5. I laid me down and slept, I awaked; for the lord sustained me. 6. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, who have set their camps against me on all sides.
According to the usage of the Hebrews, these words, which are in the past tense, I laid me down and slept, are taken sometimes for the future, I will lie down and sleep.1 If we retain the reading of the verb in the past tense, David expresses a wonderful and almost incredible steadfastness of mind in that he slept so soundly in the midst of many deaths, as if he had been beyond the reach of all danger. He had doubtless been tossed amidst the merciless waves of anxiety, but it is certain their violence had been allayed by means of faith, so that however much he was disquieted, he reposed in God. Thus the godly never fail in ultimately proving victorious over all their fears, whereas the ungodly, who do not rely upon God, are overwhelmed with despair, even when they meet with the smallest perils. Some think there is here a change of tenses; and, therefore, translate the verbs into the fixture tense, I will lay me down and will sleep, and will awake, because immediately after a verb of the future is subjoined, The Lord shall uphold me. But as he expresses, by these last words, a continuous act, I thought it unnecessary to change the tenses in the three first verbs. Still we ought to know, that this confidence of safety is not to be referred peculiarly to the time of his affliction, or, at least, is not to be limited to it:for, in my judgment, David rather declares how much good he had obtained by means of faith and prayer; namely the peaceful and undisturbed state of a well regulated mind. This he expresses metaphorically when he says, that he did the ordinary actions of life without being disturbed by fear. "I have not lain," says he, "waking and restless on my bed; but I have slept soundly, whereas such manner of sleeping does not generally happen to those who are full of thought and fear." But let us particularly notice that David came to have this confidence of safety from the protection of God, and not from stupidity of mind. Even the wicked are kept fast asleep through an intoxication of mind, while they dream of having made a covenant with death. It was otherwise with David, who found rest on no other ground but because he was upheld by the power of God, and defended by his help. In the next verse, he enlarges upon the incalculable efficacy of this confidence, of which all the godly have some understanding, from their experience of the divine protection. As the power of God is infinite, so they conclude that it shall be invincible against all the assaults, outrages, preparations, and forces of the whole world. And, indeed, unless we ascribe this honor to God, our courage shall be always failing us. Let us, therefore, learn, when in dangers, not to measure the assistance of God after the manner of man, but to despise whatever terrors may stand in our way, inasmuch as all the attempts which men may make against God, are of little or no account.