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Psalm 4

By: Scott Morton

<To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm of David.>

David has written this psalm as well. He is credited with writing 73 of the psalms, which apparently made him a very prolific writer of music. David understood the importance of music related to the worshipping of God. One example of this is that he had appointed Asaph to be the leader of the musicians. This led to him writing twelve of the psalms and his sons being known as the musicians (Ezra 2:41). He is also described as being skillful in playing music. When he goes to join the court of King Saul, they were searching for an individual to come play the harp in the court and he is chosen based on his ability (1 Samuel 16:16-22).

The chief musician (in the time of David this was Asaph) was to lead the nation of Israel in song as part of their worship. There are 55 psalms written to the chief musician, indicating this was an integral part of their worship. God has always been pleased with songs as part of worship:

Job 38:4-7

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. [5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? [6] Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; [7] When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Exodus 15:1

Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.

Psalms 33:1-3

Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright. [2] Praise the LORD with harp: sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings. [3] Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

These are just a few instances of music being used to worship God. When God had created Satan, there was a built in orchestra put in him (Ezekiel 28:13). The role Satan had was to lead the creation in worship of God, which evidently included music as part of this worship. This is why the idea of music is so important, because God intended us to use music in this manner.

The phrase on Neginoth refers to stringed instruments. There were specific instructions given on the types of instruments to play this psalm. Stringed instruments had been around for a long time (Genesis 4:21). There is nothing that would indicate exactly which stringed instrument was intended to be used. This phrase is used at the beginning of several psalms for this particular type of instrument, as well as used in Habakkuk 3:19. David would have made this choice based on the way this song would have sounded. If we think about when we hear a song played, it can sound radically different if it is played on a piano compared with a guitar. David, as a master musician, would have made a choice based on how he intended for the song to sound.

Psalm 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 starts out this psalm by making a reference to the God of his righteousness. Jeremiah states this is the name of God, the Lord our righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6). This would be related to his keeping of the law. The Bible makes a reference to David being a man after the heart of God. David also declares the uprightness of his heart in passages such as:

1 Chronicles 29:17

I know also, my God, that thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness. As for me, in the uprightness of mine heart I have willingly offered all these things: and now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee.

In order for David's heart to be considered in this way, he would have been a follower of the law and would have been doing the things the law stated. The only time there is a reference to David doing something against the law was in the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah. He let his desires take over in this instance, which led to him committing adultery with Bathsheba and ordering the murder of Uriah. God did not want him to do these things, but he ends up using this to further the program with Israel, as Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba.

God only has dealings with those that are righteous in His eyes. He cannot have anything to do with sin. This is why David appeals to the righteousness that he knows he has from following the law. In this dispensation, we have been made righteous by placing our trust in the finished work of Calvary, the shed blood on the cross (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, 2 Corinthians 5:20-21).

David states God has enlarged him when he is in distress. If you look at the prayer offered up by Jabez in 1 Chronicles 4, you see he prays for his coasts to be enlarged. He wanted more land. The idea of being enlarged means there is more of whatever it is being talked about.

When David states he is enlarged, it means God is helping to build him up when he is facing problems. A perfect picture of David in a time of distress is Psalm 51, where he is speaking after the sin he had committed is revealed and he is facing judgment from God for what he has done. There are also other times where God had delivered him from problems he was dealing with, such as 1 Samuel 17:37, 19:11-12, and Psalm 40:1-3.

At times when someone is facing problems, they do not feel like things are going well. If they start to dwell on these things for too long, they start to fall into a state of depression, which can lead to further problems they have to deal with. David knows God can help him to get out of any problems, as He is the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3).

The process of building someone up (enlarging) is what we refer to as edification. David was looking for the edification of God, which he knew would come from two sources: mercy and prayer. This is why he continues the verse with these two things, as he knows this is how God is going to be able to deal with the situation.

