Psalm 4—Talking To God And Men Part 4 of 4 (series: Lessons of Psalms)
by John Lowe
The favor of God, and his approval, are absolutely necessary to the happiness of mankind. The displeasure of our Maker includes in it the utmost distress and dishonor; but his favor includes everything great, good, and honorable, therefore the devout prayer of the psalmist will be the fervent and humble supplication of every wise and virtuous mind—“Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” “For the understanding of this phrase,” says Dr. Dodd, “and several other passages in the Psalms, it must be remembered, that when Moses had prepared the ark, in which he deposited the tables of the covenant, the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle; and after this, wherever the ark resided, God always manifested his peculiar presence among his people, by a glorious visible appearance from the mercy-seat, and this continued as long as Solomon’s temple lasted. It is this which is always alluded to where mention is made in the Psalms of the light of God’s countenance, or, his making his face to shine. Now as this was a standing miraculous testimony of God’s peculiar providence over the Jews, hence those expressions, of his making his face to shine, his lifting up the light of his countenance, and the like, did in common use signify his being gracious unto them, and taking them under his immediate protection. They are used in this sense Numbers 6:24-26—“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace." In like manner, the hiding of God’s face meant the withdrawing of his favor and protection from them.
Isn’t this exhibited in the world every day? While some are sending out their thoughts, and wishes, and expectations, to invite anything that will feed their vanity or satisfy their sensual desires; the people of God are looking up to Jesus, and asking for a view of him who is the light to enlighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel. Precious Jesus! be my light, my life, my portion, and I shall need no other.
7 Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.
David is an example to the “depending-ones.” Despite his sufferings and calamities, God has looked on him, and "put gladness in his heart"—a gladness which far exceeds that of his adversaries. Though they are prosperous, and their corn and wine have increased, and though they enjoy all the outward material blessings promised to Israel—the wheat and the grape—David must depend upon the generosity of friends to supply everything he needs, yet he would not change places with them. The spiritual joy which fills his own heart is superior to any amount of material comforts and pleasures.
The harvest of grain and the gathering of grapes were the two seasons of greatest joy in the East, they shouted “Harvest Home” with gladness that the fruits of the earth had again been ingathered, and they drank the new wine, and danced for joy; but David says to the Lord, “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.” When God puts gladness in the heart, it is real gladness, for God is not the Giver of a sham joy; and it is lasting gladness, for God does not give temporary gifts. David says, “Thou hast put gladness in my heart,” and then he compares it with the gladness of men who don’t know God, and he says that his joy was greater than theirs when their earthly storehouses were filled to overflowing with the harvest. Boaz went to sleep on the threshing-floor, but he that sleeps upon the bosom of God has a far softer bed than that.
David could rejoice in the midst of the outward affliction that Absalom and his followers had caused him, and with a calm trust in Jehovah, he would wait on his deliverance. In spite of the fact that the party of Absalom had rich provisions at their disposal, the joyful confidence of David was a richer treasure than all the abundance of their barns and cellars. The conclusion of the prayer, therefore, is in line with David's trust in Jehovah and in the certainty of his salvation. The ungodly can be happy when the money is coming in and everything is prosperous. David can be happy even in distressing times because the LORD put gladness in his heart.
8 I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep.
By these words, David is signifying that he had such a calmness and serenity of mind amidst all his troubles that he could not only lay down with peaceful thoughts and a tranquil mind, but would soon fall asleep. Some lay down, but they cannot sleep because of the anxiety that assaults their minds; but the psalmist could do both. The word rendered "both" may be translated "together", which would make the meaning either that he would lie down with his friends and they would sleep together, committing himself and them to the care and protection of God. Or the meaning could be that he should lie down and sleep, with his enemies nearby since he was sure that there would soon be a reconciliation and peace between them—“When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, he makes even his enemies live at peace with him” (Proverbs 16:7).
Most men lie down, and most sleep, because without rest and steep life could not be preserved; even insufficient sleep can take a terrible physical and mental toll on a person. But unfortunately, how few lie down in peace; peace with their own consciences, and peace with God! David had two great blessings, sleep, and peace in his soul. He had a happy soul; and when he lay down on his bed, his body soon enjoyed its rest, since his conscience was in peace. And he had a third blessing, a confidence that he would sleep in safety. And it was true. No fearful dreams disturbed his sleep, for he had a mind made tranquil by the peace of God. As for his body, that also enjoyed its well-deserved rest, for he had not overloaded it by overindulgence in food and drink. Dear reader, how many of your sleepless nights can be attributed to your disturbed soul—to a sense of guilt, or to a fear of death and hell?
There are some people who vainly imagine that the message of "security in Christ," leads to loose living and careless walking. This is not what it led David to do. It caused him to slip into a place of concealment, and to lay down in peace to sleep. Should we not have that same spirit of confidence and trust? The real believer, filled with Divine trust, is not afraid of the arrows that fly by day nor of the pestilence that walketh by night. He knows that he is safely sheltered in the arms of his Lord.
The antidote for insomnia is to use those hours to Pray constantly until you get the light of God‘s countenance, till his Spirit bears witness with thine that thou are a child of God. Then your rest will do you good: and even in your sleep, your happy soul will be moving forward to heaven.
For thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.
The great king indicates that his protection and safety were due to the power and presence of God only; and that was the reason for the tranquility of his mind, and why he slept so peacefully at night, even though he was in danger from his enemies; or else the idea is "thou, Lord, makest me only" or "alone”, meaning though solitary and destitute of friends, you make me to dwell in safety, under the shadow of thy wings, covered by thy favor, and surrounded by thy power—“So Israel will live in safety alone; Jacob's spring is secure in a land of grain and new wine, where the heavens drop dew” (Deuteronomy 33:28).
The security of the saved is pictured in this statement. The saved are indeed safe. They are not safe because of what they are, or do. They are safe because they are hidden away in the hand of their God. The Lord said: "My sheep hear My voice, and they follow Me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand."
David spoke a great truth when he prayed: "For Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety." If our safety depended upon our good works, we would never know when we had worked enough. If it depended on our good words, we would never know when we had spoken enough. The arm of flesh is a poor defense to be sure. David sought to hide himself in the shadow of the Lord's wings. He said: "Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." If you had asked David where his safety lay, he would never have said that it lay in anything that was of the flesh. His trust was in the Lord.
As the Apostle Paul thought upon these things, he cried out in the Holy Ghost, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" He mentioned tribulation and distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword. With all of these things closing in upon him, he said: "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus."