Arthur Pink, August, 1950
(This article and its companion one, Sleeping, are not written to entertain the curious, but with the endeavor of giving God His true place, by moving His people unto more thankfulness for what are loosely termed, "His common mercies.")
"I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me." (Psalm 3:5). There is no guarantee when we lie down at night, even though it is in good health that we shall awake in this world on the next morning. Thousands have not done so, and each time we do it is because the LORD has been pleased to "sustain" us to sustain the action of the heart, the circulation of the blood, the heaving of the lungs none of which is done by us. It is blessed to know that during the hours of darkness, we are the objects of God's care, protecting us not only from physical harm, but also from the assaults of Satan. What child of God can doubt that our arch-enemy, filled as he is with enmity and hatred against the saints, attacks them in the sleep state? Some of our experiences at that time seem clearly to demonstrate it. Doubtless, many of our dreams are attributable to a disordered stomach or distempered mind; yet by no means all of them. Some of our nightmares cannot be satisfactorily accounted for by any physical or mental cause. That the Christian is not harassed by them regularly, is due alone to the sovereign goodness of God in preventing such.
We are equally in danger from the workings of a disordered mind, as from extraneous enemies. Some have walked in their sleep and walked to their death! Why have not we or our loved ones done so? And again, the answer is, "I awoke, for the LORD sustained me." Some of our dreams supply evidence of a greatly heated imagination and deluded fancy. James Hervey (1714-1758) relates a well-authenticated case known to him, in which two friends who had hunted through the day spent the night together. One of them pursued a stag in his dreams, crying out, "I'll kill him, I'll kill him." As he felt for the knife in his pocket, his companion sprang out of bed, and by the light of the moon, saw his friend give several deep stabs in the very place where a moment before his own throat had lain. Hervey added, "This is mentioned as proof that nothing hinders us from being assassins of others, or murderers of ourselves amid the mad sallies of sleep except the preventing care of our heavenly Father."
In the previous article, we called attention to the element of mystery in sleep; let us now point out that it is just as real and evident in connection with our waking. We do not awaken automatically or according to any mere process or "law of nature." Nor is it caused by any act of our will. No, we are awakened from slumber, by the same One who put us to sleep! True, we are not sensible thereof, yet that alters not the fact itself. True also, that God may employ a variety of means, nevertheless the fact remains: "He awakens morning by morning, he awakens my ear to hear as the learned" (Isa 50:4). As John Gill (1697-1771) pointed out, "The allusion is to masters calling their students early to their studies." While this verse is part of a Messianic prophecy, we doubt not that it has a general application, particularly unto the regenerate. In this matter, as in many others, God often deigns to make use of human instruments and other agents, while at other times He dispenses entirely with them. Whether by means, or without them it is the LORD who awakens us each morning. Unless He did so, our eyes would never again open in this world. The clock would run down and stop!
The experience of waking is such a common and everyday one, that few of us make any attempt to ponder and analyze it. The supernatural origin of it appears in its very characteristics. Why is it that the minute a person awakes, he is in full possession of his faculties, that after hours of heavy slumber and total subconsciousness, his strength is renewed, his muscles ready for immediate action, his senses alert, the mind thoroughly refreshed? Why is it that we instantly arouse from the profoundest stupor which deadens all our powers? How very different is the protracted and disagreeable recovery to full consciousness after an anesthetic!
How thankful we should be, that our waking by God is not a lengthy and nauseous process. Our daily emergence from hours (not a few minutes) of total inactivity, which closely resembles death itself; our bodies being completely and suddenly restored to vigor and activity surely this is "the LORD's doing," and it should be "marvelous in our eyes" (Psalm 118:23) and move us to praise and thanksgiving. How completely dependent we are upon the LORD, appears further from the terms of that lovely prayer, "Cause me to hear your loving-kindness in the morning" (Psalm 143:8). Such should be one of our last petitions each night: "If it is Your good pleasure for me to see the light of the morning, awaken me with my heart attuned to Your beneficence. Arouse me from my slumbers with my faculties intent unto Your goodness, that my first waking thoughts may be engaged therewith."
The fact that David made request, "Cause me to hear your loving-kindness," evinces that he had no confidence in his own ability to do so. It is only when we make that our sincere, earnest, and trustful request each night, that we may warrantably expect to be able to say, "When I awake, I am still with you" (Psalm 139:18). Not "you are still with me" though that is blessedly the case but "I am still with you": conscious of Your nearness, sensible of Your favors, enjoying happy communion with the eternal Lover of my soul.
As the comparison of one passage with another requires us to believe, it was in humble dependence upon God that David declared, "My voice shall you hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto you, and will look up" (Psalm 5:3). Such was his holy determination that the LORD should be given the first place and not be crowded out by temporal concerns. As His protection was essential for the night, so divine direction would be equally necessary for the day: grace would be required to oil the wheels of pious actions, wisdom from above to instruct him in the performance of duty, and the avoidance of the fowler's snares. All of this, he was resolved to ask for, leaning not unto his own understanding, but seeking unto the LORD at an early hour.
Nor would he make request in a merely perfunctory way, but in confident expectation of an "answer of peace," as his "I will look up" connotes. Furthermore, he purposed, "I will sing aloud of your mercy in the morning" (Psalm 59:16). God's compassions fail not, but are "new every morning" (Lam 3:22-23); equally so should be our acknowledgment of them. That is indeed a "good beginning" when we commence the day with prayer and songs of praise.
"Awake to righteousness, and sin not" (1 Corinthians 15:34). While the immediate reference there is a call to arouse from the spiritual torpor into which false teachers had lulled the Corinthians, through the unsuspected effect of their evil teachings; yet those words may suitably be regarded as a divine exhortation unto a holy life, and particularly, as a summons for us to attend unto at the beginning of each fresh day. Considered thus, its force is: employ your renewed energies not in self-pleasing, but in walking by the rule that God has given us, for "righteousness" ever has reference to conformity unto a moral or spiritual standard. Earnestly set yourself to the glorifying of Him who has permitted you to see the light of another day; live it as though you knew it would be your last one on earth. Shun sin and the occasions thereof, as you would a deadly plague, yes, "abstain from all appearance of evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:22). Before getting out of bed, remind yourself of this imperative injunction: "Awake to righteousness, and sin not," and lift up your heart for enabling grace to heed the same.
It is both interesting and instructive to consider some of the different experiences met with by awakened souls.
"And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him" (Gen 9:24). What a sad awakening was that recorded as a lasting warning against drunkenness.
"But Jonah had gone down into the lowest parts of the ship, had lain down, and was fast asleep. So the captain came to him, and said to him: What do you mean, O sleeper? Arise, call on your God; perhaps your God will consider us, so that we may not perish." (Jon 1:5-6). What a rude awakening was that, when one of God's servants was rebuked by a heathen!
"And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not" (Gen 28:16) blessed experience was that.
"Then Joseph being raised from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him" (Mat 1:24) may a like spirit of obedience characterize us.
"And they awoke him, and said unto him: Master, don't you care that we are perishing?" (Mar 4:38) even His slumbers were disturbed by the unbelieving!
"And when they were awake, they saw his glory" (Luke 9:32). May that be, more and more, the happy lot of both writer and reader.