The mercy of God is something opposite to what man truly does deserve. Mankind deserves the wrath of God because of the sin man has committed. David is talking about mercy in specific circumstances he is dealing with when he is writing this psalm. For Israel, there was only one way this mercy would have been demonstrated to them. If God was going to demonstrate mercy towards them, He would take the problem completely away from them. This would often be done through miraculous circumstances, so they would know it was God who had demonstrated mercy and this was not done by other means. David asked for this mercy whenever he was facing problems (Psalm 56:1, 57:1).

This is in contrast to what we see in this dispensation. Paul speaks about how we are given to suffer (Philippians 1:29) and that these sufferings are used to bring glory to God. He went through circumstances where he asked for mercy and was told the grace of God was sufficient for him (2 Corinthians 12:1-10). We are also promised positions of reigning with Jesus Christ when we suffer for His sake (2 Timothy 2:11-13). We do not get mercy in a physical sense like Israel did, because the blessings we have are in spiritual places (Ephesians 1:3).

David also mentions for God to hear his prayer. God does hear the prayers of those that are saved. This is because prayer is communication with God. Prayer has been part of what man was supposed to do since Genesis. There are always some dispensational restrictions we have to understand related to prayer, as not all passages about prayer can be applied to man at all times.

Psalm 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 speaker in this psalm changes in this verse. Where it was David in verse 1, it is clearly God speaking here. This is evident by the question He is asking here. He wants to know how long will men turn the glory of God into shame. It could not be David speaking, because the glory of man is worthless and is no higher than shame in the eyes of God. God is responding to the prayer of David and is asking a question in response.

Man has had a negative effect on the glory of God through sin. This started all the way back in the garden of Eden. Adam was created perfect (without sin) and would have remained this way if he would have continued to follow the commands given to him by God. However, sin entered the picture when Adam broke the command of God, by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Because of this action, sin entered the picture and has been a problem for man ever since.

Israel clearly had an idea of what they were to do. The law had been given to them after they had left Egypt. God clearly gave the instructions they were to follow. Unfortunately, Israel was not able to follow these commands. This is why God gives the information we see in Deuteronomy 28. If they obeyed the Word of God, they would receive the blessings spoken of in the first 14 verses of the chapter. If Israel did not follow the commands of God, they would receive the curses of God listed from verse 15 through the rest of the chapter.

Instead of seeking the glory of God, they were seeking the vain glory of men. They would rather be respected of men than do the things contained in the Word of God. The major problem they had with this was that God is not a respecter of persons (Deuteronomy 10:17, Acts 10:34). Everything done by man is vain, or empty, before God. This is why the book of Ecclesiastes was written. It gives a clear picture of how the things of man are viewed by God. Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, declares all of the things he attempted to do to bring glory through man, as vanity.

The glory of God can be the only standard used to judge things. Since man cannot attain to the things of God on his own, man has to rely on God. This is why when God speaks of judgment, He states for Israel:

Psalm 72:2

He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.

God is going to judge His people with righteousness. It is not the righteousness of man that is going to be used, as this has fault. He is going to use His righteousness as the standard. The poor in this passage would be those that have gone with the vanity of man�s ways and have brought this error in, leading to their judgment. David had recognized these things himself, as reflected in Psalm 3:3, where he declares that God is his glory.

The Apostle Paul also speaks about things of man in Romans 1:

Romans 1:18-32

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; [19] Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. [20] For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: [21] Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. [22] Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, [23] And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. [24] Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: [25] Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. [26] For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: [27] And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. [28] And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; [29] Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, [30] Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, [31] Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: [32] Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Paul speaks about how God viewed man. Because of the failures of man (these things being spoken of here occurred throughout the book of Genesis), God gave them up to these things. Since they did not want to have anything to do with God and His glory, He would give them up to the vain things contained in this passage.

One last thing about this verse is the word leasing. In today�s English, we use the word to refer to loans for things such as cars, or for renting something. When the Bible is using this term it refers to lies. Israel was seeking after lies and was relying on the things of man. The problem is that only God is true and men are liars (Romans 3:4).

Psalm 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.

