The words of the closing verse of Psalm 4, "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (v.8), indicate that this is an evening psalm. David was the author, as he was of the preceding psalm, a morning psalm, where he declared, "I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the Lord sustained me" (v.5.) In Psalm 3 he is thankful to the Lord for the calm undisturbed sleep he has enjoyed after a day of trouble. Psalm 4 declares his confidence in the midst of his problems. It has been suggested that the interval between the two psalms may only have been the interval between the morning and evening of the same day. A C Clarke in his Analytical Studies in the Psalms entitles this psalm, "Pillowed in Peace".
That the Psalmist has confidence in his God is clear from the opening words. "Hear me when I call", confirms his total confidence that, in the midst of trouble, the Lord hears his prayer. This was a privilege indeed and one that he treasured. "O God of my righteousness", he cries - the only occasion when this title is found in Scripture. He knew, as all believers do, that his righteousness was given him by God alone. Even amidst the troubles and pressures of life the Lord enlarges him. But there were those, the "sons of men", who had their hearts set against him. Yet his confidence did not falter, the reason being expressed in the beautiful statement, " the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself".
Does this not cheer the heart of believers as around they see a society declaring by word and action that the Scriptures are no longer relevant, that God does not exist, and that men and women can do as they wish without restraint? In such days, like a shaft of light, the declaration is made, clearly and without doubt: "But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly", and do not omit the closing, important phrase - " for himself".
The necessity of being aware of this is vital. It may be that these words were addressed to Davids enemies, for they must come to learn this also, but it is equally important that Christians, too, should be aware of this glorious truth. Good it is that we should be intelligent as to the promises that have been made to us, and the responsibilities laid on us as a result.
The Lord has set apart the godly. To be "set apart" is to be distinctly different from unbelievers. It was the word used by Moses when the covenant was made with Israel: "So shall we be separated, I and thy people, from all the people that are upon the face of the earth" (Ex 33.16). The psalmist does not state that the Lord has set apart those who are godly. He used the singular; the Lord has set apart "him". Each believer is dealt with individually, each one valued. Let us rejoice in the great fact that believers are individually set apart by God. He knows us personally and He knows all about us. Nothing is hidden from Him.
But why does the Lord receive us "for himself"? It is true that we are able to enjoy God, but it is important to remember that His desire is to enjoy His people. He will listen to our worship, hear our prayers, see our confessed dependence on Him, and be satisfied with our increasing maturity in that which is spiritual. At the beginning of each day it behoves us to determine that our behaviour will be a joy to Him. In the midst of a dark world we seek to render to Him that which is "for himself".
Note one of the great consequences of this as the Psalmist states that "the Lord will hear when I call unto him" (v.3). Spurgeon comments, as is expected from his pen: "It is not to be imagined that He who has helped us in six troubles will leave us in the seventh". Our past experience gives us confidence for the present.
"For himself"! The challenge faces us. As He has set us apart for Himself, may we, amidst those who give Him nothing, as a token of our gratitude for having been "set apart" make it our daily ambition to give what causes Him joy and satisfaction.