Tuesday, April 04, 2023

 (As published in Clarion)


 darkness has become my only companionPsalm 88:18

 On Good Friday, while on the cross, our Lord Jesus experienced three hours of darkness: “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” (Mark 15:33). The Father turned his face away from his Son for three hours. The first great creative deed of Almighty God was the gift of light. The first word God spoke over his creation was “‘Let there be light,’” and there was light” (Gen. 1:3). But on that most dreadful of days, the Father withdrew the light, and the land was plunged into darkness. Our Lord Jesus was abandoned to the darkness. He was forsaken on the cross “. . . that we might be accepted by God and nevermore be forsaken by him” (Lord’s Supper Form).

When we meditate on Christ in the darkness, Psalm 88 comes to mind. The human author of Psalm 88 was Heman the Ezrahite. This Heman was probably the Heman mentioned in various places in Chronicles as one of the temple musicians and chief singers.

Psalm 88 is the dark Psalm. It is the only Psalm of the 150 Psalms which has no resolution. To be sure, Heman began by praying to the God who saves. He cried out to God in a prayer in which he expressed confidence in God (vv 1 & 2), but for the rest of the Psalm he complained bitterly to God that God had abandoned him and taken every friend and support from him. He ended the song with bitter words: “You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; darkness has become my only companion.”

Did Heman write here about his personal experience? We do not know. What we do know is that he put into words and song feelings that God’s children of all times and places at times have—we as well.

In 2012 I was blessed to go on a tour of Israel. One of the most moving moments was when we descended into the Sacred Pit, a dungeon under where tradition has it that the Palace of Caiaphas stood. The Sacred Pit was discovered in 1888 and tradition also has it that Jesus was kept in this pit after he was tried by the Sanhedrin. At the bottom of the pit was a lectern on which were leaves of scriptures in many languages that contained only Psalm 88. Our leader, Rev. James Visscher, read the Psalm. As we ascended the stairs, we spontaneously began humming Genevan 22—"My God, O why have you forsaken me?” Very moving.

In 1966 Paul Simon released a song titled “The Sound of Silence” and sang it with Art Garfunkel. Both Simon and Garfunkel are Jewish, and this song echoes the words from the songbook of their, and our, religions. The song begins with these words: “Hello darkness, my old friend // I’ve come to talk with you again.”

So far, so good. And arguably it ends where Psalm 88 ends: “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls // And tenement halls // And whispered in the sound of silence.”

I still enjoy the music of Simon and Garfunkel, but I love the gospel much more. The gospel says that Psalm 88 does not have the last word. The last word that Christ spoke was not, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It was, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46). Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Let us live confidently in the light of Jesus.

 For Further Study:

 ·         Think about the connection between the plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21ff) and the darkness experienced by our Lord Jesus on the cross.

·         Meditate on the connection between Genesis 1:3 and John 1:3-5.

 For Further Reading: Psalm 88