I grew up singing the great hymns of Wesley, Newton, Spafford, and others. But “And Can it Be” is my favorite. It became indearing to me during college. There was something about that many voices singing it in chapel. The song begins with pain and sorrow. Then it moves into the mystery of the Story. When you become familiar with the song you find yourself singing your confession and anticipating what lays ahead at the end of the song. Even when I’m confronted with the question of my unworthiness I know how the song ends. “My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose, went forth and followed Thee.
Psalms is the hymnal of God’s people. Devout Jews knew the songs and they too could sing through the lament in anticipation of the ending.
We are all familiar with the beginning of Psalm 22. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1 NIV) We point to it as when God turned His back on Jesus. I’m not opening that can of worms for debate. But what I would ask you to consider is the possibility of Jesus…in all His pain and agony…not only crying out but leading a hymn that some in the audience knew the final verses.
Today in particular it may be good for us to familiarize ourselves with the end of the song.
- “But you, Lord, do not be far from me. You are my strength; come quickly to help me. Deliver me from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly; before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows. The poor will eat and be satisfied; those who seek the Lord will praise him— may your hearts live forever!” (Psalm 22:1, 19-26 NIV)
This hymn, like my favorite, ends in victory and celebration!