Psalm 4 has a similar structure to Psalm 3
1- The speaker converse with God and God’s answer
2- The speaker converse with the unrighteous and their answer
1- The speaker converse with God and God’s answer:
|Conversation with God/Prayer||How God Answered the Prayer||How is the effect of God’s answer on the Speaker|
|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!|
|1 Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!||*Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!||You have given me relief when I was in distress.|
|The speaker’s first contact with the Lord in this prayer. It is based on calling God using ‘O’. Already we see a glorification of the name of God by calling him ‘God of righteousness’ but there is also intimacy and a personal experience (God of my ….)||Prayer is a humbling experience especially for Kings, but David takes delight in humility. He asks for God’s grace and the answering of prayer like a child begging for his mother’s attention.||There is here both a sense of gratitude about past answered prayers, and a reminder to God to finish the work that He has started. In a sense, using God’s past interventions in order to plead, to make a case.|
2- The speaker converse with the unrighteous and their answer
A- The speaker converse with the unrighteous
|2 O men,[a] how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah 3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. 4 Be angry,[b] and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.|
|2 O men,[a] how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?|
|The first verse/sentence is built on a contrast between the sense of ‘honour’ and the sense of ‘shame’.
In the context of King David being the speaker, what is the ‘honour’ proclaimed here?
King David perceives himself to be a friend of the Lord. A leader who fears the Lord in all that he does.
He defines his ‘honour’ by his spiritual legacy; his walk with God which led him to succeed in unifying the nation of Israel.
How can the King’s honour be turned into shame?
I personally don’t think that the king’s frustration was about more than a general contemplation of the human condition. However, King David was aware that his subjects were God’s chosen people. They were supposed to be the salt of the earth. The ones who through them the entire world would be saved. King David fought long and hard to pull the kingdom together and build the Holy nation that God wanted to build. Yet, the people were not changing. Vanity and deception were still the norms. Anger, violence and aggression were frequent. As a result, guilt and self-loathing were a common virus that eats up any spiritual life among God’s people. Holiness, which was the purpose and the target behind David’s ‘honourable’ action, was not achieved, thus turning the honour of building the nation into shame.
|3 But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself 4 Be angry,[b] and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord.|
|David then intervenes to communicate with the nation, following three steps: warning, encouraging and advising.
Warning: The speaker (David) reminds the people of his identity in God. He starts this warning within the introductory prayer itself “you have given me relief – [in the past]”, then in verse 3, he says “the Lord hears when I call to him.” This is a clear statement of David’s confidence of being heard, should he need to pray against the sinful nation.
Encouraging: David tries to encourage the righteous and those who are hesitant to choose the right path, in verse 3 again: “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself”. This is to say that there will be a reward for those who choose to listen to God’s calling.
Advising: Verse 4: “Be angry, and do not sin” or do not sin when you can’t help being angry, which means rid yourselves of violence and aggression in speech and behaviour.
“ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent”, David is giving casually a brief lesson on “How to Meditate”. Meditation requires silence and the purposeful pondering about a particular issue rather than the shambolic, incessant and aimless thinking which can only increase our stress level. Meditation not only helps to get rid of the issue from its root but also it stills the mind and thus helps bring relaxation and deepen one’s spiritual life.
The advice continues in verse 5: “Offer right sacrifices” which can help not only put our relationship straight with God but also helps to lessen the issue of greed and selfishness.
“And put your trust in the Lord”, the final advice here tackles a few issues such as; trusting God, fearing God, Guilt and Anxiety.
To offer the right sacrifice for committing any of the sins which David hinted to in verse 2 and 4 only requires to meditate over them (which will bring the meditator to repentance) and giving the right sacrifices. However to continue feeling guilty and fretting about it is counterproductive. This is why it is crucial to trust in God’s command and in his word (the bible).
B- The Answer of the Unrighteous
|6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?|
|There are||many who say||Who||will show us||some good?|
|Present tense; the time of the speaker/plural||Subject – Doer = going back to the number (multitude). Verse 2 spoke about “men”, in “many” there is a quantification; ‘many of those men’.||This is an interrogative, relative pronoun which can replace a noun in the singular or plural form. It can also replace a physical or a spiritual being. But in all cases, this relative pronoun can only replace a ‘being of reason and wisdom’ which means either human or deity.||To show is either to present, display and demonstrate or to treat someone and deal with in a certain way.
The verb comes in the future tense.
The object (us) replaces the speakers (many who say).
|The determiner; “some” could be quantitative or qualitative. It could refer to the size of good or to its quality and nature.
What is the good spoken about here? Is it physical or spiritual? Is it wealth and fortune or is it the water that Jesus said will crunch the thirst of the seeker?
|Verse 6 in a way is set in contrast to verse 3 “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself”
Some of those who are lost are wandering about the way. They tried and failed because they were in bondage, hence their search for a spiritual leader, someone who can display goodness in front of them and explain how to break their chains.
|The following image is very intriguing.|
|Lift up||the light of your face||upon us||O Lord|
|The verb to lift. Request made to God.||Why “the light of your face” and not just ‘your light’ and how can the light of the face be lifted up?||David doesn’t only talk about himself. In actual fact, he was talking about those many who are seeking enlightenment but David expands the prayer to himself and everyone else for his humility.||This could be at the beginning of the sentence but was postponed for embellishment.|
|This is perhaps another way of saying: God, look upon us. By looking upon the people, the light of the face will shine on the darkness and the lost will be found. The image is that of God hiding his face from the nation. One way of lifting His light upon the nation is to send prophets or to stir revival.
We can see that this part of the verse is a prayer to God on behalf of those who are in the darkness, seeking enlightenment.
|You||have put||more joy||in my heart||than|
|Pronoun replacing the noun God||Verb put in the present perfect. This tense indicates that the action, which was completed in the past, its effect extends to the present.||The noun joy is of a spiritual nature. Nevertheless, it is being quantified here, since its quantity is being compared to something else (more or less).||The heart of the speaker, who is the writer of Psalms.||Comparative adjective comparing the quantity of joy in the speaker’s heart to something else.|
|They||have||when||their grain and wine||abound|
|Pronoun replacing the nominal phrase (many who say)||Have here is a past participle rather than a verb. Why? Because the context implicitly carries the verb put with it. ‘Have put’ then is a verb in the present perfect.||It is a conjunction meaning ‘at the time’. It is also used here to add a ‘condition’ to the comparison that had already begun in the main clause of the sentence.||their’ is a possessive pronoun replacing (many who say).
It’s indicating their identity through their profession and possession.
|This indicates a very good harvest.|
|The sentence could be said as follows: You have put more joy (in my heart) than they have put joy in my heart when their grain and wine abound.|
|The question is: why would the speaker get any joy from the abundance of the people’s harvest? The answer could be understood in the context where the speaker is King David, and the spoken about are his subjects. In which case, abundance in the produce will mean better taxation and ‘revenue’ using present-day terminologies.|
|The sentence then could be seen as a comparison between the effect of material wealth and the effect of spiritual gifts in the heart of David.|
|These few last verses talk about David’s relationship with his subjects in one hand, and his relationship with God on the other hand. Verse 6 and 7, in particular, help us to understand the chapter in its entirety.
The ‘them’ pronoun in all the chapter replacing ‘men’ sometimes, and ‘many who say’ some other time, is used to speak about David’s subjects.
After David finishes glorifying God and praising him in verse 1, he starts meditating about the human condition in his own kingdom in the rest of the chapter, warning, encouraging and advising halfway through, then interceding on behalf of the lost in verse 6, and finally worshipping God and praising him for the joy and peace that He poured on him.