Singing As We Plant #4
Take time to read the entire Psalm 4:1-8, and then come back and read the following verse again.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
– Psalm 4:8
Psalm 3 and Psalm 4 are said to be a pair that are intended to go together. They function as bookends for a day. Psalm 3 is a Psalm for the morning (which is probably why it is so angry), and Psalm 4 is a song for the evening. A lullaby, if you like; a soothing song to hum along to before you fall asleep.
Do you ever struggle to sleep? The key to a good night’s sleep, according to David, is to know that what God thinks about your right standing before him is way more important than what you or others believe about it. In verse 1 of the Psalm, David uses a name for God that isn’t used anywhere else in Scripture. He calls him “God of my righteousness.” Now, because it is such a unique term in the Scripture, there is a lot of argument about how best to express it. C.H. Spurgeon was fascinated by the term, and he explained it this way:
It means, Thou art the author, the witness, the maintainer, the judge, and the rewarder of my righteousness; to thee I appeal from the calumnies and harsh judgments of men. Herein is wisdom, let us imitate it and always take our suit, not to the petty courts of human opinion, but into the superior court, the King’s Bench of heaven. (The Treasury of David, Vol 1, Pg. 34)
As David was being pursued by forces led by his son Absalom, he was having a lot of accusations thrown at him. They must have kept him up at night. “You are a sham, David. You were a lousy king. Remember what you did with Bathsheba? Even your own son hates you.”
I reckon that a lot of us have voices of accusation that keep us up at night. I don’t know what they sound like to you, but I certainly experience them at times in my life.
“How can you lead these people when you are such a wreck yourself? You barely prayed today; what if everyone in your church prayed like you? If people knew the real you, they would reject you.” Recognize any of these?
When the voices of accusation threaten to keep us up at night we can find rest in our new identity “in Christ”.
The Scripture says, though, that I am “in Christ” and have a new identity that comes from him (2 Cor 5:17), and as a result I am free from accusation (Colossians 1:22) and condemnation (Romans 8:1). God himself gets to make the call on my righteousness, and because the work of winning that righteousness is already completed by Jesus, it can’t be taken away from me, or undone through my own failings.
Now that’s reason to sleep easy.
Singing as we plant
We need to know that our struggle for righteousness is over. It isn’t to be found in our success as a planter, or in the feedback for our sermons, or in the number of people who think we have looked after them well. Our righteousness is not destroyed when numbers are low, when the sermon is bad or when people line up at the end of the Sunday gathering to tell you how much you have neglected them. The peace of this psalm is supremely the peace of faith.
We also need to know when our day is over. We need to know when we can stop reading and writing emails, stop thinking or worrying about bills, colleagues, pastoral situations, people on their faith journey – when we can sing this Psalm, and particularly the ‘in peace’ of verse 8.
1. The day thou gavest, Lord, is ended,
The darkness falls at Thy behest;
To Thee our morning hymns ascended,
Thy praise shall hallow now our rest.
2. We thank Thee that Thy Church unsleeping,
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping,
And rests not now by day or night.
3. As o’er each continent and island
The dawn leads on another day,
The voice of prayer is never silent,
Nor dies the strain of praise away.
4. The sun, that bids us rest, is waking
Our brethren ‘neath the western sky,
And hour by hour fresh lips are making
Thy wondrous doings heard on high.
5. So be it, Lord; Thy throne shall never,
Like earth’s proud empires, pass away:
But stand, and rule, and grow for ever,
Till all Thy creatures own Thy sway.
Heavenly Father, forgive me for the times that I base my value and worth more on what others think about me and less on the righteousness that your Son accomplished for me. Teach me what it means to walk in that righteousness, and free me to sleep easy knowing that you are the God of my righteousness.