Friday, December 20, 2013

Psalms To See Me Through: Psalm 4—To The Victorious One

For the Choir Director; On Stringed Instruments. A Psalm of David.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Be gracious to me and hear my prayer. O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself; The Lord hears when I call to Him. Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And trust in the Lord. Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?” Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord! You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety. {Ps. 4 }.                                                                                                                         

The choir director does not impart the full implication of this song. The Hebrew word means conductor, the head of the entire Temple Orchestra.[1]  David desired a beautiful instrumental that would sear the song upon the hearts of people for generations to come,

The subtleties and intricacies of the Temple music stress that the art of musicology is an essential wisdom, for melodies have the power to arouse the soul as nothing else.[2]

The root of the word, natsach (naw-tsakh') can be translated in two ways. One is eternity, and the other is victorious. This is so powerful. The first meaning speaks to David’s intentions with his songs; they had eternal implications. The second interpretation is quite fitting; David was no stranger to victory; God fought many battles on his behalf—and handed him the victory. 

The Talmud interprets this word as a reference to God; “To Him who causes victory, a song unto David.[3] David had complete confidence in the God that fought and won many victories for him. He trusted that he could cry out to God again and that the Lord would deliver him.  

You have relieved me in my distress; be gracious to me and hear my prayer {v.1}.  

The Tehillim translates the verse:

When I call, answer me, God of my vindication, You have relieved me of my distress, be gracious to me and hear my prayer {v. 2}.[4]

When David called out, he knew he stood righteous before God, When I call answer me—God of vindication.  The word used here is literally my righteousness. When we stand righteous before God and cry out to Him in trouble, He will vindicate us—set a table for us in the presence of our enemy. Your enemy may be a circumstance and not a person; God will be your vindication. This does not necessarily mean you will get the outcome you are asking for, but righteousness is on your side. When David presented this psalm to the conductor, it was for all generations to come. We can find encouragement and trust that the same God that saved David and gave him the victory will fight on our behalf and give the victory. He is fighting for you. 

David speaks out to his enemies;

 O sons of men, how long will my honor become a reproach? How long will you love what is worthless and aim at deception? Selah. But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself {vv. 2-3}. 

The righteous can always stand before the Lord in confidence {see Heb. 4:16}. David knew that Absalom was being deceived by someone and being used as a pawn in a much bigger scheme in this attempted coup; but David trusted God and knew that he would be given the victory.

David is our teacher in challenging times, “This declaration is an eloquent expression of one of David’s most cherished credos. Never be discouraged by the terrible burdens and pressures of life. Every frustrating enfeebling situation is, in reality, a divinely given opportunity to overcoming adversity.[5] When we learn to overcome adversity, it empowers us to persevere. 

But know that the Lord has set apart the godly man for Himself; the Lord hears when I call to Him {v.3}.

I love the rendering in the Tehillim Commentary; 

Recognize that just as Hashem distinguished His devoted one, Hashem will listen when I call upon Him. 

This is a direct warning to his enemies, tread carefully. I will call on the Lord, and He will answer me. God has called us to be a peculiar people, not to be like the nations. When you are devoted to God, He will be devoted to you, and He will answer when you call. 

Tremble, and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and trust in the Lord.” {vv. 4-5}.

David repeatedly admonishes the righteous to trust the Lord. This is one of our secrets to enduring trials. Sleep is one place where God speaks to us; there are no distractions. Many times, our dreams are the illustration of our soul, it is a way of working through issues we face. When David admonished through his song to tremble, “The Sages of the Talmud interpret this…A person should constantly arouse his good inclination, to battle against his evil inclination.”[6] When we lay down those things that bring us trouble, we can be still and at peace, trusting in God, whose banner of righteousness is over us. 

Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O Lord! You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety. Many are saying, “Who will show us any good? {vv.6-8}.

Nothing in the world can bring true contentment. Without God, all our treasures, and all the plans we have, do not bring happiness and contentment. When we have laid aside our trouble {cast your cares on Him 1 Pet. 5:7} and find our contentment in the Lord, He enables us to sleep in peace, no matter the depth of trial we are facing. When we live right before Him, He is Jehovah Tsidqenu—the Lord our Righteousness; and He reigns as Jehovah Shalom our peace, and we can rest in Him our Shiloh.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all biblical passages referenced are in the New American Standard Version (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).
[2]Avrohom Chaim Feuer, trans., Tehillim, The Book of Psalms, “Psalm 4” (Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 1995), 82.
[3] Ibid.
[4] This translation’s verses differ; the translators regard the heading as verse 1. This is translated verse 1 in major translations.
[5] Ibid., 83.
[6] Ibid., 86. 

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