November 20, 2017

There are moments in life when angels fill the sky with singing, when heaven comes down to earth and is laid in the manger of our hearts, when we find ourselves spontaneously joining with all the heavenly hosts singing Hosanna in the highest heaven! Peace on earth. Good news for everyone! These are the days when all is calm and all is bright.

But then there are the other days… The days when heaven seems noticeably absent. When terror stalks the streets like a merciless Herod and we can find no rest for our souls. And we wonder if God can reach all the way down to Bethlehem on days like these?

From the depths of despair, O Lord,

  I call for your help.

Hear my cry, O Lord.

   Pay attention to my prayer

This psalm, nicknamed “de Profundis – out of the deep” by the people of God, is about one of those days. The days when the first words out of our mouths are not PRAISE GOD, but HELP US!?! Is there a song to be sung on these days? And what of all the days that lie between? Are there songs to be sung then?

Those of you who’ve kept half an eye on me know how much I love the word ‘Hosanna’. It literally is a one word picture of a life lived close to God. In ancient Israel Hosanna meant one thing – save us God. It was the Hebrew shorthand for Help!! But something interesting happened to the meaning of that word. After months and years and centuries of praying ‘Hosanna’ and then experiencing the comfort and kindness and power of Heaven, this faithfulness of God began to affect the way the word itself was understood. The God who turns our mourning into dancing turned the meaning of Hosanna from ‘help’ into ‘praise’. By the time Jesus, ‘the son of the psalmist David’, is entering the militarily occupied Jerusalem Israel is using the word Hosanna to praise and welcome and inaugurate their coming Messiah. When the God of heaven is at hand, praise is not far behind. All our Hosannas shouted in the deep will one day be turned to Hosannas in the highest.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all here yet. When Isaiah sees the Lord in chapter 6 he hears the song of heaven, “Holy holy holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of his glory!” Yet only 12 books later we read the prophet Habakuk crying out to the Lord in response to the overwhelming brokenness all around him. God’s response to Habakkuk’s despair is this…

For as the waters fill the sea,

    the earth will be filled with an awareness

    of the glory of the Lord.

So the earth is full of his glory. The glory is all around us. The glory is everywhere. Everywhere!! The whole earth is filled with it. Where can I? go from your presence writes David in Psalm 139.

I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me,and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night— but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.

Creation is literally glowing with it. BUT there are days when we can’t see it – when the darkness and brokenness of ourselves and this world blinds us to the nearness of God. Habakuk tells us that one day an awareness of God’s glory will one day cover the earth all the way down to the depths – like water reaches all the way down to the ocean floor. So that even in the deepest, darkest most hidden of places, even there, we will all know his glory.

But for now, on those days when the glory of God is hidden from our eyes, when we see it only ‘as through a glass darkly’ – what do we say on those days? What do we sing to our God?

The most beautiful and profound truth of the gospel is that on the darkest of days when we cannot sing, we wake to find that it is God who is singing over us.  The holiday season can be difficult for many of us, but remember that when when you can find no song to sing , God himself is singing over you. He will rejoice over you in His singing. And he will quiet you in his love – Zeph 3.17 And the song He sings over us is His unfailing love.