Sunday, June 28, 2009

Joy Cometh in the Morning

I am doing the Beth Moore study on the Psalms of the Ascents. Another name for this series of Psalms from 120 to 134 is “Psalms of degrees.” These were the songs of pilgrims, as they returned to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity. They were songs that were sung as the pilgrims ascended the 15 steps into the temple. They were songs of celebration. The captive children of Israel had not sung in years, nor had they broken out their sadly unused harps. The song after a long, sorrowful night of captivity, however, was so much more beautiful.

The children of God had long been in mourning. They had been journeying and yearning. They were anticipating a time of rejoicing and celebration. This time of rejoicing was made all the more appealing because of the sorrow that preceded it. I find it fascinating that these pilgrim songs follow and juxtopose the longest Psalm in the collection. They are short and repetitive and easily memorized.

I love the way that God orchestrates my study of His word and my supplementary reading. I am presently reading “Hind’s Feet on High Places” by Hannah Hurnard for about the seventh time. I love this book. It is a beautiful allegory of a young shepherdess’s journey to the “high places” under the leadership of the Shepherd (God) and in the company of her two guides, Sorrow and Suffering. Her name is Much Afraid, and she follows the Shepherd out of the Valley of Fearings into the high places where no fear can enter. Her journey is one of ascent. She is traveling the degrees of obedience and surrender. After great grief, trial, and death, she comes to the high places where she is given a new name, “Grace and Glory.” A key verse in this beautiful allegory is Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

The long night of the soul comes to a close. We have journeyed in obedience to our Lord through the night of weeping and sorrow. We have stumbled, fallen captive to fear, and found ourself badly bruised a scratched out of our own willful pride and stubbornness, but we have said, “Lord, I have no one else but Thee, and I must trust You.” We have surrendered, crawled off of the altar, and asked God to bind us to the altar. We have allowed Him to uproot the weeds of desire for human love from our hearts so that His seed of true love can grow. Through our journey, we did not realize that the suffering, thrashing, and trials were equipping us for the promised high places.

In her song, “Painting Pictures of Egypt,” Sara Groves sings a profound lyric: “If it comes to quick, I may not appreciate it. Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?” Through the Pilgrimage of weeping, we have grown to long for Jerusalem. As we ascend the steps to the temple finally, we are filled with songs of celebration. I am sure that the Jews memorized the Songs of Ascents before the time of Ascent so that they could sing them perfectly as they climbed the stairs. They had what seemed like endless time to learn them by heart, to live in joyful anticipation of the future liberation and glory. As Much Afraid made her journey through the desert, the great precipice injury, the great mist, the forest of danger and tribulation, the shores of loneliness, and finally to the place of anointing, she learned various songs. Sorrow, Suffering, and the Shepherd taught her songs for the journey. These were love songs, full of joy, celebration, and expectation of the high places to come. She would have not made it through the perilous journey without the practice of song.

I am called to sing in the night, to sing in the valley, to sing in the storm, to sing in the face of the enemy, and to sing through the journey, so that I can worship my Lord when I fall on my face before His throne.

In church this morning, we sang, “How can I keep from singing” by Chris Tomlin.

There is an endless song
Echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring

And though the storms may come
I am holding on
To the rock I cling

How can I keep from singing Your praise?
How can I ever say enough?
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name?
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

I will lift my eyes
In the darkest night
For I know my Savior lives

And I will walk with You
Knowing You'll see me through
And sing the songs You give

I can sing in the troubled times
Sing when I win
I can sing when I lose my step
And fall down again
I can sing 'cause You pick me up
Sing 'cause You're there
I can sing 'cause You hear me, Lord
When I call to You in prayer
I can sing with my last breath
Sing for I know
That I'll sing with the angels
And the saints around the throne

I will keep singing because He has called me to be a worshipper. I worship on the journey, and I anticipate the glory and grace that will be poured upon me in the high places, in the temple of Jerusalem, when I sing with joy in the morning.

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