GETTING THE MESSAGE/Evening prayer for man of faith
Traditionally, this psalm has been regarded as an evening prayer for the man of faith who is facing opposition to order his thoughts about the Lord and allow him to lie down to sleep in peace. The psalm is written by David, who knew what it was to be in distress.
He begins by asking God to hear his prayer (verse 1). In our lives we face a myriad of different troubles, but God in his grace gives us access to his help and comfort through prayer. Reading a psalm and praying before we go to bed is a good practice to follow.
David remembers previous times when the Lord gave him relief in times of distress. Christians can draw strength from the remembrance of God’s help to them in the past to give them confidence in the present struggle they are in. We shouldn’t forget the Lord’s mercies to us, so we are not prone to distrust him when troubles come.
In verse 2, David addresses the men who oppose him. David is the anointed king of the Lord, so those at enmity with him are opposing the Lord. It should not be surprising to the Lord’s people when they falsely condemned or slandered, but it is a small matter to be judged by man’s judgment.
He says to them, “How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?” The 4th century Christian leader John Chrysostom said that if he had one sermon to preach to the whole world, it would be on this statement.
Chrysostom knew that men practice deception on themselves and are false to their own best interests. The path men are on leads to destruction, but if they turn to the Lord they can have life that is truly life. He taught the folly of being opposed to the living God. His “Paschal Homily” is still read in some churches, and is rich with the grace of the Lord Jesus and his victory over death.
In verse 3, David follows his rebuke to men with his confidence in the steadfast love and promise of the Lord: “the Lord has set the godly apart for himself.” David is a man who knows the love of the Lord and loves him back for it. It is a wise soul who trusts in the Lord even in the darkest times.
The highest enjoyment on earth is found in communion with God. Happy is the heart that loves the Lord. To be set apart as belonging to the Lord is the best thing that can be said about you. In Christ you have righteousness before God; you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you, the watchful providence of God to work all things out for your good, and a certain and blessed future with the Lord.
David speaks to his loyal followers to be careful of their anger in this situation (verse 4). He says that rather than let anger fester, ponder in your heart on your beds and be silent. He says something similar in Psalm 37: “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself, it tends only to evil. For evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord will inherit the land.”
Ralph Davis in his commentary makes a good point: “This instruction to be quiet runs contrary to the fad in some Christian circles that you have the right to nourish, feed, and stir your anger and resentment -- the same way you have the right to be angry with God. Of course that would mean we have to be omniscient in order to be angry at God.”
Quiet meditation on the truth leads to fruitful service; “Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord” (verse 5). Right sacrifices aren’t just outward observances, but proceed from a humble heart that knows its need of forgiveness of sin. There is no piety without trust in the Lord. The great salvation we have in the Lord Jesus should inspire us to trust in God and serve him in all circumstances.
Such contemplations (and actions) produce joy in one’s heart that no earthly prosperity can match (verse 7) and enables one to lie down and sleep in peace despite the strong opposition that threatens him (verse 8).
His conclusion is “You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” The state of God’s people is never desperate. David shows us the value of a good conscience. He knows that the one who called him can sustain him. So he puts all his hope in the Lord.