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
How, I wonder, did you sleep last night. Did you sleep well?
It’s common for those who are anxious or under stress to find it difficult to get a good nights sleep, so it’s no surprise that some of us have found it difficult to sleep during the coronavirus pandemic. Unsettled by all that is changing about us, uncertain of what the future might hold and fearful perhaps even of death, the nights for some have on occasions been long.
In Psalm 3 David is under stress. His son Absalom has led an uprising against him and has even plotted to have him killed. David has had to flee and as he has done so he has had to listen to the taunts of those who oppose him, taunts which suggest that God is no longer for him. David however knows better. He knows God is his shield, the lifter of his head. Knowing that God will protect him and knowing he will not be put to shame, David cries out to God. And God answers.
And as a result, despite all his difficulties, David is able to sleep, knowing that God sustains him as he does so.
Because of the protection he is confident God will give, David will not fear his enemies. He doesn’t doubt that God will deal with them, that he will both shame them and disarm them. David knows salvation belongs to the Lord.
And so it is with us. Daily we face difficulties, especially in this time of pandemic. We may feel overwhelmed by them and struggle as others, perhaps, look on and question how we can still trust in a God who, from their point of view, seems to have abandoned us. But we know different. Because, as we too cry out to God, he answers us in the promises he has made, the promises we find in the Bible. And so, with the shield of faith, we can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one [Ephesians 6:16].
Because the truth is that, no matter what our circumstances might be, God is for us. And ‘if God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?’ [Romans 8:31-32] We can be absolutely confident ‘that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 8:38-39]
Knowing these things will help us, like David, to sleep at night. Like him, we can be sure that God will sustain us too.
But whilst Psalm 3 is a ‘Psalm of David’, written ‘when he fled from Absalom his son’, it is, at the same time, a psalm about another, greater, king. Like David, King Jesus was rejected by his own people and was taunted by those who saw him as one who was beyond salvation. As Jesus hung on the cross he was derided by those who passed by ‘wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” [Mark 15:29-30]. Unlike David however, Jesus was not spared death – but, even so, death could not hold him. Though he laid down and died, God did not let his ‘holy one see corruption’ [Psalm 16:10]. God sustained him too, even in death, and on the third day Jesus rose again.
And the same will be true for us. As, for the time being at least, the death rate from coronavirus begins to fall, we may be beginning to feel a little more confident that these days will pass. No doubt, in time, they will. But, even if we do not succumb to Covid-19, we will all still one day die. Even so, as the verses above remind us, not even death can separate us from the love of God. On occasions in the New Testament Jesus describes those who are dead as merely sleeping. And no wonder. For when we do die, we can be confident that, to Jesus, it will be no more difficult to raise us as it would be to wake us from sleep. And so just as he did with the ruler’s daughter in Matthew 9, he will but take our hand or, perhaps, just as he did with Lazarus in John 11, he will but call our name, and we will be raised. God will sustain us, even in death.
And so, just as he did with David’s enemy, God has shamed and disarmed our enemies. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. [1 Corinthians 15:26]. And because of the cross, ‘death has been swallowed up in victory’ [1 Corinthians 15:54]. We who were dead in our sin, God has ‘made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.’ And in so doing ‘He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him’. [Colossians 2:13-15]. With sin dealt with, death has indeed lost its sting. It has been disarmed and finally been rendered truly powerless.
So we can sleep soundly because the God who keeps us neither slumbers or sleeps [Psalm 121:2-3]. And when our time comes, we will be able to rest in peace because we are those who ‘rely not on ourselves but on the God who raises the dead’. [2 Corinthians 1:9]. Salvation really does belong to the LORD, and his blessing really is on his people.
So tonight, knowing all this, may we all know what it is to sleep well!