Crank up the volume

Concerts. Clubs. Parties. There’s something about loud music that sets the tone for a cut-loose kind of celebration. Every so often in our own neighborhood, for example, someone will pack their backyard with friends and family and crank up the volume, filling the air with pulse-pounding music late into the night.

Might that disturb the sleep of an old guy like me?

Sure. But I have earplugs. Let them have their fun. (I mean, didn’t I crank up my rock ‘n’ roll when I was that age? How my parents must have suffered…)

I suspect that sometimes, either out of reverent respect for the sacredness of Scripture or an inability to imagine our way into the story, we have a hard time recognizing the real joy, laughter, and celebration that must have taken place in its pages. David danced so joyously before the ark that his wife scorned his lack of decorum. For his first public miracle, Jesus made sure wedding guests didn’t run out of wine. And he didn’t just eat with tax-farmers and the people whom some derided as “sinners.” No doubt what galled his opponents was that he actually seemed to enjoy their company. (Let’s face it: if you sit through the meal the whole time with a dour expression, just waiting for an opportunity to launch into a withering sermon, you’re not going to get many dinner invitations.) And they enjoyed his. They wanted to be around Jesus in a way that they didn’t want to be with the Pharisees; the holy presence of the Messiah didn’t preclude enjoyment and laughter.

And for the psalmist, loud, joyous music was taken for granted as a way to celebrate.

. . .

Psalm 57, as we’ve seen, includes a complaint against persecution by enemies, but also a statement of trust in God’s hesed and emeth — his covenant love and faithfulness — sent forth as emissaries from the Most High God. For a moment, the psalmist then seems to return to complaining about his enemies: “They laid a net for my feet to bring me down; they dug a pit for me” (6a, CEB). But — surprise! — this is merely a way to express thanks for the intervention of God: “…they dug a pit for me, but they fell into it instead!” (6b).

Thus, the psalmist is filled with praise, compelled to celebrate with song:

My heart is unwavering, God—
    my heart is unwavering.
I will sing and make music.
Wake up, my glory!
    Wake up, harp and lyre!
    I will wake the dawn itself!
(vss. 7-8)

Before, the psalmist’s heart had trembled with uncertainty under the threat of dangerous enemies. But imagine the almost comic scene: like inept movie villains, the psalmist’s enemies fell into their own trap. The psalmist’s heart is now firm, steadfast, unwavering; God came through. Hesed and emeth have come to call, and the psalmist is ready to party, to make loud music before sunrise and awaken the dawn itself.

This seems like spontaneous joy, the kind that bursts forth of its own accord. I’m not a musician, so probably wouldn’t dust off my guitar to celebrate anything. But sports fans know what happens when their team sinks that basket, or hits that homer, or makes that goal, or sneaks into the end zone at the last second to win the championship. People leap to their feet, jump up and down, scream, shout, and weep; there are hugs and high fives all around.

The psalmist’s version is to crank up the volume.

May we know such joy.