Psalms 3 and 4 are bedtime psalms, or songs in the night. They are the interactions of people with God in the throes of sleeplessness. And this sleeplessness, rather than being a curse, has turned out to be a blessing. Thoughts were straightened out. Fears laid to rest. Perspective restored. In simple manner, I’ve circled four “G”-words in my Bible: “Be gracious to me” (v.1); the LORD has set apart the godly man for Himself (v.3); “Many are saying, “Who will show us any good?”” (v.6); and, “You have put gladness in my heart” (v.7). Let’s think about these in turn.
This non-sleeper finds that he doesn’t fit well into the world in which he lives. He’s struck by his lack of acceptance, and finds himself offended at the behaviors of his neighbors. It’s a lonely life, and one often finds oneself questioning whether we have it right after all. The world seems so sure of itself. And we listen to them way too much.
But God is present, and kind. He pays attention to us. He knows our frame, that we are but dust, and he comes to the aid of the children who are His, who are down and doubting. He is gracious.
When God “sets apart” the godly for Himself, we find a word that is used back in the exodus account. As Moses brought plagues to bear upon the stubbornness of Pharaoh, God would often “make a distinction” between the Egyptians and the descendants of Abraham, between one’s cattle over against the other’s. God was able to carefully direct His punishments, as well as his protections. And so God has special distinctions for those who seeks a view of life shaped not by the world but by God and His Word and will.
The godly man who is the beneficiary of God’s graciousness knows that “good” is defined not merely by what makes me feel good at the moment, or what is popular by today’s notions, but by that which is in concert with God’s character and mission. What seems good for the world is not the good that I choose!
Just before he drops off the sleep, this journeyman of little faith, but nighttime prayer, is made glad by the assurances of God. Whether or not one has the blessings that go along with worldly favor, he is graced with the blessings that belong to the godly. “You have put gladness in my heart.” And that comes as we seek God’s graciousness; as we seek to embrace the life of the godly as opposed to the worldly; as we let God define what is good. Then we have gladness. And then, we can sleep.