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By Day the LORD Commands Steadfast Love

Date: 
February 28, 2020

We have now come to Psalm 42:6-8 in our series of reflections on the song of lament in Psalms 42-43. In the descending and ascending rhythm of the song, these verses are a deep descent:

My soul is cast down within me;
  therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
  from Mount Mizar. (Ps 42:6)

The geographical references signify distance from Jerusalem. The Psalmist is far from the house of God, from the place of his presence, where he would worship with God’s people. He is in exile. Worse than the distance is the depth of his spiritual anguish:

Deep calls to deep
  at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
   have gone over me. (Ps 42:7)

His depression and distress is all-consuming. It’s like the sound of a roaring waterfall, like Niagara Falls. It surrounds him and consumes him. He’s overwhelmed. He’s drowning: “All your breakers and your waves have gone over me.” But notice how he describes the waterfalls, and the breakers, and the waves. They belong to God. They’re his waterfalls,his breakers, and his waves. Even as he descends into the deep, he knows that somehow God’s hand is in this. God is with him, and so he can say:

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
  and at night his song is with me,
  a prayer to the God of my life. (Ps 42:8)

Notice the references to time: “By day the Lord commands steadfast love, and at nigh his song is with me.” Yes, day and night his tears are his food (Ps 42:3a) and all the day long he’s taunted with the question, “Where is your God?” (Ps 42:3b). But at the same time, day and night, while the waterfalls roar and the waves break over him, the LORD commands steadfast love and his song with him. The command of steadfast love is a song. It's God's song and God’s song is a love song: “he will quiet you with his love; he will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17). When our soul is cast down into the depths and the darkness, we find it hard to pray, but his song is with us and we find our downcast soul is able to sing. Singing is a gracious gift to a downcast soul from a God who sings.

I’m writing this note in a week when we are mourning the loss of Judith Harr and her unborn daughter Cosette. Our souls are downcast, but as we grieve, we listen for God’s voice:

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
  and at night his song is with me,
  a prayer to the God of my life.

Judith rested in his love and hoped in his life. I received an email from her last Thursday, in which she testified, “I have seen His grace every day even in the midst of changes here in the US.” Judith knew what Jeremiah calls to mind in his own lamentation:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
   his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
   great is your faithfulness. (Lam 3:21-22)

Judith recognized our LORD’s daily mercy and abided in his steadfast love. She also hoped in his life. Her emails would not appear in my inbox under the name “Judith” but with the declaration, “He is Living.” Her emails punctuated the list of names in my inbox with Gospel proclamation. He is living, and so is Judith, for our Saviour has declared: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:26). We grieve for Judith and Cosette, but we do not grieve as those who have no hope: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess 4:14). Death has taken Judith and Cosette from us, but it has not taken them from Christ. They are with him, resting in his everlasting arms, awaiting the day when “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess 4:16-17) On that day, we will all be together to meet the Lord and so we will always be with him. Until that day,

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
   and at night his song is with me,
   a prayer to the God of my life.
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