Hello everybody and welcome in to episode #315 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Psalm 127 and 128 today and our focus is on SLEEP! What Does the Bible Teach About Sleep? Biblical Principles on Sleep. All about sleep in the Bible. We are a daily 10ish minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in . Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast! Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\
Two more songs of ascent today, and they are both quite short, so let’s go ahead and read them both back to back. Though we will focus mostly on Psalm 127, my favorite blessing in the Bible is in Psalm 128, and it reads:
May the Lord bless you from Zion,
so that you will see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life
6 and will see your children’s children! Psalm 128:5-6
I pray this often for myself and my wife- that we would live to see all five of our children’s children.
I find that the Bible often expresses similar or the same truths in quite radically different ways – so different, in fact, that you don’t realize that the same truth is being expressed. Take John 15, for example, in which Jesus says:
4 Remain in me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, neither can you unless you remain in me.5 I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without me. John 15:4-5
The truth expressed here is that we can do nothing of ultimate or lasting or permanent value without Christ. A very similar truth is expressed in Psalm 127:
Unless the Lord builds a house,
its builders labor over it in vain;
unless the Lord watches over a city,
the watchman stays alert in vain.
I find “apart from me you can do nothing,” to be almost analogous to, “unless the Lord builds a house, its builders labor over it in vain.” Unless God is directing and empowering what you are doing – whether it be building a house, or watching over your city, or some sort of ministry for Jesus – it will not be eternally fruitful if God is not in it.
Let’s talk about sleep for a moment. What Does the Bible have to say about sleep? Here are a few verses:
- God doesn’t sleep, so says Psalm 121:4 Indeed, the Protector of Israel
does not slumber or sleep.
- You can be lazy, and sleep too much, says Proverbs 20:13 Don’t love sleep, or you will become poor;
open your eyes, and you’ll have enough to eat.
- If you walk in the fear of the Lord – obeying Him because He is so awesome and majestic, then you will sleep better, so says Psalm 19:23 The fear of the Lord leads to life; one will sleep at night without danger.
- The Lord gives His people peace and safety so they can sleep, says Psalm 4:8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, Lord, make me live in safety.
In my life, I have rarely struggled with sleep, but I find that when anxiety increases, sleep struggles increase concomitantly. The years in my life when I have struggled with something like insomnia have been the years I have struggled with much more anxiety than normal…and this is exactly the dynamic that is addressed in our Psalm today:
2 In vain you get up early and stay up late,
working hard to have enough food—
yes, he gives sleep to the one he loves. Psalm 127:2
I appreciate the poetic way that the ESV translates this verse: It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Psalm 127:2
I don’t know about you, but I have no appetite for the bread of anxious toil, whatever it might be. A young John Piper taught a message on Psalm 127 all the way back in 1980, and I believe it has much wisdom for us, so let’s listen in to what John Piper has to say about anxiety and sleep:
In the past year, one text above all has blown away more of that fog for me than any other, and I’ve used it repeatedly. I can remember time after time going out of my office door on the way to teach my classes on 1 Peter and Romans 9-11 with a stack of books and notes under my arm and saying: “Father, unless you teach the class, all my preparation is in vain.” And I would comfort my heart with the good news that ultimately it was God who would bring fruit from my efforts or not.
The text is Psalm 127:1–2. “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil, for he gives to his beloved in his sleep.” I think the main point of these three verses is: “Don’t eat the bread of anxious toil.” It means just the same thing Jesus meant when he said, “Don’t be anxious about what you shall eat.” When we grow up we must all work for our bread. And we can either work nervously, worrying about what men will think of us—and so eat the bread of anxious toil. Or we can work with serenity in our hearts, as serving Christ and not men—and so eat the bread of peace. God’s will for his children, indeed the sign of whether we are children or not, is that we not eat the bread of anxious toil.
God does not lay down specific rules for how early we rise for work and how late we knock off at night. But he does lay down this principle for his beloved: Don’t rise early and go late to rest out of anxiety, out of fear and fretfulness. If the joy of fruitful labor lures you to work 12 hours a day, so be it. But take heed lest you are really deceiving yourself, and in fact are being driven by anxiety, or by her twin sister, selfish-ambition. Christians will work hard, but they will work more for the joy of all the good their work can bring to others than they will out of fear at what men will think if they fail. So,
Be diligent as God may lead
And eat the bread you earn,
But fret not over what you need
And let not worry burn….
The first half of verse 2 says that it is vain to rise early and go late to rest, but how would the simple statement that God gives sleep discourage a person from rising early and going to bed late? He is not interested in his sleep; he’s worried and wants to be about his work. But if Solomon meant, as I think he did, “God gives to his beloved in his sleep,” then there is a tremendously strong incentive to stop being anxious and cutting our sleep short. The incentive is this: God can perform more good for those who trust him while they sleep than they can perform with anxious labor for themselves while awake. Can you think of a better reason not to rise early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil?
Have you ever wondered why God made us in such a way that we have to sleep away a third of our lives? God could have designed a human being that was always fresh and rested and needed no sleep. Why did he decree that sleep be part of human experience? I’ll give you my opinion. He wanted to give a universal reminder to the human race that we are but children and ought to own up to it. We are so frail that we have to become helpless and unconscious and blind and weak every day in order to live at all. Sleep is a terribly humbling experience. We are never more weak, never more childlike than when we sleep in faith. And has not God said, “My power is made perfect in weakness”! And, “Unless you turn and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of God.”
If God’s power is made perfect in our weakness, then surely we may believe this psalm that when we hand over our anxieties to God and lay our heads down in peace, God works with all his might through the night on our behalf.
The great test of faith is to believe that when we can see only a bleak outcome to some situation and no good coming of it, yet the sovereign God can and will bring out of nowhere, as it were, a turn of events or attitudes that brings great blessing. And he can do it while we sleep!
Bible Memory passage for the month of November: John 14:6 “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
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