Last week was one of the most tiring weeks I can remember in a very long time. Work was incredibly busy with all the students returning to school after another lockdown. The normal things that happen around my house every week just seemed to require extra time and effort and by Wednesday it felt like Friday would never come. My mind wondered and worried about many different things and I found I could not sleep very well. I felt quite grumpy and short tempered. The worst thing about that is that it affects those I love the most.
As I stopped to think about what the week was like I remembered a verse from a Psalm, which I learned when I was a teenager:
“In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” Psalm 4:8
At first I thought it was quite strange that this particular verse would pop into my mind. I am not in any peril. David was facing a rebellion when he wrote this Psalm. I ignored it a bit and thought maybe it was just one of those days when you remember odd things. Who am I kidding? God uses the Holy Spirit to point us to His word that which He wants to teach us. So, I got my Bible out and went straight to Psalm 4 and I am glad I did.
David was praying to his God in full confidence. He calls to God to answer him. He is troubled and angry at the people who are turning away from God to follow the false gods of the nations that surrounded them. (See verses 1-2) David knew his God and he knew God had set those in covenant with him (the godly) apart. They were secure. (v 3)
When I read verses 4 and 5 I knew I needed to listen to God closely.
4 Be angry,[b] and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.
In the case of David, he was right to be angry because of the men who had turned their backs on God and had abandoned the teaching and the law to follow lies. But he says do not sin. David knew his heart and he knew he could very easily fall into the trap sin sets for all of us. That we stop focusing on God and focus on ourselves and our situations. I like the verb “ponder” translated in the ESV version used above. The NIV uses “search”. The idea is to consider deeply what is in our hearts. What is making me lose sleep and be so grumpy? Is it just the fact I am physically tired or is there more to it? What is taking the place of God in my heart? The verse carries on and says “be silent”. What? How can I be silent when I have so much to say? That is normally my first response to these words. So, I checked the NIV in the hope it would say something different, but no. “Be silent” it is. But what does it mean? When we are considering the depths of our hearts we need to be silent so we can hear God speaking to us. Stop the excuses and complaints. Listen to God’s voice. It was interesting as well to think about the time this was to happen: on your bed, as you lay your heads on your pillows (that is how it is translated in Portuguese). As I read that I thought of a verse in Ephesians 4 which says “do not let the sun go down on your anger”. Ponder, search your heart today. Be silent today. Do not wait until tomorrow. Approach the throne of grace with confidence at the end of the day. Do it today so that you will not sin.
Verse 5 then makes perfect sense, once you have done that “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord”. Since Christ was the perfect sacrifice for us, an atonement for our sins once and for all, we don’t need to offer sacrifices as David did. We do not need to slaughter an animal to be forgiven. Christ has forgiven our sins because he took ours upon himself. So, what do we make of verse 5 then? We offer our hearts to God again, even as they are (we may not like what we find after we looked and searched our hearts), so He can be seated on the throne of our lives. That is God’s rightful place. We can come before Him in worship knowing that we need his grace each day to be transformed more into His likeness. We need to put our trust in God. Not on the other things or people that are around us.
At this point I had to really look back at the week and ponder and search for what was really in my heart. It was true that I was physically tired and needed to slow down a bit and have some rest but what is the meaning of rest? The dictionary presents us with these definitions: 1.cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength. 2.be based on; depend on (be grounded in, be founded on, be dependent on, rely on). So yes, I needed the sleep and relaxation, but I also needed to depend on and be grounded in God. I needed to trust HIM. There were moments in my week when I lost sight of the cross. My gaze had moved away from Jesus and landed on myself.
Going back to David, he called to God to shine his light on him because that is what brought joy to his heart (v6 and 7). Knowing God and having a relationship with Him is what should fill our hearts with joy. We have so much to be thankful for. God had poured blessing upon blessing on His people and on David himself and He was aware of that. God has given us His Son and He has brought salvation to us through his blood. We are forgiven and have Jesus’s righteousness. We are safe. We are more than safe, we are secure.
God is truly amazing. Here it is a Psalm that doesn’t speak of “rest” per say, but speaks of pondering, searching, placing the correct anger in the correct place and not sinning. It speaks of presenting the correct sacrifice to God and trusting in HIM. A Psalm that calls God to shine his face upon us (See Numbers 6:25-26).
I finally came to the verse that prompted me to look at the entire Psalm: In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. It is no surprise David said these words so boldly. He really did know God, but he also knew himself. David could literally lay down at night and fall asleep, even though he was facing a rebellion in his kingdom because he was secure in his God, he was safe in His arms. In the Portuguese version I learnt many years ago, the verb used is “you bring me rest” instead of “make me dwell” and that might be why I thought about it when I was so tired and feeling troubled. No. God really wanted me to be reminded that it is true. I can lay my head on the pillow, after I have pondered and considered the depths of my heart and presented it to HIM, after I reminded myself of His goodness and fall asleep deeply and soundly. In other words, I can find rest in Him today and forever because I am safe and secure in Him.
Verses were from The Standard English Version (ESV)
Photo by Gregory Pappas