1. Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
This petition is striking, as the boldness of the first clause is immediately offset by the humility exhibited in the second clause. On the one hand, David petitions God boldly to answer him; on the other hand, he recognizes that God is the source of his righteousness. David can boldly petition the Lord for an answer because he is righteous before God, covered in the perfect righteousness of God and not his own self-wrought righteousness (which is as filthy rags).1 David also prays boldly, however, because God is faithful to His promises to judge sin, vindicate the innocent, and show Himself to be a refuge for His oppressed people.2 Men will falter, fail, and forget to do that which they have promised; men will pervert justice, judge impartially, or be deceived by appearances when they sit as judges – but Yahweh cannot fail to do that which He has declared He will do, for He is not a man that He should lie. Nor is He a man that He should be hindered in any way from performing His will.
David, therefore, prays boldly on these two bases: (a.)He knows that his righteousness before God has been provided for him and given to him by God and without this he has nothing to commend him to God, and (b.)he knows that God will not fail to do what He has said He will do. David’s boldness is an expression of his faith in Yahweh. There are many today who command God’s people to “pray big prayers” or to treat God like a fast food restaurant. In their blindness, they believe themselves to have some right to demand of God anything that their unregenerate hearts desire. And yet, even the king of Israel, that man after God’s own heart, even he understands that in himself he has no standing before God, no place to ask anything of God. This is a valuable lesson we must also learn.
1a. You have given me relief when I was in distress.
David not only knows that he has been given an alien righteousness by the Lord who is righteous and fulfills His promises, he has also experienced God’s faithfulness to His promises. When David was in distress, the Lord gave him relief. This is the character of our Lord, He grants His beloved rest.3 While we know from Scripture that God is who He says He is, He yet adds to His trustworthy Word by means of His providence. What we know from His Word, we have constant confirmation of in our lives in one way or another.
1b. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!
Note again the boldness of David’s prayer is not rooted in his self-confidence, but in God’s grace. David appeals to God’s undeserved kindness as the basis for receiving an answer from the Lord. Therefore, we see that David prays boldly because (a.)he has been covered with the righteousness of God, (b.)God is righteous and faithful to His own Word, and (c.)God is gracious. This was true for him, as he trusted in the sacrifice of the Christ to come, his own Son and the Son of God; and it is true for us as we trust in the sacrifice of the Christ who tabernacle d among us, the Son of “David according to the flesh…declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead…”4 As the Scripture declares:
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
1cf. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, Kiel and Delitzsch, Pss 4:1
2cf. John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Pss 4:1
3cf. Ps 127:2b