“A Psalm of David, When He Fled from Absalom His Son”
Every song has a story. I love hearing some of the circumstances and experiences surrounding the old hymns. It does not make them lose relevance to my own life to hear the original context in which they were written. In fact, it makes them all the more real and powerful. Sometimes we forget that God is not only the creator of history, the Lord over history, but He is also constantly active within history. He is drawing near to us within the context of real life. He is growing us up into Christ, not in a greenhouse or some sterile laboratory, but right out in the middle of the field, in the dirt, under the sun. He is gives us a song to sing and a prayer to pray that meets us where we are. As Saint Patrick famously wrote,
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
We find a great example of this in Psalm 3. The introductory title tells us who wrote the psalm and the special circumstances out of which it was written. This specific snapshot in the life of David is a long and sordid one. There is much for us to learn from this song written in the midst of danger, betrayal, slander, and deception. But there is one particular section that has been good for me to remember these days.
I lay down and slept; I woke again for the LORD sustained me.”
Why would David include the fact that he went to sleep and woke up the next morning? Isn’t that an obvious statement? Usually, one would tend to avoid filling in every little detail of a story, such as “I brushed my teeth” or “I took off my pants in the night and put them on again the next morning.” Let me put forth two suggestions of its significance.
First, sleep is the condition when we are the most vulnerable and helpless. Therefore, to sleep in the midst of danger is the greatest picture of absolute trust and confidence. Certainly there are exceptions. There is the sleep of laziness. There is the sleep of the fool. There is the sleep of presumption. But can there be a better blessing from God than to lay down the heads of His people at night with enemies all around and to wake them up again with new mercies and renewed strength? The same trust that lets us go to bed in peace is the same trust that enables us to get up again the next morning and face the battles ahead. If the LORD sustains us in sleep, certainly He will deliver us in battle.
Second, this rhythm of evening and morning, sleeping and waking, is in itself a kind of death and resurrection. To sleep peacefully is to surrender completely. To surrender completely is to die. The Bible even speaks of death as those who have fallen asleep. Old tombstones will say “Rest In Peace”. Notice how God measures the days in the creation account of Genesis. “Now there was evening and there was morning, the first day…” The sun rests (or dies) in the evening and is raised to new life every morning.
“I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.”
David now faces the day and the enemies around him with renewed confidence. Notice that he still has a realistic view of the danger. He sees the same enemies as the day before, but now he sees them through new eyes. He has rested in his God and has been sustained and renewed by Him. God has raised him up to face the day without fear or doubt.