In Psalm 4, the first psalm to refer to things musical in its heading, David beseeches Jehovah for mercy (1) and deliverance from his enemies (2, 8). As the God of his righteousness (1), the Almighty imputes righteousness to the Psalmist (justification) and infuses righteousness into him (sanctification) and vindicates him from the slander and lies of the wicked (2).
Psalm 4 sharply distinguishes between two human parties. On the one hand are David, who sings and prays to the Lord for relief from distress (1), and his "godly" associates (3), the "us" of verse 6. On the other hand are the ungodly "sons of men" who castigate David with falsehoods (2), the "them" referred to in verse 7.
The "sweet Psalmist of Israel" (II Sam. 23:1) lays this down as a basic principle: "But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly [but not him that is ungodly] for himself: the Lord will hear when I [but not the wicked] call unto him" (Ps. 4:3). The antithesis between the two seeds—the seed of the woman (Christ and those in Him) and the seed of the serpent (Satan and all unbelievers; Gen. 3:15) —is created by our covenant God in devoting us to Himself.
The "godly" (Ps. 4:3) receive "righteousness" and "mercy" (or grace) from God (1), plus "peace" and "safety" (8), as well as answer to prayer (1, 3). The Psalmist also praises Jehovah for "Thou has put gladness in my heart" (7), joy being a fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Gal. 5:22).
Notice that David knows "gladness" (Ps. 4:7) and "peace" (8) in Jehovah, irrespective of his (adverse, earthly) circumstances. Moreover, his (spiritual) joy is greater than that of his ungodly enemies, even when they are prospering in this world: "Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased" (7).
Unlike the righteous, the ungodly receive only "corn and wine" (7)—shorthand for all the earthly provisions God sovereignly gives them in His providence—but not "mercy" (1) or "peace" (8) which are for the "godly" whom "the Lord hath set apart ... for himself" (3). Listen to the Reformed faith’s exposition of the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer: "‘Give us this day our daily bread;’ that is, be pleased to provide us with all things necessary for the body, that we may thereby acknowledge thee to be the only fountain of all good, and that neither our care nor industry, nor even thy gifts, can profit us without thy blessing; and therefore that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures, and place it alone in thee" (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 125).
Since Jehovah loathes the reprobate ungodly ("the froward is abomination to the Lord;" Prov. 3:32), he receives no divine blessing with the earthly good gifts he receives from God ("The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just;" 33).
The "mercy" of the Lord in answer to "prayer" (Ps. 4:1) breaks through as "the light of [God’s] countenance [shining] upon us" (6)—the "us" who belong to Christ (6) and not the "them" who only receive earthly good things (7). Whereas God "hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 4:6), the ungodly do not experience God’s gracious smile upon them through our Saviour’s cross, for "the face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (Ps. 34:16).
Psalm 5 ’s teaching on God’s particular, uncommon grace was considered recently (CR News XII:21).
Psalm 6 opens with a reference to chastisement (1), which is a fruit of God’s love for His elect children: "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth" (Heb. 12:6). Do you see the connection? Love—chastisement—sonship. Hebrews 12:7-8 explains that those who are not chastened are illegitimate and "not sons." Christ calls such people Satan’s sons: "Ye are of your father the devil" (John 8:44). Moreover, if those who are not chastened are not God’s children, could it really be that He loves them? Surely, if God loves and therefore chastises His sons, then those who are not His sons, and whom He does not chastise, are not loved by Him. Consider in this connection Proverbs 13:24: "He that spareth his rod [i.e., does not chasten] hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes."
Psalm 6 speaks of God’s severe chastening of David: his bones were "vexed" (2) and his soul was "sore vexed" (3). He groaned and wept much (6-7), as he felt the pangs of "death" (5). Yet knowing that the God who chastened him surely loved him, David pleads for Jehovah’s "mercy" (2) and "[covenant] mercies" (4). But whereas the Psalmist, knowing God’s grace towards him, is confident of answered prayer for himself (8-9), his wicked "enemies" will surely be "ashamed" (10), for this too is according to God’s sovereign will and just desire.
This shame ultimately is in hell, and so verse 8 ("Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity") is alluded to by Christ: "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matt. 25:41). Notice the striking words that precede Christ’s quoting of Psalm 6:8 in the Sermon on the Mount: "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity" (Matt. 7:23). As the omniscient, universal judge, the Lord Jesus, of course, has an intellectual knowledge of everybody. Thus the word "knew" in Christ’s words of banishment to the reprobate wicked on the judgment day must, and does, refer to the intimate knowledge of love (cf. Gen. 4:1; Amos 3:2; II Tim. 2:19). The Lord "never knew" or loved the reprobate—not before God formed the world, not during their lives, not after they died. This is Christ’s word to them: "I never knew [orloved] you" (Matt. 7:23)!
God loves all His adopted children and therefore chastises us (Ps. 6:1) out of love for us (Heb. 12:5-8) with this glorious purpose and result: "that we might be partakers of his holiness" (10). So let us hold fast to God’s particular, uncommon, efficacious grace and not "despise" or "faint" under His loving chastisement of us (5)!
- Volume: 12
- Issue: 9
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851