Commentary on Psalm 4:3
July 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
3. But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself
Do the godly make themselves godly? Or do they receive an imputed righteousness from God through the instrumental means of faith alone? As we’ve already seen, David is righteous because he has been given the righteousness of God, and the wicked are in and of themselves unable to disincline themselves from their evil; therefore, the godly refers to those who have received righteousness from God. This is further underscored by the word translated as “set apart,” which is the same word that God uses in Exodus 8:22, 9:4, 11:7 & 33:16 when He speaks of His making a distinction between His people and those who are not His people. This is how David is using the word in this psalm, indicating that God (a.)already has a particular group of people in mind, (b.)He counts these people as godly, and (c.)He makes a distinction between them and those who do not belong to Him. This distinction is not made upon anything in them, however, for “there is none righteous, no not one.”1Rather, the distinction is made by God’s Sovereign choice, as He told Israel:
“…you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”2
In love and faithfulness to His covenant promises, the Lord has chosen a people for Himself. And it is this which David’s words give emphasis to. The godly are the set apart ones, the nation of Israel, the people predestined by God to be His holy nation.
3a. the LORD hears when I call to him.
Consequently, God hears the prayers of His people. It is because God has chosen to be gracious to a particular set-apart people, among whom David finds himself, that David can boldly petition the Lord. And God has chosen His people for this reason. As already mentioned, the people of God were delivered by God according to His promises for the sake of bringing Him glory. They, as objects of His superabundant mercy, have been delivered from the slavery of Egypt in order to be servants of Yahweh. Therefore, alongside of David, we can say:
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.3
When we consider how certain David is about God’s favor toward His elect people, the opening petitions of David’s prayer show us the depth of his humility before God. For David opens his prayer by petitioning God to “answer” him and “hear [his] prayer,” and yet here David declares in no uncertain terms that “the Lord hears when I call to Him.” Even in the assurance of his being an elect child of God, even in his glad recognition of the grace and imputed righteousness of God being the means whereby he even has access to stand before God and petition Him for anything, even in his unshakable faith in God being and being one who rewards those who seek Him,4 David nonetheless prays that God will hear his prayer! Is this a contradiction? Not at all. Instead, it is the fruit of a good tree, a heart that has been regenerated by the Spirit of God. In one and the same prayer, our brother is aware of the abject spiritual poverty he would exhibit if left to himself, as well as the overwhelming love and mercy of God toward him.
2Deut 7:6-8; cf. 1 Peter 2:9-10
31 John 5:14-15
4cf. Heb 11:6