Sing With The Understanding

By Nice A. McDonald

In a previous article we called attention to the Apostle Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 14:15, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” We tried to emphasize the importance of understanding what we sing in our worship to God. Night, With Ebon Pinion is the subject of this lesson; it is normally sung before partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

We believe it would be safe to say that a majority of the members of the Lord’s Church could not explain the meaning of the words of this song. The reason for making such a statement is that we have asked several song leaders to explain the meaning, but none has explained its meaning so far. We will attempt to shed some light on this subject.

Verse I says, “Night, with ebon pinion, Brooded o’er the vale; All around was silent, Save the night wind’s wail, When Christ, the man of sorrows, In tears and sweat as blood, Prostrate in the garden, Raised His voice to God.”

To come to an understanding of this song we need to first define some of the words. Ebon – Dark; Pinion – A Wing: Brood or Brooded — to sit as a bird over (eggs or young); Vale – a valley. In other words – Night like a dark wing (ebon pinion) covered the garden (brooded vale), much like a hen would cover her chickens under her wing; all around was silent, save the night wind’s wail.

In Matthew 23, after having denounced the Jews for their unbelief, a great sadness can be detected in the voice of Jesus as He says in verse 37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them that are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not?” It is possible the songwriter had this kind of analogy in mind when he wrote the preceeding words; because Jesus, having a knowledge of what was going to happen to Him, went to the garden to find solace in its friendly confines. Jesus had feelings of deep despair and dread, and the darkness enfolded Christ as he humbly bowed in prayer to God. Luke 22:44 tells us – “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became as it were great drops of blood falling down upon the ground.”

In verse 2, we rind that Jesus was smitten for offenses which were not His but ours. Paul tells us in Romans 12:15 to “weep with them that weep.” Our Lord had no one to weep with Him, His disciples were asleep. So with the darkness covering Him, He went to the ultimate source of comfort – He went to God in prayer.

In verse 3, our Savior asks the Father, “if indeed it may, Let this cup of anguish pass from me, I pray; yet if it must be suffered, By me, Thine only Son, Abba, Father, Father, let thy will be done. ” We need to always remember the last line of verse 3, not only in our singing but when we pray and also in our daily activities.

We hope this will in some way be helpful in our understanding of Night With Ebon Pinion and in so doing make our worship more fulfilling and acceptable to God. We would also like to thank brother Wayde E. Miller for this consultation on this topic.

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 19, p. 588
October 6, 1983