Psalms 3:5 I laid me down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
As much as this Scripture pertains to the benefits and blessings of rest for the physical man, I believe there is also contained here a parallel that speaks of rest for the inner man, the “hidden man of the heart”, as Peter calls him. This is true, especially during the battles and storms of life.
As the heading of this particular Psalm indicates, it was written by David as he was fleeing for his life from his son Absalom. To bring us up to speed, Absalom wanted to be king. He apparently thought he could do a better job than his father, so he began his own publicity campaign, a sort of “Put-Absalom-On-The-Throne” theme. He began to woo the people to his side. Listen to what II Samuel 15:4-6 says:
(v4) Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice.
(v5) And it was so, that when any man came nigh unto him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.
(v6) And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
The adulation for Absalom grew so much that the Bible tells us in II Samuel 15:12, "And the conspiracy was strong, for the people increased continually with Absalom." II Samuel 15:13: "The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom." Finally King David made the decision in II Samuel 15:14, "Arise and let us flee, for we shall not else escape from Absalom." It was at some point during his flight that he wrote Psalm 3.
With the help of the Holy Spirit, I would like to take David’s crisis and address the question as to how we can find rest in our own crises. I believe the Lord has opened to me some nuggets of truth which will be beneficial to us.
First of all, how was David able to lie down and go to sleep in the midst of what he was going through? After all, it would seem logical, with someone trying to hunt you down, to sleep with either one eye open, or not sleep at all. And David knew what was against him. He starts off this particular Psalm by saying to God, Lord, how are they increased that trouble me; many are they that rise up against me. He went on in verse 2 to reflect the opinion of many who were saying his situation was hopeless. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God.
That’s usually how it is when we encounter a trial. There always seem to be a double whammy. First, there is the trial itself; then there are people who make it harder for us by expressing their opinions. Sometimes those opinions are valid and helpful, given under the unction of the Holy Ghost. Other times, though, they are given out of their own spirit and based only upon natural assumption. Although sincere, they can lead you astray if it is not in accordance with God’s plan for you.
This double whammy was what David experienced. Lord, how are they increased that trouble me. That was his trial; Absalom was out to kill him and take the throne for himself. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. People saying to him and about him, “It’s all over,” only added to David’s suffering. It was an opinion based only on circumstantial evidence. Yes, it did look bad for him. But if David had listened to the popular opinion of the moment, he would have been wiped out.
Let’s put these two verses on a personal plane. “Lord, my bills trouble me. My mortgage is due; my utilities are due; my credit card payment is due; my car payment is due, and I don’t have enough money to pay my bills and buy groceries.” That is the trial itself, and the trial alone will play on your mind. “How am I going to pay these bills?” But to add to your dilemma, “Many there are who say of my situation, ‘There is no help for you; you’re going to be evicted and put out on the streets.’”
Here is another hypothetical example: “Lord, my marital problems are troubling me. My husband/wife wants a divorce.” But if that were not enough: “Many there are which say of my problem, ‘It looks like your marriage is over.’”
“Lord, my children’s troubles trouble me. My son sits in jail, arrested for narcotics possession. My daughter has run away from home. Many there are which say of my circumstance, ‘If only you had been a better mother/father. Your children are beyond help.’”
“Lord, my advancing years trouble me. I’m suffering with arthritis, heart disease, and I have trouble remembering things. Many there be which say about me, ‘Your days of effectiveness are over; it’s time for you to be put out to pasture to live out the rest of your days.’”
“Lord, this habit increasingly troubles me. I can’t seem to leave the cigarettes alone. I can’t seem to leave the pornography alone. My temper is hurting my marriage. Many there are which tell me, ‘You’re not even saved, you’re a hypocrite. God isn’t going to listen to you.’”
Do you get the picture? How do we rest when we are being bombarded on every side? Look at Psalms 3:3: But Thou, O Lord, are a Shield for me; my Glory and the lifter up of mine head.
Focus on those first two words, "But Thou". Do you know what that is? That’s the grace of God to help you. “What do you mean?” In the midst of all that comes against you, the grace of God is a very present help in time of trouble. "But Thou" is grace’s way of saying that there is another alternative, that you don’t have to be swallowed up by your circumstances. In the midst of all the murkiness and confusion, the utter hopelessness, the grace of God shines like a beacon of light into your situation.
"But Thou". David saw it and grasped a hold of it. “I know what’s against me, and I know what people are saying about it. But, Lord, You are a Shield for me.” "But Thou" means that you have a choice; you are not held helpless or hostage to your situation. "But Thou" means that when marital pressures abound, or financial pressures abound, or family pressures abound, or health problems abound, or personal problems abound, Jesus Christ will much more abound—if you will let Him. You must choose Who or what you are going to look to. David made his choice. “Lord, I choose to look to You. You are my Shield, my Hiding Place, my Protection when things come against me.”
But how do we access this grace? David shows us in Psalms 3:4: "I cried unto the Lord with my voice, and He heard me out of His holy hill." It is so simple, yet so profound. You see, David did not find rest until he cried out to God; he was not going to be able to sleep until he had cast that burden upon the Lord.
And so it is with you and me. God’s grace is available, His rest is available. But until we humble ourselves, come to the end of ourselves, and just cry out to Him in humble prayer and worship, we are going to have to battle the problem ourselves. The good news is now we have a choice. When we were in sin we really had no alternative but to try to deal with the problem ourselves. (And many times the situation overran us.) Now we can choose to cast the whole thing into the Lord’s lap, being mindful, of course, to be obedient to what He instructs us to do.
