But no one asks, 'Where is God my Maker, who gives us songs in the night,
I. SONGS IN THE NIGHT ARE PECULIARLY HELPFUL. The thought is of a lonely and desolate night - a night of weary watching or painful suffering, when sleep cannot, or should not, be enjoyed. Travellers who dare not sleep in a perilous region infested by wild beasts, sing songs as they sit round their camp fire. Poor sufferers on beds of sickness welcome strains of well-known hymns in the long, wakeful night. The dreadful night of sorrow needs the cheering of some song of Zion. In the sunny day songs come readily enough; but then we could dispense with them. It is when darkness lies about our path that we need some uplifting and cheering influence.
II. SONGS IN THE NIGHT MAY BE ENJOYED. Elihu speaks in the present tense. Christian history tells of many a soul cheered by heavenly songs in darkest hours. Paul and Silas sang in prison with their feet in the stocks (Acts 16:25).
"Stone walls do not a prison make, III. SONGS IN THE NIGHT DO NOT ARISE SPONTANEOUSLY. There is something paradoxical in the phrase, "songs in the night," for of course the context shows that it does not point to the noise of those who turn night into day with unseemly revelry. Elihu's night-songs are of holy thoughts and heavenly music, or at least of pure and refreshing gladness, as his indication of the Source of them proves. Now, sorrow is not the parent of gladness. If we are to enjoy deep harmonies of thought, or to soar into high heavens of emotion among the depressing influences of treble, we must not look for the trouble to produce the songs. We must turn elsewhere, and if we have no higher than earthly supplies, we shall have no songs such as Elihu spoke of. IV. SONGS IN THE NIGHT ARE GIVEN BY GOD. In the still hours of darkness he draws near to the soul. When the desolation and misery are greatest, God is most compassionate. He is not dependent on external circumstances. Night and day am alike to him. Thus it is possible for him to inspire his sweetest songs when we are drinking the most bitter cup. We must not delude ourselves into the notion that we shall not feel suffering if God is with us, although martyrs have been known to lose consciousness of the devouring flames in the ecstasy of their spiritual joy. The song does not dispel the darkness of night. But it drives out the terror and the despair, and brings peace and a deep joy that is nearer the true heart of man than the waves of sorrow which sweep over the surface of his life. The lark that soars to heaven's high gate rises from a lowly nest on the ground. The sweetest songs of Zion that ascend to the gates of glory begin on the tearful earth. - W.F.A.
III. SONGS IN THE NIGHT DO NOT ARISE SPONTANEOUSLY. There is something paradoxical in the phrase, "songs in the night," for of course the context shows that it does not point to the noise of those who turn night into day with unseemly revelry. Elihu's night-songs are of holy thoughts and heavenly music, or at least of pure and refreshing gladness, as his indication of the Source of them proves. Now, sorrow is not the parent of gladness. If we are to enjoy deep harmonies of thought, or to soar into high heavens of emotion among the depressing influences of treble, we must not look for the trouble to produce the songs. We must turn elsewhere, and if we have no higher than earthly supplies, we shall have no songs such as Elihu spoke of.
IV. SONGS IN THE NIGHT ARE GIVEN BY GOD. In the still hours of darkness he draws near to the soul. When the desolation and misery are greatest, God is most compassionate. He is not dependent on external circumstances. Night and day am alike to him. Thus it is possible for him to inspire his sweetest songs when we are drinking the most bitter cup. We must not delude ourselves into the notion that we shall not feel suffering if God is with us, although martyrs have been known to lose consciousness of the devouring flames in the ecstasy of their spiritual joy. The song does not dispel the darkness of night. But it drives out the terror and the despair, and brings peace and a deep joy that is nearer the true heart of man than the waves of sorrow which sweep over the surface of his life. The lark that soars to heaven's high gate rises from a lowly nest on the ground. The sweetest songs of Zion that ascend to the gates of glory begin on the tearful earth. - W.F.A.
But none saith, Where is God my Maker?
I. THINK OVER THESE NEGLECTED QUESTIONS.
1. Where is God? Pope said, "The proper study of mankind is man"; but it is far more true that the proper study of mankind is God. Let man study man in the second place, but God first. Some men have a place for everything else, but no place in their heart for God. They are most exact in the discharge of other relative duties, and yet they forget their God.
