The great cause of a Christian’s distress, the reason of the depths of sorrow into which many believers are plunged, is simply this — that while they are looking about, on the right hand and on the left, to see how they may escape their troubles, they forget to look to the hills whence all real help cometh; they do not say, “Where is God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night?”
The world hath its night. It seemeth necessary that it should have one. The sun shineth by day, and men go forth to their labours; but they grow weary, and nightfall cometh on, like a sweet boon from heaven. The darkness draweth the curtains, and shutteth out the light, which might prevent our eyes from slumber; while the sweet, calm stillness of the night permits us to rest upon the bed of ease, and there forget awhile our cares, until the morning sun appeareth, and an angel puts his hand upon the curtain, undraws it once again, touches our eyelids, and bids us rise, and proceed to the labours of the day. Night is one of the greatest blessings men enjoy; we have many reasons to thank God for it.
Man, like the great world in which he lives, must have his night. For it is true that man is like the world around him; he is himself a little world; he resembles the world in almost everything; and if the world hath its night, so hath man. And many a night do we have, — nights of sorrow, nights of persecution, nights of doubt, nights of bewilderment, nights of affliction, nights of anxiety, nights of ignorance, nights of all kinds, which press upon our spirits, and terrify our souls. But blessed be God, the Christian man can say, “My God giveth me songs in the night.”
Any man can sing in the day. When the cup is full, man draws inspiration from it; when wealth rolls in abundance around him, any man can sing to the praise of a God who gives a plenteous harvest, or sends home a loaded argosy. It is easy enough for an Æolian harp to whisper music when the winds blow; the difficulty is for music to come when no wind bloweth.
No man can make a song in the night himself; he may attempt it, but he will find how difficult it is. It is not natural to sing in trouble, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His Holy Name,” for that is a daylight song. But it was a divine song which Habakkuk sang when in the night he said, “Although the fig-tree shall not blossom,” and so on, “yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”
But what does the text mean, when it asserts that God giveth songs in the night?
God alone can furnish us with songs in the night. Usually in the night of a Christian’s experience, God is his only song. It is strange that, when God gives His children mercies, they generally set their hearts more on the mercies than on the Giver of them; but when the night comes, and He sweeps all the mercies away, then at once they each say, “Now, my God, I have nothing to sing of but Thee; I must come to Thee, and to Thee only.”
And yet again, not only does God give the song in the night, because He is the only subject upon which we can sing then, but because He is the only One who inspires songs in the night. It is marvellous, brethren, how one sweet word of God will make many songs for Christians. The Christian gets his songs from God; God gives him inspiration, and teaches him how to sing: “God my Maker, who giveth songs in the night.” So, then, poor Christian, thou needest not go pumping up thy poor heart to make it glad. Go to thy Maker, and ask Him to give thee a song in the night; for thou art a poor dry well. You have heard it said that, when a pump is dry, you must pour water down it first of all, and then you will get some up. So, Christian, when thou art dry, go to thy God, ask Him to pour some joy down thee, and then thou wilt get more joy up from thine own heart. Do not go to this comforter or that, for you will find them “Job’s comforters” after all; but go thou first and foremost to thy Maker, for it is He who can teach thee how to sing.
WHAT IS GENERALLY THE MATTER CONTAINED IN A SONG IN THE NIGHT? What do we sing about?
The most usual method is for Christians to sing about the day that is over. The man says, “It is night now, but I can remember when it was daylight. Neither moon nor stars appear at present; but I recollect when I saw the sun. I have no evidences just now; but there was a time when I could say, ‘I know that my Redeemer liveth.’ I have my doubts and fears at this present moment; but it is not long since I could say with full assurance, ‘I know that he shed his blood for me.’ It may be darkness now; but I know the promises were sweet; I know I had blessed seasons in his house. I am quite sure of this, I used to enjoy myself in the ways of the Lord; and though now my path is strewn with thorns, I know it is the King’s highway. It was a way of pleasantness once, it will be a way of pleasantness again. ‘I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ ”Christian, perhaps the best song thou canst sing, to cheer thee in the night, is the song of yestermorn. Remember, it was not always night with thee.”
