In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

 

God’s concept of safety is rather strange or even strangely odd. As a parent, I have often taken action when my children seemed to be heading toward something dangerous. We parents try to anticipate our kids actions and pull their hands back from the hot or the sharp objects, and we hold those same hands when we head out of buildings into the areas where cars or other dangers are present. We warn them about the perils of life and give them instruction about safe navigation through those places and situations as we hope and pray for that safe return at the end of the journey. There is no question in my mind that God functions and operates as a parent to us all; yet, His concept and approach to this activity is different from mine in some very important ways.

 

The Lord is far more concerned with the security of the soul of His children than He is with our flesh remaining intact, unbruised, and our bodies staying unshaken. He cares most deeply about the sorts of harm that our minds takes in and the ways that our hearts are bruised by exposure to the sinful distractions of this world. I am not trying to say that God doesn’t enter into protecting our bodies or that He is not concerned about taking us through our days whole and safely complete, but I do believe that this outcome is not first in His order of priorities. I am also not suggesting that the spiritual health of our children is not of paramount importance to most parents, but we still tend to engage more of the time in their physical protection and in our training of them in how to stay whole and physically safe.

 

Thus, David sings out his praise to the Lord for the way that He alone brings about the true safety that our souls, hearts, and bodies need in order to fully rest. The Lord grants to us a dwelling place within the security of His presence so that we can lie down and get the sleep that we so desperately need. This is a form of slumber that can take place even when we are surrounded by the forces that God’s enemies have called up against Him and us. The rest that God grants to us is a gift that flows out of His presence as we turn toward His face in thanksgiving and prayerful meditation on His Word and in submission to the words of life that He speaks into our racing hearts and that He pours over our aching muscles. We can place our trust in the Lord as He tucks us into the security of His loving care and sings His words of truth to sooth our hearts and calm our minds into a state of peaceful slumber.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

 

In our world today, peace is a hard thing to find. There is so much anger and fear out there, and it just continues to move closer to each of our homes, too. It seems as if there is simply no place to go in order to escape the relentless beat of this creature’s wings as it hunts down victim after victim. It is no wonder that good, restful sleep is hard to find; so, anxiety is a regular part of the day for many of us. Some people say that they simply avoid all contact with those aspects of the world. They don’t read news, they overlook political commentary, and they stay as far as is possible away from people and places in the world where pain and need dwell. Still, all that is hard and painful around us finds a way inside those protective walls so that it touches almost everyone’s life at some point.

 

This peace that the writer of the psalm speaks about is truly a rare commodity in our day, and I believe that it was in the writer’s days as well. Our nature as people has been aggressive, violent, and fear inducing since the beginning of our time of separation from the close relationship with God that was our Creator’s intent for us. This world has been a hard place for us to live throughout most of our history, and it will continue along this path until that day when Christ returns and redeems all of creation from its sin-infused and lost state of existence. Yet, God speaks to us about entering into peace and regarding a form of rest that penetrates the heart and the mind to the deepest parts of our being. The Lord would have us set aside the anxiety of our days and find a form of comfort and security in His presence that overcomes all forms of anxious concern.

 

There is something else present in the way that the Lord asks for us to trust Him as it goes beyond our sense of how things are. The writer says that he is actually dwelling in a form of safety that allows for peace to overcome the concerns of the day. This dwelling is both a state of mind and a literal place. It exists regardless of the circumstances and the situations that are enfolding us. This safe dwelling place is established and formed by Christ for each of us who know Him. He protects our souls from any and all harm that might attempt to enter into our hearts and minds. Our Lord is already victorious over all forms of evil; so, the fight that we are facing is one that He has already won. We can trust in Christ in any and all that comes our way. His will is for our best, His love for each of His people is absolute, and we can truly lie down and sleep soundly in the safety of the Lord’s presence.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

 

Sleep is a wonderful thing. There are innumerable studies that demonstrate its value and connection in maintaining or regaining health. These bodies were created to enter into those restorative daily times of sabbatical from all else that we are dealing with in our lives. That idea of sleep as a form of sabbatical also involves the primary element of the biblical ones, and that is trust. When we enter fully into sabbatical, whether for a day or for a year as in some older practices, we trust the Lord to provide and to protect. In sabbatical living we are to surrender control of the course of our journey to God, set aside our defensive and our offensive practices, and grant to the Lord total sovereignty over every breath that we take.

