First Mennonite Church
February 11, 2018
The Psalmist’s Sleeping Pill
Text: Psalm 4:1-8
What if you would put down in writing each concern you have on a piece of paper, at least for one day? What if you were to write down everything that comes to your mind that worries you? That could be a good exercise, but could also be a trap at night. You’d find yourself in the middle of the night going over your worries. Someone called the problem of worrying at night, “babysitting the world.” And there is a lot we can worry about. Our health, our children, grandchildren, the bills waiting to be paid, unfinished jobs we have, and beside those, the wars waging around the world, the danger of terrorism, the never-ending political power struggle in the government, the lack of rainfall and so on. Many times I have found myself “babysitting the world.” I am sure you have too.
disorders diagnosed—have enjoyed 4% growth every year for
the last five years and are expected to continue at that rate for
the next five. In 2010 there were 2,280 sleep labs in the U.S. generating around $5.9 billion. This year (2015), 2,800 labs
are set to haul in an estimated $7.1. billion. By 2020 the industry
will be within eyeshot of the $10 billion mark.
In 2015, 8.6 million Americans were using prescription sleep aids. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 100,000 crashes are the direct result of fatigue due to sleep deprivation. People are having more difficulty getting enough sleep and one culprit is the use of electronic devices. That is because many people are using their devices even when they are in their beds when they go to sleep. There are certainly other reasons why people suffer from sleeplessness.
Psalm 4 is called an “Evening Prayer Psalm.” And it is clear to see why: Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent (v4) [and] In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord make me dwell in safety (v8). I believe we can learn from this psalm some advice on how to find the necessary peace of mind that can help us rest well at night.
The Psalmist was crying out to God for help:
Answer me when I call to you . . .
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
If the psalmist was David, as the superscription in this chapter indicates, any attempt to explain his reasons to be worried would be redundant. Most likely, he had more than enough going on in his mind every day. But the psalmist refused to babysit his world. In Psalm four the psalmist’s plea to God was due to something happening to him personally. Rumors and gossip were rising against the king. There were people engaged in ruining his honor and good standing. It is interesting to see how the psalmist addressed this situation. His first course of action was to pray to God. He brought the issue to God in prayer. He then addressed those who were destroying his honor. And then he went back to speak to God. I do believe that the psalmist can teach us how to deal with our everyday situations that busy us during the day, but more importantly those things that can keep us awake at night.
Praying was the way the psalmist began to take care of his situation. He called unto God for help, for relief and mercy. The psalmist’s approach to being gossiped about can be applied to every kind of difficulty we can face. He went to God in prayer. This is particularly amazing since the case was an interpersonal problem. Often times when people have interpersonal conflict they simply respond in the same manner they are being treated. They would scream back at the one who is screaming at them. They would bring out the “dirty rags” of the other if they are being slandered. They would go “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.” But the psalmist prayed first.
The second step is that he addressed those who were doing him harm.
How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
3 Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
But he did more than just calling their attention. He invited them to “Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.” In addressing his adversaries, the psalmist did not reprimand them, nor did he ask for God’s judgment to come upon them, but he invited them to remember the truths about God. The psalmist called his detractors to realize that God promises to be on the side of those who remain faithful and that God hears their prayers.
The psalmist’s attitude towards his detractors reflects the character of a man of God. Not just anyone can have such an inviting attitude towards anyone after being defamed. For anyone who has been slandered and finds himself or herself sleepless at night the natural response might be to craft the best argument possible to prove how wrong the gossiper is. The process itself is cause for more sleeplessness. But that was not the attitude of the psalmist. He wanted his detractors’ restoration into the fellowship of worship.
4 Tremble and do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
5 Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
and trust in the Lord.
Verses four and five seem to show the correlation between nighttime sleep and peace of mind. The psalmist calls us to six things: to tremble, to sin not, to search the heart, to be silent, to offer thanksgiving, and to trust the Lord. In other words, peace of mind begins by acknowledging the goodness of God. At the end of the day, acknowledge God’s goodness that you have been blessed by God to go back home, that you and your loved ones have been blessed to gather together once again as a family. At our Wednesday prayer meeting, those who hear me pray for the church families have heard me praying that God would bring joy and thanksgiving in each family for being able to be together once again at the end of the day. When you go to bed ask for God’s grace to heal and to restore you from anything that might be nagging your conscience or gnawing away your joy or peace of mind, or maybe a sense of guilt burning in your heart. Silencing and quieting the heart are only possible when God’s peace is poured in our heart. Anxiety or mental restlessness drains the spirit. And a drained spirit does not have the strength to worship God or give him thanks.
Jesus describes worrying and being anxious as sin. The psalmist says, when you are in bed search your heart, be silent, do not sin. Being anxious or worried is sin.
The psalmist confidently states: Let the light of your face shine on us.
7 Fill my heart with joy more that
when their grain and new wine abound.
God’s joy and peace give the heart greater joy than material abundance can give. Just imagine the calmness and sense of assurance we would experience if God’s joy and peace would fill our heart at the time we go to sleep. No sleeping pill would compare to that. That is why the psalmist could confidently say:
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.
The psalmist compared God’s profound peace like that of a sleeping baby that has just been nursed by her mother, according to Psalm 131, verse two. What a beautiful illustration that is! Look at Aymee. When she has been nursed, we sing, some might cough, the cars drive by and she sleeps as if nothing is happening around her. When our heart is troubled and we have difficulty quieting our mind at night, let us be assured that God’s peace and joy can make us dwell in safety. Amen!