Last Friday my alarm woke me as usual, I reached for the snooze button and responded on its second sound. It was a work day so I had to get moving. As I ate breakfast I read a Psalm. I’d got to Psalm 130.
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord!
O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!
If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen for the morning,
more than watchmen for the morning.
O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”
Psalms 130:1-8 ESV, http://bible.com/59/psa.130.1-8.esv
The morning was sunny and beautiful. I got caught on the line, ‘more than watchmen for the morning.’ I started to think and write down why a watchmen would wait for morning. ‘For relief’ I wrote. Morning brings freshness, clarity, light, a new day…and then I wrote ‘safety’. I questioned it as soon as I wrote it down. Maybe my first thought was that often a watchman would be someone who is there for a reason, guarding a building, a wall or a city, and often we feel bad things are more at risk of happening at night, under cover of darkness. A watchman can breathe a sigh of relief at the coming of light and the morning.
I finished breakfast, got myself sorted out, and got out the door – a little later than I’d been planning to. It was one of those mornings where there seemed to be a hundred things to remember before I even left for work. I took a route I often take. When I turned onto one road, it was blocked by a fire truck. I said a prayer for the people involved in a car accident which I assumed must have happened.
Texts were pinging in on my phone. I wondered who was sending them to me as I knew my daughter was still in bed. I got to work, parked up and looked at my phone. The texts were from my co-worker, checking if I was safe, informing me there was an active shooter in the area. Suddenly the emergency vehicles in the road made sense. Our building was in lockdown. As it turned out everything happened a few streets away from us, it was well contained in the area, and the lockdown was lifted a couple of hours later.
Four people were shot dead that morning. Two local people and two police officers. A tragic event for our small city where violence such as this is uncommon.
It happened about the time I read Psalm 130 and wrote about morning bringing safety. The time when the call was made to police, and one officer at the end of her night shift would decide to accompany another officer and take that one last call. When I got home from work filled with the unfolding horror and sadness of the tragedy, I saw my Bible on the kitchen island, turned to the Psalm again and, to be honest, felt a little stupid for even writing the word safety. The morning had brought danger, death and sorrow. Things were very far from safe.
So l looked again at the Psalm and this time focused on the word ‘more’. We ‘wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning’. Mornings are not guaranteed to be safe. Bad things happen in the light of day as well as at night. Since last Friday, around the world, bridges have collapsed, bombs have exploded, unfathomable tragedies on a big and a small scale have occurred every hour of every day.
When we are surrounded by shocking tragedies like our community has seen in the last week, we’re made aware of how suddenly life can change. We see at close hand how broken our world is. We realise how little control we have over what happens. ‘You do not know what tomorrow will bring,’ James tells us, ‘What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes’ (James 5:14). It’s a time when we know we need help in some way or another. Our plans are interrupted and shown to be so fragile in the face of the unpredictability of life.
Even in the morning we can be in darkness. We may have internal struggles or external circumstances making our days dark. I work in a library. At the moment our windows are being replaced, but the glass hasn’t arrived. Every window is boarded up – and how we miss the light coming in. It’s horrible being so closed in all day when we know there is beautiful sunshine outside the boards. We are counting the days for the replacement of the windows; for the light to come in and us to be able to see out. In the same way, like watchmen, we wait for dark nights of the soul to pass, and sometimes it can seem a very long night with little hope of a morning.
Yet there is hope.
We need something bigger than the first glimmer of morning light. Someone.
My parents have a poster in their downstairs bathroom with a picture of a sunrise and the following verse on it. I remember not being able to help myself reading it every time I went in there through the ups and downs of my teenage years.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV http://bible.com/59/lam.3.22-23.esv
Jeremiah says this in the middle of a lament. In the middle of grieving for the fall of his city and his people. God’s love and mercy is new every morning. Even in the middle of terrible times we can cry out to Him. The light of morning is a reminder of His faithfulness. He is the one ‘who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night’ (Jeremiah 31:35). Jesus holds it together (Colossians 1:17).
Psalm 130 starts with, ‘Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.’ From the depths of sorrow we can cry out to God. A God who Himself weeps with us in our sorrows. At the tomb of Lazarus Jesus wept alongside His mourning friends (John 11:34,35). He is moved with compassion. Isaiah describes the coming Messiah as ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53:3). Jesus knows our pain.
Yet this Psalm isn’t someone grieving over something external. The author is crying out for God’s forgiveness. His hope is in a God who forgives, with his ‘steadfast love and plentiful redemption.’ Beyond the darkness outside of ourselves God’s Word tells us we are in need of help in dealing with the darkness in our own hearts. Before His light breaks in, we don’t even know we are living with our hearts boarded up.
God loves us enough to do something about it, to come and live among us, to be with us in our sorrows, to bring us life and hope. Jesus lived the perfect life and died a brutal death to bear the punishment for our sin. Then He rose again, trampling death, so we have hope that we will too rise again to eternal life with Him. If we repent we can share in His new life. This is hope indeed.
Our daily sunrises do bring light, and clarity. They do bring newness and freshness. Every one a picture of what Jesus does for us, bringing us new life, banishing the darkness in our hearts. A reminder of His daily faithfulness and His steadfast love which doesn’t falter when we face terrible situations. Though all of life contains risk and danger, we can know a God who is present through it all.
The Psalmist ends with, ‘O Israel, hope in the Lord!’ We can take that cry to our own broken-hearted communities in gentleness and humility, knowing how much we all need this hope, confident in the steadfast, unfailing love of God and His full capability to reclaim lives for Himself.