It’s 4:00 a.m. and I’m awake, my body still recovering from jet lag. This is to be expected after teaching Common Issues Addressed in Biblical Counseling in Ukraine, last week. Unexpectedly, however, counseling people with sleep problems generated more class discussion than many other topics. And surprisingly, the very next day William Varner, a Bible teacher at Master’s University, posted on Facebook his outline for Psalm 3, which he entitled “Advice for Insomniacs.” Therefore, I decided to borrow Dr. Varner’s outline for the skeleton of this article, while filling it in with thoughts from my class notes, my students, and commentary from Alec Motyer’s Psalms By the Day.
First, let’s read Psalm 3.
O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul,
“There is no salvation for him in God.” Selah
But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.
I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. Selah
I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
Arise, O Lord!
Save me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.
Salvation belongs to the Lord; your blessing be on your people! Selah
Here we find 3 unchangeable truths that act as spiritual sleep aids when we—by deliberate faith—focus our attention on the Lord.
God Surrounds You like a Shield.
Verses 1-2 establish the setting of David’s trial. Absalom’s cunning deception of some in the kingdom through his smooth speech turned David’s peaceful reign into wartime terror (see 2 Samuel 15). As a result, fear overtook David’s heart as the dissenters mocked him and God’s “so-called protection.”
When the circumstances of life become fertile ground for fear and anxiety to flourish in your heart, make a decisive shift in your focus—turn from the accusations of the wicked to rock-solid truth about God. Say to God, “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.” Fight fear with the greater fear of fearing God above man. Know that, in Christ, God is not against you, but He is for you (Rom. 8:31). He will never leave you, nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5). The Lord has proven Himself faithful to me more times than I can count. He will do the same for you. Trust Him.
God Sustains You by Your Sleep.
David’s child-like trust in God as Protector led to constant prayer: “I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill” (v. 4). Cry. Cry aloud. Cry to God. Tell Him all your fears. Hide nothing from Him. He knows it all already. Find comfort and security in His gentle, loving arms.
When the trials of life threaten to overtake your faith then run to the Lord. Do not cease to cry out to Him for help regardless of the verbal taunts of the ungodly people who surround you. He will answer you, as He answered David, and will sustain you with peaceful sleep. Verses 5-6 will then become your personal testimony, “I lay down and slept [literally, “And how I slept!”]; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” Alec Motyer translates this “The Lord my pillow!” This kind of rest in the Lord produces confidence: “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.”
God Secures You with His Salvation.
Verses 7-8 reveal David’s confident assertion of the Lord’s ultimate salvation. He knew that no matter what his enemies attempted to do to him that God always gets the final word. It was the Lord who would strike down David’s enemies; God would break their teeth. Alec Motyer says “strike the cheek” signifies rebuke, and “breaking teeth” signifies God’s rendering of David’s enemies as harmless in the end. In God’s hands, they are merely toothless tigers who make a lot of racket, but ultimately cannot harm the one whom God protects.
All of this is to say, finally, that “Salvation belongs to the Lord.” It is God who cares for those who belong to Him. Though He often leads us through deep waters and dark valleys, His blessing is on His people. There is no reason to fear. Look to Him. Go back to bed, my soul, lay down and sleep.
[An edited version of this post is now published in the 31-day devotional ANXIETY: Knowing God’s Peace.]