Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.—Psalm 42:8
There are examples of prayer in the Bible being offered at all times of the day. Prayer is made in the morning. David says in Psalm 5:3, “My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up.” Prayer is made at noon. In Acts 10:9 we find Peter on a housetop praying at noon. Prayer is also made in the evening. “Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:7–8). Prayer was offered throughout the day. “Evening, morning, and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my prayer” (Psalm 55:17). Daniel, a man of fervent prayer, would kneel upon his knees toward Jerusalem three times a day to make his request before God (Daniel 6:10).
We also find examples of prayer being made in the night. In Psalm 77, we find a prayer in the night song. In Acts 16:25, Paul and Silas pray at midnight.
In our passage today, we find a prayer in the night. It is a special prayer that is answered with a special blessing. In this request, the psalmist finds a treasure in the night. You may also be experiencing a night season. I pray you would also find this same treasure as you pray in the night season.
Psalm 42 begins with these words:
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night, While they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?”
The psalmist is in a depressed state of life. He thirsts after God, but this thirst appears to be driven not by God’s love or grace but by the distance that he believes is separating him from his Lord. He desires above all else to know that God is near him and he is near to God. It’s possible that there are even requests he has made to God that have not been answered. And as his eyes shed tears throughout the day and night, those who know him mockingly ask him, “Where is thy God?”
Have you ever prayed a prayer in these conditions before? No matter how sincerely and fervently you pray, it seems as if God is distant from your cry. Those around you who know your burdens ask, “Where is your God?” They may say, “See! Prayer doesn’t work! Why would you even pray?”
David had these same concerns in Psalm 22 when he cried, “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: Let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him” (7–8). But in the very same psalm, David confidently declares, “For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Neither hath he hid his face from him; But when he cried unto him, he heard. My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him” (24–25). David was able to obtain his peace in the period of one psalm. In the psalm for our lesson today, that isn’t the case. If you were to pray through the psalms beginning with this psalm, it would not be until Psalm 45–46 when you would see more victorious prayers.
In Psalm 42:4, we read, “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: For I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.” He remembers when he was able to joyfully walk into the house of God with praise. He remembers the blessed fellowship he had with God’s people. But for right now, he has lost this joy. He is unable to walk into the house of God any more.
The Preparation for Prayer
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him For the help of his countenance.”
Notice first the honesty the psalmist has for himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul. And why art thou disquieted in me.” His soul is both depressed and noisome. He feels no peace. But he holds on to a hope. He had already placed his hope in God. Many times God’s people like to pretend that they are always on the spiritual mountain. I have met some preachers who appear to have a smile cemented onto their faces, but I have also noticed some of these same people when they move away from the crowd as their smile turns into a hardened scowl. I realize we are to always be praising our Lord. His mercies are new every morning and His salvation will never end. Psalm 113:3 says, “From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same the Lord’s name is to be praised.” In Hebrews 13:15, we read, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” We ought to be ready always and everywhere to praise the Lord. But while we are in these earthen vessels, it is often hard to ignore the afflictions of the flesh. We may try to pretend we don’t struggle with these tendencies, but we must be fully honest with ourselves about our actual condition. Although this prayer of Psalm 42 is fairly dark in its tone, there is a special blessing for this psalmist. But notice that in the preparation for prayer, the psalmist is first honest with himself.
Notice next the hope he has: “for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” He has a confidence that his burden will pass. Though his pain is unbearable right now and though it is difficult to make himself praise the Lord, he has a hope that there will be a time when he will be able to praise the Lord. And notice what he knows he will be praising the Lord for—His countenance. At the beginning of the psalm, the psalmist feels distant from God, but he knows there will be a day when he will once again enjoy sweet fellowship with his God.
Once the psalmist has prepared his heart with honesty and hope, he makes his prayer before God:
“O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee From the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.”
He was honest with himself over his condition. He knows in his heart there really wasn’t a need for his soul to be troubled and cast down. He now becomes honest before God. “My soul is cast down within me.” Rather than succumbing to bitterness and anger over his distance from God and the unanswered prayers, he simply tells God about his condition. This attitude is one of humility and again, honesty. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” In Psalm 142:2, we read, “I poured out my complaint before him: I shewed before him my trouble.”
The psalmist then says that he would remember the Lord in his distance from Jerusalem. The psalmist is sitting upon a little hill called “Mizar.” The name of this hill itself means “smallness” or “humility.” In comparison to the joyfully bold mountains and elevation of Jerusalem, the psalmist assures the Lord that he will be faithful in his remembrance of the Lord even in the low, distant places.
“Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.“
In verse 7, the psalmist may appear to close his prayer with complaint, but I believe it is just an extension of his honesty and his hope, because as he returns to communing with himself, he says, “Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night his song shall be with me, And my prayer unto the God of my life” (Psalm 42:8). In the daytime, he knows the lovingkindness of the Lord will be with him. In the night, as he makes his prayer before God, he trusts that the song of God would remain with him.
The Darkness of Night
The darkness of night is dreadful. Almost every child is at some point scared of the dark. I remember growing up how scary the darkness was. For a long time I insisted on sleeping with a night light because that little bit of light provided me comfort. I remember as a boy, playing hide and seek in the woods at night, one of my buddies was running in the woods barefoot and stepped on a copperhead. That ended our game rather quickly as he was rushed to the hospital. Darkness was dangerous. Even as an adult, darkness can still be scary. It is my opinion that, unless someone’s conscience has been seared, there is still in most people the fear of the dark. Darkness contains the unknown. In the Bible, darkness oftentimes represents sin and judgment. In Psalm 74:20 we read, ” . . . for the dark places of the earth are full of the habitation of cruelty.” And again in Genesis 15:12, “And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him.”
Darkness tends to hide most things. And oftentimes this is what produces fear. But it also reveals things. Did you know that during the day there are in the sky warriors, princesses, bears, dogs, camels, horses, snakes, dragons, and even a dolphin? But the sun hides them. It is not until the sun sets and the stars appear that we see the constellations our Lord has hung in the sky. Yes, the darkness hides things, but if you look in the right places, the darkness can also reveal some treasures.
In Isaiah 45:3, the Lord declares to Cyrus, “And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.” In Job 12:22, Job says, “He discovereth deep things out of darkness, and bringeth out to light the shadow of death.”
The Song of God
One treasure of the night is found in Psalm 77. In Psalm 77 we find Asaph wallowing in depression and hurt, but God gives Asaph a song to sing, a song in the night. We may cover this prayer in a future post.
In the passage for today, we find another treasure of the night. This treasure is not a song that is sung to God, but rather a song God sings to us.
“And in the night his song shall be with me.”
What would God sing about? Would he sing about the stars? Well, as much as God knows about each star and calls them each by name, in Genesis 1:16 it says, “he made the stars also” as if it was just a little passing thought. Would he sing about the mountains? Well if the Lord would “make low” every mountain (Isaiah 40:4), I doubt the mountains really hold too much of a prestigious place in the heart of God. Would He sing of the earth? In 1 Peter 3:10, we find that the earth will be burned up and the elements will melt with fervent heat. So what would God sing about?
I would like to direct your attention to a passage in Zephaniah 3:16–17:
“In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not: And to Zion, Let not thine hands be slack. The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; He will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; He will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.”
After God has wiped out all the enemies of His people and after He has given them a pure heart, He says He would be in the midst of them. He says He will rejoice over them. After all the judgment and destruction He enacts, He finishes His work and rests, and the place where He rests is in the midst of His people. The Lord says to them, “he will joy over thee with singing.” What does God sing about? His people. The Song of Solomon is a love song between God and His people. In Hebrews 2:11–12, we find Jesus enjoying fellowship with His sheep and singing praise. Although this praise is made to the Father, what do you think Jesus would be praising the Father for? “And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me” (Hebrews 2:13). He’s singing about His people! In Mark 14:26, as Jesus and His disciples leave their Passover meal, they sing hymns. It’s possible these hymns were Psalm 113–118, called the “Hallel,” psalms of redemption and praise. But notice, Jesus knew very well that night would be the last before His crucifixion. And who did He choose to spend those few remaining hours with? His precious people. From what I can see, whenever God sings in the Bible, He is singing about His people.
There is nothing else in the universe worth God’s time singing about but His people. Are you getting this? When the Lord uncovered this precious treasure in my night season, it changed my perspective of things. I prayed and prayed and prayed in a dark night season. And God wasn’t answering the requests. Though God didn’t answer the requests, He answered me. He uncovered the song that He sings for me. God loves me. He knows exactly what pressure I can take. He has prepared me for the trials He intends for me to go through. Dear Reader, I want you to know that God loves nothing more than His people. Even in an unanswered prayer, God may just be wrapping His loving arms around you and is singing ever so sweetly, “I love you.” This world is not our Home. The president is not our King. Dearly beloved, I pray that as you enter the night, you turn your attention from that which troubles you and turn your eyes upon the treasure of the night, the song that God sings for you.