Summary: Our God is a transforming God, and the Psalmist sings a life song of praise through every circumstance of life.
We returned from Annual Conference a couple of weeks ago. The theme this year was “Come and See,” taken from John’s Gospel, when Nathaniel was talking to Phillip about Jesus. Nathaniel told Phillip where Jesus was from, and Phillip asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathaniel simply says, “Come and see.” I tell you that to tell you there’s been this song stuck in my head for two weeks. It’s been going around and around, and for the life of me, I can’t get it out. It’s driving me crazy! The title of the song is “Can Anything Good Come Out of Nazareth,” and we sang it several times throughout the week. I’d play it for you, but it wouldn’t help to get it out of my head, and then you’d hate me because it would be stuck in your head, too. The fact that the song is still going around in my head is evidence of the power of music to capture us. Songs we hear, even in childhood, have a way of sticking with us through the years. Perhaps William Congreave was correct in saying, “Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, to bend a knotted oak.”
Music captures us, moves us and communicates in ways that our hearts and minds can understand. I think music is one of the ways God gives us to live beyond the daily grind of life. That’s the problem with life: it is lived so daily. Life can drag us down, but we can hear a song and be lifted, if even only momentarily. I believe there is a lot of God’s grace in music.
The ancient Hebrews also knew the power of music, and their most prolific song writer, and their most famous king, knew the power of music to change the mood. King David communicated so much of the nation’s history through the songs we call the psalms. He would sing of God’s faithfulness when life was overwhelming, of God’s deliverance from the captivity of nations and enemies, of God’s mercy in extending his forgiveness. David would sing when he was depressed and when he was afraid, and David would sing in celebration. David just wanted to sing. He sang his faith.
Psalm 30 was a song of faith, and it was likely sung during a time of celebration. The title gives us a clue: A Psalm of David: sung at the Dedication of the Temple. No, David didn’t build the Temple. We know from scripture that God told David he had been too bloody throughout the years, so David couldn’t build the Temple. But, God promised that David’s son would build it. So what does David do? He sets about making plans, gathering materials and leaving instructions. Some commentators believe David wrote this psalm and left it with Solomon along with the instructions to sing it when he dedicated the Temple he would build. We don’t know for sure when he wrote these words, but we know they were written by a person who had felt both the great absence and the abiding presence of God. David’s song slips so easily from security to dismay, but it eventually ends at hope. Hope gave rise to the music of David’s heart as he sang, “weeping may go on all night, but joy comes with the morning” (v. 5). That’s an optimistic faith!
I love roller coasters. When the children were younger, one of the things we did every year was make our way to different theme parks to experience the thrill of riding different coasters. Life has been compared to a roller coaster, filled with ups and downs, twists and turns. There is exhilaration, disappointment, excitement, anticipation, and, don’t forget, sometimes there is fear. As each of us has ridden this roller coaster that is life, we, like the psalmist, have gone through times when we felt God incredibly near, and then other times, we’ve wondered if God was anywhere to be found. I’m only talking about the awareness of God’s presence, not the reality of it. God is always present, whether we realize it or not.
I’ve told you of my time in 2008 when I hit the brick wall spiritually. One of things I did during my sabbatical time was meet regularly with a spiritual director—someone who could ask me the right questions to carry me deeper and help discern God’s call. I confessed there were times in those days when I felt God was missing. I couldn’t feel Him or see Him. This wise old Catholic nun simply looked at me and said, “Perhaps God is so close you can’t see him.” All it took was simple change in my perception to begin to change my life. David’s song indicates that he would not be swayed by his ability to perceive or not perceive of God’s presence. He would trust God in the down times and he would praise God in the up times. Praise led David to hope and hope brought David joy.