God of My Righteousness – Psalm 4:1

Psalm 4:1

Septuagint Translation

COMPLETELY, WITH STRINGED INSTRUMENTS, A SONG OF DAVID

1Listen to me when I call, God of my righteousness;

            show affection to me in my affliction;

            have compassion on me and give ear to my prayer.

We are tempted to ask ourselves, “How could David approach God with such audacity?”  It does appear in our English translations that David is telling God that He needs to listen to him.  But is that really what is going on here?

In his commentary, Martin Luther translates the first phrase of this verse, “When I called, Thou didst answer me.”  He further develops this concept by saying, “The best way to lift the mind up to God is to acknowledge and ponder past blessings.  The setting forth of past blessings is the guarantee of future ones, and gifts received in the past offer the confidence of receiving them.”[1]

Even if the translation is not spot on, I think the principle still applies.  David is not so much demanding that God hear his prayer, but he is approaching the throne of grace with confidence (Heb. 4:16) because he acknowledges God’s past faithfulness to him and understands that God will continually be faithful to him.

This entire verse is centered on David calling God “God of my righteousness”.  David is able to approach God with his prayers in confidence because he knows that his righteousness comes from God.  His approval to stand in God’s presence does not depend on his own actions, but on God’s action and declaration.

The Hebrew in the second line of the psalm is unclear.  The translators of the NET Bible say the literal translation of the Hebrew is: “in distress (or “a narrow place”) you make (a place) large for me.”[2]  The Greek translation seems to support this, because a more literal translation of the phrase is “in oppression, make wide for me.”

This paints a beautiful word picture of salvation for us.  We are oppressed, crushed, pressed in by sin.  But God has relieved that oppression for us in Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself said, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” (Matt. 11:30).  In Jesus Christ, we are no long pressed to procure salvation for ourselves.  We no longer have to measure our performance against the Law of God.  Jesus has fulfilled the Law for us and removed that burden from us.  Once again, we see that God is our righteousness.

David’s final prayer is an affirmation of God as his righteousness.  He prays, “Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!”  Eph. 2:8 starts by saying, “For by grace you have been saved.”  God’s graciousness to us is a fact.  It’s not something we are waiting for, but it’s something we already have in Jesus Christ.  Based on that fact, we can know for certain that God indeed will hear our prayers (Lam. 3:22-23).


[1] Martin Luther, vol. 10, Luther’s Works, Vol. 10 : First Lectures on the Psalms I: Psalms 1-75, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, electronic ed., Logos Library System; Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999),Ps 4:1.

[2] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006).

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