O God of My Righteousness – Psalm 4
The question of identity and being, known formally as ‘ontology,’ is a difficult one to sort through. What makes you who you are? On the shallow end, there are things like possessions and hobbies, that sort of thing. On the much deeper end there is family, passions, giftedness, community and things most surely believed.
If you’re like most people, your sense of who you are is something of a combination of all the above. And, if you’re like most people, indeed like me, then nearly everything above is in a constant state of flux. Things can feel fluid and unsteady, depending on how we react to current circumstances. With fluidity comes a certain amnesia. We forget who we are.
That’s why Psalm 4 is offered to the believer as a balm to the soul. David wrote it to be included in public worship because it speaks in a timely fashion to the constant need of the hour: the declaration of God’s triumph against the ever-present backdrop of shifting answers to the question, ‘who am I?’
David plants his feet in the bedrock of God’s personal care, and it gives him an unshakeable foundation. “O God of my righteousness.” This is the only time this phrase is used in the bible. It’s as though David is raising a banner or, if you like, planting a stake in the ground and saying to the shifting world, and to his own soul, “This is my God, the God of my righteousness. Here I take my stand against all foes and enemies. For God is my rock and my fortress. He is my righteousness, and He has made me glad.”
It’s not easy for David. He’s in a time of hardship, as seems to be the constant companion to the man of God. Men are bringing his honor to shame and elevating vain words against him. (v. 2-3) It’s a highly personal attack on his very identity. It’s forcing him to ask the question, ‘who am I? Am I worth so little that men dance happily over me as they run after lies?’
One might find a crisis rising within David. How could it not, given the things he’s enduring? He needs something good. Something permanent and foundation-like for his soul. And he finds it in verses 1 and 6, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness.” (vs. 1). Charles Spurgeon said of this verse, “Herein is wisdom, let us imitate it and always take our suit not to the petty courts of human opinion, but into the superior court: the King’s Bench of heaven.” When we go to God and ask, “Who am I?” God will answer, “That’s the wrong question. The question is, ‘Who am I. And the answer for you is, “I am the God of your righteousness.” When God looks upon the hearts of His people, he finds righteousness because of the Cross. When I find myself with David in the wilderness, I say with him “Turn from me, o nations of my discouragement…but answer me, o God of my righteousness.” That’s the foundation: that God is His righteousness. He has lifted up the light of His face upon the righteous. (vs. 6).
If that is true, then how tender and timely is verse 7, “You have put more joy in my heart than (the wicked) have when their grain and wine abound.” That’s why there is relief (vs 1), silence (vs. 4), peace and safety (vs. 8) that attend the sojourning Christian in the wilderness of this world, wondering who he really is. God puts more joy in our hearts than the wicked have in abundance, because our possession surpasses the highest riches on earth: we have a God, Who is our righteousness.