The Song of Solomon 5:2, “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.”
Sleep. We are all familiar with the subject of sleep. We all lay our heads down to sleep at some point during a 24 hour day. Even though we often struggle, we would love to get 8+ hours a night. Question? What does the Bible say about the subject of sleep? When reading the Bible, we find there are many reasons why people are asleep. There are positive contexts of sleep, and there are negative contexts of sleep. For the sake of study, let’s consider some positive types of sleep.
(1) The Lord said in John 11:11, “…Our friend Lazarus sleepeth;…” The disciple responded by saying, “..if he sleep, he shall do well.” The Lord a few verses later told them “..plainly, Lazarus is dead.” By this alone, we are able to gather that death for the child of grace is not a horrible thing. The body is asleep, but the soul and spirit of the child of grace is resting with the Lord in heaven. Revelation 14:13 tells us that the children of God who have passed from this life are “Blessed…”
(2) The Bible teaches us that those who trust the Lord and believe in His Word enjoy a blessed sleep. In Jeremiah 31:26 we read, “Upon this I awaked, and beheld and my sleep was sweet unto me.” Jeremiah, even in the midst of all the troubles of ungodliness and the tribulations of Babylon conquering Israel, was able to get sweet rest. In Acts 12:6, we find the Apostle Peter asleep while chained in the midst of 16 Roman soldiers. Herod had already commanded that James be killed, and when Herod saw it pleased the people, he planned to kill Peter too. How could Peter sleep? One reason could be that he believed the Lord when He told him in John 21:18-19 he would live to be an old man.
(3) The Bible teaches us about the sweet rest of those who labor in this life. Ecclesiastes 5:12, “The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or mush;…” What a blessing it is to lay down and sleep after a long day of labor. The Lord is precious to give the blessing to us.
Our study verse is teaching us about a negative context. Solomon had come to a place where he and his beloved Shulamite would meet for time together (5:1). She had actually asked him to meet her there (4:16). But when he arrived, she was not there. When he searched for her, he found her in the bed asleep. Her time of sleep meant more to her than time she could have spent with him.
When I consider the negative contexts of sleep found in scripture, my heart is smitten with guilt. As I read the verses about the subject, I see myself and my personal failures in my feeble attempts to serve the Lord and His people. Yet, in the sadness of my personal failures, I’m encouraged in the Lord’s never failing mercy and temporal grace. First, let’s examine briefly at least four types of sleep in a negative context, and then let us consider the Lord’s love, mercy and grace towards His precious people.
(1) Sleep because of slothfulness and laziness, Proverbs 19:15, “Slothfulness casteth into deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.” Throughout the Book of Proverbs, Solomon warns the reader about the adverse effects of laziness. In my teenage years my dad used to quote Proverbs 26:14 to me often, ‘As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed.” The reason many children of God fail to enjoy what is available to them is slothfulness. Solomon, in Proverbs 26:30-34., tells us about the short and long terms effects of slothfulness.
(2) Sleep because of discouragement. In 1 Kings 19:3-7, Elijah went and sat under a juniper tree and requested the Lord to take his life. Elijah is one of four servants of the Lord who asked God to take their lives (Moses Numbers 11:15; Job in Job 3:21; and Jonah in Jonah 4:3). Elijah, was in a state of such spiritual discouragement that he just wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.
(3) Sleep because of carnal worldliness. In the book of Jonah (1:5), we find the man who the book is titled after, running from the calling of God asleep in a ship while the “mariners were afraid…” Jonah was so consumed with his own wants that he could sleep through a deathly storm. In 1 Thessalonians 5:6 we read, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” The Apostle Paul tells of of those, like Jonah, who are so unconcerned with spiritual; things that they sleep in the bed of carnal worldliness. According to 1 Thessalonians 5:10, this state of non-concern will not effect the Lord’s eternal grace, but it will effect our fellowship with the Lord in this present world.
(4) The sleep in chastisement. In 1 Samuel 26:12, when Saul of Kish and his men hunted for David, there was a time when the Lord caused a “deep sleep” to fall upon Saul and his army. In 2 Kings 6:18, we find something similar happening to the armies of Stria. The Bible teaches us that the Lord will chasten those He loves, and through history the Lord has chastened His people by separating Himself from them. The spiritual numbness that is experienced without the Lord’s manifest presence can be compared to a sleep.
Dear child of grace, because of the sinful nature we have, we all live in danger of the strength of spiritual sleep and slumber every day. We all live in danger of becoming spiritually numb to the presence of the Lord. Question? Have you ever participated in the worship service where children of God were rejoicing and not feel it yourself? When you examine the situation, you are convinced the truth was being preached; you were convinced that the children of God present were sincere disciples but you still didn’t feel it your self? Was it possible that they were confused? Yes. But is it also equally possible that you were in a spiritual sleep and slumber? Yes. How do I know? I’ve experienced this myself.
In our study verse we read “but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me,…” How gracious and merciful is our Beloved Savior to come to the door of our heart and knock, calling unto us to wake and fellowship with Him. The Lord does this in different ways, Sometimes by convicting our hearts; sometimes through the spiritual counsel of others; sometimes through the reading of His Word; sometimes through the preaching of the gospel. If you, dear child of grace, feel that you’ve missed out on times of fellowship with the Lord, be encouraged in His temporal mercy and grace He bestows upon His precious little sheep. According to Psalm 86:15, the Lord is “plenteous in mercy…” What an amazing verse of scripture. The verse has given me hope many times in my life when I, because of my failures, have missed in opportunities of blessed fellowship with Him. If you examine your life and see where you have come short, and we all have, be encouraged in this truth, God loves you more than words can say. God cares for you more than words can say. With that truth, “let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Amen!