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Further Revelation: Psalm 4

As a reminder, when a blog has the heading “Further Revelation”, it is a post I’ve written that contains some thoughts or reflections I’ve had over the course of the week that will almost certainly not make it into the sermon I preach. This is my attempt to clean up the cutting room floor, as it were, and extend our thinking on God’s Word just a little bit further.

One of the issues that constantly swirls around discussions of the book of Psalms is whether or not there is an intentional ordering to these 150 psalms. There are some who think there is no ordering at all – this is simply a collection. There are some who think there is a great deal of intentionality in the order, and then there are a host of people scratching their heads. I am among the head scratchers, but I definitely lean toward the intentionality camp.

I’ve already stated clearly that I believe that Psalms 1 & 2 are a unit and that they have been intentionally written and placed at the beginning of the Psalter as an introduction and guide for readers. As I’ve studied Psalm 4 more closely this week, I’ve begun to wonder if the same is true of Psalms 3 & 4 – they are connected. Among the reasons this is significant is that if the two are related, then it is reasonable to assume that the context for Psalm 4 is the same as that of Psalm 3, namely, the time when Absalom was trying to usurp David. So, what are some of the connections?

First, it is possible that Psalm 3 is intended as a kind of morning prayer and Psalm 4 as an evening prayer. Ps. 3:5 speaks of waking after sleep & Ps. 4:4 speaks of being quiet and reflective while you lay in bed at night. Also, Ps. 4 ends with a reference to lying down to sleep.

Second, Ps. 3:8 ends with “salvation belongs to the Lord” and Ps. 4:1 opens with David remembering God’s salvation as “relief when I was in distress.

Third, both Psalms begin with concern for attacking enemies and both are filled with and end with a confidence in the Lord’s deliverance (cf. Ps. 3:8 & Ps. 4:8).

In addition, I think it’s interesting that Ps. 4:2 in the ESV reads, “O men…” when a literal translation of the Hebrew would be, “O sons of a man”. This particular phrase is often used in the OT to speak about people of high position – like Absalom and other courtiers who turned against David.

Finally, it’s worth noting that in Ps. 4:2, David’s enemies, “love vain words and seek after lies”. This could be a lot of people, but it precisely fits how Absalom turned Israel against David (cf. 2 Sam. 15).

In the end, no single point is definitive, but collectively they give pause to consider these two Psalms as companion pieces – both building on Pss. 1-2.