It’s Psalm 4 today and the notes have been supplied by Tudor
As in Psalm 3 David is faced with a difficult situation in which he resolves to call out to God to be merciful to him and give him relief from his distress (v4). Whether this psalm is set under the same circumstances as the previous one, in a period of famine and drought (v7), or completely unknown, David’s conviction was that the answer was not to turn away from God to idols and the like, but to turn towards God and trust in Him. And as such David also called his contemporaries to follow God as he did, finding joy and peace in God alone.
In many ways Psalm 4 is a continuation of Psalm 3. In Psalm 3 David showed how he found peace in God by trusting in Him. In this psalm David warns us that we can easily turn to things other than God when we are troubled rather than turning to God Himself. Perhaps the easiest way to see this is by looking at the first and last verses of this psalm. In verse 1 David makes his request to God to ‘Answer me when I call’, to ‘Give me relief from my distress’, and to ‘be merciful to me and hear my prayer.’ Whatever David’s problem was, whether sin, opposition, physical difficulties etc. he showed that the first and necessary thing to do was to turn to God and have faith in Him.
Conversely we know that we, along with those mentioned in the following verses, are so quick to turn away from God to other things. In my experience they aren’t as visually obvious as wooden idols, but at root level they are just as foolish and displeasing to God: a love of ‘delusions’ and a seeking after ‘false gods’ (v2). Furthermore, David shows that by their unbelief, they didn’t simply stumble upon these things, but actively sought them. Even more, David indicates that this had not been the first time that the Israelites had sought false gods, asking ‘How long, O men will you turn my glory into shame?’ But the Lord is patient and used David to warn them. Whatever our sin and idols are, thank God that ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.’ (1Tim 1:15-16)
Instead of turning to idols David showed that they shouldn’t be angry and worried as they tried to sleep, but examine their hearts, offer a correct sacrifice, and trust God (v4,5). In the same way for us, we’re called to examine our ways, and offer our lives in view of what God has done. Over all of this we are called to live actively trusting in God by faith. ‘And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him.’ (Heb 11:6). So we are told that as we put of the temptation to follow false gods we find peace and treasure in God. As such David could call God his ‘glory’, and knew that God would hear when he called Him (v2,3).
And so, as in the previous psalm, David could ‘lie down and sleep in peace’ (v8). As he did so he could recall the promises that God had made and find peace and joy in God who was his glory. He recalled the Aaronic blessing in Numbers 6:24-26 ‘The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face towards you and give you peace.’ David showed that ultimate peace and fulfilment didn’t come from idols and false goods, whatever they might be, but from God. His peace was found in far more than the removal of his problems, his trials, guilt, opposition etc. but from his relationship with God. ‘Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ (Jn 17:3).
Teach me Thy way, O Lord, Teach me Thy way;
Thy gracious aid afford, Teach me Thy way.
Help me to walk aright; More by faith, less by sight;
Lead me with heav’nly light, Teach me Thy way.’
From Teach me thy way, by Benjamin M. Ramsey (1919)