Psalm 4 begins with these words,
“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
You have relieved me in my distress;
Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.
2 How long, O you sons of men,
Will you turn my glory to shame?
How long will you love worthlessness
And seek falsehood?
3 But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly;
The Lord will hear when I call to Him.
4 Be angry, and do not sin.
Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.”
In verse 2, David acknowledges the reality that fallen human beings seek after that which is worthless and false. With the question of how long he has to endure this injustice, David is acknowledging that over the passage of time, he could become callous and bitter about his circumstances. The Psalmist tells us to revel in the fact that the LORD has set apart the godly for Himself and that the Lord hears when we call to Him. We are to pray to God for His mercy to help us endure the trials which test our character. When we may be angry about our situation, we are to be still. Pursuing the Lord through meditation in order to avoid responding in a sinful way is the command here.
Later on in the New Testament, the apostle Paul picks up on this theme of anger with this caution and warning,
“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.”
While it is right to be angry about sin and injustice, there is always present in us the danger that our anger will become sinful. In desiring to serve the Lord, we need to turn away from holding grudges, seeking to take the law into our own hands, and seeking to get revenge on someone who has wronged us. Paul’s injunction shows us not to wait, not to let ourselves steep the anger, but to get right on our response so that we avoid sin. Periods of silence in which we meditate on God’s works and prayers of petition are essential in our relationship with the Lord as we commune with Him in prayer.