Christians sing not only at sunrise, when rescue has finally rushed over the horizon. They also sing at midnight, when the blackness makes the sun seem burnt out. And often, God uses our midnight songs to keep us till the morning.
Christians are the sort of people who sing at midnight.
When Paul and Silas lay in prison, beaten and bloodied and chained, their fellow prisoners heard them singing in their cell (Acts 16:25). When the Lord Jesus awaited his betrayal, he led his disciples in a hymn (Matthew 26:30). And, of course, when David and the psalmists walked through the twilight of God’s seeming silence, they sent songs into the darkness.
Christians sing not only at sunrise, when rescue has finally rushed over the horizon. They also sing at midnight, when the blackness makes the sun seem burnt out.
And often, God uses our midnight songs to keep us till the morning.
Psalms 42–43, sixteen verses that form one song, are two of the psalter’s darkest nights. The psalmist, one of Israel’s temple singers, finds himself in exile — away from the temple, away from friends, and seemingly away from God’s presence.
The ghost of God’s apparent absence walks through the movements of the song, especially in the repeated taunt “Where is your God?” (Psalm 42:3, 10). Unlike the author of Psalm 115, who could boldly answer back, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3), the author of Psalms 42–43 finds himself repeating the questions back to God: “Why have you forgotten me? . . . Why have you rejected me?” (Psalm 42:9; Psalm 43:2).
The psalmist’s doubts cleave him in two: Part of him believes that God will shine his face on him again (Psalm 42:5), and part of him feels that God has clean forgotten him (Psalm 42:9). Part of him still remembers the language of hope (Psalm 42:5), and part of him can speak only the language of despair (Psalm 43:2). Part of him stands up and lays hold of God’s promises (Psalm 42:8), and part of him sinks down and lays hold on the dust (Psalm 42:11).
And in the midst of all that misery, as the psalmist sits under the thunder of his doubts, he does something few of us would think to do. He sings.
“At night his song is with me” (Psalm 42:8). Like Jesus, Paul, and Silas after him, the psalmist breaks the silence of the night with a song — a song that likely contained many of the ideas we find in Psalms 42–43.
But why? When faced with darkness without and doubt within, why did the psalmist sing? And why should we? Psalms 42–43 give us at least four reasons.