2. Where is God thy Maker? Oh! unthinking man, God made you. Do you never think of your Maker? Have you no thought for Him without whom you could not think at all?
3. Where is God our Comforter? "Who giveth songs in the night?" Though you have had very severe trials, you have always been sustained in them when God has been near you. It will be very sad if we poor sufferers forget our God, our Comforter, our Song-giver.
4. Where is God our Instructor? Who "teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of the heaven?" God has given us intellect. It is not by accident, but by His gift, that we are distinguished from the beasts and the fowls. If animals do not turn to God, we do not wonder, but shall man forget? Why, O man, with thy superior endowments, art thou the sole rebel, the only creature of earthly mould that forgets the creating and instructing Lord?
II. THERE ARE QUESTIONS WHICH GOD WILL ASK OF YOU. Adam heard the voice cry, "Where art thou?" There will come such a voice to you if you have neglected God. Though you hide in the top of Carmel, or dive with the crooked serpent into the depths of the sea, you will hear that voice, and be constrained to answer it. You will hear a second question by and by, "Why didst thou live and die without Me?" Such questions as these will come thick upon you — "What did I do that thou shouldst slight Me? Did I not give you innumerable mercies? Why did you never think of Me?" You will have no answer to these questions. Then will come another question — "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?"
III. GIVE THE ANSWERS TO THE GRAVE INQUIRIES OF THE TEXT. Where is God? He is everywhere. Where is God your Maker? He is within eyesight of you. You cannot see Him, but He sees you. Where is your Comforter? He is ready with "songs in the night." Where is your Instructor? He waits to make you wise unto salvation. "Where then may I meet Him?" says one. You cannot meet Him — you must not attempt it — except through the Mediator. If you come to Jesus, you have come to God. Believe in Jesus Christ, and your God is with you.
Helps for the Pulpit.I. THAT SEASONS OF AFFLICTION SHOULD INDUCE MEN TO SEEK AFTER GOD.
1. All men are exposed to trouble.(1) Temporal visitations of Divine displeasure. When God visits a nation with war, famine, or pestilence, then it is a time of darkness. When families or individuals are subjected to poverty, to disappointment in their plans, hopes, etc. Happy are they who have then the God of light for their refuge.(2) Bodily and mental afflictions may be compared to night(3) The season of temptation is a dark season (1 Peter 1:6).(4) Declensions and backslidings lead to darkness (Revelation 2:4, 5).(5) Death is compared to night (John 9:4).
2. It is the duty of all to inquire after God. "Where is God my Maker?"(1) A conviction that He is the source of all that is good and excellent, and that without an interest in Him the soul will be ruined forever.(2) Investigation of His character by the light of revelation.(3) A deep conviction of our state of alienation from Him, which induces repentance, godly sorrow, etc.(4) A knowledge of Christ as the Mediator, the way to the Father — a cordial reception of His own terms of reconciliation, and the exercise of faith in the Redeemer's sacrifice.(5) Frequent prayer to Him, especially in seasons of darkness, believing that in Him alone is our help found.
II. THAT GOD CAN AND WILL AFFORD RELIEF IN THE DARKEST SEASONS. "Who giveth songs in the night." He can give deliverance, grant support and consolation, and sanctify all the trials of His people, which will make them utter songs of gladness and praise.
2. It is evident from His love. He loves as a father, and will defend them, and save them.
3. It is evident from His promises.
4. It is evident from what He has done. "Call to remembrance the former days."(1) He has given songs in the night of spiritual alarm (Acts 16:34).(2) He has given songs in the time of deprivation and want (Habakkuk 3:17-19; 1 Corinthians 5:11); yet the apostles uttered songs of triumph (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4).(3) He has given songs under bodily afflictions (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).(4) He has given songs in the time of persecution (Romans 8:36, 37, etc.; 2 Timothy 1:12; Matthew 5:10).(5) He has given songs in the hour of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13; James 1:12; 1 Peter 1:6).(6) He has given songs in the night of death (Psalm 23:4; Acts 21:13; 1 Corinthians 15:55).
