PSALM 4: DO YOU HAVE A NEGINOTH FOR YOUR ANGER?
To the leader: with Neginoth (stringed instruments). A Psalm of David.
Answer me when I call, O God of my right!
You gave me room when I was in distress.
Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame?
How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
When you are disturbed, do not sin;
ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the Lord.
There are many who say, “O that we might see some good!
Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
You have put gladness in my heart
more than when their grain and wine abound.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace;
for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.
PSALM 4:1-8, NRSV
Do you have a Neginoth? That's what the title of this psalm says should be used to play it! A Neginoth is a stringed instrument, maybe like ones in the sketch above.
The psalm says you are allowed to be angry, but do not sin.
Could it be that singing songs, writing poems, shouting in the roaring wind, writing the names of your enemies on the edge of the ocean's surf, going to counseling, crying out to God is a big part of being angry and not sinning? Is not sinning with anger expressing anger in appropriate ways, and are those ways worship, conversation with God and others, artistic and non-artistic (whatever that means) expression?
Maybe playing the Neginoth is a prescription for anger! "I got a fever, and the only prescription is more Neginoth!"
I guess it's time to talk about SELAH. I remember a movie where the teenage kid is forced to read from the Psalms at the table, but I can't remember the movie. Help me out and write in the comments if you know. The kid -- is it James Dean in something like Rebel without a Cause or East of Eden, I don't know -- reads in staccato and lands hardest on "SELAH!" and I think the father tells him not to read the SELAHs but he keeps doing it. I may have that scene wrong, but that's what I remember. SELAH is a musical instruction like a rest or pause or musical interlude, and it's not meant to be verbalized when reading the Psalms aloud.
A recurring theme already in the Psalm book is Yahweh graciously protecting from enemies and restful sleep! Who knew that reading and reflecting on the psalms and calling out to God could be a good sleep aid? When you wake up at night, do you read the Psalms? Good idea to do that. Some of them are meant as a balm for the weary, persecuted, troubled, sleepless souls.
Again we pray the prayer this time in plural voice: Yahweh, our protector. We can lie down and go to sleep and wake up again because you protect us. Ten thousand enemies may surround us, but we are not afraid.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey. Greg's wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.