Well, then, remember that God who made thee sing yesterday has not left thee in the night. He is not a daylight God who cannot know His children in darkness, but He loves thee now as much as ever; though He has left thee for a little while, it is to prove thee, to make thee trust him better, and love and serve Him more. If Thou canst read in His loving heart eternal thoughts of love to thee, thou wilt find this a charming means of giving thee songs in the night. Though thou art ever so gloomy now, canst thou forgot that happy morning when, in the house of God, thy voice was loud, almost as a seraph’s voice, in praise, for thou couldst sing, “I am forgiven! I am forgiven; a monument of grace, a sinner saved by blood”? Go back, man; sing of that moment, and then thou wilt have a song in the night. Or, if thou hast almost forgotten that, then surely thou hast some precious milestone along the road of life that is not quite overgrown with moss, on which thou canst read some happy inscription of God’s mercy towards thee.
Now, it often happens that God’s past mercies and lovingkindnesses would be good sure posts to hold on to, but we have not faith enough to throw our cable around them, so we go slipping down the stream of unbelief, because we cannot stay ourselves by our former mercies.
What! conceivest thou thyself to be the worst of the worst? Look at Job there, scraping himself with a potsherd, and sitting on a dunghill. Art thou as low as he? Yet Job rose up, and was richer than before; and out of the depths Jonah came, and preached the Word; and our Saviour Jesus hath mounted to His throne. O Christian, only think of what God has done for others! If thou canst not recollect that He has done anything for thee. Thus, Christian, thou mayest got a song in the night out of other people, if thou canst not got a song from thyself. Never be ashamed of taking a leaf out of another man’s experience book, if thou canst find no good leaf in thine own.
Like the nightingale, sing His praise sweetly when all the world has gone to rest; sing in the night of the mercies of yesterday. There is one thing I am sure we can sing about, let the night be ever so dark, and that is, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, and because His compassions fail not.” If we cannot sing very loudly, yet we can sing a little low tune, something like this, “He hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.”
Besides, however dark the night is, there is always a star or moon. The stars are not put out, are they? Nay, if thou canst not see them, they are there. One or two must be shining on thee, therefore give God a song in the night. If thou hast only one star, bless God for that one, and perhaps he will make it two; and if thou hast only two stars, bless God twice for the two stars, and perhaps He will make them four. Try, then, if thou canst not find a song in the night.
But, beloved there is another thing of which we can sing yet more sweetly; and that is, we can sing of the day that is to come. We are labouring, but we do not see the fruit’ of our labour. Well, what then? We shall not always labour in vain, or spend our strength for nought.
Songs in the night, too, prove that we have true courage. It is the bold Christian who can sing God’s sonnets in the darkness.
He who can sing songs in the night, proves also that he has true love to Christ. It is not love to Christ merely to praise Him while everybody else praises Him. To walk with Christ in rags, is something more. To believe in Christ when He is shrouded in darkness, to stick hard and fast by the Saviour when all men speak ill of Him, and forsake Him, — that proves true faith and love. He who singeth a song to Christ in the night, singeth the best song in all the world, for he singeth from the heart.
Well, beloved, it is very useful to sing in the night of our troubles, first, because it will cheer ourselves. Well, what we do in the natural world, we ought to do in the spiritual. There is nothing like singing to keep up our spirits. Martin Luther says, “The devil cannot bear singing, he does not like music.” It was so in Saul’s day; an evil spirit rested on him, but when David played his harp, the evil spirit went from him. This is usually the case; and if we can begin to sing, we shall remove our fears. Singing is the best thing to purge ourselves of evil thoughts.
John Bunyan tells us that, as Christian was going through the valley, he found it a dreadful place; horrible demons and hobgoblins were all about him, and poor Christian thought he must perish for certain; but just when his doubts were the strongest, he heard a sweet voice; he listened to it, and he heard a man in front of him singing, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Now, that man did not know who was near him, but he was unwittingly cheering a pilgrim behind. Christian, when you are in trouble, sing; you do not know who is near you.
Excerpted from the sermon “Songs in the Night” (Job 35:10) by CH Spurgeon dated 27 February 1898. You are encouraged to read the whole text of the sermon on www.spurgeon.org.