My father was a district leader of the NAACP during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Because of this, he used to tell my brothers and me about the Civil Rights Movement. My father simply called it “the movement.” I heard stories about marches, bus trips called freedom rides, and lunch counters. My father would have a smile on his face when he spoke about the accomplishments of the movement.
In addition, my father told us about the meetings. He noted that these meetings were full of songs and preaching. The songs were about courage, standing up against evil, and about God being on the side of humanity struggling for justice. “I, I shall not be moved, I, I shall not be moved.” Or, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” Also, “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize hold on.” they also sang, “I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round.” Finally, “We Shall Overcome.”
If one was not aware of the situation one might think that one was listening to a description of a meeting that was celebrating victory. But, surprisingly at the same time that they were singing these songs they were in the midst of very difficult times. I learned about the church bombing that killed those little children. I learned about the assassinations of great leaders of the movement. I learned about government conspiracies to overthrow that same movement that my father spoke so glowingly of. Even my father at times would tell us of his own struggles like having his car window shot out and his life threatened.
Yes, it was a difficult time that called for struggle and work against a system that had been in existence since the beginning of this nation. It was a time when the people of God stood up against powers without even really having the ability to overcome these powers. It was a time when justice was without form and void and darkness was all over the face of the deep.
3 Israel’s Song
Our text this evening was crafted during a time like this. Hope could have easily given in to hopelessness. It was a time when the promise of God to come back to the land that God promised them was coming to past. It was a time when all around there was nothing but visual indications of pain and hopelessness.
Our text is simply a song. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made. And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Here were a people in the midst of trouble. They were struggling against an environment that was totally against the promise of God. Certainly it didn’t look as though a powerful creator God would leave the return to their land project half done. Certainly all didn’t look right, but they sang this song in particular, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made. And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” The song describes the awesome creative power of God. The song talks about God’s ability to do something with nothing. The song attempts to lets us know that that word has the power to do what it says.
But as I think about this singing and about this song in particular, I begin to wonder if there were some in the audience when this song was sung who didn’t really feel like singing the song. I am not suggesting that those few didn’t believe what the song says, but when we look at the circumstances of a creation gone wrong we have to wonder if some didn’t feel like singing this song of God’s majestic creative power. Certainly there was at least one who didn’t want to sing this song when God’s creative power hasn’t seemed to show up “on time” as the old folks used to say. Certainly there was at least one who was in that movement that my father spoke of who didn’t want to sing their songs. When we today look at the pain and hurt in the world and realize that this is not in line with the hopes and dreams of a God that has the power to set aside all of this with only a word. Certainly somebody doesn’t want to sing that song.
I didn’t want to sing the song
I must confess that sometimes I don’t want to sing that song. Why sing songs about the power of God to overcome any situation when you are in the midst of a situation that God could do something about but doesn’t? How can I sing songs about this power of God when we hear of a diagnoses that causes the doctor to shake her head? Sometimes I don’t want to sing that song. And so even when I come to a song found in our text like this I begin to wonder. How could Israel sing about the total creative power of God while looking at complete destruction? How could our mothers and fathers stand up and sing a song about overcoming when injustice seems to reign?
I mean I can understand singing the songs about a God that will help us but not do for us, but that is not this song. No this song is about God’s complete power over all of creation by speaking a simple word.
As a child I had an imperfect picture of this problem and went to my father and asked him why would you sing these songs at the same time that your windshield is being shot out? Why would you sing these songs when water hoses are put on your brothers and sisters? He then answered, we sung these songs so that we can remember. Remember what we were seeing was not in line with God’s desires. We needed to remember, that God spoke in the past. We needed to remember that God was on our side. And most of all we needed to remember the power of God for we were counting on that power of God.
Counting on the Creative Power of God
Israel sang this song for the same reason, they needed to remember that God is a powerful creator. Somebody may be in the same situation of not really wanting to sing the song, but the song reminds us of the time that God stepped in and spoke in the past. Yes we may not always feel like singing the song, but the song reminds us of God’s promise to step in in the future. And thus ultimately you and I are counting on that power to create again. You may not feel like singing the song, but as you sing the song you are a part of a community of witnesses to the power of God. And as you sang the song, you remember and then you fell like singing the song.
Yes, there were some in the congregation who didn’t want to sing the song, but they sang in the community, “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made.” I am sure that there were some who needed to be reminded of the power of God to help them in their situation and so they sang, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.” They sang the song because they needed to be reminded of what God did do in the beginning.
They needed to be reminded of the awesome power of a God that can step out on nothing and call something into existence. They needed to be reminded that that same power has promised them something that they cannot get on their own. They needed to be reminded that they were counting on God’s creative word to do what they could not do themselves. They needed to be reminded that the deeps of their existence needed to be placed in a bottle and that no amount of struggle that they engage in could do that. They needed to be reminded that that same word can take the seas and gather them together as in the creation. So they sang, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.”
We can struggle, we can fight. We must struggle we must fight, but in the end we are dependent on that creative power of God that can take nothing and make something. They sang “By the Word of the Lord where the heavens made.” Because they may not see it now, but they were counting on that creative power to come through for them. They may not see it now, but they were counting on God pulling the cat out of the hat.
I am going to sing the song
I don’t always feel like singing this song. “By the word of the Lord where the heavens made”, but Israel reminds me that I need to remember that power of God that will come through in God’s own time. I don’t always fell like singing the song, but my father reminds me that I need to remember what God has done for us as a people. And so I will sing it anyway, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.
I am going to sing this song. I may have tears in my eyes, but I will sing the song, I may not want to sing the song, but I am gonna sing that song until I remember because like the Israelites, and like my father I am counting on the fact that God is going to do something with nothing. I am counting on that fact that God is going to take nothingness and make something just and good.
Yes, God isn’t through creating. God is still taking formless voids and turning them into paradise. I don’t know where you are right now. You might find yourself in an untamable sea of trouble, but the Song says that God has the power to take that sea and place it in a bottle. So I am going to sing this song, “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.” I don’t know when God will create, I don’t know how God will create, but I am counting on that creative power over my circumstances. In fact right now I am planning on seeing that creation happen. In the beginning we were not here to see the creation, but this time we can see creation happen. You might find yourself in the deeps, but the song says God has the power to place all of the deeps into storehouses. Just wait to see that creation happen. Somebody might be in the tumultuous sea all I have to say today is keep on singing the song, because the song says God has the ability to put that sea in a bottle.
So I am going to keep on singing that song, because I am counting on the creative power. I am going to keep on struggling for justice, but I am going to sing that song, because I need God to do what only God can do. Today I ask you to sing that song with me so that we all can remember what God can do until God steps in and does it!
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made.
God Bless You!