Stepney Green Tabernacle Pulpit.

Songs In The Night.

Adapted from a Sermon




But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night.” Job 35:10

Verse 10 of Job 35 which we have just read states: But none says, Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night.

It is impossible to doubt that this world is a world of sorrow. Go where you will and wander ever so far, you still find yourself unable to get beyond the region of grief. Like the atmosphere, it surrounds everything; and it is a hopeless task to endeavor to get outside its circle. You will find it giving a saddened tone to conversation; leaving its mark and deep worry lines on people’s faces. It finds its way into the heart, and also sneaks into the home; for there is not a home in Canada or anywhere else in the world, that does not sometimes suffer under the shadow of grief. The noise of a great city does not frighten it away, nor does the calm and quiet of a country village offer any protection from its entrance. Although each one of us here is different in many respects, in one thing we all agree: “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy.” (Prov 14:10) It does not matter how old or how young the heart may be, there is not one that is a stranger to grief, or unacquainted with sorrow. Trouble is the portion of all; and while we stay here on earth we are sure to have our appointed share.

But if it be a sad truth that sorrow abounds everywhere, it is a far sadder truth that, although many are afflicted, few get any good from their affliction. Although all have sorrow how few are the better for their sorrows. Now, we are not among those who believe there is anything random or of chance in the afflictions that fall to our lot; we believe that God rules, and that he who‘‘makes the clouds his chariot” and “rides on the wings of the wind” has a purpose in all the troubles that trouble our path and grieve our heart. But take mankind at large, and how few are benefited by their afflictions or improved by their sorrows.

Take the great mass of the ungodly, they have their sorrows, and yet you may go into a thousand homes where grief seems to reign triumphantly, and you will find the deeper their sorrows the deeper their sin. God may strike down one, comfort after another, and blast a hundred hopes in one after another, and the only sad result is that the heart becomes the harder. If trouble would convert the world it would have been converted long before this; if affliction had any power to break the heart of the natural man broken hearts would not be scarce as they are. But it is a grievous truth that just as God’s favors, apart from the influence of the Holy Spirit, fail to draw men to God, so trials un-blest of God equally fail to drive to Him. There are sadly many who have been laid low by God over and over again, and yet like the brutish ox have but kicked at the goads that have pricked them, and are as far off from God as if He had not chastened them at all.

And is it not a sad thing too, that what is true of the mass of the ungodly is also true of a large number of God’s children? We do not learn the lessons which God would teach us by our trials. Never is there a sorrow suffered by a child of God, but that it is meant to teach us something. God never chastens His children for nothing. Can you imagine an earthly parent who loves his child dearly, inflicting pain upon him randomly, without rhyme or reason. Impossible! And will our Father who is in heaven and who has within his heart a boundless ocean of love—will He lay upon us even the lightest stroke without some motive? Never. And yet like Israel of old, how often we are disciplined by God, and never ask the reason why, or bless the hand that holds the rod. Do not those solemn words in the fourth chapter of Amos, where God says, “I gave you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and lack of bread in all your places, yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord,” (Amos 4:6) apply to many of us?

Turn to the chapter and read the eighth verse. ‘‘so two or three cities would wander to another city to drink water, and would not be satisfied; yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.” The same sad truth is proclaimed in the ninth verse. “I struck you with blight and mildew; your many gardens and your vineyards, your fig trees and your olive trees the locust devoured; yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.” Listen to the sad echo of the tenth verse. ‘‘I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.” Listen again to the eleventh verse. “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me, declares the Lord.

Here you find God chastening his people over and over again with all kinds of chastisement, and yet He had this sad charge as often to bring against them, “yet you did not return to me.” Consider well! the reason why some of us are troubled so long is because we are such slow scholars. The reason why we are so often under trial is because we have not returned to the Lord. As the verse of our text expresses it, we have been oppressed and afflicted, and yet none of us have said “Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night” (Job 35:10) so that you will see the charge which is brought against us is this—that when we have been stricken by God, instead of turning to him with lamentation and self examination, we have in our trouble turned away from him.

It is not our purpose this morning to dwell upon the subject of un-sanctified affliction, but to focus on the second part of the verse, “God ... who gives songs in the night.” And our subject is one well calculated to give joy to the heart if the Holy Spirit will but carry it there. Our subject is this—that there is enough in our God to give to every saint a song even during his darkest night of sorrow; or in other words that however dark and gloomy the night through which we may be called to pass, yet there is enough in our God to give us cause for rejoicing. If this is true, we have indeed come upon a deep well of refreshing water this morning. If it is a blessed fact that whatever my troubles are I have a reserve of joy to sustain me even in the darkest moment, then if I do not rise up as on upon eagles’ wings, something is not right.

