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Psalm 4 - Hear Me When I Call

INTRODUCTION: I began by comparing ten translations of this psalm from the Online Bible to prepare an emphasized composite paraphrase, using reference to the Hebrew lexicon for some of the original terms whenever I wanted additional information to settle on wording. Other verses were selected through word or phrase search, with the intent of considering each verse as compared with other relevant scripture passages. The concluding prayer is my response after reviewing all of the assembled material.

Psalm 4:1 [emphasized composite paraphrase]

1 {To the chief Musician on stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.} Answer, sustain, uphold me when I call, O God of my righteousness; you have set me in a spacious place when I was hard pressed, have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

COMMENTS: The call of David is for help from the Lord to be sustained or upheld in a current circumstance, and the call is for God's mercy, not David's merit. He knows, as should we, that his righteousness comes from the Lord, not from himself. The believer can call upon the Lord even after confessing sin which has entangled him, and God's mercy and faithfulness will bring the remedy. In fact, those who think they are righteous in themselves cannot come to God because they are rejecting the truth that all have sinned.

"{To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.} Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions." (Ps 51:1 AV).

"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh [them] shall have mercy." (Pr 28:13 AV).

"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isa 55:7 AV).

"But go ye and learn what [that] meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mt 9:13 AV).

Psalm 4:2 [emphasized composite paraphrase]

2 You sons of men, how long will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love vanity, and seek after falsehood? Selah.

COMMENTS: David may be thinking of others as he makes this statement, BUT he may even include himself for those times when a believer drifts from the truth, and concentrates on only the ways of the sons of men. Not desiring to be one of the sons of God is to grasp after the wind, and to believe the opposite of truth. God elevates us to glory when we are sons, but rejection of him results in shame. Selah {a reminder to pause for serious reflection}. The content of this verse should cause the ungodly to pause and think this through, but we who are godly in Christ should also consider the blessedness of our position of mercy and grace in him.

"The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools." (Pr 3:35 AV).

"6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. 7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: [therefore] will I change their glory into shame." (Ho 4:6-7 AV).

"18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end [is] destruction, whose God [is their] belly, and [whose] glory [is] in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself." (Php 3:18-21 AV).

Psalm 4:3 [emphasized composite paraphrase]

3 But know that Jehovah has separated and set apart for himself those who are godly: Jehovah will hear and respond when I call unto him.

COMMENTS: It is a sure, definite, and secure fact that the Lord will be the refuge of those whom he separates unto himself to make them godly in his righteousness. We must therefore be ready to confidently cry out in our time of need. The Hebrew term (palah, Strong's 06395) translated as "set apart" in verse 3 is used only six other times in the Old Testament, with some interesting nuance. God made a very clear pattern of distinction for his people Israel as he made them into a nation while calling them out of Egypt. He is now in the process of calling out his own to separation or sanctification through his "marvelous" loving kindness, because we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.

"And I will sever <06395> in that day the land of Goshen, in which my people dwell, that no swarms [of flies] shall be there; to the end thou mayest know that I [am] the LORD in the midst of the earth." (Ex 8:22 AV).

"For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? [is it] not in that thou goest with us? so shall we be separated <06395>, I and thy people, from all the people that [are] upon the face of the earth." (Ex 33:16 AV).

"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully [and] wonderfully made <06395> marvellous [are] thy works; and [that] my soul knoweth right well." (Ps 139:14 AV).

The resurrected Christ sent Paul with the message so others could receive inheritance among those who are set apart by faith in Christ -- "16 But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; 17 Delivering thee from the people, and [from] the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, 18 To open their eyes, [and] to turn [them] from darkness to light, and [from] the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me." (Ac 26:16-18 AV).

The opening verse from Jude's letter illustrates the distinctive of the called and set-apart church -- "Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, [and] called:" (Jude 1:1 AV).

Psalm 4:4 [emphasized composite paraphrase]

4 Be in awe and tremble with fear, and do no sin: meditate, ponder, and commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still and silent. Selah.

COMMENTS: Our assurance is no cause for pride: quite the contrary is true, as we humble ourselves before our creator. Only the fool has no fear of God. Even our slightest understanding of the unlimited power and majesty of Almighty God should evoke trembling and fear, and we should seriously determine to avoid sin as we ponder and contemplate in our hearts, the immeasurable fullness of God, being still and silent because His perfect loves casts out all fear. This is a great paradox of the scripture: we must truly have fear of God, before all fear can be removed by God.

"And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul," (De 10:12 AV).

It is a matter of the heart, despite the appearance of circumstance. "Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his [days] be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:" (Ec 8:12 AV).

"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man." (Ec 12:13 AV).

