One of the things that struck me about Psalm 4 is that David appropriates what I originally misread as God's title for himself. Originally I assumed from the Greek that David was addressing a "God of righteousness". But actually the phrase he uses in verse one (re-positioned by me towards the close of the psalm) is "God of my righteousness."
So, if a licentious murderer like David can call himself "righteous", then you and I certainly don't have anything to worry about. I guess heaven is going to be a hundred billion times more crowded than some people imagine!
The King James translators capture David's allusion perfectly in their version of Psalm 4: 1: "Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me and hear my prayer."
It strikes me that this is a key verse in the King James Bible, yet never once in over 25 years of fellowship in Fundamentalist churches (all of which regard the King James as "God's word" and therefore, at least in my day, used this translation exclusively), did I hear this verse even so much as alluded to, let alone preached upon. Yet the verse is not hidden away somewhere. It's right at the beginning of Psalm 4. Obviously, Fundamentalist preachers just can't bring themselves to believe in, let alone acknowledge a God of my righteousness; a God of your righteousness, dear reader; a God of David's righteousness.
God Himself is the one who calls us righteous, not because we are righteous, but because we believe in HIM! And therefore He makes us righteous of His own free will. And if God calls us righteous, who can argue against Him?
The editors of the Revised Standard Bible are not so sure about it and try to play it both ways. "God of my right" is their translation. Now that could mean anything, but to me it implies that He is a God who protects David when David is doing right and thinking right. Another translator, Dr James Moffatt, can't bring himself to make anything like this sort of allusion. Instead he presumably relies on an alternative recension and translates the phrase as "God, my champion".
The New American Bible (overseen by the Catholic Bishops of the USA) is even more dogmatic: "my just God", the very opposite of what David is actually saying! Likewise, Father Alexander Jones in the Jerusalem Bible takes his cue from Dr Moffatt: "God, guardian of my rights."
These are surprising interpretations by Catholic scholars, since both go against the words of Saint Jerome in the Official Bible of the Catholic Church, the Vulgate. Jerome translates: "Cum invocarem exaudivit me Deus iustitiae meae." Translating into English: "When I call, answer me, God of my righteousness." Notice that "iustitiae, righteousness", is qualified by "meae, my", not by "Deus, God". Actually "iustitia" is the perfect word. It means "justice, equity, fairness, uprightness, righteousness, lawfulness, rightfulness." And everything that is "proper, regular, justified."
David’s words are echoed by Isaiah, who writes (54:17): "There is an inheritance to them that serve the Lord, and ye shall be righteous before me, saith the Lord." (Ancient Greek Version). According to many translators, including the King James, these words are again echoed by Jeremiah (23:6), when he refers to the Christ as "The Lord, Our Righteousness." The King James men regard this title as so important, every letter is capitalized. I agree. However, not everyone is in favor of this translation, alas. The sad truth is that all scholars (including me) interpret the Bible according to their own beliefs.
For example, it is astonishing what an enormous hold the false teaching about "sin" in The Shepherd of Hermas (once a highly regarded and exceptionally popular book in the New Testament) still has on theologians, priests and ministers of whatever stripe. They just can't bring themselves to believe in, let alone acknowledge this wonderful God of my righteousness; this God of your righteousness, dear reader; this God of David's righteousness.
I repeat what I said above: God Himself is the one who calls us righteous, not because we are righteous, but because we believe in HIM! And therefore He makes us righteous of His own free will. And not because we deserve to be called "righteous"! We don't! But if God calls us righteous, who are Father Jones, Professor May, Dr Moffatt, and all the Catholic Bishops of America to deny that fact?
So here now is Psalm 4, as printed in "Bible Wisdom: PSALMS of Praise and Power newly translated from the Greek Old Testament":
4. His Face Shines Upon Us
Oh, you foolish, vain, self-centered sons of men,
why do you love everything that is worthless
and so earnestly seek after all that is false?
How long will you be so slow of heart?
Take stock of your situation: Be angry with yourselves!
Be angry because you've not responded to the Lord God!
Be angry that you’ve failed to embrace Him in your hearts!
Resolve right now to respond to His invitation, and repent!
Resolve right now to place all your trust in Him!
And in future when you ask,
"Who will shower us with good things?"
you will know for a certainty it is the Lord God
whose face shines upon us.
It is the Lord God who puts gladness into our hearts
and satisfies us with all the fruits of corn and wine and oil.
You already know that the Lord God
has done wondrous things for me.
When I was in trouble, and my enemies surrounded me,
I called out to Him. He listened to me right away
and immediately came to my help.
Why? Because of my righteousness and worthiness,
He offered me His shelter and guaranteed His protection.
Now, I am at peace. As soon as I lie down,
straightaway I go tranquilly to sleep,
for I know that the Lord God of my righteousness,
will always keep me safe and secure.