Let Hope Arise

The sentry wakes to take the morning watch, his ribs still sore from the abuse it took to wake him from his short uncomfortable rest in the dusty plains. The sun’s approach is hinted by the spreading dew across the ground, across his equipment, across his creaking armor, and cracking joints.

He stretches and looks beyond to the horizon and sees the beginning of the sun rise. There’s a problem with the sun rise. The lights he takes for sun rise are too far spread out and too dim and too early. It’s not the rising sun. It is the approaching dawn of destruction. He prevents the night watch from going to sleep to point out what they all recognize as invading armies and set to work to spy out who they are, how many, and to what purpose.

Later that day, in the presence of the army’s leaders, including its chief, the king, they give their report. The scout studies the king as their report spills out of themselves. Three nations are gathered with enough men to crush the king, his capital and all of its people. The king’s face is not stoic. He does not idly receive the news. It must not be easy to be the king. He bears the fear, not only for himself, but also for a nation of people. They will look to him for protection, and he knows what the old sentry knows: they cannot resist or defeat this invasion.

A council is quickly called.

But this is not the council he expects. Everyone is there. The whole nation is called together. Babies cry, children run about to be hushed by their parents and seventeen different uncles, aunts, and older cousins. The king presents the news, again, with a little more passion than is wise for a king whose people are being threatened with destruction. The people gasp. The people murmur.

Instead of asking his generals for their assessments or members of his political court for recommendations, he throws his hands out, “O Lord, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens?”

The assembly stills. This king has a reputation. He personally oversees the spiritual well being of the Southern Kingdom. He personally travels to instruct villages about what is required for the worship of Yahweh. He appoints the worship leaders and pastors. He charges them to care completely for the people. It is unexpected, but not entirely surprising that now, in the precursor to his people’s destruction, that he turns to God to pray.

He prays to God, remembering what has happened. He remembers God’s mighty works. He remembers the peoples’ response. Word by word, his passion grows. Word by word, the people gathered stand to join this praise. It is an appeal to heaven, but more than that, it is simply calling God great. It is perhaps the last time this will happen. Prophets foretold of the destruction of this people. Perhaps this is it.

All of a sudden, at the conclusion of the prayer, a voice speaks up. It’s one of the musicians. He’s a drummer. You know how drummers are… Twitchy… Energetic… Quick to speak…

The people know this man descends directly from Asaph, the great Psalmist and music director. People know his voice. When he speaks, it is otherworldly. It is powerful. It is ancient truth coming from a mouth far too young to speak that truth. It is the power of God that inhabited the judges of old. It is God speaking through this man, the way a trumpeter speaks through his ram’s horn.

Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.’

Words reminiscent of those spoken to Moses before the Red Sea, spoken to Joshua before the city of Jericho. God is ready to fight and does not need your sword. His own is drawn.

You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem. DO not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you.

The silence of the hall is broken by the scraping of weathered feet across dusty stone floors. Knees bow and faces meet the stone. A single “Hallelujah” from the king.

“Hallelujah!” He shouts from his heart into the heavens. A cacophony rises from the temple.

Hope rises.

In the wilderness, the next day, a column approaches ground meant for bloodshed. Dust lazily hangs above the approaching army. The steady pounding of feet fills the air, but along with it, a repeated chorus…

His lovingkindness is everlasting.

The sentry soldier wipes the sweat mixed with dew from his face. This song has been going on for a while. The song leader, leading the entire army, followed by his entire retinue of singers, and then followed by the army, shouts out the truths of the Psalm of Hallel. His singers respond…

His lovingkindness is everlasting.

At first it was just the singers. But now it is everyone. It is the entire army. It is the priests. It is the litter bearers. It is the grave diggers. It is the camp cooks. They can’t help it. It’s stuck in their heads.

His lovingkindness is everlasting.

What an awful place, this wilderness. It is so far from home and comfort. At least if the sentry drops his corpse in this place, it is far from his home. His family will have time to flee.

His lovingkindness is everlasting.

The song leader shouts of the great power of God in rescuing Israel from Egypt.

His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Is that same God here?

His lovingkindness is everlasting.

Such powers executed by God on behalf of his ancestors… The sentry remembers the stories he has learned since his infancy. Ten plagues. Two bodies of water divided. Forty years in between them. God always with them. Ten simple and impossible laws.

His lovingkindness is everlasting.

The army halts. A different shout rises. Confusion. Bewilderment.