III. WHY IT IS THAT SO FEW ARE INQUIRING AFTER GOD.
1. Because man naturally hates God (Romans 8:7).
2. From the want of spiritual perception (1 Corinthians 2:14).
3. Because they are intoxicated with the vain pleasures of earth.
4. Pride also prevents them (Psalm 10:4).
5. Because they are captives to Satan. They are his servants — him they obey (Ephesians 2:2).Application —
1. The happiness of those who inquire after God.
2. The present and future misery of the wicked.
3. Seek the Lord while He may be found.
(Helps for the Pulpit.)
1. His glory, that we may give Him the worship due to His name and majesty.
2. That we may express our gratitude.
3. That we may obtain assurance of His favour.
4. That we may learn His will.
5. That we may secure His help.But the charge is aggravated. Were God a being regardless of the worship, the miseries, and discomforts of His creatures, although such neglect could not then be justified, yet it would seem to be palliated to a certain extent. But when God is a strength to the poor, when it is in the ordinary course of His government to heal the broken in heart, the neglect is greatly aggravated. The night is a general symbol for what is melancholy and sorrowful; as the day, illuminated by the splendour of the sun, is the image of joy and exhilaration. Whatever the darkness we contemplate, we shall find that for that "night season" God has provided consolations, has given songs to cheer the heart of the believer. Life itself is a time of darkness. It is a scene of sin, trial, and temptation. There are seasons of gloomy night to individuals, as well as to the world. The seasons of temptation, affliction, and death, are times of darkness, on which Christ arises as the light. Then let reason have her just sway, and you will inquire after God your Maker. You will become penitent, humble believers in Christ. You will become new creatures.
(T. Kennion, M.A.)
(C. Wadsworth, D.D.)late Sir Arthur Sullivan had long admired the words of "The Lost Chord," and had made up his mind to set them to music. Relating the circumstances of the composition of the best-known sacred solo of the day, Sir Arthur said, "One night I was in the room next to that in which my brother lay dying. I had been watching at his bedside, and was thoroughly tired out and weary. I chanced to sit down in the room and there the noble words were before me. I did not rise from the seat until I had composed the music." The lovely strains were composed in the hour of sorrow. The dark night gave birth to the sweet song! Perhaps we do not know what we are producing when we travel the rough road — we are only conscious of the pains, and not of the products. But we may rest assured that our Father knows the ministry of every circumstance through which He makes us pass.
(J.H. Jowett, M.A.)I. WHAT IS MEANT BY INQUIRING AFTER GOD OUR MAKER?
1. When we investigate the important question, Is there a Deity? what notions are we to form of His nature, perfections, and providence?
4. When we earnestly pant after His approbation, and give ourselves no rest till we obtain it, through repentance for sin, and faith in the atonement of the Son of God (Romans 3:25, 26).
5. When we thirst after that better country, where God is enjoyed, and where our inquiries after Him shall meet with ample success. There we shall have the justest and the brightest ideas of Him, the most glorious resemblance of His holy and benevolent nature (1 John 3:2).
II. WHY IS IT THAT SO NEW ARE MAKING THIS INQUIRY?
1. Because mankind are so much engaged about visible things: these strike the senses more than things of a spiritual and invisible nature; and seem to be the only things which command their attention.
2. Dissipation. They have no taste but for play and amusement, one scene of diversion after another; the hours which should be spent in intercourse with heaven, are prostituted to folly, vanity, and idleness.
3. They make a God of this world, by placing their affections supremely upon it (James 2:4); its gold and silver, honour, fame, power, dominion, popular applause.
4. They are sensual, making a God of pleasure, sensuality, lascivious gratifications. How can a soul, thus fettered to earth, elevate itself to inquire after God its Maker? no more than a bird can ascend without wings.
5. Some live so criminally, that God is the object of their dread: they wish there was no God; are glad to hear religion opposed; would be happy to hear its truths confuted, if they could; they would obliterate the doctrine of providence, and the soul's immortality.
