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Monday, March 16, 2020
Forty days and forty nights
you were fasting in the wild;
forty days and forty nights
tempted, and yet undefiled.
Shall not we your sorrow share
and from worldly joys abstain,
fasting with unceasing prayer,
strong with you to suffer pain?
Then if Satan on us press,
flesh or spirit to assail,
victor in the wilderness,
grant that we not faint nor fail!
So shall we have peace divine:
holier gladness ours shall be;
round us, too, shall angels shine,
such as served you faithfully.
Keep, O keep us, Savior dear,
ever constant by your side,
that with you we may appear
at the eternal Eastertide.
“Forty Days and Forty Nights” (vv. 1–5) by George Hunt Smyttan
Hymn 167, Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
I once attended a worship service where the words “Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord. Yes!” were repeated endlessly in a praise song. It had an upbeat melody and was set in a major key. Since this was in a Lutheran church nobody was raising their hands or swaying, but some in the congregation almost smiled, and that led me to believe they were enjoying themselves.
I doubt anybody smiles when a congregation sings “Forty Days and Forty Nights.” This hymn is set in a minor key and is almost broodingly sad. While it is not fun to sing, its words teach us a great deal about what we need to know about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and our response to it. The whole story is there and so is the application. We sing of the fasting, the temptations, the striving between good and evil.
This song is not only about where Jesus was but is also about where we live out our lives. We are constantly in the struggle between doing what God asks of us and what the world demands. We are always tempted to follow God’s desires or our own. This constant struggle, which is always at the center of our faith, can leave us despairing.
In the midst of this despair, this hymn offers the promise that God will ever and always be with us. In the midst of all the tumult that life can bring is the strong assurance that God will be right there beside us, through it all until that final Easter comes when we will be able to sing, at the top of our lungs, in a major key, “Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord! Yes, Lord! Yes!”
In the midst of our lives, and especially in those times when we have wandered, are lost, afraid, and alone in the wilderness, we long to hear a word from you, Lord. Just a single word from you that answers our questions about your love and care. When we have “wandered in the wild” we are so grateful that the word has come in Jesus and that the word was “Yes!” Amen.
Written by David Nelson, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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