Psalm 4: Now I lay me down to sleep…

When I turn out the light, anxieties and regrets crowd into my mind.  Does that happen to you, too? Maybe you’re one of those people blessed with quick sleep.  Or maybe your day exhausts you so much, you pass out before your head hits the pillow (read “mother of preschoolers…or teenagers…or both”).  All I know is that when the busyness of the day recedes, the busyness of my mind increases.

What do you tend to worry about in the night?  I’m sure we each have our favorites.  Oh, no, I forgot I’m supposed to bring snacks for the soccer team tomorrow! No time to shop… what do I have on hand? What’s going on with my husband, he’s not acting like himself? When are we going to be able to move back into a home of our own? Big problems, little problems…the kids, our job, our marriage, our singleness, our finances, our deadlines, our duties, our health…all keep our minds in problem solving mode while our bodies toss, looking for a comfortable position.

At the top of my list is unanswered prayer.  When I “lay me down to sleep,” my mind turns first to the prayer(s) God hasn’t yet answered.  “How long O LORD?” I repeat the one I’ve been praying for so long that I’ve run out of words.  My prayer becomes very short.  I groan.  Answer me! I toss and wait.

But is night time anxiety inevitable?  Is there another way to pass the dark hours?

My day doesn’t begin in the morning. Throughout history pastors and people have treated Psalms 4 and 5 as a pair.  Psalm 4 is for the night.  Psalm 5 is a morning meditation.  Why are they in that order?  Since Genesis God has referred to a day as starting the night before.  Each day of creation ends with the formula, “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Genesis 1:5 The Jews celebrated Sabbath starting at sunset and ending at sunset the next day. Jesus lived according to this pattern, too.

Now it’s not a law, necessary for salvation, but it does change how I look at my day.  If I begin my day the night before, I begin when I’m tired and vulnerable.  I finish a few things and then lay me down to sleep, unable to accomplish anything else.  I check out for 8 hours (or so) and leave the running of the universe in His hands.  When I awaken to “begin my day,” he has already been at work.  It’s really the middle of the day, and I am simply joining in.  Night time prayers get my day off the to right start, putting him in the lead.  Sleep is the best expression of faith I can think of.

I would love to see my nights express faith rather than anxiety.  Let’s listen to this Psalm and learn how.

First, read the psalm to hear the voice of David.

  1. Let’s divide this psalm into sections, based on whom David is addressing.  How would you characterize David’s relationship with the Lord in v. 1?  What does he ask him?  Where does his confidence come from?
  2. Who is King David talking to in vv 2-5?  What does he ask them?  What is he rebuking them for?
  3. What unanswered prayer do you think is dominating David’s mind?  Verse 7 gives a hint.  Read 2 Samuel 21 for more background.
  4. Contrast David’s prayer in v. 1 with the people’s prayer in v. 6.  What will satisfy the people?  What satisfies David?
  5. How would you describe the kind of faith David models in this psalm, especially v. 8?  Whom was he hoping to influence with his words and example?

Second, read the psalm to hear the voice of Jesus.

  1. Why was Jesus always confident that the Father heard him?  When was a time he might have prayed this Psalm to express that confidence in the face of unanswered prayer?
  2. Who were the “men of rank” in Jesus’ day?  How were they turning Jesus’ honor into shame?  How might David’s rebukes have applied to them?
  3. What “good” did God show them that they rejected? (see Matthew 19:16-17)
  4. How does David’s testimony of joy and peace find greater expression in the life of Jesus?  Can you think of a time that he expressed joy?  Showed peace–even slept?

Third, read the psalm to hear your own voice.

  1. What prayer are you waiting for God to answer?
  2. How can you honestly call God, “God of my righteousness” (v. 1)? How can you honestly call yourself “the godly” (v. 3)? How does the gospel give you confidence in prayer?
  3. What vain words or lies are you tempted to trust in right now while you are waiting for God’s answer to your prayers?
  4. What would it look like right now to “put your trust in the LORD”?
  5. Jesus is not just our example of perfectly trusting the Father, he is our Savior from unbelief.  Use this psalm to have fellowship with him and to cry out for faith from the Author and Finisher of faith.

Enjoy savoring this Psalm.  Share any words or phrases that feed your soul this week.

2 comments on “Psalm 4: Now I lay me down to sleep…

  1. Laura Stenhouse says:

    First, thank you Rondi for preparing and sharing this food for our souls and giving us the opportunity to have a Bible Study and to share with each other. Thank you to those who are reading, praying and pondering and to all of you who have shared in this blog.
    Two thoughts I have had this week from Psalm 4: the verse that kept jumping out to me is Psalm 4:7 “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.” It made me think of Rm 14:17 “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” What I believe I saw was that as much joy as eating and celebrating and the gift from God that these are to me, the Psalmist is realizing that true, lasting, real joy has been put in his heart from God and from Rm 14:17 I was reminded with Jesus I have His righteousness, His peace and His gift of joy in the Holy Spirit. The joy, righteousness and peace from the Lord gives me the ability to go to bed in peace reminded that I am accepted in His righteousness, have peace forever with Him, to trust and believe that He does hear my prayers and is answering in His timing and way according to His will which is good and for my (and for those I am led to pray with and for) good and His glory. Then today I read Spurgeon’s morning and evening which I will include below which reminded me again to keep my eyes on Jesus…that He is my everything…as Spurgeon says “Jesus, my true and only rest”. And it is not my hold of Jesus but His hold of me. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28
    C.H. Spurgeon
    How Precious is Christ?
    “I found Him whom my soul loveth: I held Him, and would not let Him go.”
    –Song of Solomon 3:4
    Does Christ receive us when we come to Him, notwithstanding all our past sinfulness? Does He never chide us for having tried all other refuges first? And is there none on earth like Him? Is He the best of all the good, the fairest of all the fair? Oh, then let us praise Him! Daughters of Jerusalem, extol Him with timbrel and harp! Down with your idols, up with the Lord Jesus. Now let the standards of pomp and pride be trampled under foot, but let the cross of Jesus, which the world frowns and scoffs at, be lifted on high. O for a throne of ivory for our King Solomon! let Him be set on high for ever, and let my soul sit at His footstool, and kiss His feet, and wash them with my tears.
    Oh, how precious is Christ! How can it be that I have thought so little of Him? How is it I can go abroad for joy or comfort when He is so full, so rich, so satisfying. Fellow believer, make a covenant with thine heart that thou wilt never depart from Him, and ask thy Lord to ratify it. Bid Him set thee as a signet upon His finger, and as a bracelet upon His arm. Ask Him to bind thee about Him, as the bride decketh herself with ornaments, and as the bridegroom putteth on his jewels. I would live in Christ’s heart; in the clefts of that rock my soul would eternally abide. The sparrow hath made a house, and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God; and so too would I make my nest, my home, in Thee, and never from Thee may the soul of Thy turtle dove go forth again, but may I nestle close to Thee, O Jesus, my true and only rest.
    “When my precious Lord I find,
    All my ardent passions glow;
    Him with cords of love I bind,
    Hold and will not let Him go.”

  2. rondi says:

    Good job figuring out how to post =).

    Thank you for sharing your meditation, Laura. Yes, I love verse 7, too. I like the way you pointed out the the joy of the Lord doesn’t negate the joy of his good gifts, but out shines them. And thank you for turning our eyes to the Source, our Jesus. Very encouraging!