“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for You, LORD, only make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
Sleep is a pretty special commodity. It can be really evasive. As a kid, I used to like to go to sleep because while I slept, I could dream. I like to dream. I could dream about things I wanted to dream about. I could dream about adventures and being a hero chimpanzee that was a sidekick of Batman and Robin. Maybe not what most people dream about, but I looked forward to it. And sometimes I would dream about Jesus and being his little sister and getting to go everywhere with Him and learn from Him and be loved by Him. Sleep was a good thing. Except for those certain occasions when I experienced nightmares, and then I’d wander into my parent’s bedroom and ask if I could sleep with them. And in the middle of their bed, protected on both sides, I could lay down again and sleep in peace, safe and sound.
And here in Scripture I read of an even safer place to be in You, Lord. In You I can lay down in peace and sleep. The truth is, there are times my mom and dad couldn’t do that for me, and times I can’t do that for myself. Sometimes there are so many thoughts going around my head, that my brain gets too busy when I lay down, and sleep evades me. But I ran to You, and You calmed my mind and gave me rest instead, quiet rest so that now I look forward to the rest of sleep again. Although now I look forward to a rest without dreams because my busy mind needs quietness. I need quietness and trust. I need to let You be the one hashing out my days and nights. I need to let You be God and follow Your lead and cast all my cares on You.
This stuff of laying down in peace, and sleeping, is actually pretty strong “medicine.” The word for “lay me down” is shakab. It means to lie down not just for sleep but any purpose like “rest, sexual connection, decease, or any other purpose). And David isn’t just saying that he aimlessly lays himself down, but that he chooses to lay himself down with purpose in all these situations in peace. That’s that word shalom. It’s not just some blessing you say to people, or a way to say hello or goodbye. It means “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony, the absence of agitation or discord.” It’s root means to be complete and full. In modern Hebrew, a variation means to pay for and another to be fully paid. So here is David, saying he consciously makes a decision to place himself in a susceptible position, a vulnerable position before You God, and before others in order to be whole and complete. Think about it. When Saul slept, David could sneak up on him and cut part of his robe. Jael could sneak up on Sisera and drive a tent peg through his head. David knew the frailty of sleep, yet He chose to trust in You when he layed down and to trust in You at his most vulnerable, when he slept and couldn’t care for himself.
David knew that You alone protect, that You alone make us whole and complete, that You alone perfect us. No one made him act upon that belief. He chose to trust. He chose to lay down. He chose peace in You. Psalm 131:2 states, “Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.” Here’s the thing, a mother weans a child. She teaches the child that his needs will be provided despite the lack of the breast. She moves him on to more mature food. But the Psalmist here isn’t saying that now he chooses to have someone wean him. He’s not passively choosing. His soul is like a weaned child. He has chosen to wean his soul. That’s what David was doing in Psalm 4. It’s what I need to be doing daily. I need to be weaning myself from trusting in things of lesser faith and choosing to come lay at Your breast, Lord, and rest in You, not because I want the milk, but because I’ve come to understand the wholeness and completeness and beauty and power of clinging to You and Your ways, of living and walking step by step, breath by breath, moment by moment in Your presence. I don’t need the milk. It’s that closeness with You that strengthens and encourages me and builds me up like You.
Paul said, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. ” (Philippians 4:11-12) It’s not our circumstances in life that determine our trust. It’s not our circumstances in life that determine whether I lay down or whether I sleep. It’s a deliberate choice to trust. It’s a deliberate choice to choose the presence of God over worry, even over sleep. I will not dwell in the difficult thoughts and situations of the day. I wasn’t created to dwell with them. I wasn’t created to dwell in them. I was created to dwell with You, Lord. I was created to “think on these things.” What things? “…[W]hatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8) Is that just a list of good things to occupy my mind with? Or is that reminding me that You, Lord, are the only One that meets all those requirements? And if I choose to think on You, it will lead me to think on these things, and to act upon these things, because of the influence that leaning on Your breast will have on my life and my thoughts? I don’t need to be weaned from someone making me think on these things. I’ve been weaned and now I want to think on You, I want to come near to You, I want to live by faith, I want Your presence. I want Your presence not for the milk. I want Your presence just for being close to You because I know You and I love You because of Your love and care for me.
One day, Jesus was walking by the temple. He went to the pool of Siloam by the sheep gate and saw this man laying there. Actually, there were lots of sick people there. Legend said that when an angel rustled the waters in the pool, the first person in the water would be healed. This man had been there, laying, waiting, for 39 years, but had no one to take him to the water. You know, today is the first day I’ve ever cried over that thought. 39 years of hoping, but no one to help him. And this day, no one notices him except Jesus. And Lord, You pose this question to him, “Do you wish to be well?” (John 5:6) Doesn’t that seem like a silly question to ask? Not really, if we look into what these words really meant.
