“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me to dwell in safety.”
“There be many that say, Who will shew us any good?”
Such was the question the psalmist took from the mouths of his contemporaries.
And when the psalmist penned that question it was as much up-to-date as if it were asked yesterday!
This is precisely the question you hear today from many lips. You hear it from the lips of those who are in government. You hear it from those who are in the business of education. Those in industry and in the sphere of labor have been asking this question for a long time already. You hear it from those with wrinkled faces and thin lips in the homes of the aged and infirm. That question cries to you from the hospital bed, from thousands of mortuaries, from penal institutions, and from the frowzy street of the ghetto area. It is expressed above the din and noise of riotous, modern youth. You hear it even from the mouths of many in the church.
From every sphere of life the disparaging, hopeless cry goes up: Who will shew us any good?
Oh, indeed, they may ask the question using slightly different words. But if you are abreast of the times, you have heard, yea, you may yourself have asked the questions: What next? What is it all coming to? Who will show us a way out? Who will shew us any good?
In what was once called “the land of the free, and the home of the brave,” all the powers of darkness seem to have broken loose. Even the powers that be seem not to be able to contain the violence, and to bring to rest the tumultuous upheavals of our time. No matter where you look; or where you go, everywhere, and in every department of life there appears to be only riot and revolution, war and discontent. Not only in our own country, but round the world, such is the description of the times in which we live.
In the midst of all this, what will be, what should be the attitude of the Christian, of the child of God?
Shall he go along with the rioters and be a party to their upheavals? He knows that this he may never do. Shall he throw up his hands in utter despair? Though he may be inclined to do this according to his flesh, he can never be hopeless. Shall he look for someone to rise out of the tumultuous mass to calm the peoples and restore for a season peace and quiet? Oh, if he is thoroughly acquainted with the Word of God, he knows that such an one will arise who for a short time will be able to quell the noise, and bring peace to the nations. But he knows, too, that as far as himself and his fellow Christians are concerned, this Antichrist can bring peace which is only temporal and earthly and that, too, only to the peoples of the world; but he knows, too, that he and the children of God shall experience reproach, suffering, and even death—a darkness far worse than that already in the world.
Nay, rather, the child of God has but one prayer: “Lord, lift up the light of thy countenance upon us.” And he will have but one confession to make: “Thou hast put gladness in my heart.” And he will assume but one attitude: With calmness he will say: “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Jehovah, only makest me to dwell in safety.”
Asleep in the storm!
Difficult for one to do, you say?
Indeed it is!
Sometimes it is even difficult to fall asleep when the night is still. When the care-worn soul seeks in restful slumber to find the refreshment it needs after a day of toil and struggle, fraught with many fears, belabored with many cares, then the weariness may be so great and the cares so many that in the mysterious depths of sub consciousness, the soul may twist and turn, robbing him of the peace and rest he desires. Hundreds of flitting spirits, carrying a message of trouble and anxiety to the weary soul, may rob it of the rest it longs for, but cannot find, when the night is still.
How much more is it difficult to find peace and rest in sleep when there is storm!
Take, for instance, the electrical storms which God in His providence sends upon the earth with, their ear-piercing claps of thunder and fearful streaks of lightning. Awesome as it, is in the middle of the day, how much more so when it comes in the middle of the night. We remember when we were youngsters how frightening these storms were, how, if we were awakened by them, we would pull down the shades to blot out the flashes of lightning, and place our pillows firmly over our ears to deaden the noise of the thunder. And if we were so weary of the busyness of I the day and succeeded to sleep on in the storm, often we were awakened by our parents and called down stairs. Why? We never did really find out, unless it was that they, too, were afraid and needed our company. We remember that most of the time we were so weary that we would fall asleep in. their laps, and after the storm was over, we were carried back again to our beds.
And when we grow older we often experience storms of a much more serious nature which descend upon our anxious souls. The devil and his angels pestering us with their unholy accusations, purposely endeavoring to disturb our sleep. The poverty stricken will lie awake, wondering where his next slice of bread will come from. The wealthy will fret that thieves will come in the blackness of the night to break in to steal. The day-laborer will lie awake pondering the bread-question, and trying to determine whether or not he should join with others in an unholy, materialistic alliance to resolve his problems. Then there are the storms of sickness, pestilence, war, and death. And not by any means the least, the storms that rock his soul because of the knowledge of his sins, or because the cause of God’s kingdom and of the church seriously affect him.
All these and many more are the storms of life that often make it most difficult for him to say: “I will both lay me down in peace and sleep.”
These storms of life are not merely a figment of our imagination—they are very real!
Such was also the experience of the poet.
