Friday, 19 September 2014
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.
- 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?
- Who is King David talking to in vv 2-5? What does he ask them? What is he rebuking them for?
- What unanswered prayer do you think is dominating David’s mind? Verse 7 gives a hint. Read 2 Samuel 21 for more background.
- Contrast David’s prayer in v. 1 with the people’s prayer in v. 6. What will satisfy the people? What satisfies David?
- 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.
- 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?
- 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?
- What “good” did God show them that they rejected? (see Matthew 19:16-17)
- 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.
- What prayer are you waiting for God to answer?
- 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?
- What vain words or lies are you tempted to trust in right now while you are waiting for God’s answer to your prayers?
- What would it look like right now to “put your trust in the LORD”?
- 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.