The Book of Psalms Chapter Four Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Dwell In Safety
Verse 1: "Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer." The "superscript" traditionally written above this Psalm includes the words, "To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Psalm of David." You are reading the lyrics of a song written three thousand years ago by King David of Israel. He and his contemporaries wanted answers to prayer, just like we do, and in this Psalm, he bared the hearts, the desires of many people, including his own. He KNEW answered prayer, and understood that such answers included God's gracious responses such as, "Yes... No... and Wait." I knew that God had called me to ministry, whatever that was, and grew anxious as years, then decades passed, and still no ministry. Many times in prayer, the word "Wait" was imprinted on my mind. I wondered—Why? but continued to wait... even though I recognized, after all that time I was too old... and concluded, maybe I had misunderstood. I finally began to give up... I think I actually did give up. Then God revealed the ministry I would serve, and surprisingly I was required to be ordained in order to proceed... then, incredibly—I was ordained as a pastor. Ordination had not occurred to me—I simply wanted to say "Yes" to the Lord and His ministry in my life. Suddenly He did it. He answered me, and I am learning what David said: Whatever "righteousness" I have is HIS righteousness in me... Waiting all those years was distressing, and in His time, He "relieved me in my distress." God is indeed "gracious" and He does hear us when we pray.
Verse 2: "O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach?
How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah." Here the phrase, "sons of men," is actually better translated by the English word "sirs." Remember that David was a "prophet" (Acts 2:29-30), and we can understand that it is not just David addressing us here, but God Himself. He does not view us as disgusting little beings who should be stepped on, but as men and women who are to be addressed with dignity, as people in need of His love. When He is angry and corrects us, it is because we act in a manner that will harm ourselves or others. David's honor was important because he was the king. God's honor is important because He is our Creator, Sustainer, our Hope, our King—and He loves us enough to die for us. God looks at us and metaphorically shakes His head because as humans, we "love what is worthless" and are full of deceit, even fooling ourselves. God owns everything (Psalm 50:10) and our thought that we own something valuable is often merely pretense. Gold, diamonds—it's all worthless, except we pretend that gems and money have value. Honor the Lord and trust in His love. He who loves you will keep your true needs and interests safe—forever.
Verse 3: "But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself;
The Lord hears when I call to Him." If you have already placed your trust in the Lord, you may think it was your act that brought you to God, and yes, there is some truth to that... but there's more. "God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). And if you think His decision to save you was some kind of "afterthought," think again, because He chose you and me "before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4). He loves you, He died for you, He carefully chose you and you are His. And note that "the Lord hears when you call to Him." In eternity, before any of what we call the "matter" and "energy" of this universe existed, He already had decided, from everlasting, that you are His. And if He has called you in such a manner, which He has, then He surely hears you at all times, especially when you pray. Are you afraid?—He knows and He will keep you safe.
Verse 4: "Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah." The Septuagint is a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek language, done in Egypt in 200 BC, by 72-Jewish scholars. That version translates the first part of this verse as, "Be angry and do not sin," which is why Paul the Apostle, in the power of the Holy Spirit, wrote "Be angry and do not sin," in Ephesians 4:26. Isn't that interesting? You may go to one church and I attend another... You like one translation and I may prefer a different one, but the same Lord is in us both. Paul continued in that verse, "do not let the sun go down on your anger." People like to be RIGHT; NEED to be right, which is why we are to "meditate" on the issue "in your heart upon your bed and be still." When you're trembling with anger, go to the Lord, be still, and let Him help you get over it. A reminder, by the way: This Psalm, like many others, is a song, even though we don't have the music for the lyrics. Many opinions have been offered about the meaning of the word, "Selah," which is very likely a musical rest at key points within the songs of Israel.
Verse 5: "Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
and trust in the Lord." To sacrifice is to give up something considered valuable in exchange for something at least as important. Jesus sacrificed Himself for us, paying the price for our sins, so we might live forever. He died for those who will "trust in the Lord." His life for ours. In "sacrifices of righteousness" we give up things that are selfish, harmful, uncaring and deceitful, helped to resist by God's Holy Spirit, in exchange for something more. We choose to no longer commit acts of adultery, drunkenness, lies, murder, and such, instead trusting in the Lord that He has a much better purpose for our lives and the lives of those around us. His plan is based on God's love, whereas the plans of most in humanity are simply expressions of selfishness. So today, take your intentions to the Lord, become willing to sacrifice what is counter to His will, and trust in Him.
Verse 6: "Many are saying, 'Who will show us any good?'
Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord!" It's really easy to listen to or view the news in any form and conclude that no "good" exists in the world. Many are discouraged about the future and for valid reasons: We've been looking at the wrong version of the news. What we think of as "news" is actually biased editorial comment. Historians have a similar problem. To brighten up our day, to lift our hearts, we need to do what this verse teaches us—look to the Lord, invite Him to "lift up the light of (His) countenance upon us." Look to Him. When we read Romans 3:23 and so many other places in Scripture, we find that "ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God"... it does not only apply to you and me—it also includes our news reporters and politicians of all types as well. Take your concerns to the Lord. He is the One who is good, and after all those years of looking in the wrong places, He will show us Himself, His "countenance" and we will find "good" at last.
Verse 7: "You have put gladness in my heart,
more than when their grain and new wine abound." What is valuable to you? What gives you happiness? Ancient Israel, like other nations and empires of the time, was essentially a rural country, in which the economy depended on the outcome of farming and ranching. In this verse, the imagery is about someone who found "gladness," the deep, wholesome satisfaction that so few discover because of our tendency to look at everything outwardly... Like when the crops come in. Whatever is valuable to a nation or individual will not even remotely equal "trust in the Lord" as seen in Verse 5. Whatever you achieve in life through effort, it will never be enough. Fame, money, popularity—something is missing in everything we might want or find. If it seems good for a time, even a long time, it will not last. Whatever "harvest" you might look to as your goal for the future, it will never measure up to the lasting relationship of trust and love you can have with the Lord.
Verse 8: "In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety." There are many problems with getting what you think you want—a key problem is this: When you get it, a thief will find a way of breaking into your life and taking it away from you. If you have a shovel, it can't be buried deeply enough. No bank or other place of safety can keep it safe. Your vows to each other that there will be no one else, are likely to be broken. However, the relationship you can have with the Lord is a sweet everlasting gift. You can rest easy, "lie down and sleep," for no one can take Him away from you (or you from Him). Have you ever been in a car that was involved in an accident? There are times when the car is harmed, but the occupants are safe. Our bodies are like that. Your body, like the car you drive, is not the real you. Your physical form is the rental car you drive around in for a while, and then return it to the rental car agency. The real you will always be safe because He loves you without limit—enough to die for you. You can "dwell in safety" because of Him who is watching out for you.
Father, I have looked for the wrong things. I have sought my safety in the people and objects of this world. I am sorry, Lord, that I have been so slow to trust in You. Please forgive me. I am Yours, Lord. I place my faith in You. In Jesus Name. Amen.