Series 47


by Francis Dixon
Study verses: Psalms 3:1-8 and 4:1-8

We spend a very large portion of our lives sleeping, yet the scientists tell us that no-one really knows what sleep is. We know that it is a habit and a state of rest, when we slip away into oblivion and then wake refreshed and ready for the new day that lies ahead. Some people need a lot of sleep; others never sleep well. Some can enjoy ‘cat naps’, short periods of sleep at any given moment, for a few minutes or for an hour, after which they wake up refreshed. In the two psalms before us we discover that God lovingly gives us help regarding the need for, and the way to gain, the maximum benefit from our sleeping habits. In Psalm 4:4 there is an exhortation; in Psalm 4:8 we read of the psalmist’s decision; and in Psalm 3:5 the writer gives us his own testimony. Look at these three, and make all this personal in your application of the truth. How should I approach bedtime if I want to sleep well?


1. I must recognise that this matter applies to me

In Psalm 4:8 David says, “I will lie down…” – I will do it. Notice this; it is not an academic matter; it does not refer only or primarily to other people, but it refers to me. It’s easy to read a verse like this and to be completely detached from it. It’s certainly something that David said, and its certainly a good word for my brother, my sister or my friend, who perhaps need this word as much as I do; but the important thing is that this is something for me – it refers and applies to me – “I will lie down…”


2. I will be positive in my approach to this business of sleeping

David says, “I will…” do this! He is expressing his determination, his resolution, in this matter. He did not approach bedtime with a lot of negative ideas about not sleeping. He did not say, ‘I’m going to bed now, but I know I won’t sleep! Last night I didn’t sleep a wink, and probably tonight will be the same!’ It is the fear of insomnia which is far more deadly than staying awake. So David was very positive in his approach to his need for, and to what would prove to be the enjoyment of, a good night’s rest. We must follow his example. Then what?


3. I will do two things

Notice that David says, “I will lie down and sleep”. In other words, ‘I will plan to and prepare for sleep’. Sleep is a habit; it is something that we do regularly and repeatedly as part of our ordinary daily routine. Just as we get up, dress, eat and work, so we also sleep, and here the thought is that preparation is needed for this, as for any other habits. What are the two things to which David refers?


4. I will go to my bed and lie down

He says in Psalm 4:8, “I will lie down and sleep in peace”. These words indicate complete relaxation; they speak not only of physical but of mental relaxation as well. This is indicated in Psalm 4:4: “When you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” Tension must be released from the mind and the body, because tension is the enemy of sleep. Link up the words in Psalm 4:8, “I will lie down…” with the words in Psalm 23:2, “He makes me lie down…”


5. I will seek a peaceful frame of mind

  1. 1. We must be at peace with God – look up Romans 5:1 and 8:1; we must always have a clear conscience (Acts 24:16).
  2. 2. We must be at peace with other people – no friction or tension between ourselves and anyone else. If there is anything like this it must be put right, so that we can rest with a quiet mind and heart (Isaiah 26:3).
  3. 3. We must be at peace with ourselves. We must get rid of envy, jealousy and resentment (Ephesians 4:25-32) – not only forgiving other people, but forgiving ourselves, because when God forgives he forgets (Isaiah 44:22; Jeremiah 31:34; Proverbs 3:23-25).


6. I will resign myself to sleep

When David says, “I will lie down and sleep in peace”, it’s as if he is saying, ‘That’s what Ive come to bed for!’ – not to solve tomorrow’s problems, not to wonder what may happen next year, not to revive all the worries of the day!


7. I will relax into the loving arms of the Lord

Psalm 4:8 ends in a beautiful way – “…for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”. We hear David’s confidence in the Lord and of the assurance which this has brought to him.

A few simple steps to lead us into the place where God will minister to us:

  1. 1. Realise God’s presence. When you get into bed He is right with you – look up Psalm 46:10 and Hebrews 13:5-6; and compare Acts 12:6-7.
  2. 2. Rest on God’s promises. Take a promise (Isaiah 41:10) to bed with you.
  3. 3. Remember God’s providences. God only purposes good things for His children, as we learn from Romans 8:28, so meditate on His goodness.
  4. 4. Rejoice in God’s protection. David said, “You alone…make me dwell in safety.” A sense of security is the greatest help to a good night’s sleep.
  5. 5. Receive God’s peace. Consciously and deliberately open your whole being to Him and receive, appropriate, His peace (Mark 4:39).

As a footnote: (1) It is not sinful not to sleep, though sleeplessness may be quite unnecessary. (2) It is not wrong to seek aids to sleeping; even medically prescribed aids can help form or maintain the habit of sleep. Some, because of shock, illness or age, need these. (3) If you do not sleep, do not worry. (4) While you are waiting for sleep to come, try talking to the Shepherd!