Psalm 4 – The Chorus in the Crucible

Lloyd Cain

This Psalm has been called An Evening Hymn - a song to be sung at the end of the day. Indeed, Mr. Arthur Clarke uses the delightful title, Pillowed in Peace, accurately expressing the essence of the song. The title in our Bibles, "To the Chief Musician on Neginoth," is significant for "Neginoth" means "the smitings," and perhaps gives us a picture of the musically inclined David plucking the strings and making music on the harp. However, it would also remind us of one of the great themes of the Scriptures that it is often through the "smitings," the afflictions through which God permits His people to pass, that He makes beautiful music in their lives. This chorus from the crucible underlies many of the psalms. If your Bible is open we will look at three divisions.

The Psalmist is Growing in Spite of the Pressures (4:1-2)

"In pressure Thou hast enlarged me..." is the way JND translates the middle part of verse one. What a display of the grace of acceptance that had resulted as David looked back on the trial of which he writes and acknowledges that it was a growing experience!

The writer of the Hebrew treatise showed three possible ways that children might react to the child training of the Father. They can despise or lightly esteem it by not looking for the Hand of God behind the hand that is afflicting them. They can, because of discouragement, faint under it and give up the battle. Thirdly, they can be developed by it for it will "yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them that are trained thereby." (Hebrews 12:4-13) The psalmist personally experienced this desired growth.

Of course affliction is not the only pressure through which believers pass. Whatever the pressure, the Father’s purpose remains constant - the pressures are training experiences designed for the growth of His people. Job, at the end of the book, named one of his daughters Karen-Happuch, which means "adornment." Job had been adorned in the trial. The circumstances through which he passed had made him better, not bitter. Could God be adorning you today? Don’t interfere with His purposes and plans.

The Psalmist is Godly in spite of the Persecution (4:3-4)

Can one grow in spite of the pressures? Can one be godly in the face of persecution? Consider the precious thought that God has set apart the godly for Himself. To understand the intent of the writer we need to inquire as to the nature of godliness. It is not, as we often hear, "godlikeness." According to W.E. Vine it is the character that always takes God into account. J.N. Darby says, it is the piety and recognition of God on man’s part. Perhaps it is most succinctly expressed in the exhortation of the wise Solomon, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy paths" (Proverbs 3:5). It is the Practice of Stillness as seen in verse four, when in the night, the believer, in peaceful confidence, communes with his own heart upon his bed and is still. Similarly, the more experienced Naomi told Ruth, "Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall: for the man will not be in rest until he have finished the thing this day." (Ruth 3:18) The life that is lived in consistent communion and which constantly acknowledges God and His will and Word is the godly life.

The Psalmist is Gladdened in spite of the Perils (4:5-8)

How can one be glad at the end of the day and lay his head peacefully on his pillow if he is constantly surrounded by perils and problems? David was gladdened because of the goodness of God, even though there were many around him who said "Who will show us any good?" The disciples were guilty of this sin of unbelief and wondered about the magnanimity of the Master when they asked, "Carest Thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4:38). In the midst of the storm that was raging, they questioned His care and His capacity! They had forgotten that the One lying asleep in the hinder part of the ship was the Cause and Controller of Creation. Could He Who caused the wind not create the calm?

In the psalm David saw the worldlings gladdened by their consumption of the earthly corn and wine but he himself knew experientially a different source of joy. As he lay communing with God on his bed, contemplating the goodness and grace of God, he drank from a cistern they had never known. Further, David was gladdened because he was guarded. Confidently, he lays his head on his pillow and prepares to enjoy the sleep God gives to His beloved. (Psalm 127:2) His contemplations are ended for the day. Peacefully he closes his eyes, confident that in the dangers of the night, he is secure for "Thou, Lord only makest me dwell in safety."