2: David’s Presentation v2-5
Remarkably, as well as making his appeal to God, David also presents his case to those who were bringing the false accusation. The order is important; he approached God first before going to his persecutors.
a His Concern
“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.”;
He accused his enemies of emptiness and lying. They were the sons of men, which appears to indicate that they were men of some importance. This did not prevent David from speaking to them is a direct manner. His approach while being direct is also measured and without rhetoric. He was not overcome with bitterness and anger. He was simple and honest in his protestation of innocence.
b His Confidence
“But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him.”;
David without pretension, testifies to his position within the land. He was the anointed of Jehovah. He was given his position leadership by God himself. He had every confidence that God would hear his prayer. Likewise the Christian can suffer every conceivable trial with confidence because there is a righteous judge who even looks at Satan with the words, “The Lord rebuke thee…Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire.”
d His Commendation
David displays his tenderness and forgiveness towards his enemies by commending his faith to them. He was not unlike the Saviour who prayed for his persecutors and tormentors while suspended from the cross. He certainly followed our Lord’s teaching to love our enemies and pray for those who spitefully abuse us, saying all manner of things against us falsely. He encouraged his enemies stand still and think about their lives while upon their beds in the stillness of the night, We do well to take this advice and consider spiritual matters while resting on the pillow. He urged his enemies to repent from their wickedness and offer sacrifices making atonement. He showed great grace in wishing that his enemies should be converted. His appeal was evangelical. He preached forgiveness on the basis of blood sacrifice. This remains more than ever, the only hope for our depraved and desperate world. What an antidote for hatred and strife; preaching the Gospel and winning the souls of the lost, even our enemies.
3: David’s Peace v6-8
As with the 3rd Psalm there is a connection with the past, present and future. Looking within, behind and before David found himself to be encircled with the beauty of God’s peace.
a Present Predicament
“ There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.”;
When the world doubted if David could be helped in the matter that afflicted him, the King prayed that God would lift up his countenance. It matters not whose countenance is dark towards us, as long as the countenance of God is friendly.
b Past Prosperity
“Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.”;
The worldly man sees his prosperity in terms of material wealth, reflected in the wine and corn at harvest time. David, however, sees matters differently. His delight in the Lord, a joy given to him through grace, was more satisfying than any prosperity enjoyed materially in the world. Circumstances can deprive us of our riches but the riches of joy and peace cannot eradicated, not even by vindictive liars. Only God can insert gladness deep down into our hearts.
Thomas Watson wrote that, “Divine joys are heart joys” citing Zechariah 10:7 and John 16:22:
“And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord.”
“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.”
c Prospective Provision
“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.”
Matthew Henry wrote of this verse:
“So a good man having by faith and prayer cast his care upon God, he resteth night and day , and is very easy, leaving it to his God to to perform all things for him according to his holy will.”
For 22 Years James Guthrie had faithfully pastored flocks in Lauder and in Stirling. When Charles 2nd was crowned King over England, Ireland and Scotland, however, there several Scotsmen he wanted dead. Two were noblemen, The Marquis of Agyll and Archibald Johnston known as Lord Wariston. Johnston was the lawyer who framed the National Covenant of 1638 and was a member of the famous Wesmisnter Assembly of Divines. Two were pastors. One of these ministers was Samuel Rutherford, the most famous Son of the Covenant. Rutherford’s crime was writing a book called “The Law is King” where he argued that even the King is not above the law and that all men are created equal and that rulers rule the people for the people and are empowered by them. The 4th member of this little band who had so angered the new King was James Guthrie. His crime also was a book; “The Causes of God’s Wrath Against Scotland”. He argued that Covenanters brought a terrible judgement upon Scotland for crowning Charles 2nd as King of Scotland after Parliament had won the Civil War and had had executed Charles 1st. Rutherford avoided execution by dying first at St Andrews. Guthrie like the other three faced a grisly end. On the Friday evening he wrote his final letters and then he slept well until 4 in the morning. When his cell mate asked him how he was he simply said,
“This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us be glad and rejoice in it.”
From the scaffold he was heard to say
“I would not exchange this scaffold with the place or mitre of the greatest prelate in Britain…Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One. I shall not die! The Covenants, The Covenants, shall yet be Scotland’s reviving.”
Grace to help in time of time is a remarkable unfailing gift. Let us learn to trust God for his peace whatever calamities befall us and many have done in situations more extreme than the ones that we fund ourselves to be in.
Romans 15:13 “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”