I lie down and sleep…(a reflection on Psalm 3)

‘I lie down and sleep;

I wake again because the Lord sustains me.’

~ Psalm 3:5

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Have a look at the Psalm in its entirety:

(A psalm of David when he fled from his son Absalom)

1 Lord, how my foes increase!

There are many who attack me.

2 Many say about me,

“There is no help for him in God.”

Selah

3 But You, Lord, are a shield around me,

my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.

4 I cry aloud to the Lord,

and He answers me from His holy mountain.

Selah

5 I lie down and sleep;

I wake again because the Lord sustains me.

6 I am not afraid of the thousands of people

who have taken their stand against me on every side.

7 Rise up, Lord!

Save me, my God!

You strike all my enemies on the cheek;

You break the teeth of the wicked.

8 Salvation belongs to the Lord;

may Your blessing be on Your people.

Selah                                                     (HCSB)

As someone who has struggled long term with sleep issues (and ain’t quite out of it yet), the ‘sleeping Psalms’ (Psalm 3 and 4) were up on my wall for reading before I went to bed. The image of sleep is a striking representation of trust in God. A lovely one: I lay me down, God to work, God must work, I have nothing. Rest as trust – there is a concreteness there. We can know what that should look like because all of us have slept at some time – it involves an utter falling back to rest in God and Him being God, when we are not.

However, thoughts continuing along those lines are perhaps better suited for Psalm 4. In Psalm 3 the focus is on something else. In the midst of obvious difficulties, there is present in 3:5 a beautifully intimate picture of the most dependent and personal kind of sustaining. Indeed it’s the kind of sustaining that happens when there are real troubles on the go. Look at David. How can he trust the Lord? People are out to get him, in the worst sense. They are sprouting cries of ‘God ain’t gonna help you Dave! – he’s no help to you!’ (v.1-2). These things lead to a declaration and cry of trust in God from David (v.3-4).

And then we have verses 5-8. It ends with a type of vindication of David (carried on into Ps 4 actually) – this is part of David’s hope (cf. this theme in 1 Peter). And it starts with this gentle picture in verse 5 of the Lord’s sustaining. As David faces the difficult reality of v. 6, here is his comfort and strength. It is that the God he is trusting in, is the One who enables him. He is your enabler. Your sustainer. The only reason you can rise the next day is because this One takes your hand to get you up, and to lead you on. This is our God. This is the One I can and must trust, no matter what’s going on.

‘I lie down and sleep;

I wake again because the Lord sustains me.’

You may also find useful: Despair, meet hope

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