The Psalm for the third Sunday in Easter is Psalm 4. The assigning of this Psalm for the Easter season may, at first, seem a bit peculiar. However, if we consider the text according to the three-fold designation discussed last week (Orientation-Disorientation-New (Re)orientation) the assignment seems clearer. At first read, one notes the language of disorientation in the beginning of the Psalm. Yet, there is also an eye on and trust in a re-orientation. Nevertheless, the Psalmist is clearly speaking of two separate “groups.” The disorientation belongs to the unbeliever, while the re-orientation is the reality of the believer. Even as David brings this Psalm to its conclusion one can hear he is speaking as if the re-orientation has already taken place. He is declaring the reality of what the LORD has already brought to past.
The verse numbering of this Psalm differs from the Hebrew to the English translations. The Hebrew text counts the title as verse 1 and the Psalm contains 9 verses compared to the 8 verses of the English.
The “How long?” of verse 3 (English 2) is really a complaint concerning the ungodly. But as with the prophets, the “How long?” is a question asked in faith. It is faith there will be an end to the current, difficult situation because the LORD has promised. Thus, the rest of the Psalm addresses the believers who the LORD has set apart for Himself and lifted the light of His face upon them (note the similarity to the Aaronic Blessing) and put joy in their hearts so they have peace.
As one thinks of preaching from the Psalm for this third Sunday of Easter, the application can easily be made as we live amid the unbelieving sons of man who dishonor and shame the people of God with lies and vain words. However (How long?), the LORD has shown His light upon us. Indeed, the Light of the LORD, Jesus Christ, has risen upon us and set us apart as the chosen people of God. In Christ Jesus, we see the face of God shining upon us, bringing with it joy and peace even in the midst of our present darkness.
In Christ Jesus, we see the face of God shining upon us, bringing with it joy and peace even in the midst of our present darkness.
The following verse notations are numbered according to the Hebrew text:
4:1 לַמְנַצֵּחַ (lam-natz-Tze-ach) Piel, infinitive (used as noun): “choir master; music director; chief musician”
בִּנְגִינוֹת (bin-gi-Not) Plural with an attached preposition: “musical instruments; stringed instruments”
מִזְמוֹר (miz-Mor) “psalm; melody”
4:2 בְּקָרְאִי (be-ka-re-I) root: קרא (kaw-raw) Qal, infinitive construct: “to cry out” “when I cry out...”
עֲנִנִי (a-Ne-ni) root: ענן (aw-naw) Qal, imperative: “to answer” “answer me!”
אֱלֹהֵי צִדְקִי (e-Lo-Hei tzid-Ki) “God of my righteousness” This is the only place in the Old Testament this title is used.
בַּצָּר (Batz-tzor) from: צַר (tsar) “dire need; need; distress” Tim Saleska (in his Psalms Commentary from the Concordia Commentary Series, Saint Louis: MO, 2020) translates this: “in a narrow space (tight spot).”
הִרְחַבְתָּ (hir-Chav-ta) root: רחב (raw-khab) Hiphil: “to enlarge; create a wide space”
חָנֵּנִי (chon-ne-ni) root: חנן (khaw-nan) Qal: “to show grace; favor”
תְּפִלָּתִי (te-fil-la-Ti) “prayer; intersession”
4:3 בְּנֵי אִישׁ (be-Nei) “sons of man” Saleska translate this phrase as: “human beings.” This is the title the psalmist assigns to unbelievers—people of the world.
עַד־מֶה (ad meh) “How long?”
לִכְלִמָּה (Lich-lim-mah) with the preposition: “insult; reproach; shame”
רִיק (Rik) “vanity; emptiness”
כָזָב (cha-Zav) “lie; falsehood”
סֶלָה (Se-lah) The meaning is uncertain but appears to be some kind of musical notation or direction: “Selah.”
4:4 הִפְלָה (hif-Lah) root: פלה (paw-law) Hiphil: “to set apart; treat specially” The causative sense of the Hiphil points to the causing agent as the LORD.
חָסִיד (cha-Sid) “faithful; godly” Note the difference from the “sons of man” in verse three.
4:5 רִגְזוּ (rig-Zu) Qal: “to get excited; quake; tremble; be agitated; be angry”
וְאַל־תֶּחֱטָאוּ (ve-al te-che-Ta-u) “but do not sin”
מִשְׁכַּבְכֶם (mish-kav-Chem) from: מִשְׁכָּב (mish-kawb) “coach; bed; lodging place”
וְדֹמּוּ (ve-Dom-mu) root: דמם (daw-man) Qal: “to wail; lament; keep silent; be silent”
4:6 זִבְחוּ זִבְחֵי־צֶדֶק (ziv-Chu ziv-chei Tze-dek) “sacrifice sacrifices of righteousness”
4:7 רַבִּים אֹמְרִים (rab-Bim) “Many say” “There are many who say...”
נְסָה (ne-sah) Qal, imperative: “to lift up” This is assuming נסה (ne-sah) is actually from נשֹה (naw-saw).
4:8 שִׂמְחָה (sim-Chah) “joy”
דְּגָנָם (de-ga-Nam) “corn; grain”
וְתִירוֹשָׁם (ve-ti-ro-Sham) “sweet wine; new wine”
רָבּוּ (Rab-bu) root: רבב (raw-bab) Qal: “to be numerous; be many”
4:9 יַחְדָּו (yach-Dav) “at the same time; together”
וְאִישָׁן (ve-I-Shan) root: ישׁן (yaw-shane) “to fall asleep; go to sleep”
לָבֶטַח (la-Ve-tach) from: בֶּטַח(beh-takh) “security; securely; safety”
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Psalm 4.
Text Week-Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Psalm 4.
Lectionary Podcast- Rev. Prof. Ryan Tietz of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Psalm 4.