Like Psalm 3, Psalm 4 is divided into three sections that I can see:
- A demand for God to provide relief from distress. This demand is directed towards God as David says, "Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God."
- Knowledge that God has set apart the godly and will hear their prayers, including David's own prayer for relief. Also, a command to search your own heart and not lay blame elsewhere. This section is directed towards people.
- Trust in God because he can provide even greater joy than prosperity can. He will allow you to sleep in peace, even in troubled times. Again, this section is directed towards people.
This is where things get difficult for me. My life is easier now than it was when I started this. I don't feet the same pressure as I was earlier this year. Therefore, it's going to be hard for me to look deeper instead of focusing on all the "Sunday School Answers" I've learned my whole life. I'm going to have to really take my time and look at what I'm really supposed to be learning. After all, my goal was to develop a real relationship with God based on honesty.
When I look deeper into this psalm, what immediately strikes me is the way David almost commands God to take action. He says "answer me" and "give me relief" and "have mercy on me" and "hear my prayer." It seems gutsy almost to the point of being impertinent - and that's just in the first verse! These four commands resonate with me in a way that not much else has over the past year as those are the exact same things I have felt like I have needed. I need for God to answer me and give me relief and have mercy on me and hear my prayer, but what I want to focus on first is the first part of the verse where David says, "Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God."
The line struck me as almost unusual and made me wonder if there are any other places where the same phrasing is used. There are. According to my study Bible, there are seven times David uses this particular phrasing, not to mention the times other authors used it in the Bible. I want to take a minute to look at the times when David uses it.
- Psalm 3:4 - "I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain."
- Psalm 4:1 - "Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God."
- Psalm 17:6 - "I call on you, my God, for you will answer me."
- Psalm 22:2 - "My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest."
- Psalm 27:7 - "Hear my voice when I call, LORD; be merciful to me and answer me."
- Psalm 86:7 - "When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me."
- Psalm 138:3 - "When I called, you answered me; you greatly emboldened me."
The bold verses above are ones where David doesn't mention an answer or even a possible answer from God. Obviously, David knew that God would answer him because there are four other specific times where he uses the same language but added that God answered. So, why did he leave that hopeful part out of the other three verses? Based on my own experiences, I see at least four options:
- He didn't feel like God was answering or would be answering soon.
- He knew that God would answer based on his knowledge of God and past experiences, but saying it in that moment seemed forced, so he left it out.
- He was feeling desperate and perhaps a little angry.
- He knew the truth, but had a hard time believing it in the moment.
I can relate to all those explanations. I know what it feels like to feel like God's not answering. I still don't feel God's presence. The only difference is, at this particular time in my life, I don't feel the same desperation I was feeling not long ago.
If you skimmed over all of that because it seemed tedious to you, here's the part I'd like you to read. From reading Psalm 4:1 and other verses from David like it, I've reached some conclusions. First, it's acceptable to God to feel desperate and demand answers. It's also fine not to verbally acknowledge the truths you know about God in those moments. Second, even when it's not acknowledged or felt, the truth remains that God does answer my cries. Lastly, it's easier to see those answers during times when I am farther removed from the pressure that caused the desperation in the first place.