Now we come to Psalms 3:5, which was our beginning text. "I laid me down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me." Let’s break this down.
"I" This little pronoun is the cause of so much trouble. Did you realize this letter of the alphabet is the most selfish, the most self-seeking letter ever invented by man? “It doesn’t matter about you, what about what I want?” How many letters of the alphabet are capitalized whenever they appear alone? I have a personal theory as to why this is always capitalized; I believe it springs from our innate desire to exalt ourselves and lift ourselves up to prominence. Such is the way of the flesh—big I, little you.
This little pronoun, as has been stated, is the source of most of our trouble. The Lord is not able to bless me and minister to me because I am in the way. He is not able to fight my battles because I want to rise up and handle things my own way. So what must happen in order to find His rest during my battle is that I must get out of the way.
"Laid me down" How do I get out of the way? By laying down and humbling myself. Notice the wording: he didn’t say, “I laid down.” He said, “I laid me down.” What does "me" represent? "Me" represents my life. “I laid my life down.” "Me" represents my desires. “I laid my desires down. "Me" speaks about everything that speaks about my being. To “lay me down” means that I choose to forgive and walk in forgiveness, that I lay aside my right, or what I perceive to be my right, to retaliate and get even. To “lay me down” means that I cease from my own works and yield to the only One Who can work all things for my good.
All of this goes against our natural inclination, especially during the battle. We feel we must do something, that we must take some form of action. Unfortunately, this is when big I rises up and the action we take is of our fleshly nature and not led by the Spirit of God. And still we wonder, “Where is that rest He promised me?” Get "I" out of the way, and lay "me" down.
"And slept" Notice that the rest comes when we get "I" out of the way, and lay "me" down. What does sleep or rest signify? It signifies that we have committed ourselves, our situation, our future into His hands. It signifies that we have left the outcome up to the Lord. It means that we have cast our care upon Him. It does not mean that we close our eyes to the circumstances to the extent that we no longer acknowledge their reality. But it does mean that we are counting on Him to be our Protector and Shield.
That is why David could sleep; he was not pretending events were just not happening. He knew that God was His glory, and the lifter up of his head. He knew that God would preserve his life from the enemy.
What about you and me? Have we cried out to the Lord in total surrender, saying, “Lord, please help me, I feel like I’m being assaulted on every side.” Have we gotten "I" out of the way? Have we laid "me" down? Jesus said, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Just as a human being needs sleep, so we need His rest. But we are not talking about a spiritual rest that is only temporary, we are talking about a rest that is constant throughout whatever we encounter in this life.
Now I would like to bring to your attention some of the benefits of rest. Continuing on with Psalms 3:5, David writes:
"I awoke" To wake up means that we have opened our eyes. To open our eyes speaks of new insights, new revelation as directed by the Spirit of God to the Word of God. There is fresh revelation, fresh insight, a fresh outlook, fresh, new ideas that are birthed in the heart and mind of a man or woman whose soul and spirit are at rest in the Lord.
To wake up means that we may see something in a totally different light than what we did before. It speaks of invigoration, being renewed and restored in spirit. Psalms 23:2-3a: "He maketh me do lie down in green pastures." (Sometimes, if we will not lay "me" down, God will lay "me" down for us. He will bring us to that place where we will have no choice- it’s either lay down or be put down.) "He leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul."
"For the Lord sustained me" The word "sustain" means to uphold. David was saying, “The Lord upheld me; He protected me; He did not let my enemy overtake me and consume me. I am writing this Psalm only because the Lord was my Shield and Rear Guard.”
You see, when we get big "I" out of the way, and lay "me" down, the Lord’s sustaining power will hold us up. God’s sustaining power is His grace. But it’s hard for Him to uphold us when we are too busy squirming around. Make no mistake: God is God; if He wants us to be still, we will be still. He would rather have us work in cooperation with Him. He would rather have us willingly humble ourselves.
Psalms 3:6 "I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about."
There is no room for fear in the one whose soul and spirit are at rest in the Lord. Stress is a major contributor of fear. When we are stressed out it makes us vulnerable to attacks such as fear, worry, or sickness. In the midst of all that was happening to David—his son trying to hunt him down and others saying, “It’s all over, you’re finished”—he was at rest in the Lord. When he humbled himself and cried out to God, he found that rest. His spirit and soul had been refreshed, and his faith had been revived.
I don’t mean to sound redundant, but as we learn to get big "I" out of the way (and big "I" will always rise up during the battle), and lay "me" down, cry out to Him in total humility, total abandonment, we will have that peace and rest which is not dictated by circumstances. And from that rest springs forth a renewal of faith which says, “I will not be afraid.”
Bear in mind that an abundance of rest does not always mean a poverty of negative circumstances. "Ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me" is not a light thing, whether real or imagined. And as we have indicated, true rest will not come just because we pretend negative events are not happening, or will not happen. But there remains a rest for the people of God, a rest which is sure and constant, not because there are no negative circumstances, but in spite of those circumstances.
Friend, are you willing to get big "I" out of the way? Are you willing not to want the limelight? Are you willing to lay "me" down? Are you willing to lay aside your desires in favor of what the Lord wants? Have you cried out to Him in total surrender, “Lord, this problem is too much for me; I’m not adequate enough in myself to handle this properly. Would you please take over?” Until you do, the problem will be yours to handle. But if you will do these things we have talked about, His rest, His peace which passes all understanding will flood your heart and mind through the Lord Jesus Christ.
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