You weren’t just asking if this man was willing to have You heal him. That’s a no brainer. Of course he wanted that! You were asking him if he was willing “to be generated whole.” Genesthai, that Greek word, means “to be generated”, “to begin to be” or “to come into existence. Sounds like Genesis, doesn’t it? It’s all about a new start. “Are you ready for a new beginning, right now?” And “hugies” is about wellness, being “healthy, sound and whole.” Jesus wanted to liberate this man’s whole life, body, spirit, and soul. It’s all about being totally reborn as a whole person, as the “person God intended him to be.”
Isaiah honed in on this in 30:15. Well, really, God was the one speaking to Israel and saying this of them. “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.” To which Isaiah added, “But you were not willing.” Basically, the people said, “No, we’ll trust in our horses.” They chose acting on their own accord, fixing their own problems, or running from them, instead of running to You and resting in You and depending on You, and crawling up next to You. It’s so easy to ignore Your sovereignty. But it brings such a heavy price.
But our frantic efforts won’t bring our rescue. Our rescue, our salvation comes through repentance, through returning to You, and rest, resting in You. It’s the total opposite of what the world teaches us. But then again, the world didn’t create us, You did. So what does the world know? Why do I listen to it? If doing nothing changes nothing, if standing and waiting, or sitting still, or sleeping in the midst of trouble, doesn’t change things, then what am I thinking? I mean, what was I doing when You created the world? Did I participate? Did the world actively create itself? You did that, without our help. What was Adam doing when Eve was created? What, he was sleeping? And You did that? All by Yourself? For Adam’s good and Eve’s good? What was Abraham doing when You established the Abrahamic covenant? What? He was in a deep sleep? You established the covenant without his help? What do any of us do for our salvation? We weep and cry and don’t understand, we betray, we hurt, we ridicule, we run, we hide, we fight back, we disbelieve, or we go in a room and hide and wait to see if people come torture us too. We pretty much don’t do anything. But You choose to die on a cross for our sins, You pay the penalty of death and the wrath of God for us, You descend to hell, and rise again victorious and alive, and You invite us into Your resurrection life. It’s never been about what we can do. It’s always been about what You are doing. If only we learn to stop side-stepping You.
In repentance and rest, in returning and rest parallels in quietness and trust. Just like that young child that has learned to come to his mother, not for the breast milk but for her, I must choose to act against my natural tendency and allow You, God, to act. That is putting my trust in You. I need to stop yanking the reigns of authority out of Your hands by being so ready to take care of things myself. Because when I jump to take care of it, I keep You from showing Your grace, mercy, and power. All anyone sees, and all I see, is me, not You. I need to return to You first, not next. I need to return to You, to Your bosom. It’s not about just confessing. It’s about an actual return to relationship with You, to a right relationship, to a personal relationship, to a desirous and dependent and loving relationship. It’s about returning to obedience, and returning to remembering all You’ve done and all You are. It’s recalling the real You. Rest comes in returning.
Returning brings rest. Rest brings tranquility. I can lay in the boat with You as the storm rages around us because I know who You are, I know who holds me in His hands. It goes hand in hand with trust. I feel and experience the well-being, the completeness, the wholeness, and wellness of true confidence in You. Peace and security come through this relationship, this reality, not through my efforts. But am I willing? Because the problem is in my unwillingness to submit, my unwillingness to crawl up into Your arms and be still and know that You are God. We’d rather live with “our myth of control.”
The truth is, that adage is a lie, that one that says, “God helps those who help themselves.” It’s a lie straight from hell. God helps those who crawl into His arms and let Him defend them and help them. God helps those who are willing to let Him be God. God helps those who don’t resist the truth. God helps those who are willing to come back to Him. God helps those who give up their control for His. God helps those who let Him take charge. God helps those who are willing “to submit to His authority.”
When I’m in distress, I will call on You. Only You can give me the relief I need. I will set myself apart for You, because You hear me when I call and You are able to do what needs to be done for me. No matter what happens, even if it makes me angry, I want to learn to not act on it, but to give it to You. I want to learn true self control, where I can lay in my bed, vulnerable as can be, and ponder not the wrong done, but ponder You and be silent and let You remedy things for me. I want to have a heart right before You, to be a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable to You, and I can’t be if I take control. I need to learn to trust more and refuse my tendency to fix things my way. You know, the more whole You make me, the more I understand David. You have put more joy in my heart than those who rejoice because of abundance of their grain and wine. I am learning time and again, the pleasure of crawling up into Your bosom and resting in the strength and love that is You. Yes, I choose You. And I want to choose You more and more every day. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone. O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Keep me there, Lord, I want to keep choosing to live in You.