Victory?

Hope rises.

Out in the field where blood would be spilt, blood is already spent. The entire enemy, from camp to camp is nothing but food for crows. The army breaks column and runs into the camps of the enemy. Not a single man who marched against Judah lives. The sentry, with the song firmly stuck in his head sings to himself to the cadence of his running feet as he checks body by body.

His lovingkindness is everlasting.

These three people brought riches beyond understanding to their camps. For three days, the army stays just to collect the valuable left by these villains. Around the campfires, soldier stories are replaced by praises to Yahweh whose lovingkindness is everlasting. They depart after the entire camp is picked clean and left to feed a generation of grateful crows.

They march back into the city singing and shouting with the smiles of victory on their faces. Not a man was lost.

His lovingkindness is everlasting.

The people will sing this song for a generation with reverence for the protection of their God against destruction. Old men will remember their fear and where their fear went to die in the face of El Roi, the God who sees me.

The nations around them fear.

Hope rises.


Early in the morning, I see a light so bright at an hour so early, I wonder if I’ve left a flood light on overnight. I step with my phone, headphones, and steaming coffee outside to see the full moon setting toward the far horizon. Auto play chooses for me from the YouTube videos I should hear.

It is an old melody. It might be the most perfect song I have ever heard recorded. The words are simple and melody variable and beautiful. This particular rendition starts with the shout. Hillsong does this better than anyone in the world. The “wooaaaaah” that accompanies so much of their music to perfection.

In the early morning dry breeze of Texas I feel the wind run across fresh goose bumps. The woooah is one I have joined when they have led masses I have joined. I feel so far away from those triumphant moments of Hallelujah. I feel so far away from safe.

So let hope arise and darkness tremble in Your holy light, and every eye will see Jesus, our God; great and mighty to be praised. [1]

They sing this one verse again and again. The melody drops low instead of high. It sounds as uncertain as my doubts. But the music rises behind the doubt. The drums drive. The guitar sings higher.

So let hope arise and darkness tremble in Your holy light, and every eye will see Jesus, our God; great and mighty to be praised.

My mind drifts away from my cares and the music nerd inside of me asks for one more time through the chorus with just a little more. More drums. More guitar. More voice. More hope

So let hope arise and darkness tremble in Your holy light, and every eye will see Jesus, our God; great and mighty to be praised. Jesus our God! Great and mighty to be praised! God of all days! Glorious in all of Your ways! Majesty and wonder and grace! In the light of Your name!

So let hope arise.

It is so easy to doubt right now before the sun reveals the victory of God. It is a fearful idea that He takes our suffering so personally. He draws His blade. He stretches out His hand. His lays bare His will in contest with those set against us. Even against our own doubt. What could stand against such might or resist so pure and perfect a love?

With everything we will shout forth Your glory.

Like King Jehoshaphat, it is important now to recognize His might and His glory, not because He requires it, but because its truth brings light to the dark.

With everything we will shout forth Your praise.

The dean of the school of music at Liberty, and the author of nearly a third of the books I have studies in my school work, Dr Vernon Whaley, writes about the moment of victory for Jehosphaphat,

Are you thanking Him for the answer before it manifests? If not, let me encourage you today. Do it. Praise God in the heat of your trial. Worship Him in the face of perplexity. God honored Jehoshaphat for it. He’ll honor you too. [2]

The moonlight plays through the trees. The darkest night is filled with the comfort of light across my back yard. The darkest fears of my life are shrunken in the light of His glory and love. What will I do? What can I do? Will I ever be counted as worthy? Am I enough?

The fight of these questions. The fight of my doubts. The fight for my family. It is not mine.

It is God’s.

Our hearts they cry, be glorified, be lifted high above all names. For You, our King, with everything, we will will shout forth Your praise!

Hallelujah.

Hope rises.

And I am ready for the dawn and to see God’s victory.

Put down your earthly sword, Christian, and worship your way to victory. And when it comes, don’t forget to praise the Lord. [3]

 


1. Joel Houston, “With Everything,” Hillsong Music Australia, 2008. CCLI# 5060779.

2. Vernon M. Whaley, Called to Worship: From the Dawn of Creation to the Final Amen, (Nashville, TN; Thomas Nelson Inc., 2009) 134-135

3. Ibid., 135

 

To hear the specific version I was listening to, click here.

Categories: WorshipTags: , , , , ,

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