Beloved Sleep

There’s a reason it’s called “the grind.” For many they understand all too well why it so often feels like a “rat race.” Everyday the same old, same old. Breaking your back but never seeming to get ahead. Or, if you are getting ahead, never seeming to have enough–never knowing a peaceful, contented satisfaction. Lots of work, little rest. Lots of worry, never enough reward. This morning the songwriter reminds me that for too many it’s about “eating the bread of anxious toil.” But I’m also reminded this morning of the promise of beloved sleep.

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 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 127:1-2 ESV)

A pretty familiar psalm. And it occurs to me as I hover over these opening verses that most often I’ve connected more with “the what” of these verses than I have with “the how.”

It’s a shaky foundation that is laid without consideration of God’s purposes. It’s a weak defense if all we rely on are our senses for protection. Want to build a solid house?  Engage the One who created all things. Want a safe abode?  Call upon Him who sees and knows all things. Structures built with God’s hand upon them are structures that stand. Security that is founded upon God’s presence is a sure security. These are “the whats.” The results.

But beyond the benefit of a good outcome, inviting the LORD to be part of your building program, or seeking the LORD to draw alongside you as you stand guard, impacts more than just “the what.” It also makes a huge difference on “the how.” It’s the difference between “the bread of anxious toil” and “beloved sleep.”

It’s vain, says the songwriter, it’s empty and desolate to rise up early and go to bed late in an attempt to get ‘er done by going it alone. Without a sense of God’s purpose and God’s presence, our work, no matter how hard we work, is like eating the bread of anxious toil. It’s consuming the food of sorrow and hardship. While the paychecks (paycheques for those in the homeland) are nice to receive, without the peace of knowing they are God’s provision, they can leave a bitter taste.

But for those who do what they do with an abiding sense that it’s what God has called them to do, for His beloved there is sleep. And for His, there is beloved sleep.

. . . for He gives to His beloved sleep.

I have read this promise of God over and over this morning. Tasting the word of the LORD and seeing that is good. Chewing on and savoring this food from heaven. Noodling on the fact that I can read this promise in two ways. One where beloved is a noun and so, to His beloved He gives sleep. The other where beloved is an adjective, thus, to His He gives a beloved, or lovely, sleep.

Child of God. You are beloved. More loved than can be fully comprehended. Loved with “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:19). And for His beloved there is available rest rather than anxious toil. Sure, early mornings and late nights might be part of the deal, but when that “deal” is God’s deal, when that job is undertaken with God’s power, when our labors are for God’s glory, then He gives sleep.

And it is a beloved, or lovely, sleep. It is the rest of the faithful servant who, in good conscience, toiled for the Master that day and hears heaven whisper in his ear, “Well done!” It is the rest that knows the results are ultimately in the Master’s hand. It is the rest that rejuvenates knowing the Master will provide sufficient resource and grace to get up and do it again the next morning.

A lovely sleep for a beloved people. Who labor not in vain, because they build with a sense of God’s purpose. Who watch without fear of missing something, because they abide in the reality of God’s presence. Who refuse the bread of anxious toil and receive the promise of a blessed sleep for those He loves.

Praise God for beloved sleep.

Available by grace. Appropriated for His glory.

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