Believer in Christ, up to this morning you have been like Hagar in the wilderness, trying to get water from the bottle; you have gone from one earthly source to the other seeking joy, and as you sit here now, like her you are full of despair, Where is your bottle? It is dry and cracked and useless; and you are saying with almost broken heart, “where am I to get water from?” Here it is before you in this book! Look at the text— “God ... who gives songs in the night.” Turn away from the dusty bottle and see if there does not springs up at your very side a well of sparkling water. Our error has been that we have tried to get our joy from the things of life, we have tried to draw our happiness from earthly sources, whereas our God is sufficient to make us joyful even during the darkest night.

I. Let us try to look into and consider why this is so: it is because our sufficiency in God is in no way affected by our outward circumstances.

Quite simply, it does not matter what your outward circumstances may be, or how changed they may become, they in no way alter that sufficiency which as a saint you have in God. So that if in times of prosperity you ever found anything in your God which gave you cause to rejoice, you have that same cause undiminished now, let your circumstances be ever so adverse.

Consider a few things that have been a cause of joy to your heart in past days. Have you never rejoiced in the purposes of your God? Can you not remember seasons when it has been a wonderful source of strengthening to your heart to remember that whatever happened, God’s sovereign will and purpose still moved on, and that nothing could overturn His decrees? And have you not revelled in the thought that your God walked upon the waves, and ruled the tempest, and turned the clouds into His chariot. Your heart has exulted as you have said, “He is the Lord, and who can hinder Him; Who will say to him, ‘What are you doing?” Now, believer in Christ, because your circumstances in life are changed, does that change His purposes? If you rejoiced in their certain fulfillment last year, may you not equally rejoice in them now.

Our lives through various scenes are drawn,

And vexed with trifling cares,

While thine eternal thought moves on,

Thine undisturbed affairs.”

Another well of comfort to your soul was found in the love of God. Consider, has God’s love changed? Because you do not have the comforts you once possessed, does that prove that God’s love to you has changed?

No! his love remains like himself the same yesterday, and today, and forever, therefore if my soul was ever comforted by this thought before, it should certainly be comforted now. If it has pleased Him in His love to cause a shadow to fall upon me, should I on that account think less of his love? Have not also the promises of God been an encouragement to your souls over and over again? “Yes,” you answer, then the question is, “have they altered?” Can you put your finger upon one promise now and say “that promise though precious to me once has now become null and void?” Can you say of one “it does not have the power it once possessed ?” No! His promises are like the stars that shine in the brightest night; and remain unmoved whatever may be the convulsions of earth. If then you ever did rejoice in God’s promises, there is no reason why you should not rejoice in them this morning, for they remain the same.

Have you not in seasons past found the thought of God having pardoned you a great source of joy? Can you not remember some days when the word pardon sent a throb of joy to your inmost heart? you say “Yes, it happened many times.” Well, then, is your pardon affected by the darkness through which you are now passing? Have the clouds of sorrow blotted out that word forgiven, once so legibly written in characters of blood. You dare not think it. Then the only conclusion you can possibly come to is, that there is the same matter for joy now as ever you possessed in your brightest days.

Yet once again. Have you not often rejoiced in the anticipation of heaven. Have you not known what it is to turn to that chapter in Peter, and read of “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading,” (1 Peter 1:4) and while doing so have an echo in your heart repeating “kept in heaven for you?” And the thought has made your heart so light that you have scarcely felt the earth beneath your feet. Have you any reason to doubt that heaven is yours because troubles are yours as well? Have the waters of affliction washed out the writing of your title deeds? Is heaven peopled with those who on earth escaped tribulation, or with those who came out of it? Blessed be God! all we have in him remains untouched and uninfluenced by earthly circumstances.

What is your night? Suppose it be one of changed prospects.

There is as great a change in your affairs now as there is between night and day. There was a time when temporal affairs did not trouble you much; for years you never knew what it was to have a care about anything. Now it is just the very opposite. You work ten times harder than you did, and yet you seem to get only a tenth of what you did before.

Your night, may be a dark one, but does it change what God is to you and what God has for you? Can you point to anything in the Word to prove that you have lost your God through your poverty? Is he less full of love to you because you are in difficult circumstances? If you turn to the third chapter of Habakkuk, and the seventeenth verse, you will find it is possible to lose everything, and yet at the same time rejoice in God. “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Dear believer, although your prospects be so changed, although every fig tree you have be withered, and on your vines this morning there be no grapes, yet there is something that remains the same—Your God. Find your all in God as once you found your God in all, and you will no longer be overcome.

But perhaps with another it may not be changed prospects, but changed health.

