Psalm 4—Talking To God And Men Part 1 of 4 (series: Lessons of Psalms)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Psalm 4—talking To God And Men
Scripture: Psalms 4:1-8

Friday, December 27, 2013
Tom Lowe

1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

2 O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.

3 But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.

4 Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.

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

6 There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.

7 Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.

8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.


This Psalm is titled, To the Chief Musician. With stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. In it David pours out his complaint against slanderous enemies and finds peace and refuge in God.


1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.

Hear me when I call.

David speaks first to God, and then to men. This is the right method; and wouldn’t it be great if we spoke more words to God than we do to men? When we are maligned, and slandered by others, as David was here, we should, by his example, make God acquainted with our circumstance. But why does David only beg for a hearing and mercy in general instead of informing God of his particular grievances? Perhaps it was because he looked upon the favor of God as the ultimate blessing. David would really rather have God’s love and favor than all the good in this world; and therefore, he so whole-heartedly begged for it above anything else.

Can you hear the passion in his voice as he cries out to God? He doesn’t want to just cast up words towards heaven. He needs God’s attention to his present problem. Often power in prayer is lacking because there is little passion in prayer. It isn’t that we persuade God by emotional displays, but God wants us to care deeply about the things He cares deeply about. The prophet Isaiah spoke with sorrow about the lack of this in Israel: “And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You” (Isaiah 64:7). This is a good example of David stirring himself up to take hold of God.

O God of my righteousness.

This expression may mean either “Oh, my righteous God,” or “The foundation, source, or author of my righteousness.” Matthew Henry included this statement in his commentary on Psalm 4: "God Himself is not merely a righteous God in his own right but He is also the author of my righteous disposition." God is indeed the author of all the good that might be done by anyone.

David knew that his righteousness came from God, and not from himself. He calls upon the God who makes him righteous.

Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.

The word “enlarged” as it is used here means to set free. He calls aloud for God’s assistance; You delivered me from my former troubles, temporal and spiritual, which makes me hope thou wilt still take pity upon me, and grant the humble petition which I present unto thee. God will surely come to the aid of his own in the midst of their greatest distress; and because they have made him the God of their mountains, he will be the God of their valleys also.

David was an Old Testament type of Christ when it comes to distress (suffering, trouble, and stress). As an experienced warrior and conqueror, he had been familiar with dangers and deliverances, and his faith is now encouraged from the past. For example, he could have been killed by Saul casting a javelin at him; and when his house was watched by Saul’s men, he was let down through a window and escaped; and when he was shut in at Keilah, where Saul thought he had him trapped; and at other times, to which he may be referring to here and in Psalm 18:19—“He brought me forth also into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.”

Have mercy upon me.

The psalmist pleads for mercy, not on the basis of any merit or worthiness of his own, but instead, he asks for the grace and mercy of God; and he is aware of his sin, both original and actual, so he pleads for pardoning grace and mercy. The words may be rendered, "be gracious unto me,” or "show me favor." Surely, David was not thinking of us when he made this plea, but all sensible sinners should follow his example and ask God for mercy; we don’t need to beg Him, because Christ has already paid for our sins and He is eager to forgive us, and cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. All the saints have access to Him as the Father of mercies, the God of all comfort, and provider of every mercy, both secular and spiritual.

David is following a familiar pattern where he uses past mercy as a ground for future help. “God, I know you haven’t blessed me thus far to abandon me, so have mercy on me.” According to Spurgeon, “This is another instance of David’s common habit of pleading past mercies as a ground for present favor.” (Spurgeon)

And hear my prayer.

And hear my prayer is the same petition as that in the beginning of the verse; appeal and prayer are the same thing.

Jesus told about a certain man who prayed thus within himself, saying, "I thank Thee that I am not as other men." He was proud of himself, and he paraded his personal piety before God. He, however, went away unaccepted. His prayer didn’t get any higher than the rafters. If you want to stand tall in God’s eyes, humble yourself before Him, and become like a little child

2 O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.

This verse describes a wicked and perverse generation in the time of David; but it could just as rightly be applied to our generation, since it can be said of the wicked of both generations:

1. They make our glory our shame.

2. They love vanity,

3. They seek after leasing (they lie).

O ye sons of men.

The reference, according to how the Jewish interpreters explain it, is to great men (here called the sons of men), the nobles of Israel; such as Ahithophel, and others, who were in the conspiracy with Absalom “And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom” (2 Samuel 15:12). Likewise, the enemies of Christ were the kings and princes of the earth, and the rulers of the Jewish Sanhedrin, the chief priests and elders; and others like them, generally speaking, have been the persecutors of the saints. They were men of power and authority, who insisted on dignity and honor, and who were in high places, and boasted of their titles and wealth. These are the men to whom the psalmist addresses the following remarks.

How long will ye turn my glory into shame?

By glory, he means one of the following:

a) “God,” who was his glory “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head” (Psalm 3:3), and whom they chided when they said there was no help for him in Him.

b) His tongue, the instrument of praise, and the songs of praise he expressed with it “The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me” (Psalm 7:8, which they jeered and scoffed at.

c) His royal glory, dignity, and majesty, which they attempted to veil by casting him down by vilifying him, and dethroning him, and setting up Absalom in his place.

Wicked men do all they can to turn the glory of the saints into shame, by attacking their character with lies, thus ruining their good name and reputation among men. Jesus is our Glory and the Lifter up of our heads. Those experiences in life which men may call our shame, He may well call our glory. Here is an example in line with David's words. The Cross of Christ was a cross of shame. Have we not read He "endured the Cross, despising the shame"? The Cross was to the Jews a stumbling-block, but to us who believe, it is the power and wisdom and the glory of God.

How long will ye love vanity?

How long will you love a vain thing, is better. Such as the placing of Absalom upon the throne of David, on which their minds were made up and their hearts set to do. It was that same vain imagination of the Jews that pleased them when Jesus died and they believed His name would perish. On the other hand, vain describes all the attempts of wicked men to ruin and destroy the people and interest of Christ; for no weapon formed against them shall prosper.

The wicked love vanity. Moses, when he was advanced in years, turned his back upon all of Egypt's treasures and pleasures. He chose rather to suffer affliction with the children of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.

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