4Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your hearts and on your beds be greatly troubled.
5Offer sacrifices of righteousness,
and hope in the Lord.
The first phrase of verse four is cited in Eph. 4:26, which gives us the benefit of using Paul to establish context for us. Paul quotes this verse in a section that talks about putting off our old natures and walking in our new natures. Verses 25-27 provide us with excellent clarity about what David is referring to when he says, “Be angry, and do not sin.”
What we are dealing with here is a clear example of the 3rd use of the Law, using the Law as a guide for everyday life for those who have been redeemed by Jesus Christ. This makes quite a bit of sense considering David’s evangelistic appeal in verses 2-3. Having given his audience a case for conversion, David turns to practical living as a child of God.
His first instruction is incredibly practical, because it’s the exact same situation he’s dealing with right now. Essentially, David is saying, “Now that you are followers of God, here’s how you deal with people – just like you were to me – who are going to attack your faith.”
What does it mean to “be angry and do not sin”? The notes in the ESV Study Bible provide some direction. “This does not discourage the faithful from using legal recourse when necessary; instead it speaks against personal revenge that circumvents the law and consumes the lives of the vengeful.” As believers, we do not have to allow ourselves to be taken advantage of by our opponents. As long as it is done appropriately, there is recourse we can follow.
But I believe what we can do is not the focus of this verse. It’s what we should avoid – “do not sin.” Paul mentions in Eph. 4:27 that anger married with sin provides an opportunity for the devil. That’s the last thing we need.
How do we avoid sin in our anger? The second half of verse four reveals the best course of action. “Ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.” The LXX indicates that the silence is not merely meditation, but an honest self-reflection: “be greatly troubled.” This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 7:3-5. The greatest way to avoid sinning by being angry with someone else is by being aware of the depth and content of our own sin.
Moving on to verse five, David offers more instruction for the believer. “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.” The interpretatio n of this verse may provide a bit of trouble. We do not take part in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament. How are we supposed to offer right sacrifices?
The ultimate “right sacrifice” was made by Jesus Christ. He sacrificed Himself so that we might be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:17-19). We continue to offer sacrifices as a response to this redemption. There are at least two specific instances in the New Testament where believers offer sacrifices.
Romans 12:1-2 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Jesus Christ gave His life for us in bearing the punishment on the cross we deserved for our sin. Because of this, we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Our old, sinful natures have been put to death with Christ on the cross. The defeat of sin, death, and the devil is certain (1 Cor. 15:57). Even though as believers we still struggle with sin on a daily basis, our sacrifice to God is living a transformed life through the process of sanctification which Jesus Christ has also secured for us.
Hebrews 13:15 mentions a second sacrifice believers make. “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” The principle behind both of these sacrifices is that we let our conduct and our speech reflect the salvation we have in Jesus Christ. We serve as witnesses for what He has done for us (Acts 1:8).
“Put your trust in the LORD.” This is the capstone on what David theme is in these two verses. Rather than get angry at the vices of others, examine yourself and spend your time rooting out sin in your own life. Make sure your words and your deeds are reflecting the saving relationship you have with Jesus Christ. And when the Holy Spirit and/or God’s Word reveals sin in your life (and it will, on a regular basis – 1 John 2:1), “put your trust in the LORD.”
Remember that Jesus paid the price for your salvation. Remember that Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished,” (John 19:30). And remember that eternal life is God’s free gift (Rom. 6:23) to us, not something we have to earn with our good behavior.
 ESV Study Bible, Online edition, comment on Ps. 4:4.