There was a time when you never knew what sickness meant and when pain was a perfect stranger. How changed is it now. You no longer feel that buoyancy of health you once possessed, but on the contrary, every action is now accompanied with pain, and therefore you have lost your joy. But the same question applies here also. Does change of health change your relationship to God?

Do you anywhere in Scripture find that sickness is a barrier between the Savior and his saved one? What have you lost in God by your sickness? What cause for rejoicing in Him is removed? Most certainly none; there is not a promise that was fulfilled in health that will not be fulfilled in sickness, nor love enjoyed in health that will be withdrawn in illness. Have you ever heard of a father losing his love for his dear child because the child was weak. Never; his love would rather increase than decrease, under such circumstances, and will our Heavenly Father show less compassion than an earthly one.

But there are some for whom this next point will come home; those who are saying, my night is a night of bereavement.

Some of their loved ones have been stricken down and removed by the stroke of death. The only son of his mother, and she a widow perhaps, has been laid low; or in another case, the beloved mother has been torn from her children. Grant it—but at the same time is your God dead? Have you lost Him? Has the icy hand of death cut the thousand cords that bound you to Him? Is not God still living.

There was once a mother who lost her youngest child, and weeping bitterly, refused all consolation, until the little sister said “Mommy, why do you cry so? Is God dead?” And so, however you may have been bereaved, your God remains the same; therefore, look away from changing scenes and dying friends—to Him; and even in the darkest night of bereavement you will find all you need in your God to give you consolation.

And now, in the last place on this point, one can imagine someone saying, “my night is darker than any of those you have mentioned.” Mine is a night of spiritual depression.

It is not something lacking in the home, but something lacking in the heart I feel. It is not bereavement of father or mother, or sister or brother, but the bereavement of spiritual joy which I once had.

Granted this kind of night is an exceedingly dark one, but where do you find in God’s word that being full of spiritual depression renders null and void the blessed saying, ‘‘Accepted in the beloved,” or “complete in him.” If our acceptance in Christ was in any way influenced by our earthly circumstances, there would be no word of consolation to give to my own soul or yours this morning, but if you believe that you are as much in Christ when depressed as when you are exalted, although your soul this morning may seem like lead, and you find yourself unable to enter into the joy of worship, there yet remains the foundation for a song, you are still safe in Christ. God’s covenant with you remains the same, you are still accepted in the person of Jesus. You may be trembling on the rock, but its firm base does not shake beneath your feet. Yes! God is our rock, and all the more so when down at the sea-side. The tide may ebb and the tide may flow, but the rock remains for ever. So is it with our temporal circumstances.

Believer, your temporal circumstances may be retreating like a spring tide, comforts may be lessening every moment, but your God stands, and you stand on Him; and as in the low tide you see more of the rock than at the full flood, so perhaps your very trials here on earth will enable you to see more of your God than ever you beheld in what you now term your prosperous days. What a blessed thing it is just to rest upon our God, and feel that although from this Sabbath morning to the day of my death I may have nothing but bereavement, cares and toils, yet these things cannot change my sufficiency in him.

II. Now, secondly, and very briefly, let us consider some of the songs God gives his saints. During the night what songs do his children sing?

First, he gives the song of faith.

And no sweeter song can be given. There is more music in this song than in any other, and there is nothing more lovely than to be in the company of some child of God, who though under some great trial, can yet sing in the language of believing confidence “I know that all things are working together for my good.” This thrilling song has been heard above the tempest’s roar. The heavenly mariner has often stood upon the deck with the blinding spray of every wave encircling him, and as one thing after another has been swept from his side, a God-given song has risen over the gale, “I know I can never be shipwrecked, because I know in whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”

It is a sweet song, this song of faith; to know all its music you should have heard it sung by the martyr as he stood surrounded by the flames. Time after time, in old Smithfield, that infamous location for public executions in the medieval and city of London, England, has it been heard above the crackling of the burning pile, “when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” (Isaiah 43:2) This song of faith has echoed through many and many a dungeon cell. Paul and Silas were put in the prison, and their feet made fast in the stock; but at midnight the prisoners sang, and their companions heard them; and thus has many a dungeon in later days been made to ring with melody. Have you ever heard the song on the death bed? It perhaps sounds sweetest there. When you see one weak in body, but strong in God, singing,—

Sweet to rejoice in lively hopes

That, when my change shall come,

Angels shall hover round my bed,

And waft my spirit home.”

There is another song almost as sweet as that of faith. It is called the song of hope.

Suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Rom 5:4) And what is this song? “I know that God can help, even at the very last. I remember that Abraham had his knife uplifted to slay his son, before the mercy came that stopped the blow. Though God seems to delay, I will wait for Him still.” In the most pitiless storm that can fall upon a child of God, there is always the one ray of hope lighting up the gloom. At the heart of every thunder cloud there always rests this rainbow. Take away from a man all hope, and you leave but incarnate despair and a walking Hell. But when did you ever hear of the child of God that was robbed entirely of his hope? It is not to be taken away, nor will it leave a man ashamed. Whatever song you may not be able to sing this morning, you can surely utter this one of hope, and say with David, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (Psalm 42:11)

Another song for the night is that of tranquility.

