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Psalm 4:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
6 Many are saying, “Who will show us anything good?
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Jehovah!”
Many are saying. Some have supposed, as De Wette and others, that the allusion of the psalmist here is to his own followers and that the reference is to their anxious fears in their misfortunes, as if they were poor and forsaken, and knew not from whence the supply of their wants would come. The more probable interpretation, however, is that the allusion is to the general anxiety of mankind, as contrasted with the feelings and desires of the psalmist himself in reference to the manner in which the desire was to be gratified. That is, the general inquiry among mankind is, Who will show us good? Or where shall we obtain that which seems to us to be good or which will promote our happiness?
Who will show us anything good? The word “any” here is improperly supplied by the translators. The question is more emphatic as it is in the original—“Who will show us good?” That is, Where shall happiness be found? In what does it consist? How is it to be obtained? What will contribute to it? This is the general question asked by mankind. The answer to this question, of course, would be very various, and the psalmist evidently intends to place the answer that he would give in strong contrast with that which the mass of men would give. Some would place it in wealth; some in honor; some in palaces and pleasure grounds; some in gross sensual pleasure; some in literature; and some in refined social enjoyments. In contrast with all such views of the sources of true happiness, the psalmist says that he regards it as consisting in the favor and friendship of God. To him that was enough, and in this respect, his views stood in strong contrast with those of the world around him. The connection here seems to be this—the psalmist saw those persons who were arrayed against him intent on their own selfish aims, prosecuting their purposes, regardless of the honor of God and the rights of other men, and he is led to make the reflection that this is the general character of mankind. They are seeking happiness; they are actively employed in prosecuting their own selfish ends and purposes. They live simply to know how they shall be happy, and they prosecute any scheme which would seem to promise happiness, regardless of the rights of others and the claims of religion.
Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Jehovah. That is, in contrast with the feelings and plans of others. In the pursuit of what they regarded as good, they were engaged in purposes of gain, of pleasure, or of ambition; he, on the contrary, asked only the favor of God—the light of the Divine countenance. The phrase, “to lift up the light of the countenance” on one, is of frequent occurrence in the Scriptures and is expressive of favor and friendship. When we are angry or displeased, the face seems covered with a dark cloud; when pleased, it brightens up and expresses benignity. There is undoubtedly an allusion in this expression to the sun as it rises free from clouds and tempests, seeming to smile upon the world. The language here was not improbably derived from the benediction which the High Priest was commanded to pronounce when he blessed the people of Israel (Num. 6:24–26), “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee; the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee and give thee peace.” It may be added here that what the psalmist regarded as the supreme good—the favor and friendship of God—is expressive of true piety in all ages and at all times. While the world is busy in seeking happiness in other things—in wealth, pleasure, gaiety, ambition, sensual delights—the child of God feels that true happiness is to be found only in religion and in the service and friendship of the Creator; and, after all the anxious inquiries which men make, and the various experiments tried in succeeding ages, to find the source of true happiness, all who ever find it will be led to seek it where the psalmist said his happiness was found—in the light of the countenance of God.
By Albert Barnes and Edward D. Andrews