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Psalm 4:2

How long, you people,
shall my honor suffer shame?
How long will you love vain words,
and seek after lies?

Lies and vanities

It is not clear from the psalm whether the words of this verse are the words of the poet or the words of God. The psalm is a curious one. The lines tumble out as if a stream of consciousness, the poet calling for God to come to his aid, challenging those who are apparently spreading rumors and accusations against him, exhorting others to faithfulness, and expressing joy and confidence in God. But maybe there are lines in this psalm, like this one, that represent the speech of God rather than the poet. Maybe it is not the poet who is challenging his adversaries, but God accusing humanity of bringing shame on God by the way we treat one another. Perhaps it is our love of gossip and “vain words” that disgraces the name of God.

It is also possible that the poet is speaking of the “vain words” and “lies” that are the idols worshiped by the majority of the country: gods of fertility, prosperity and power. Such worship brings shame upon God, believing that others are the source of blessing God alone can give, showing allegiance to gods and ideas other than the God who delivered them from bondage and summoned them to justice and mercy at Sinai.

Whatever the poet’s intention, the question in this verse lingers: how long shall we allow our preference for comfortable illusions to tarnish the name of God? Do we even recognize the lies and vanities in which we put our faith, hope, and trust? The prayer for God’s name to be holy beseeches God to turn our hearts back to him who is our truth and life.

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