John T. Willis

Thursday, March 20, 2014

God Answers our Prayers--Psalm 4

Psalm 4 is brief, but powerful. The psalmist expresses his assurance that God answers prayers. The psalm reads:
      "ANSWER me when I call, O God of my right!
            You gave me room when I was in distress.
             Be gracious to me, and HEAR MY PRAYER.
        How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
             How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
        But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
             the Lord HEARS when I call to him.

        When you are disturbed, do not sin;
             ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
        Offer right sacrifices,
             and put your trust in the Lord.
        There are many who say,
             'O that we might see some good!
              Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!'
        You have put gladness in my heart
              more than when their grain and wine abound.
         I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
              for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety."

I. The superscription reads:
         "To the leader: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David."
    a. All superscriptions in the psalter are apparently later additions. It would be a mistake to force ideas into a psalm through means of the superscription. The composer or author of Psalm 4 is anonymous.
    b. For later audiences, Psalm 4 is led musically by a profession or competent musician. And Psalm 4 is to be intoned with the accompaniment of stringed instruments.

II. The Psalmist declares that Yahweh HEARS his prayers. Psalm 4:1-3.
     a. First the psalmist addresses Yahweh directly, asking him to answer his prayer. He reminds Yahweh that Yahweh has already responded when he was in distress. Now he beseeches Yahweh to be gracious now and hear the psalmist's prayer. 4:1.
     b. Suddenly the psalmist addresses his unnamed audience. These "people" he addresses seek to dishonor the speaker by uttering "vain words" and "lies" to other people, perhaps even in the court. 4:2.
     c. In response to his hostile audience, the psalmist declares that the Lord has set apart the faithful, of whom he is a part, for himself, and the Lord HEARS when he calls to him. 4:3.

III. The Psalmist encourages his fellow-worshippers to trust in Yahweh. Psalm 4:4-8.
      a. The psalmist admonishes his companions not to sin when they are disturbed, but rather to ponder on their beds and be silent or calm or at peace. 4:4.
      b. The psalmist encourages his faithful companions to "offer right sacrifices," that is, sacrifices which come from a true heart and right living--see Psalm 51:15-19, and to trust in Yahweh. 4:5.
      c. To further encourage his faithful companions, he reminds them that MANY others turn to the priestly blessing, "The Lord make his face to shine upon you [and be gracious to you]" in Numbers 6:25 [see the entire blessing in Numbers 6:24-26] so that Yahweh will work good in their lives. 4:6.
      d. To further encourage his faithful companions, the psalmist turns to Yahweh with the assurance: "YOU [Yahweh] have put gladness in my heart." Yahweh's gifts of food and drink are wonderful, but Yahweh's answer to his prayers are even more wonderful and meaningful. 4:7.
      e. Finally, the psalmist resolves in the presence of his faithful companions: "I lie down and sleep in peace" BECAUSE YAHWEH ALONE makes him lie down in safety when his enemies threaten him. 4:8.

Share you insights and fears and reversals and concepts and dreams with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis


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