Kurt Jacobson
5 min readApr 14, 2024

“Nocturnal Babysitting”
April 14, 2024
Psalm 4
1Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
2How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies?
3But know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him.
4When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent.
5Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord.
6There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O Lord!”
7You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound.
8I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.
Luke 24:36 “While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” ***

There is an old gospel song by Thomas A. Dorsey made famous by the Oak Ridge Boys titled, “If We Ever Needed the Lord Before We Sure Do Need Him Now.”
The verses are:
We need Him every day and every hour
We need Him in the morning
We need Him in the night
We need Him in the noonday
When the sun is shining bright
We need Him when we’re happy
We need Him when we’re sad
We need Him when we’re burdened
Just to make our hearts feel glad

Today’s Gospel and Psalm have a simpler way of saying what this old song lays out in every line. We need the “Peace of the Lord.”

After his resurrection, Jesus repeatedly greeted his disciples with ‘Peace be with you.’ In Hebrew, the phrase is “Shalom Aleichem.”

If you have traveled in Israel, you know the word “shalom” is spoken everywhere. Stroll by the shops inside the Old City of Jerusalem and you will hear clerks calling out “shalom.” In Jewish synagogues people say to each other, “Shabbat Shalom” which is a wish for a “peaceful Shabbat” — the day of rest.

Christians use the word shalom every Sunday. “The peace (shalom) of the Lord be with you always.” “Go in peace (shalom).”

Psalm 4 attributed to King David, is a prayer seeking the peace he knows that God can provide. His prayer begins with pleas: “Answer me…be gracious to me …hear my prayer.” He reminds God that in the past God has provided him “room.” If this were our prayer we would not say “room” but rather “Remember, when I was in a tight spot and you provided space for me to move and breathe.”

Apparently, the psalmist is being bullied by people spreading lies about him, ruining his reputation. He cannot take it much longer and asks the people, “How long are you going to keep this up?” He tells them that the Lord will hear his cries for help. He invites them to join him in a worship service (v 5) and then leaves things in God’s hands.

Nearing the end of the psalm something has happened to him. It seems that he has taken the advice he offered to others: When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. (vv. 4–5)

It looks to me that the “room” the psalmist had prayed for at the start has been provided when he withdrew from the difficult situation, pondered the problem in silence, gone to worship, and decided to leave things in God’s hands.

Psalm 4 is often labeled an “evening psalm” because the whole psalm drives toward what is said in the last verse: “I will both lie down and sleep in peace (shalom); for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety.” But what does this psalm mean for us, especially at the end of the day, when one is about to drift off to sleep?

Gerhard Frost was a beloved author and professor at Luther Seminary in St Paul, MN for over twenty years. In retirement he would occasionally speak in daily chapel when I was a student. Frost could see profound truths of peace and beauty in common things. I recall one day in chapel he made the remark: “It was one of those nights when I was lying awake, babysitting the world.” Is babysitting the world familiar to you?

I have had nights babysitting my world. During them we worry about problems at work, bills, health, the kids, the grandkids aging parents, rocky marriages, not to mention things like climate change, terrorism and war. There is no sleep when babysitting at night.

But this psalm says to our nocturnal babysitting: “Shalom — peace be with you. Relax. Let God run the world for a while. Have a good sleep!”

When someone says to you “peace be with you” they are wishing for you God’s rest, comfort, wholeness, and assurance.

Once a grandmother accepted her grandson’s invitation to take her first airplane ride in his small plane. She dialed up her courage and climbed in. She marveled at seeing the family farm and her hometown from the air. The grandson became concerned, however, when he noticed that her knuckles were white, as she held tightly to the arms of the seat.

When they landed a crowd of relatives asked, “How did you like it, Gramma?” “Oh it was fine,” she said, “but I will tell you a secret. I never let all my weight down!”

At its conclusion Psalm 4 invites you to let your weight down and lie each night knowing peace. “I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O Lord, make me lie down in safety.”

For those nights when you are babysitting the world, remember Psalm 4.

O Lord God, grant your peace to us, for you have supplied us with all things — the peace of rest, the peace of the Sabbath which has no evening; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. -Augustine of Hippo**

**Augustine was originally from North Africa, was highly educated and converted to Christianity in 386. Later, he was ordained a priest in Hippo on the north coast of Africa and later became the Bishop of Hippo. He was tireless in the effort to convert people to Christianity, preaching between 6,000 and 10,000 sermons in his lifetime. Known for many quotes, you may know this one: “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.

Kurt Jacobson

Author of “Living Hope” & “Welcoming Grace.” Lutheran preacher (retired) but still writing to inspire and aim for a world of mercy, love and respect.