“Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Give thanks to the Lord…” Psalm 33:1-2
In Zimbabwe, my family would gather on a Sunday morning and worship with our African brothers and sisters. I had a recurring thought week after week. Standing and swaying inside a corrugated-asbestos, hewn-poled, and chicken-wire-protected church building, I would observe the heart-felt worship. Joy exuding. Faces gazing upward. Dancing. Worship. Exuberant.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Habakkuk 3:17-18
The recurring thought? In church in America, you can’t be quite sure why people show joy. Is it the nice house or new car? Their favorite football team? Their great kids with great grades? In church in Zimbabwe, I’m surrounded by people who’ve lost family members to AIDS. Some of them have AIDS. Poverty is rampant. Brokenness and loss is everywhere.
But so are shouts of joy.
Why? Because praise befits the redeemed to give thanks to the Lord. David writes that we should give thanks with our lyres, harps, and singing. And loud shouts.
“…all his work is done in faithfulness…the earth is full of the steadfast love of the Lord.” Psalm 33:4-5
He is faithful, and his steadfast love fills the earth. Evidence of his goodness is everywhere. Look to the heavens. Look at the oceans. He made it all. He governs it all. Don’t look at circumstances; listen to his words. His counsel outpaces any counsel from anyone or any nation. His plans stand; peoples’ plans are frustrated. His counsel stands forever, and his plans extend to all generations. We need to turn to God and not to earthly leaders.
We saw in Psalm 32: 8, “…I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” He looks down and sees us. I know he has seen me in my pain. “God is in heaven and you are on earth,” Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 5:2. From where he sits, he looks out on earth’s inhabitants. He made every person—fashioning our hearts—and observes us. El Roi—the God who sees.
“The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue.” Psalm 33:17
In loss—or any time—we seek his great might. No war horse is mighty enough to take his place of power. The eye of the Lord is over us. Yes, he sees us. He loves us. We fear him. We stand in awe, respecting his authority.
Where is your hope? In a war horse or in his steadfast love? He alone is our deliverer. We train our souls to wait for him, our help and our shield. What you trust matters. It matters in the good times, and it matters in the valleys of life. David proclaims, “…our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name” (Psalm 33:21).
Indeed, where else could we turn? Where else should we turn? He is our hope. He, alone, is our protector. And we shout for joy to him because he pours his steadfast love upon and over us. Praise befits the upright mourner. When fig trees, fruit, olives, flocks, and herds fail “…yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:18).
Shouts of joy are fitting. Even in the depths of grief and mourning.
“Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.” Psalm 33:22