David was oppressed and besieged by mighty foes. Of this he speaks in the context when he says: “O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.” And be sure when he said this he did not refer to men in general, but to men of honor and power—the mighty of the land, who were seeking to hurt him and to destroy him.
There is reason to believe that the circumstances affecting the psalmist were occasioned by the uprising of Israel during the revolt led by Absalom, his son. You know the history.
Absalom had killed Ammon, and had to flee to a Syrian city. After three years Joab, David’s general in the army, had interceded for him, and persuaded David to allow him to return. Absalom, however, on returning, instead of meekly repenting of his sin, and retiring to some obscure portion of Judah, began to steal the hearts of the people, and conspired against king David, his father. He gathered to himself a great following, including such leaders of the people as Ahithophel, David’s advisor, and had himself proclaimed king: Consequently David was advised to flee, taking with him several of his valiant men. The situation was so bad that it was evidently these valiant companions of David who asked the question: “Who will show us any good?” They were so completely upset that all looked hopeless. And in this frame of mind they must have reminded David that, though he was king, to all intents and purposes he was now only a vagabond. They must have pointed out to him that the majority was on the side of the rebel, and that the end could be only destruction. It must have appeared to them that there was no way to escape and to erase the shame which appeared to be on David and his handful of friends. Who will bring to us the former glory, and restore thee to the throne? Who will help us to prove Absalom is in the wrong, and that the right is on your side? Such undoubtedly were the questions that arose in their souls and which they placed before their king.
David could have answered: “Yes, my faithful ones, we have certainly known better days, and hard times have fallen upon us; yet, though the horizon is dark, you had better keep your chin up, for there is a silver lining in every cloud.” Or, he could have wept on their shoulders, lamenting the trying circumstances that had befallen them. But he resorts to neither of these attitudes.
Rather, his is the serene consciousness of perfect safety!
Not, you understand, because his was a carefree spirit who knew nothing or would know nothing of the troubles and afflictions of this present time. Nor was his one of these superficial natures that appears never to be affected by troubles, who, like dumb dogs lay themselves down to sleep, never troubled with the question whether the dawn will find them alive and well.
But he speaks the language of faith, of quiet confidence, and calm assurance!
Oh, indeed, his afflictions, his burdens were there all right; but somehow he had gotten rid of them. He feels, yea, knows that he is perfectly safe. He is assured all things are well with him. So he will lay him down in peace and sleep.
But how does this man of God possess such a tranquil spirit? How may anyone of us possess such a calm assurance when the storms of our life descend upon us?
The answer is to be found in the fact that the Lord his God makes him to dwell securely!
And the Lord is Jehovah, the I AM THAT I AM, the eternal, unchangeable God, the God of the everlasting covenant. In that name He does not appear or approach unto strangers, but only unto His chosen people. With that people Jehovah God has established a permanent relation of friendship and love in Christ Jesus.
Moreover, Jehovah is also the Almighty, the God of the storm. Yea, in His hands are all the deep places of the earth. By His power all creatures, including the devils, subsist. They have no power of their own. They receive all their power and their ability to use it only from Him.
And this Almighty God, Jehovah, is the All-Wise God. There is no foolishness with Him. He knows the end from the beginning. He ordains the end from the beginning. And He determines in what manner and by what means the end from the beginning shall be reached. He knows how to accomplish His own glory, as well as the glory of His people by the very best possible means. He knows of no opposition. He experiences no contrary winds. He is never frustrated in His plans. All things coordinate and cooperate to do His will.
Jehovah alone makes him to dwell securely!
Not mixed is the poet’s assurance of safety! Not partly is his prospect of deliverance in Jehovah and partly in the world or an arm of flesh.
His eyes are fixed on Jehovah, his God, alone!
Many there are who will say: Who will show us any good? while all the time their eyes are fixed on horses and chariots, and looking to many objects for safety and security.
But the man of God says: Jehovah alone makes me to dwell safely. He is the sole object of my trust. In the light of His countenance there is gladness for the lonely heart.
What a blessed experience!
Asleep in the storm!
Peace the poet had with all things, because, first of all, the poet was at peace with Jehovah, his God! A peace which surpasses all understanding!
Never could he lie down in peace and sleep were his confidence divided. Through the cross of Christ Jehovah has established a peace relation with the children of God. God’s justice has been satisfied for all their sins. They have a righteousness of God which of grace has freely been imputed unto them. And by faith they appropriate that righteousness, and know that they are right with God. In the Lamb of atonement they have confidence that all things are for them, never against them.
So they may unhesitatingly lay themselves down in peace and sleep!
Even in the storm!