As we read this psalm, we sense that David is facing distress. In verse 1, he recalls his past distresses, and he seeks relief. Looking over this entire psalm, it appears this distress is very intense. It is causing him to even deal with anger. Verse 4, “Be angry, and do not sin”. Starting this psalm, David is in an emotional state of distress and anger.
But look at how he ends it. David is able to turn from distress and anger to joy and peace. He says, “You have put more joy in my heart,” (v 7) and “in peace I will both lie down and sleep” (v 8). I am sure many of us have experienced this kind of distress. At times it is so troubling we cannot sleep at night, we are anguished over something that is on our heart or mind. It may cause us to even be angry, asking ‘why is this happening?’ This is what David is facing.
At times like this, what do we do? Who do we turn to for help, for comfort? Where do we go to find peace and security? In the world, people face this all the time. They may ask the question David raises in verse 6, “Who will show us some good?”
Thankfully, David knows Who to focus upon. David turns his focus to the Lord. He says, “Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord!” (v 6) David knows to look to God during these distressing times. Back in verse 1, we see that as David looks to the Lord, he prays. He says, “Answer me when I call… Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!”
What gives David the confidence to pray to God? We see in verse 1 that it is because of God’s past mercy: “You have given me relief when I was in distress.” He is confident that God is faithful. He has given him relief in the past. Because of that, he knows that he can come to God in prayer and God will give him relief now.
David also recognizes that God is gracious. Verse 1, “Be gracious to me”. It isn’t because of something good in David that God will answer his prayer, but because God is a gracious God. He shows His grace by hearing and answering David’s prayers. These are some of the reasons David has confidence that he can come to God.
We also see in this psalm that David does not let his emotions rule him. So often when we are in distress emotions grip us, beginning to rule over us, and we stop thinking. David says in verse 3, “But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself.” He’s thinking; he’s bringing to mind God’s truth. He knows God is sovereign, that God has elected him. He know she is one of God’s children. Knowing this, he knows God will hear him when he calls to Him.
We see that in battling these emotions David focuses his mind on truth. In verse 4 he says, “ponder in your own hearts” - stop and think - “and be silent.” As we lie awake, we wait on God. We can think to ourselves, ‘God has brought this into my life. Why? What is He trying to teach me? Is there perhaps some sin in my heart that needs to be dealt with?’ Perhaps self-reliance and pride. Perhaps I am relying on myself to solve my problems.
This self-evaluation brings David to the main point in verse 5. “Offer right sacrifices and put your trust in the Lord.” He needs to turn his focus from his own situation. He needs to offer right sacrifices, to worship God with a contrite and humble heart. Then what? “Put your trust in the Lord.” This applies to us. Don’t be looking to man for help, to yourself or your own resources – whatever power or wealth you might have. Instead, look to the Lord and put your trust in Him.
The result will be that God puts more joy in your heart (v 7). The circumstances may not change, but you will be able to shift from focusing on the distress, from the emotion of anger to a feeling of joy because of your standing with God. More joy given than when grain and wine abound (v 7). The wealthy may have more means, more stuff. But the righteous have more joy, because of who we are in Christ, because we trust God to hear and answer our prayers.
So, David can end his psalm, “in peace I will both lie down and sleep (v 8).” During those distressing times, cry out to the Lord and put your trust in Him. Rely on Him and He will give us peace. We see that “You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (v 8).”