This is a much softer song than the others that have been mentioned. You cannot always hear it so clearly, but consider its more moving melody. You have perhaps heard the song of faith as clear as a clarion, and the song of hope in notes that thrilled the heart, but have you ever had your soul more stirred to the depths than by the quiet strains of tranquility. “Your will be done” is the often recurring refrain. The man has lost his worldly possessions, and is now sunken deep into poverty; but he sings,

If thou shouldst call me to resign,

What most I prize — it ne‘ er was mine;

I only yield Thee what was Thine;

Thy will be done!”

There is another friend who once rejoiced in bodily strength, but is now wasted and emaciated, and in an agony of pain on a bed of sickness, Do listen !!—for he sings:—

Should pining sickness waste away

My life in premature decay,

My Father, still I strive to say,—

Thy will be done!”

Thus does the child of God, by heavenly strength, bear his trials not only without a murmur, but with a song.

And as we come to a close let us consider these two remaining songs.

The first one is entitled “The song of sympathy with Jesus.”

It runs something like this:—“It is true O Lord, that I am tried and sorrows press hard against me, but I rejoice in this, for am I not by my very grief made more like You, O blessed Savior. The thorns that prick my flesh do but bring me into closer sympathy with You, who for my sake had Your head encircled with them. Had I a heart that was free from care, and eyes that knew no tears, how could I be a follower of Yours, O man of sorrows, who could throw out the challenge ‘Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow.’ (Lam. 1:12) Had I no bitter cups to drink, I would be unlike You, my Lord, who shuddered at the dreadful drought Your Father held to You, when praying in Gethsemane, —Sweet sorrow—happy grief, that makes me one with You.”

It is an honor for the disciple to be as his Lord, and the servant as his Master, and this thought sheds a glory round the darkest trial and leads the soul to song.

There is still another song, it is “The song of heavenly anticipation.

It is a sweet song to Christ’s children; and it can be sung best in the darkest night. The chorus is this:— “it will only make heaven more sweet at the close.” The saint is racked in pain, and knows he cannot last long; he takes up the book and reads There shall be no pain there—no sickness, no sorrow. (Revelation 21:4) “Ah!” says he, “this pain will only make heaven more sweet at the close.” He loses a beloved relative or friend, and he turns to the book and reads “There shall be no death there.” And so he makes his present troubles as a dark background, to show up heaven’s glories. If you are mourning over troubles here, and cannot sing about earth, then sing about heaven, for the darker your nights below, “they will only make heaven more sweet at the close.” There is one night coming to us all, a night through which all here this morning will have to pass; and for those of us, who are God's children, there is provided a song—it is the night of death.

Is there anyone here who is in perpetual bondage through fear of death? Wait until you “come to the night” before you trouble yourself whether a song will be given you or not. When death comes, dying grace will come with it. Although it may now stand before your trembling spirit as a dark grim specter of the night, it will yet be changed into a glorious angel holding in his right hand a golden key to open before you the everlasting doors of heaven.

When the moment comes that alone we must pass through the river, we will do so not convulsed with terror. Far from it, for just when earthly props are falling on every hand, our God and Maker will give us some sweet song to gladden the advancing night, and that song will no sooner die upon our death-stricken lips than it will break forth again in louder, sweeter strains before the throne where life is one perpetual song, and where our Savior has declared there is no night.

But there is a dark and oppressing thought that there may be many here who, if they were called to die tonight, would have a song-less death.

Here Archibald Brown closes with the mention of a circumstance that had deeply impressed him. May God grant that it would strike home to some of our own hearts this morning.

It was but last Friday,” he says, “that I went, at the request of some dear relatives, to see an aged man who was evidently near the eternal shore. On my asking him if he thought he was ready for the great change, his only answer was, ‘don’t worry me now about these things.’ I said to him, ‘will you but allow me to pray with you?’ He replied, ‘you may if you like,’ but before I had uttered two or three words, he stopped me again, saying, ‘he did not want to be worried, but if I liked, I might come and see him tomorrow.’ Alas, at half-past seven that morning he was a corpse.

There was no song in that night.

The Lord save you all, and bring you all as sinners to a simple trust in Jesus crucified, and when we pass through that last night on earth, and as we are passing through the varied nights I have feebly attempted to describe, may we all find, to our heart’s rejoicing, Him who gives songs in the night. The Lord add His blessing for Jesus’ sake,”