Psalm #75

The Lord is Near

Our psalm begins with a ringing affirmation:

        We give thanks to you, God. Yes, we give thanks!
    Your name is near. Your marvelous deeds are declared.    


The psalmist affirms that God is near and thus she can face the trials before her.  This phrase reminds us of other names of the Divine – Immanuel, God with us.  Rooted in such faith despair need not rule her life.

The psalm strengthens this point by using the Hebrew verb for ‘lift up’ five times in verses 4-7 and 10.  It is telling that in English the verb is translated as ‘exalt.’  This is what the ‘wicked do.’  They exalt themselves believing they are impregnable in their power, pride, and position.  The psalmist knows a deeper truth, that God of justice will ‘lift up/exalt’ the righteous.  This is God’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.

On a cold January winter night in 1941, The Quartet for the End of Time  was performed for the first time.  What made this concert extraordinary was that the setting was a German prisoner-of-war camp in Gorlitz, Germany.  A makeshift audience of prisoners and guards crowded into Barracks 27 to hear the piece by the renowned composer, Olivier Messiaen, now a German prisoner.

Messiaen used the only instruments available: a cello with only three strings, a clarinet, a violin, and a dilapidated piano.  Around this he fashioned a piece of music that is startling beautiful and spiritually evocative. 

The title refers to the proclamation of the seventh angel in Revelation 10 about the time when all will be made right in eternity.  Though it must have felt to many in Europe that the apocalypse was upon them as Nazi aggression swept across Europe, Messiaen’s music is not gloomy, focused on defeat and death.  It is a musical expression of hope for the future God has promised.  [1]

Jesus once said:  ‘All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted’  (Matt.23.12).  Psalm 75 reminds us that in God’s reign, worldly values are turned upside down (see Luke 1.46-55). 

When esteemed pianist, Jacqueline Chow first set out to master this work by Messiaen, she was a confirmed atheist.  But as she poured over the music and tried to understand what Messiaen was trying to say, it had a profound effect.  ‘Little by little I started believing,’ she said. – Quartet for the end of time


[1]  Glaspey, T.  75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know.