 

So, perhaps in making this comparison between holy sabbatical and sleep I am over valuing something that is just a natural part of the way that people are constructed. Yet, I wonder, and I do so for two reasons. On the one hand, sleep itself is restorative, healing, and replenishes us in order to continue the life that God has set out for each person; yet, it can be easily interrupted, disturbed, and become illusive. In the other instance, sabbatical is also restorative, healing, and brings about a very special form of healing from the Lord. Here is where I think that they connect. When Davis wrote this Psalm and those around it he was living in dangerous and troubled times. There were certainly days when sleep was hard to find and in which closing his eyes for even a few minutes was risky.

 

For David to indicate that he could lie down and sleep was no small statement, and for him to say that he could do so in peace was monumental. Although he was talking about that particular time of trouble in his life, the same sort of truth applied to the rest of his life, and it is also true for me and for everyone who knows Christ. Although it can be very hard to let go of the issues, both small and large, in our lives in order to allow our minds and bodies to relax into sleep, Christ speaks trust into our hearts as He brings truth and real perspective to our minds. As with David, the only actual safety we will experience comes in and from the presence of the Lord. He cares about and for each of His people and He is present with us in His absolute sovereignty over this world. So, Christ calls upon us to be people who daily repent of our sins, trust His grace and forgiveness, set aside our fearful and aggressive ways, and allow His Spirit to speak truth and Godly wisdom into our troubles and cares. This is what it means to enter into the God-given gift of sabbatical, and this is what allows our bodies to be at peace in those daily times of sabbatical sleep.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Psalm 4: 8

 

The sales of home security alarm systems in the United States alone in 2013 were reported to be about a 21 billion dollar industry which employees almost 118,000 people. Based on this information, it seems that we really don’t feel all that secure in our environment. There is a natural tension that comes with living in a world where so much can and does go wrong and where there are large numbers of people who seem to set on a course of doing harm to others. Yet there is a seeming randomness to it all that can and will defy all of our best efforts to wall ourselves in with safety and security devices. We can eat well, stay away from drafts, and exercise faithfully; still, illness or injury can strike us down.

 

Even more profoundly damaging than any of the harm that people, microbes, or rouge weather cells can cause is the gnawing fear and paralyzing uncertainty that is the product of Satan’s relentless assault on our hearts, minds, and spirits. He gets around all of the protective measures that we install. His voice slips through the smallest cracks in the wall. He tells us that we are helpless and unloved. Satan tries to convince us that we are in this life battle alone. He sells his wares door to door, and he doesn’t skip over any neighborhood in that process. Not a single person on this earth is immune from the disease of doubt and fear. There is no Do Not Call list that can shut him out. Satan is relentlessly trying to increase the amount of damage that he can affect in this world of ours.

 

However, there is an answer. Christ has given it to every person who comes to Him. In Him there is absolute safety. Christ saves our souls, and He enters into our lives. He moves us out of the bad neighborhood where we were all born, and He brings us into the full presence of God. Doubt is answered by focusing my attention on God’s Word. His Spirit speaks out of the pages in ways that seem to be targeted specifically at my momentary need. Christ enters into my situation. He provides me with the courage that I need to face what life has dealt me with a clear mind and renewed resolve. As I talk with God about the stresses and the concerns of life, these prayers spoken by me become truth revealed by Him. What was dark and torturous becomes enlightened thinking and peaceful rest. Now I can lie down and find renewal. Now I know that I am never alone.