David states the fact that God has set apart those that are righteous. This is what we call sanctification, a setting apart of something for a specific purpose. The purpose given here is those who are godly are set apart for God. Israel had this position as a nation (Exodus 33:16, 1 Peter 2:9), but they did need to do something to keep this, which was to make sure they were seen as godly in the eyes of God.

What does is mean to be godly? A definition is needed for this word, which has been taken from 1828 Webster's Dictionary:

GOD'LY, a. [god-like] Pious; reverencing God, and his character and laws.

1. Living in obedience to God's commands, from a principle of love to him and reverence of his character and precepts; religious; righteous; as a godly person.

2. Pious; conformed to God's law; as a godly life.

GOD'LY, adv. Piously; righteously.

All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer

persecution. 2 Tim 3.

Being seen as godly means an individual is living in obedience to the laws of God. In the program with Israel, this meant an individual was following the Mosaic Covenant and doing all parts of it. If they failed in any way, there is sin in the individual and this could never be a part of God.

There are examples of God keeping those that are godly for a purpose. In 1 Kings 19:18, there are 7000 individuals who had been set aside that had not followed the worship of the false god Baal. He preserved these individuals so they could be used to help rebuild the worship of Him when the Baal worshippers had been overthrown from their position of authority through the believing actions of Elijah. This is also made reference to in Romans 11:4-5, as Paul is discussing the temporary setting aside of Israel.

David also makes a reference to God hearing when he calls Him. This relates to the fact that God hears the call of the individuals who are saved. God knows the individuals who are His (2 Timothy 2:19). With Israel, the response would often be physical in nature, taking them out of whatever situation they were in or helping them to be able to deal with the problems they were facing. David was able to understand that no matter what was happening with him, God would be able to hear him and would help him deal with it. He knew that the ears of God are open to the righteous (Psalm 34:15), which he knew this was how God viewed him.

There is some confusion that individuals have created over the issue of being called. Some people feel this is a restricted fact that only some people are going to receive the call of God. However, God does reveal His will in 1 Timothy 2:4, stating that He would have all mankind to be saved. There is no restriction placed where only certain individuals are going to be able to have access to this call. All man can access this, the problem is that most choose not to. For whatever reason, they resist the truth of what God says and do not access the salvation that is being offered in whatever dispensation they happen to be living in.

Psalm 4:4

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

Since God is going to hear the call of the individuals who are saved, David indicates how the believer is supposed to react. He says they were to stand and awe and sin not. This means they were to worship God by knowing who He was and to keep the covenant (Mosaic law) He had made with the nation. They should have known who He was based on the Abrahamic Covenant and the other things that had happened with the nation, such as the salvation from Egypt in the book of Exodus.

Awe comes from who God is. God is the creator of the universe (Genesis 1-2) and is the author of the Word. The Bible teaches many things about the attributes of God, showing exactly who He is. There is a conversation with Job that shows exactly what they should have been able to understand:

Job 38:1-7

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, [2] Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? [3] Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me. [4] Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. [5] Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? [6] Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; [7] When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

God speaks to Job throughout chapters 38 and 39 of the book. He asks a series of questions that Job has no answer to. These questions help to point out who God is and should have answered any question related to this issue. In a similar manner, the nation of Israel should have had this type of understanding related to God and this is why David states they were to stand in awe.

David then mentions they were to commune with all their heart and be still. This shows an aspect of personal reflection on their relationship with God. They should be able to look at their life and be able to see if they are in a correct standing with God, or if they have failed in some manner. The standard for them to use was the Law, so there should have been no guess work related to if they were doing right.

The heart is the issue here. This goes into the inner man and shows the focus of how God would be dealing with them. There is more than just a physical obedience that they needed:

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

The Word of God is the standard to be used. An individual could follow what God says, but their heart could not be in it. God would not respect this type of a lifestyle from an individual. This was the problem with the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes in the Gospels. They felt they were doing the right thing by following the Word of God, but Jesus Christ refers to them as whited sepulchers (Matthew 23:27) because they were doing the right things on the outside, but their heart was not geared towards God. They were doing all of these things for their own benefit.

