Friday, March 07, 2003

Songs in the Night

People cry out because of the excess of oppression; they cry out for help because of the power of the mighty. But no one says, ‘Where is God, my Creator, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the wild animals of the earth, and makes us wiser that the birds of the air?’ (Job 35:9-11, Net Bible)

One must use caution using the book of Job for a text. The poetic sections are not only difficult, but contain a raging argument over the nature of sin and punishment. Indeed, the Lord told Eliphaz, "My anger is stirred up against you and your two friends, because you have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has." (Job 42:7) However, the verses above come from the speech of Elihu. He was a young man who held his tongue while the older men argued. When they had no more to say, he spoke up. Although young and conceited, Elihu offered a subtly different perspective.

I have spent the last year teaching the book of Job, so I have some confidence in the meditation that I bring you today. Elihu spoke the words quoted above. There is so much of the nature of man in these words along with great hope to those going through a dark night of the soul.

“People cry out because of the excess of oppression; they cry out for help because of the power of the mighty." Someone has said, "There are no atheists in fox-holes." The point is well taken. It is often when the world comes crashing down around us that we suddenly seek a higher power that can rescue us. Very often those times are the results of others who have power. It can be the very small, like my prayers, as a young boy, for divine favor over the unstudied for test I was about to take. It can be very large, such as the desperate plea for the safety of an abducted child. The world is full of pain, and people seek divine help.

And the Lord who is full of mercy and grace knows that when the test is passed and the child returned and the soldier is home safe from the war, the one who cried so desperately moves on and forgets Him. Maybe you have been there. I certainly have. The crisis is over and the seeking heart seeks other pleasures.

So Elihu speaks, "But no one says, ‘Where is God, my Creator, who gives songs in the night, who teaches us more than the wild animals of the earth, and makes us wiser that the birds of the air?’" This is not a call for deliverance, but a call for a Presence in our difficult times. It acknowledges that the times are perhaps evil and will be for some time. It seeks the sovereign Creator for His own sake, because that can bring strength, inner peace, and joy. The Presence of God manifested by His Holy Spirit can give us "songs in the night." Think of Paul and Silas singing praise to God in the Philippian jail. Think of the priests singing as they marched in front of Jehoshaphat's army as they met the threat of Moab. Think of martyr after martyr who sang songs in their deaths. Sometimes deliverance comes and sometimes it does not.

"Who teaches us more than the wild animals of the earth." Animals do not have a spirit within them that can know the Lord like we can. They may have an innate patience to endure the pain and suffering that come their way, but they cannot know the Creator spirit to Spirit like we can. Jeremiah had an anguish of soul much deeper than anything experienced by Job. He lived through the siege and destruction of Jerusalem and saw the horrors of human depravity sunk low. In Lamentations who wrote, "So I said, 'My endurance has perished, I have lost all hope of deliverance from the Lord.'”(Lamentations 3:18). Just 3 verses later, he wrote, "But this I call to mind, therefore I have hope: The Lord’s many kindnesses never cease, for his great compassion never comes to an end. They are renewed every morning; your faithfulness is abundant! I said to myself, 'The Lord is the portion of my inheritance; therefore, I will put my hope in him.'” (Lamentations 3:21-24) He called for the Presence of the Lord (the portion of his inheritance), and the Lord taught Jeremiah about His mercy. Standing on ground-zero Jerusalem, Jeremiah recovered a sustaining hope for the hard years ahead.

If you are now in a dark night of the soul. Ask the Lord for His Presence. Seek His face and His songs. The night might persist for awhile, but you will have a peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7)

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