Read Psalm 4.
If reading a New Testament letter can be like listening in one side of a conversation, reading some of the psalms can be like eavesdropping on the most intense moments of someone’s prayer life.
In Psalm 4, David doesn’t explain his situation. God already knows what it is. And as a Bible geek, I find that especially frustrating. I want to know exactly what David was dealing with. I want to understand the background of every phrase. I want to know who is distressing David. I want to look up the passages that reveal how God answered David’s prayers here in this psalm. But there are few clues to help me do that. Instead, I’m left with the raw petitions, stripped of their original context.
But I think that’s by design. This psalm can now be mine and yours. David’s words can apply to situations in our own lives in a way they simply couldn’t if they were tied to some specific episode in his journey.
As a lament, Psalm 4 is an invitation to deal honestly with the injustices and heartaches that come our way, to bring our troubles directly to God. But the psalm exists in three dimensions. First, there are the personal cries that emanate from the heart of David, the song’s author. Second, there is the prayer addressed to God: “Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God” (v. 1). But third, there’s a shift in the middle of the psalm where David speaks directly to those causing his angst (vv. 2–5): “How long will you people turn my glory into shame?” (v. 2, emphasis added).
In my most honest moments, I must admit I’m not sure where I see myself in this psalm. I want to be David—to be the “faithful servant” set apart by God (v. 3). Because of the Holy Spirit at work in me, I am His servant. This is true; it is who I am. But I must also confess there are times when I have caught myself chasing after delusions and lies (v. 2). I am a work in progress—still walking forward because of the grace of God. So, I take David’s words seriously. I search my heart in silence. I offer the sacrifices of the righteous—the living sacrifice Paul spoke of in Romans 12:1. And, above all, I trust in the Lord (Psalm 4:4–5). At the same time, I know that Jesus fills up what is lacking in me. Therefore, with David I can say, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety” (v. 8).