III. CONSIDER THE AMIABLE ACCOUNT HERE GIVEN OF GOD. "He giveth songs in the night"; or matter of songs, etc.
1. By exhibiting those bright orbs which fill the expanse of heaven (Psalm 8:3, 4).
2. Night may be taken figuratively. Day is put for prosperity, success, joy, and comfort. Night for adversity, calamity, grief, and vexation. God cheereth the mourner's heart, and solaceth His people in the night of adversity, grants support, unexpected relief (Psalm 66:19).
1. Let us rejoice in Him, who lifteth up the hands that hang down, and giveth songs of praise in adversity.
2. Let us adore the wisdom of Providence, in whose dispensations day and night, good and evil, are so seasonably blended, enjoy the good thankfully, suffer the evil with resignation.
3. Let us fortify ourselves under every calamity by looking forward.
1. It becomes us to acknowledge with all gratitude the liberality and kindness of our Creator, in forming and designing us for the acquisition of such excellent and valuable knowledge, and in bringing us to the possession of it.
2. Let us observe and pursue the Divine intention, by a diligent improvement of our advantages.
3. The knowledge of God, and of the visible intentions of His wisdom and goodness in the frame of our world, in the faculties of our minds, and in the order of society, is the best preparation for understanding and embracing the Gospel of our Saviour. We must believe in God, before we can have faith in Christ; we must previously hear and learn of the Father Almighty, before we come to Christ duly qualified for His instructions. If we wisely improve present advantages, there is a glorious everlasting constitution, which God hath established in Christ Jesus our Lord, in order to our rising again from the dead to the enjoyment of immortality.
Who giveth songs in the night.I. WHAT SEASON OF OUR LIVES IS DESCRIBED UNDER THE IMAGE OF NIGHT? Night is the time of darkness and of gloominess; when we can see nothing and can do nothing, as we can in the bright and cheerful light of day. As such it fitly represents a time of ignorance, and unbelief, and sin. It also represents a time of adversity and of affliction, whether of a public or a private nature. The season of suffering is, to the unconverted person, a season of gloom and heaviness. How cheerless is the chamber of sickness to the eye and the heart of an unsanctified sufferer!
II. WHAT IS THE REAL CHRISTIAN'S SPIRIT AND TEMPER AND CONDITION IN THESE DARK SEASONS OF SUFFERING? Singing bespeaks an easy, contented, and happy state of mind. We seldom if ever hear a person singing who is very unhappy. But this excellent gift and faculty may be and often is abused. There are different sorts of song, and different characters who sing them. We should not understand the word "songs" in our text, only in its literal meaning. It also represents that sweet and composed and resigned spirit which the Christian sufferer experiences inwardly when all outward things are dark about him. "Songs in the night" describe that peaceful and composed frame of mind and soul which the Christian sufferer enjoys in his darkest night of suffering or sorrow.
III. WHO IS TO GIVE US THIS CHRISTIAN SPIRIT, TEMPER, AND CONDITION? Even the Lord, our Maker, and Preserver, and Saviour, and Comforter. A heavenly mind and spirit can only proceed from heaven. "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature"; and as such he receives a new nature, and a new spirit, and he sings a new song. He sees everything with different eyes; he receives everything with a different spirit; he bears everything with a different temper; he no longer looks upon himself, or his condition in this world, as he once did. It is no longer his rest; it is a school in which he is to learn lessons of heavenly wisdom; a warfare, in which he is to fight the good fight of faith.
(Robert Grant, B.C.L.)
1. Young has these lines —
"Earth, turning from the sun, brings night to man;
Man, turning from his God, brings endless night."
And we have no more fit image than night for the occasion of our heaviest woes. What a pall sin will bring over our souls! We are all of us learning by experience. Are not our moods ofttimes of a sombre character? We cannot always control the moods of our soul. It is not easy to sing the song of faith when the voice refuses to sing the song of glad and happy love. Yet let the true soul wait on God, and the songs will come. Cry first, and you will sing presently.
2. So, too, faith may lose its assurance. It may want some of the links that give perfection and continuity to a personal trust. The shades of unbelief, or a faith that has lost its clearer lights, will sometimes take the place of a well-evidenced trust. If the time should ever come that you lose your early trust, do not let your cry lose aught of its devoutness; do not lose your hold upon God; still cling to Him. He is still with you in all those earnest questionings; and He will give you songs even in that dark night if you cry to Him.
