Lie Down and Sleep in Peace
Compline: Prayer at the Close of Day
Lie Down and Sleep in Peace
Text: Psalm 4
It sure is frustrating when your children make bad decisions. It almost hurts worse than when you make bad choices yourself. You spend so much time and effort teaching your children. You try to raise them right. You try to help them make good choices and be successful in life. You try to train them in the ways of the Lord. When they do something wrong, it hurts.
How could they cheat on that assignment? Why would they say that to somebody else? Where did they get that kind of language from? I didn’t teach them that.
As they get older the potential sins get more ugly and the potential pains get more hurtful. Why won’t they listen to me anymore? How could they act like I’m unimportant, like they don’t care about me? This isn’t the way I raised my child! These are just more troubles in a life filled with pain.
Imagine this, though. Imagine your child doing more than making a few bad choices. Imagine your child doing more than mixing it up with the wrong crowd. Imagine your child completely hating you. He wants to disown you. He tells people lies about you. He works against you, trying to disrupt and discard everything you’ve ever worked for. He steals your livelihood. He overtakes your home. He kicks you out out on the streets. He even dishonors your marriage bed in disgusting ways and is not at all discreet about it. You think your kid cheating on a test or breaking curfew is bad? That would be a nightmare!
Yet that is a nightmare that became a reality for king David. All of those things happened to him with his son Absalom. Absalom stirred up the kingdom. He told lies about his father. He rallied a rebellion against him. Eventually he kicked him out of his palace, took over the throne, and even had his way with his father’s women in plain sight of everyone on the palace roof.
David had lost his power. He lost his palace. He lost his people. He lost his friends. And perhaps worst of all, he had lost his son. But he still hadn’t lost the Lord. So in this most awful, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching time of his life, he turned to the Lord for help.
It would appear that Psalms 3, 4, 5 and five were written about this particular time of his life and this situation with his son Absalom. Here is David’s opening prayer to the Lord in Psalm 4: “Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.”
How many times haven’t you had a prayer like that? Answer me, God! I’m calling to you, God. Where are you, God? Help, God! Give me relief from my distress. Be merciful to me. Listen to me. Hear my prayer, God!
David pour out his pain onto the pages of Scripture as he poured out his pain in prayer to the Lord. Maybe you’ve been there, too. Heartbreaking, gut-wrenching pain that makes you weak in the knees and sick to the stomach. Breath-taking, life-shaking pain that makes you wonder how you will ever find strength to live one more minute. So you fall to your knees and you beg, “God, give me relief from my distress. Be merciful to me. Hear my prayer.”
After David opens with prayer he continues in the next two verses with a rebuke for his enemies. These words were not only directed toward those who opposed him, but sadly would have also been directed toward his son. Verses 2-3: “How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him.”
The hurt is still so very clear. You can almost hear the anguish in David’s voice as he begs of his enemies, “How long? How long will you do this? Why are you doing this to me? Why are you turning away from the LORD and sinning against him and against me? Why?”
There are any number of times we might feel the same. Why are so many people turning from the ways of the Lord in our country? Why are things like evolution and lifestyle choices overwhelmingly understood as right and the Bible as wrong? Why do so many in the world hate Christians and even kill Christians, and why does it seem to be getting worse right now? How long will this go on?
It might lead us to despair our doubt at times. In frustration we might shrink back from our faith and abandon our trust in the Lord. But we don’t need to. We can have the confidence of David as he spoke boldly told his enemies: “Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to him.” Though all the world may hate us or be against us, we too can always know that the LORD will hear us when we call to him.
Even still—even knowing that the Lord is on our side and will hear our prayers—even then we might be tempted to be filled with sin. We might be overcome with anger toward our enemies. We might want God to blast them from the heavens with Sodom and Gomorrah-like fire. And if he doesn’t, we might wonder if God is on our side.
Need an example? How exactly do you feel about Isis beheading Christians and Americans in the Middle East right now? When you hear about Christians being hunted down and women and children being slaughtered; when you hear more about holy war-jihad and that we are the enemy targets—how do you feel about those enemies? Compassion and love, hoping that they might turn to the Lord? Or might you be thinking about America flexing its muscle, dropping a nuke, and wiping them off the face of the earth? Don’t you wonder why God would allow such terror in this world and your life?
In the next two verses of the psalm though, king David has advice for his friends. For the few he had left that were running in fear from Absalom, he had advice for how his friends should react. The advice goes for us today, too. Verse 4: “In your anger, do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD.”
The easy thing to do is to give your heart over to Satan’s temptations for anger and hatred and revenge. The easy thing to do is to toss and turn all night, wishing ruin and harm and destruction on your enemies. But those are the same sinful actions that Absalom took part in. Those are the same sins that Isis and all our enemies give in to. Those are not the ways that God’s people walk. So David advises proper spiritual action: In your anger, do not sin. When you lie in bed at night, search your own heart. Be silent and peaceful. Instead, offer your sacrifices and offerings to the Lord. Go about your normal life of faith and trust in the Lord.
That’s not exactly easy though, is it? One of the hardest things for us to do in life is to let go of grudges, to forgive, to move on and not harbor anger. That’s even harder to do when our enemies haven’t changed and are still around us. We might ask the same question that David’s companions did in verse 6: “Many are asking, ‘Who can show us any good?’” Is there anyone who will possibly help us or do us good in this life?
David again has a fearless and faith-filled answer. As he was turned to God in prayer in this psalm and begged for the Lord’s relief and mercy, David realized the answer. He knew where he could find relief and help in all his troubles—in the very God he was praying to. So he prays at the end of verse 6: “Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD.”
When life is filled with darkness, when storms are brewing, when the dark cloud of guilt is hanging over us—that’s when we pray that our gracious LORD shine on us with the light of his face. This is light that is filled with the warmth of love and kindness and forgiveness. This is light that is seen in the radiance of God’s glory—in his own Son Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the one that the Holy Spirit was lighting on as the Father spoke from heaven at his baptism. Jesus is the one that beamed brighter than the sun on the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus is the one that shined with victory and life on Easter morning. Jesus is the one who radiates glory as he sits on his throne in heaven. This is the light that we pray will shine on us in our sin and sorrow-filled lives.
And here is the amazing thing about our God: When we cry out to him to answer us, when we look to him for relief and mercy, when we beg him to shine on us with the light of his face—our amazing God listens and answers. There is never a time when God will not listen to his dear children. There is never a time when God will not be with his children. There is never a time when God will not hear our cries for mercy and shine on us with his love and forgiveness.
David knew that. That’s why he finished this psalm with a beautiful prayer to the LORD. Verses 7: “You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.” No worldly pleasure or blessing can even compare with the joy that that God fills our hearts with. Even when David’s heart was broken because of his rebellious and wicked son Absalom, he still had a heart that was filled with joy because of the Lord’s bright light of love.
That kind of love gives incredible peace, even in the most difficult times of life. Here’s how David concludes: “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” David was kicked out of his palace. He lost his power. He was on the run for his life. And his son was behind it all! Yet David could lie down and night and sleep in peace because the LORD wrapped him in love and made him dwell in safety.
What a beautifully perfect psalm and message for us today. We have lives filled with disappointment and heartbreak. We trouble and hardship. We have enemies all around us. We have Isis and others hating us to the point of wanting us dead. But we still have the LORD. He listens to us. He answers us. He loves us.
This night and every night, remember how the LORD lets the light of your face shine upon you, beaming through the darkness of this world. With that joy filling your heart, this night and every night you will Lie Down and Sleep in Peace.