PSALM 4 OVERVIEW
Title. This Psalm is apparently intended to accompany the third, and make a pair with it. If the last may be entitled THE MORNING PSALM, this from its matter is equally deserving of the title of THE EVENING HYMN. May the choice words Psalms 4:8 be our sweet song of rest as we retire to our repose!
"Thus with my thoughts composed to peace,
I will give mine eyes to sleep; Thy hand in safety keeps my days, And will my slumbers keep."
The Inspired title runs thus: "To the chief Musician on Neginoth, a Psalm of David." The chief musician was the master or director of the sacred music of the sanctuary. Concerning this person carefully read 1 Chronicles 6:31-32 15:16-22 25:1,7. In these passages will be found much that is interesting to the lover of sacred song, and very much that will throw a light upon the mode of praising God in the temple. Some of the titles of the Psalms are, we doubt not, derived from the names of certain renowned singers, who composed the music to which they were set.
On Neginoth, that is, on stringed instruments, or hand instruments, which were played on with the hand alone, as harps and cymbals. The joy of the Jewish church was so great that they needed music to set forth the delightful feelings of their souls. Our holy mirth is none the less overflowing because we prefer to express it in a more spiritual manner, as becometh a more spiritual dispensation. In allusion to these instruments to be played on with the hand, Nazianzen says, "Lord, I am an instrument for thee to touch." Let us lay ourselves open to the Spirit's touch, so shall we make melody. May we be full of faith and love, and we shall be living instruments of music. Hawker says: "The Septuagint read the word which we have rendered in our translation chief musician Lamenetz, instead of Lamenetzoth, the meaning of which is unto the end. From whence the Greek and Latin fathers imagined, that all psalms which bear this inscription refer to the Messiah, the great end. If so, this Psalm is addressed to Christ; and well it may, for it is all of Christ, and spoken by Christ, and hath respect only to his people as being one with Christ. The Lord the Spirit give the reader to see this, and he will find it most blessed."
Division. In Psalms 4:1 David pleads with God for help. In Psalms 4:2 he expostulates with his enemies, and continues to address them to the end of Psalms 4:5 . Then from Psalms 4:6 to the close he delightfully contrasts his own satisfaction and safety with the disquietude of the ungodly in their best estate. The Psalm was most probably written upon the same occasion as the preceding, and is another choice flower from the garden of affliction. Happy is it for us that David was tried, or probably we should never have heard these sweet sonnets of faith.
Verse 1. This is another instance of David's common habit of pleading past mercies as a ground for present favour. Here he reviews his Ebenezers and takes comfort from them. It is not to be imagined that he who has helped us in six troubles will leave us in the seventh. God does nothing by halves, and he will never cease to help us until we cease to need. The manna shall fall every morning until we cross the Jordan.
Observe, that David speaks first to God and then to men. Surely we should all speak the more boldly to men if we had more constant converse with God. He who dares to face his Maker will not tremble before the sons of men.
The name by which the Lord is here addressed,
God of my righteousness, deserves notice, since it is not used in any other part of Scripture. It means, Thou art the author, the witness, the maintainer, the judge, and the rewarder of my righteousness; to thee I appeal from the calumnies and harsh judgments of men. Herein is wisdom, let us imitate it and always take our suit, not to the petty courts of human opinion, but into the superior court, the King's Bench of heaven.
Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress. A figure taken from an army enclosed in a defile, and hardly pressed by the surrounding enemy. God hath dashed down the rocks and given me room; he hath broken the barriers and set me in a large place. Or, we may understand it thus: -- "God hath enlarged my heart with joy and comfort, when I was like a man imprisoned by grief and sorrow." God is a never failing comforter.
Have mercy upon me. Though thou mayest justly permit my enemies to destroy me, on account of my many and great sins, yet I flee to thy mercy, and I beseech thee hear my prayer, and bring thy servant out of his troubles. The best of men need mercy as truly as the worst of men. All the deliverances of saints, as well as the pardons of sinners, are the free gifts of heavenly grace.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 1. Hear me when I call, etc. Faith is a good orator and a noble disputer in a strait; it can reason from God's readiness to hear: "Hear me when I call, O God." And from the everlasting righteousness given to the man in the justification of his person: O God of my righteousness. And from God's constant justice in defending the righteousness of his servant's cause: "O God of my righteousness." And from both present distresses and those that are by past, wherein he hath been, and from by gone mercies received: Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress. And from God's grace, which is able to answer all objections from the man's unworthiness or ill deserving: Have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer. David Dickson, 1653.
Verse 1. Hear me. The great Author of nature and of all things does nothing in vain. He instituted not this law, and, if I may so express it, art of praying, as a vain and insufficient thing, but endows it with wonderful efficacy for producing the greatest and happiest consequences. He would have it to be the key by which all the treasures of heaven should be opened. He has constructed it as a powerful machine, by which we may, with easy and pleasant labour, remove from us the most dire and unhappy machinations of our enemy, and may with equal ease draw to ourselves what is most propitious and advantageous. Heaven and earth, and all the elements, obey and minister to the hands which are often lifted up to heaven in earnest prayer. Yea, all works, and, which is yet more and greater, all the words of God obey it. Well known in the sacred Scriptures are the examples of Moses and Joshua, and that which ( James 5:17 ) particularly mentions of Elijah, whom he expressly calls keraunoboloz, a man subject to like infirmities with ourselves, that he might illustrate the admirable force of prayer, by the common and human weakness of the person by whom it was offered. And that Christian legion under Antonius is well known and justly celebrated, which for the singular ardour and efficacy of its prayers, obtained the name of keraunoboloz, the thundering legion. Robert Leighton, D.D., Archbishop of Glasgow, 1611-1684.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. Is full of matter for a sermon upon, past mercies a plea for present help. The first sentence shows that believers desire, expect, and believe in a God that heareth prayer. The title -- God of my righteousness, may furnish a text (see exposition), and the last sentence may suggest a sermon upon, "The best of saints must still appeal to God's mercy and sovereign grace."
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE FOURTH PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
Choice and Practical Expositions on four select Psalms: namely, the Fourth Psalm, in eight Sermons, etc. By THOMAS HORTON, D.D. 1675
Meditations, Critical and Practical, on Psalm IV., in Archbishop Leighton's Works.