263 – Psalm 4 – verse one

When we read the Bible, I fear the tendency for most Christians is to just read past the things we don’t understand. Maybe we don’t know how to dig for meaning, maybe we are being lazy, or maybe we’ve concluded it doesn’t really matter as long as we understand the “important” things. There can be lots of reasons we don’t dig for meaning, but do you ever struggle over a Biblical passage in an effort to understand it? 

I’m not talking about forcing meaning on the text. I mean spending time pouring over the text, reading and re-reading the passage, praying earnestly that the Holy Spirit would illuminate the word of God to your understanding. 

I must admit, sometimes (probably more often) I just want to casually approach the Bible. I want to read some encouraging Psalm that requires no effort and is easy to understand. But the more I slow down and notice the Psalms the more I find they are rich with meaning worthy of a closer look.

Purposing to make observations necessarily slows our reading down a bit. There are only eight short verses in Psalm four, so we can afford the time to slow our pace in order to notice some detail. I want to spend a few minutes making some observations.

I may have mentioned this ad nauseum, yet I feel compelled to point out that the “titles” we find above the Psalms are actually the first verse of a given Psalm in the Hebrew Bible. If you were to consult, for example, the Lexham Hebrew Bible, even not knowing anything about how to read Hebrew you will notice there are nine verses not eight like our English translations. That’s because the title is verse one.

How important is the point? Maybe not significant beyond understanding that the “titles” were actually in the Hebrew manuscripts and not mere additions provided by our English translation publishers.

From the title we know three things. The Psalm was sent to the “Chief Musician”, it was a song accompanied by stringed instruments, and King David penned it.

I’m looking at the New King James translation. The publishers have determined the verses to be grouped as 2-2-4 in an effort to help us understand the structure. They’ve grouped verses one and two together, verses three and four together, and verses five through eight together.

Here are the first two verses.

Psalm 4:1-2 (NKJV)

1 Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! 

You have relieved me in my distress; 

Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. 

2 How long, O you sons of men, 

Will you turn my glory to shame? 

How long will you love worthlessness 

And seek falsehood?

David is petitioning “God” to hear his call. He acknowledges Him as the God of his (David’s) righteousness. In other words, David is righteous because God is His source not because there is anything within David that makes him righteous. Next, he tells God that he remembers what God has done for him in the past. David takes confidence that God will indeed hear him because “You [God] have relieved me in my distress.”

I didn’t notice this the first few times I read it, but after David remembers what God had done for him in the past he adds something to his “please hear me” request. He begs, “Have mercy on me”, and then repeats “hear my prayer”.

I wonder how often we recognize that God’s simple act of hearing us is a profound demonstration of His mercy? God is so good and loving. It truly is beyond comprehension.

I wanted to slow down a bit and notice some details in Psalm four but I didn’t realize I would only cover one verse today.

If we knew nothing else about David Psalm 4:1 informs us that David had a relationship with God. He had called on God in the past, God had responded in kind, and here David calls upon Him again. I would say verse one indicates an intimate connection between David and God and it forces me to examine my own life. Do I have a close personal relationship with the God of the Bible? Do you?

If we are not enjoying close fellowship with God regularly it’s not His fault, it’s ours. No need to feel condemned. He has instructed those who may wander to re-engage Him in fellowship. Among other passages, you’ll find this encouragement in the book of James.

James 4:8-10 (NKJV)

8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 

9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Isn’t God good?

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