TO THE CHOIRMASTER: WITH STRINGED INSTRUMENTS. A PSALM OF DAVID.
Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer! 2 O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah 3 But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. 4 Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD. 6 There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” 7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. 8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
A few thoughts for meditation:
1) We do not know the exact circumstances in which David wrote this, but from the psalm it’s clear that he faces opposition. It may even still refer to the time of Absalom’s revolt. Whatever the case, his life is made miserable by those who slander his name and advance lies about him (vs 2). His good name in the community had been ruined by malicious people. That indeed can be a distressful situation when you must lead and care for people but they won’t trust you due to the lies told about you. But rather than give in to bitterness or revenge (vs 4) or doubt the Lord (vs. 6) David turns to the Lord.
2) He called out to the Lord as the “God of my righteousness”. He called upon God as his covenant God, “my”, and also as the one who is his omniscient judge. God knows the truth of his situation. So he called upon God to grant relief and vindicate him, confident that God will hear him. His confidence was based upon the sovereignty and commitment of God to his people. Vs. 3, “But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.” The world may try to slander you and paint you as someone other than who you are, but God knows the truth if you are innocent of the charges and has set you apart for himself. He has taken upon himself the responsibility of your salvation and protection and will act when the time is right. So we can cry out to him in confidence that he will hear us and do what is best for us.
3) Through his time of prayer and meditation upon the character and promises of God, David is then transformed to face the situation in a godly way. Though he is right to be angry, he will not turn that anger into sin or plot revenge (vs. 4). Vengeance belongs to the Lord. He will continue to worship and trust the Lord in the midst of his trouble (vs. 5). He then drinks from a secret fountain of joy in the Lord, a joy far more valuable and abiding than whatever wealth his enemies were pursuing, and a joy that sustains him even when his enemies mean to inflict pain. Finally, he enjoys peace with God and is able to sleep peacefully trusting the Lord to fight his battles for him. How much sleep do we lose worrying about things we can’t control? How much joy in the Lord do we lose when we try to take the burden of the world upon our own shoulders? Though we certainly are responsible to do what we can in our own situation, we must leave the rest to God and trust him to work for us. But also notice, as with many other psalms, the transforming power of prayer. As we pour out our burdens to the Lord and remember who he is and what he has done, we then find sufficient grace from the Lord to press on, which we would not have found otherwise. That is part of living by faith, using prayer as a means of grace. Pouring out our hearts to the Lord is an act of faith and trust in him. And he will meet us there to provide the comfort and help we need for the moment while at the same time fulfilling his broader purposes for us in ways we cannot see at the time.