WORD STUDY – JOYFUL IN GLORY
Psalms 149:5: “Let the saints be joyful in glory, let them sing aloud upon their beds.”
“Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act II, Scene II
“Politics makes strange bedfellows.” Charles Dudley Warner
This Psalm tells us to sing aloud upon our beds. This does not have quite the impact upon our Western culture today as it did back in the days that this passage was written. In fact, up until a hundred years ago this passage would cause quite a few tongues to go in their cheeks.
In ancient times privacy during your sleeping hours was an unknown luxury. An “Inn” in those days was nothing like our hotels or motels today. There were no private rooms. An Inn usually consisted of a square building with walls lined with stalls and a feed trough or manager. You would tie up your horse, mule or camel in the stall. Above the stall would be a loft where you made your bed and slept. In the middle of the court was a community fountain where you got water for yourself. There were places to build a fire and cook your meal and it was often shared with other staying at this Inn. There were no presidential suites or luxury rooms. Everyone shared the same accommodations, and paid the same nominal fee. Rich, poor, robber, or merchant, it didn’t matter, there were no class distinctions in an inn. All slept together and often shared their personal adventures together.
Even up until the 18th and 19th centuries private rooms were a rare luxury when traveling. By the 18th and 19th century when you stopped at an inn, you were not paying for a room but a space on a bed. There could be up five different people, all strangers sharing one bed. They became known as “bedfellows.” Politicians while campaigning would travel by horseback and stay at these inns and often times find themselves sleeping in the same bed as their opponents, hence the saying; “Politics may strange bedfellows” is based upon some fact. You may recall from the novel “Moby Dick” where Ishmael hears a strange story told by a “bedfellow.“ Melville wrote this novel in 1851 while such inns were in existence.
Thus, to sing aloud from your bed, could prove to be a real annoyance in such a communal setting. On would have to be pretty joyful to pull that off. More often than not, especially among travelers, it was usually quite common to lay around in your “beds” and share your misery with each other. As Shakespeare said: “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows. Years ago, as a youth pastor, I found myself one Sunday, alone, taking care of the nursery. I was in charge for well over an hour of six infants. I quickly learned that if one starts to cry, they all would be crying in a matter of minutes. Misery spreads quickly. Yet, so does joy. It is during the time of sleep that your worries and problems are magnified. It is at this time that if melancholy were to take over, it will be manifested. If there is ever a time to be joyful, it would be at this time.
The word saints in the Hebrew is chasidim which are the merciful ones or kindly ones. The word for joy is ’alaz. This is spelled Ayin Lamed and Zayin and expresses a joy that comes when you see through the eyes of God. Ancient rabbis once said that Psalms 119:8 is the prayer of Ayin: “Open my eyes that I may perceive the wonders of your teachings.” On your bed is usually when you reflect on all your problems. This Psalm encourages you to reflect on the wonders of God’s teachings. This will bring a joy that you cannot help but sing. The word used for sing here is ranan. This is in a Piel Imperfect form. As a Piel it is more than just singing, it is a shout of joy.
In our modern times, if unmarried, we’re the are quite alone when we sleep. It is very easy in those hours of loneliness for the enemy to cause you to think or dwell on all your problems and worries. I believe the writer here is making a play on words. For he instructs us to be joyful in glory. That word in the Hebrew for glory is kavad which means a heaviness. As we reflect on our problems and worries, we will feel a heaviness. When we reflect on the wonders of God’s teachings, we will also feel a heaviness but a heaviness of joy. The writer of this Psalm is telling us that if we reflect on the wonders of God’s teachings and let that heaviness of joy fall on us, we will find a joy that we cannot help but share with others through a loud shout.