The heart is the issue with God because it is the seat of emotions. If the heart is geared towards God, the individual would be doing the things for the right reason, the fact that they loved God. This is why Jesus Christ states this important truth to show what would happen with them:

Matthew 12:34

O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

This verse closes with the word selah. The following comes from the study of Psalm 3:

Selah סלה Much has been written on this word, and still its meaning does not appear to be wholly determined. It is rendered in the Targum or Chaldee paraphrase, לצלמין, lealmin, for ever, or to eternity. In the Latin Vulgate, iris omitted, as if it were no part of the text. In the Septuagint it is rendered Διάψαλμα, supposed to refer to some variation or modulation of the voice in singing. Schleusner, Lex. The word occurs seventy-three times in the Psalms, and three times in the book of Habakkuk (Hab_3:3, Hab_3:9, Hab_3:13). It is never translated in our version, but in all these places the original word Selah is retained. It occurs only in poetry, and is supposed to have had some reference to the singing or cantillation of poetry, and to be probably a musical term. In general, also, it indicates a pause in the sense, as well as in the musical performance. Gesenius (Lex.) supposes that the most probable meaning of this musical term or note is silence or pause, and that its use was, in chanting the words of the Psalm, to direct the singer to be silent, to pause a little, while the instruments played an interlude or harmony. Perhaps this is all that can now be known of the meaning of the word, and this is enough to satisfy every reasonable enquiry. It is probable, if this was the use of the term, that it would commonly correspond with the sense of the passage, and be inserted where the sense made a pause suitable; and this will doubtless be found usually to be the fact. But any one acquainted at all with the character of musical notation will perceive at once that we are not to suppose that this would be invariably or necessarily the fact, for the musical pauses by no means always correspond with pauses in the sense. This word, therefore, can furnish very little assistance in determining the meaning of the passages where it is found, Ewald supposes, differing from this view, that it rather indicates that in the places where it occurs the voice is to be raised, sad that it is synonymous with up, higher, loud, or distinct, from סל, sal, סלל salal, to ascend. Those who are disposed to enquire further respecting its meaning, and the uses of musical pauses in general, may be referred to Ugolin, 'Thesau. Antiq. Sacr.,' tom xxii. - Albert Barnes, 1868.

Selah, סּלה is found seventy-three times in the Psalms, generally at the end of a sentence or paragraph; but in Psa_51:19 and Psa_57:3, it stands in the middle of the verse. While most authors have agreed in considering this word as somehow relating to the music, their conjectures about its precise meaning have varied greatly. But at present these two opinions chiefly obtain. Some, including Herder, De Wette, Ewald (Poet Bücher, 1:179), and Delitzsch, derive it from סלה, or סלל, to raise and understand an elevation of the voice or music; others, after Gesenius, in Thesaurus, derive it from סלח, to be still or silent, and understand a pause in the singing. So Rosenmailer, Hengstenberg, and Tholuck. Probably selah was used to direct the singer to be silent, or to pause a little, while the instruments played an interlude (so Sept., διαψαλμα) or symphony. In Psa_9:16, it occurs in the expression higgaion selah, which Gesenius, with much probability, renders instrumental, pause; i.e., let the instruments strike up a symphony, and let the singer pause. By Tholuck and Hengstenberg, however, the two words are rendered meditation, pause; i.e., let the singer meditate while the music stops. - Benjamin Davis, Ph.D., LL.D., article Psalms, in Kitto's Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature.

Psalm 4:5

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the LORD.

The Bible lays out the proper sacrifices Israel was to offer if they were to follow the program of God. The first few chapters of Leviticus lay out the sacrificial system under the Mosaic law. There was no question for the nation on how these things were to be performed, as all of the steps were clearly laid out.

God did not receive any glory when the sacrifices were not properly offered. An example of this can be seen in Genesis 4:

Genesis 4:3-7

And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. [4] And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: [5] But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. [6] And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? [7] If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.

