Psalm 4: I’m Bad at Sleeping
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. A psalm of David.
Answer me when I call to you,
my righteous God.
Give me relief from my distress;
have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
How long will you people turn my glory into shame?
How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?
Know that the Lord has set apart his faithful servant for himself;
the Lord hears when I call to him.
Tremble and do not sin;
when you are on your beds,
search your hearts and be silent.
Offer the sacrifices of the righteous
and trust in the Lord.
Many, Lord, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?”
Let the light of your face shine on us.
Fill my heart with joy
when their grain and new wine abound.
In peace I will lie down and sleep,
for you alone, Lord,
make me dwell in safety.
One thing that I am really bad at is sleeping. Forget napping! I can’t do that ever. I have always had a really hard time calming my brain down at night so that I can fall asleep. It gets even harder when I am really tired. The more tired I am, the more my brain seems to spin. To help me be able to fall asleep I have developed a bedtime routine. When that routine gets disrupted, for whatever reason, I know I am going to have a long night of very little sleep ahead.
I used to get really frustrated and sometimes angry because all I wanted was to sleep and get rest. I didn’t want to be a cranky grouch the next day or be mean to my friends or family for no good reason. David, the author of this psalm, writes in verse 4, “Tremble and do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.” The word translated as ‘tremble’ can also be translated as ‘in your anger’. Instead of being angry about not sleeping, I started to spend those nights when I couldn’t sleep talking to God. I would pray for each of my friends, the students at youth group, the barista that made my coffee… I would pray for literally anyone that God brought to mind. I would still be tired the next day, but my heart and attitude was different than before.
This psalm has four distinct chunks. In verse 1, David is asking earnestly for God to hear his prayers. You may have heard this kind of prayer, where someone humbly and earnestly asks God for something, called supplication.
In the next chunk, verses 2 and 3, David starts with some really hard questions for God and then circles back to who he is and the truth that God hears our prayers. It can be hard to ask God difficult questions because we might not be sure about how or if he will answer us.
The third chunk, verses 4 and 5, is about sacrifice. Now, sacrifices looked a lot different in David’s time. They had laws about how and what type of animal to offer to the Lord for various reasons and occasions. Because Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice, he ended that old system and reconciled us to God through his death and resurrection. David urges meditation and to offer God the sacrifice he treasures most, that of a righteous trust in Him.
The last chunk, verses 6 through 8, is about safety. Despite the despair of others, in the light of God’s light, David knows that God can keep him safely. Versed 8 says, “In peace (shalom) I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
Take some time (sacrifice some time?) to go and recline somewhere quiet. Bring your bible, journal, and a pen with you. Read over this psalm then pray. Start with supplication. What do you want to earnestly ask God for? Next, ask God the hard questions that you have. Last, make a list of all your friends, family, classmates, teammates, neighbors, anyone that comes to mind. As you make that list pray for each of them, even if it is a super short, 3-word prayer.