Whenever we explore the Scriptures to gain understanding and grow closer to God, we endeavor to hold three key things in perspective:
- what it says about the person and character of God
- what the surrounding context and other Scriptures say
- some ways we can apply it to our lives
Finally, we will always end our contemplation with prayer. We always want to humbly seek understanding and wisdom from the Holy Spirit in relationship to the passage.
We encourage you to read along and answer these questions for yourself. If you would like suggestions on study tools for further exploration, you can find some study aids at the bottom of this post.
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!
What does this passage say about the person and character of God?
Chapter 4 of the Psalms is all about God’s responsiveness to us. God responds not when we’re “good”, but when we seek Him. When we ask for His help, He hears and moves. Our trust is well placed in Him because He always faithfully gives us relief in our distress and more joy than the best things we can imagine. The Lord makes it possible for us to live at peace, with relief, and in safety. God is the One who answers us whenever we call to Him.
What is the surrounding context for this passage?
The Psalms are a collection of poetry or songs. The word “Psalm” means song. When we read the Psalms, we are ushered into worshipful reminders of the rest of scripture. Through worship in Psalms, we also are invited to observe the glory of God. This worship, both in the Psalms and in our own songs today, flows out of the glimpses we get into God’s glory.
Because the Psalms are poetic songs, there is some rhythm to each one. In chapter 4, we can pick up a kind of back and forth, verse-to-verse. Each verse that speaks of how we (humans) are, has an answer: who God is. The first part of verse one is our cry – our plea for God’s response. The second part is a reminder that God is in the habit of giving relief to us as if to say “Of course He will answer, He did last time.” Verse two calls out our human tendency to allow pride and love of self to drag us into a pit. The response in verse three is that we, His children, are still special to Him and He hears us when we call Him. Each heart-cry has a response from the Holy Spirit of God and it all ends with who God is: the One who answers us when we call, the One who makes us secure.
How does this verse apply to our lives?
When everything is going well for us, we tend to pray “happy” prayers. But when we are in distress, the tone of our prayers may change. Psalm 4:1 is a challenge for us. It is a bold, distressed cry for God’s attention while at the very same time proclaiming in faith that God will surely come to help. It is both a distress signal and a truth statement. If we are honest with ourselves, we know we will falter at some point. Sin is daily present in our lives and because of the presence of that sin, we and the people we love get hurt and find ourselves in distress. These are difficult things to see and admit. We can’t handle life on our own.
The cry of David in this verse and throughout this chapter is an acknowledgement that the Lord is the One who can help us and bring us relief! Praise God this is not where the story ends. Even with verse one, David knows (and we are reminded through these words), that we are not the author of our salvation but rather Jesus is the One who makes us righteous (Paul reiterates this in Ephesians 2:8-9). Why would we not trust Him? It is easy to look at the circumstances swirling around us and lose hope.
In this Psalm, David sounds like he’s in the middle of some kind of tempestuous circumstance. However, he reminds himself (and us) that God does hear us when we call to Him. He reminds us that all we have to do is trust Him enough to ask for His help and He is faithfully present to redeem and restore joy and security to our lives.
Almighty Heavenly Father, thank you for being the God of our righteousness. Thank you Lord that you hear every word uttered from our mouths (even those that are not good), and that you have set us apart as your very own. Thank you, Lord, that we can come boldly to you, declaring our needs and trusting that you are able to handle anything distressing us right now. We choose to put our trust in you. Father, we know that you are always faithful and therefore we will begin praising you for the work you are already doing in order to answer our prayers, regardless of whether we see you working or not. As we remember your goodness and the ways that you have filled us with joy in days past, we will rest in your peace. Thank you, Lord for leading us into peace even in the midst of our distress. Thank you, God that we are able to rest because we know that we are safe in Your hands. -Amen.