Cain had not offered the proper sacrifice. He chose to offer the plants he had grown, instead of offering an animal sacrifice. This must have been explained to them in order for God to state that there was no respect for this offering. Abel was attempting to be righteous through doing what God had asked and Cain was trying to be righteous through his own works. This is why God had no respect for this offering, as God does not have any respect for the things that man tries to do on his own.

There are other examples in the Bible of where someone did not offer the proper sacrifice. Absalom is one of these, as in 2 Samuel 15:12 there is evidence that this would not have been accepted, as this was during the rebellion against David. Proverbs 21:27 calls the sacrifice of the wicked an abomination toward God. David writes in Psalm 51:19 that his sacrifice was accepted when he had put himself into a proper standing with God. There is no way for man to achieve righteousness without following the program God has laid out.

This is why David states that the trust of an individual must be put in God. Since man cannot achieve anything on his own for righteousness and must rely on God, this is trust. A verse that sums this up perfectly is:

Psalm 62:8

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.

Psalm 4:6

There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

This is a question that is asked by a lot of people, particularly if they are going through some tough times in their life. They want to know who is going to do some good among them. They want to know who could possibly help them deal with whatever the situation is they find themselves in.

The only answer to this question is God. He is the only one who can do good in our lives that is going to result in a change in the life of an individual. This good comes upon those who have put their trust in Him:

Psalm 80:3

Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Psalm 80:7

Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

Psalm 80:19

Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.

In this psalm, written by Asaph, he asks three times for God to turn and cause the light to shine on them. This light is the glory of God, being shown upon them. Light is who God is (1 John 1:5) and this would show that Israel was receiving the blessings of God. This is shown at the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, when He shows Peter, James, and John His glory. Moses also shows this at one point when he comes down from the mount. He has had a conversation with God and his face is shining because of the glory of God. The blessed are those that walk in the light of his countenance (Psalm 89:15), meaning those who are keeping the law.

The key thing that David is telling the people of Israel to do is to pour out their heart. They were not to keep things secret, but were to verbalize the things they had inside of them. This would show where their heart was, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34). Paul says something similar to us, the members of the Body of Christ, when he tells us to make our requests made known unto the Lord (Philippians 4:6-7).

Psalm 4:7

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

Often, individuals think there is no joy in following God. They think everyone who believes in God cannot have any sort of gladness and are serious all the time. David indicates there was gladness put into his heart. He was able to see this gladness, even though he had broken God's commands and had suffered some things because of this.

The gladness he experienced is more than just the physical gladness a person can experience. This is shown by David discussing how this gladness was more than the physical increases in their corn and wine. The gladness with this would be the same thing we experience when we receive a gift from someone we care about or accomplish some great thing in our lives.

The gladness from God is greater than this. God is able to provide a joy for individuals who follow Him that is truly a remarkable thing to experience. Jesus Christ makes a reference to this kind of joy in John 16:22, as He states no man can take this away from them. The Psalms also mention this several times, as can be seen in Psalms 37:4, 43:4, and 92:4.

Psalm 4:8

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

God is the source of all things for them. In Psalm 3, David had stated God was a source of sustenance for them (Psalm 3:5). God is the provider for the nation, which He gave birth to.

Israel had a promise that they would dwell in the land in safety if they followed the commandments (Leviticus 25:18-19). They were to keep the commands and there would be some blessings that would come for them if they did so (Leviticus 26:3-8). They knew they would have rest from their enemies if they would just obey Him (Deuteronomy 12:10). It is amazing sometime to think about the fact that they had these promises and could not follow His commands. They would break the law, start worshipping false gods, and would end up taking themselves away from what this psalm promises them.

As Israel enters the 70th week of Daniel, they are going to need this protection. The world will be against them and they will be suffering some things during the first part of this week. It is only through the protection of God that they will be able to get through this. They will need to be relying on verses such as this, which will point them to the fact that God is the one who will protect them.



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