3. "At midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises to God." It was a strange place for the voice of thanksgiving, for the melody of praise. That night seemed a fit image of their circumstances, dark enough in all truth. Not much, to human seeming, that could inspire songfulness; everything to beget fear and alarm. Not more so, perhaps you are thinking, than the circumstances of some you know — your own, perhaps. Little outwardly to cheer your life, very much to depress it. And yet you, too, may have songs of trust and loving confidence; songs of hope, and triumph in that hope. We must not spend the time of our trial in fruitless complaining. Let us besiege heaven with our suppliant tones.
4. But I think it would be easier to die for Christ than to live through the commonplace life of thousands of modern Christians, who have to drink of the water of affliction, and eat the bread of adversity, and yet be Christ-like. Yes, to live thus, and still keep one's hold of God, and lift in consequence a hymn of glad thankfulness or patient hope, is it not yet more difficult? I often think so.
5. What is the aggregate life of the Church, with all its blessed fruits of love, joy, and peace, but a "song in the night"? If then, God has given any of us "songs in the night"; songs of happy love, songs of quiet hope, songs of deep trust, songs of true thankfulness, no night will last forever.
1. Our sufficiency in God is in no way affected by our outward circumstances. Have you never rejoiced in the purposes of your God? Another well of comfort is found in the love of God. The thought of God's having pardoned us is a fountain of joy. Have you not often rejoiced in the anticipation of heaven? What is your night? Perhaps it is one of changed prospects; or of changed health; or it is a night of bereavement; or, may be, of spiritual depression.
2. Some of the songs God gives to His saints. The song of faith; hope; tranquillity; sympathy with Jesus; heavenly anticipation.
(Archibald G. Brown.)
I. WHO IS THE AUTHOR OF THESE "SONGS IN THE NIGHT"? God our Maker. Any fool can sing in the day. It is easy enough for an AEolian harp to whisper music when the wind blows; the difficulty is for music to come when no wind blows. What does the text mean, when it asserts that God giveth songs in the night? Two answers.
1. Usually in the night of a Christian's experience God is his only song. We can sacrifice to ourselves in daylight — we only sacrifice to God by night.
2. He is the only one who inspires songs in the night. It is marvellous how one sweet word of God will make whole songs for Christians.
II. WHAT IS GENERALLY THE MATTER CONTAINED IN A SONG IN THE NIGHT? What do we sing about? About the yesterday that is over; or else about the night itself; or else about the morrow that is to come.
III. WHAT ARE THE EXCELLENCIES OF SONGS IN THE NIGHT ABOVE ALL OTHER SONGS? A song in the night of trouble is sure to be a hearty one. The songs we sing in the night will be lasting. They will be those which show a real faith in God. Such songs prove that we have true courage and true love to Christ.
IV. SHOW THE USE OF SUCH SONGS. It is useful to sing in the night of our troubles, because thus we may cheer ourselves: because God loves to hear His people sing. Because it will cheer your companions. Because it is one of the best arguments in favour of your religion.
1. What an aggravation it is of the guilt of men's forgetting their Creator, that He is a God who giveth "songs in the night." It is one beautiful instance of the adaptation of revelation to our circumstances, that the main thing which it labours to set forth is the love of our Maker. Natural theology, whatever its success in delineating the attributes of God, could never have proved that sin had not excluded us from all share in His favour. The revelation, which alone can profit us, must be a revelation of mercy, a revelation which brings God before us as not made irreconcilable by our many offences. This is the character of the revelation with which we have been favoured. But if God has thus revealed Himself in the manner most adapted to the circumstances of the suffering, does not the character of the revelation vastly aggravate the sinfulness of those by whom God is not sought?
2. With how great truth and fitness this touching description may be applied to our Maker. Take the cases of death in a family, or the times of sorrow a minister meets with. And how accurate the description is, if referred generally to God's spiritual dealings with our race. Who would not be a believer in Christ? when such are the privileges of righteousness, the privileges through life, the privileges in death, the wonder is, that all are not eager to close with the offers of the Gospel, and make these privileges their own.
(Henry Melvill, B.D.)
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