“How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?” Psalm 4
All prayer, our preacher said a while ago, is praise. A beautiful thought that, like the gospel itself, simply calls out to be given away. Even our anguish, our laments, our anger at God—it’s all praise because we wouldn’t be praying if we didn’t believe that God was God and therefore will, as they used to say, hasten to our aid. All prayer is praise—every phrase, every groan. We’re acknowledging Him, we’re asking him, we’re talking to him because we know we should.
And why should we? Because He is God. We wouldn’t pray if we didn’t believe. Really, that makes all prayer is praise. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?
And I think it helps me to understand verse two: “How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?”
I’ve got an assortment of old trophies sitting around my desk here—a couple of little gold basketball players, three golf trophies, and one gold hitter who’s been sitting here, bat cocked, waiting for a pitch that hasn’t come for a quarter century.
On the wall to my right is my diploma. The wall behind me holds several framed book covers—my books. It sounds awful to say, but I guess I must admit that I’ve decorated my study with my glory.
The egotist in me reads Psalm 4:2 all wrong, I think. When David bemoans the fact that those “sons of men” are turning his glory into shame, he’s not ticked off because someone’s given his poetry a bad review or editorialized against his Kingship. I don’t think he means something personal by “my glory.”
Elsewhere in the psalms, as many have argued, phrases like this point at the Lord. David’s “glory” is really in his salvation, in his being loved, in his knowing that the Lord listens to his prayers. His glory is not in his accomplishments; his glory, quite simply, is the Lord.
And I think that’s crucial because, for all its emotional meandering, Psalm 4 is about concern, about the sadness that arises in all of us when we know that people we really admire don’t serve our King. Psalm 4 is not about me but about love.
I am—I mean it—literally thrilled to know that an old novelist friend of mine prayed in the last few moments of his life. I loved the guy. He was a literary father to me, a great joy; but I honestly didn’t know about his faith. Today, however, I know this much from an unimpeachable source: on his deathbed, he and his nurse prayed together.
Honestly, Psalm 4 still seems an emotional roller-coaster. It moves all over the map. However, David’s song may well be not as bad as it seems if we understand that this initial accusation about unbelievers does not arise from David’s sense of being slighted, but instead from his deep regard for the rotten directions seemingly good people, people David admires, are taking.
In some ways, I think, the Psalm is about enlisting the help of the Lord in the heartfelt attempt to bring your friends home.
All prayer is praise. My glory, really, is his glory.
Makes sense, I think, and helps us see an even more human King David.