Like the previous psalm, Psalm 4 is one of lament. However, in this psalm David is not seeking after deliverance and victory against his enemies. Instead, he is pursuing vindication for himself in God. Why? It is because others wish to shame him by slandering him. With his honor on the line, he calls upon God boldly because he knows that his righteousness is found in God alone (v. 1) rather than in the opinions of others (v. 2). Accordingly, this is a psalm about seeking to be assured of the approval of God against the shallow approval of others.
But it is not enough for David to merely know that God is his honor–he requires that he experience this reality. As he calls upon God he recalls how God granted him relief (v. 1) and joy (v. 7) in the past. Therefore, he trusts God to grant him peace (v. 8) at the end of the day (cf. Phil 4:7). For David, true joy comes from an experiential knowledge of who he is in God’s eyes. However, contrast this with his description in verse 6 of those who selfishly pray, “Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” The implication David is making here is that the joy of his vindication in God far surpasses the joy of those who require visible signs of God’s favor (e.g. “when their grain and wine abound” in v. 7).
But this experience of vindication in God is not merely a feeling without application. David’s advice to those who slander him in verse 4 mirrors his own evening practice in verse 8. (cf. Eph 4:25-26) Here David urges his foes to release their anger and trust in God for their own vindication rather than in their own self-righteousness! The peace David pursues in the evening is not only a peace in God, but it is also a peace with his accusers! True faith in one’s right standing before God evokes demonstrations of humility. Because only God is my honor and my righteousness, I am no better than others who likewise need the grace of God as much as I do. May I, like David, be mindful of these things at the end of every day!