When we fear God as we should, we have him as our helper, and there is none other to fear ultimately. "For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee." (Isa 41:13 AV).

"Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared [it]? ye [are] even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, [there is] no God; I know not [any]." (Isa 44:8 AV).

"4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him." (Lu 12:4-5 AV).

"Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." (2Co 7:1 AV).

Psalm 4:5 [emphasized composite paraphrase]

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

COMMENTS: Our most precious sacrifice to the creator of all that exists is to be righteous in Him, with complete trust in who He is and what He has accomplished. There is no sacrifice sufficient for a Holy God who has created all things and needs nothing, unless it is a righteous offering out of obedience, which reflects his mercy and grace lavished upon us. Any sacrifice not made with the proper heart attitude is not acceptable to the Lord. "16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give [it]: thou delightest not in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God [are] a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." (Ps 51:16-17 AV).

"But go ye and learn what [that] meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mt 9:13 AV).

"By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." (Heb 11:4 AV).

Psalm 4:6 [emphasized composite paraphrase]

6 Many there are that say, who will show us any good? Jehovah, let the light of your presence shine upon us.

COMMENTS: There is no shortage of people in any culture or era, to question that there is any good to praise, as they observe evil conditions that are actually the manifold results of the sin of man in the world. They cannot fathom the wisdom of God's working in the midst of all the suffering and wrongdoing, and we as Christians need to be careful to fully trust the Lord through such times. Lord, as you look upon us, bless us with your manifest presence of love and mercy to bring glory to your name, among those having a discerning heart. "24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." (Nu 6:24-26 AV).

"Shew me a token for good; that they which hate me may see [it], and be ashamed: because thou, LORD, hast holpen me, and comforted me." (Ps 86:17 AV).

"Blessed [is] the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O LORD, in the light of thy countenance." (Ps 89:15 AV).

"3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as [they were] from the beginning of the creation." (2Pe 3:3-4 AV).

Psalm 4:7 [emphasized composite paraphrase]

7 You have put joy in my heart, more than they have when their grain and their new wine are in abundance.

COMMENTS: You fill my heart to overflowing with eternal promises, far beyond any measure the unbeliever has regardless of the quantity or quality of earthly abundance they may obtain. It is better to have that which cannot be taken, then all the temporal riches the unbeliever thinks he has, but will irretrievably lose at his death. "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope." (Ps 16:9 AV).

"Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:" (Ac 2:26 AV).

"Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all [ye that are] upright in heart." (Ps 32:11 AV).

"Take heed therefore how ye hear: for whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have." (Lu 8:18 AV).

"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." (Ro 15:13 AV).

Psalm 4:8 [emphasized composite paraphrase]

8 I will both lay down in peace, and sleep: for you, Jehovah, alone make me dwell in security.

COMMENTS: Our hope is not in this temporal world which is passing away. When we call for help from the Lord, we will surely receive it, even if it seems not to come in the present hour. Israel saw material blessings come and go through many centuries, and many prophets of God suffered much in their lives, but our hope is in the Lord. Removal from this world can actually be a blessing to hasten our arrival into the world to come, as stated following. "1 The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth [it] to heart: and merciful men [are] taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil [to come]. 2 He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, [each one] walking [in] his uprightness." (Isa 57:1-2 AV).

"2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." (Ps 23:2-4 AV).

"23 And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, [even]my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. 24 And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken [it]. (Eze 34:23-24 AV).

"39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day." (Joh 6:39-40 AV).

"20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, 21 Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen." (Heb 13:20-21 AV).

--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord, you have given me of your righteousness, and you are ever faithful to answer when I call for help. Thank you Lord for your boundless mercy when my prayer is not amiss from your will. Guide me Lord, that I will not be party to those who turn your glory into shame, and seek after the emptiness outside of your way for us. Jehovah, you alone have separated and set me apart for yourself with those who are godly, and you will hear and respond when I call unto you. I am in awe of your majesty and power, and I tremble at the thought of seeing you face to face because I know that I have indeed sinned. Anytime I can be alone with my thoughts, I cannot keep this from you or myself, so I must offer the sacrifice of righteousness that you impart to me, and I must have complete trust that you will remove confessed sin. Lord, let the light of your grace and mercy shine on all who trust in you to refute the many that see no good in the work of your hands. The inner joy you supply far exceeds that of those who have only the offerings of the world, so help me Lord to exhibit that joy for your glory. I know when my numbered days expire, that I will lay down in peace and sleep sweetly until your final call. Now, may the God of all peace make me perfect in every good work to do his will, working in me that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Published revision 27 May 2005, first issue 27 January 2005