A Meditation on Psalm 4
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have given me relief when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
than they have when their grain and wine abound.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
The opening cry of this psalm may seem presumptuous to us. “Answer me when I call” is something I say to my children when they’re ignoring me, and I would never use those words in that way with the Almighty God of heaven. We understand that the psalmist is using the language of the Covenant, but even invoking the Covenant this way makes us uncomfortable. We feel as if we’re trying to put God under obligation to hear us and do as we say. We know that no man puts God under obligation—He does as He wills—so we hesitate to call on the Lord the way the psalmist does here. Our hesitation fundamentally misunderstands the beauty of the Covenant: man has not put God under obligation; God freely obligated Himself when He made His Covenant with man.
In the Old Testament, God advertises His election of Israel early and often. He did so in the Law of Moses: “The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth” (Dtr 7.6). The Lord’s election of Israel continues even into the exile and after it: “My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem” (Zech 1.17). The Lord likewise chose the Church through Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1.3-4).
Men of faith mirror God’s covenant language when they appeal to His name. Daniel prays, “Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy…. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name” (Dan 9.18-19). Daniel isn’t presuming when he tells God to open His eyes and to hustle. He’s declaring his love for and faith in God.
Psalm 4 is steeped in this covenant language. The psalmist does not chide God as a toddler. Quite the opposite! The psalmist is the toddler crying out to his Father. He knows that God will hear him because God has “given me relief when I was in distress” in the past. He knows that God will hear him because “the Lord has set apart the godly for himself.”
Are we faithful enough to call on the God of the Covenant like the psalmist does here? If we doubt that we can call on God like this, we’re not doubting ourselves—we’re doubting the faithfulness of God! I urge you, lean on the God who has called you by His name, because He will surely honor His namesake (Jas 2.7; Rev 3.12).
The psalmist recognizes that the Covenant is a two-way street, so he urges faithfulness to the Covenant: “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.” Note, by the way, that the psalmist does not say, “Offer right sacrifices so you can put your trust in the Lord.” The Lord is trustworthy even though we are not. Nevertheless, in joining God’s Covenant, we put ourselves under obligation just as the Lord did to Himself. We should honor our God by living faithfully.
The Covenant gives us joy and peace. The psalmist trusts in these blessings. Does your faith in God allow you to enjoy these covenant blessings? If you are struggling in your walk with doubts about yourself and about your relationship with God, spend some time with Psalm 4. The psalm doesn’t ask you to have greater faith in yourself but to have greater faith in the God of the Covenant. Lean on Him. Cry out to Him. Enjoy His blessings.
May the peace of God be with you.