Commentary on Psalm 4:8

8. In peace I will both lie down and sleep;

David’s confidence is not in himself, nor is it in the grain and wine he has, it is in the Lord. Thus, David knows that he will lie down and sleep in peace. And is this not the same command that the Holy Spirit gives to His people through the apostle’s epistle to the Philippians? The Holy Spirit commands us to

…not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.1

Throughout this psalm, David (a.)presents his petition to the Lord in prayer, and (b.)meditates on the goodness of God. Is it any wonder, then, that he can speak so confidently about his days and nights being marked by his being in peace? Not at all. For the peace of God is given to those whom the God of peace has chosen as His own inheritance.

8a. for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

The knowledge of God’s preservation of His people drives David to rest in faith. David will lie down and sleep in safety, because this proposition is true: The Lord makes me dwell in safety. We should note, however, that this safety is not primarily physical but spiritual. Those who are David’s enemies are they who say to him: “There is no salvation for your soul in God.” Likewise, those who are David’s enemies stand in contrast to him in yet another way: the wicked rejoice in their material goods but David rejoices in the Lord his God. The safety, therefore, is safety from the attacks of his enemies, enemies whose sole desire is to cause David to disbelieve God’s Word of Promise, i.e. God’s promised Seed, the Son of David, who would reign forever and ever on Davids throne.

An Additional Note

The sleep that David speaks of can be taken literally or figuratively. Given the historical situation, the literal sense is obviously present. David will be preserved by God from his enemies. He will not be anxious or terrified of what sort of fate is waiting for him. Rather, David rests in God’s promises, knowing that they are more certain than even his own experience of persecution at the hands of his son.

Figuratively, the reference to sleep seems most likely to be a reference to death. David will die the death of the righteous. His death will not end in his being the object of God’s wrath, but his death will be the peaceful transition from serving God while in the body and serving God while eagerly awaiting the consummation of all things.

There is a third sense, moreover, that is the typological sense. David is a type of Christ: He is the king of Israel who is persecuted by his own people. He lays down his own life, and He takes it up again. He lays down to sleep the sleep of death, only to rise from the grave as conqueror over death, the devil & his angels, and inheritor of all things. He slept the sleep of death, but He did not see corruption.

1Phil 4:6-9

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