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A Meditation about Why, What and Who

September 13, 2015

A MEDITATION ABOUT WHAT, WHY, AND WHO

New Millennium Church, Little Rock, Arkansas

Sunday, September 13, 2015 (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

 

Psalm 19

 

1The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

2Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.

3There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard;

4yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,

5which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy.

6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.

7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;

8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;

9the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.

11Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

12But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults.

13Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

When did you last look up at the sky at night?  When did you last take a walk in nature and ponder the sun?  Why did you do so?  Where were you?  Who was with you?  What did you see?  What did you think?  What did you feel?

 

It is not unfair to observe that people who spend their time looking at plasma screens that emit entertaining images and glow with artificial light may find it very hard to remember the last time they looked up at the sky.  This is especially true at night.  For many of us night is the time for Internet chats, updating Facebook status, watching favorite television programs, and doing online commercial transactions.  

 

But David, the person to whom Psalm 19 is attributed, spent the days and nights of his youth outside living as a shepherd.  Nature was no stranger to him.   Life as a shepherd allowed David the opportunity and setting for deep meditation about his place in the universe as a created being in a universe with the sun, sky, moon, and stars.  At Psalm 19 the Psalmist declares “the heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament (dome) proclaims his handiwork.”  For the Psalmist, the sky, sun, moon, and stars were neighbors in creation who communicated a deep message about what, why, and who he was, not alien objects he seldom encountered.

 

  The heavens are telling the glory of God.  That is the “what” in this moving hymn.  The Psalmist senses the glory of God being proclaimed by voiceless celestial objects.  Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge.  There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.  The Psalmist realizes that the celestial objects proclaim a message “to the end of the world.”  

 

The Psalmist says the sun, moon, and stars testify to God’s glory, and in that statement the Psalmist senses that the sun, moon, and stars are servants of God.  They are much more than mere lights in the sky.  The sun, moon, and stars are instruments of worship and praise about the glory of their Creator.  We encounter this recurring theme throughout the Psalms.  

 

The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world and all those who live in it; for he has founded it on the seas, and established it on the rivers (Ps. 24:1-2).  

 

Praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights!  Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his host!  Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars!  Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

 

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.  He established them forever and ever; he fixed their bounds, which cannot be passed.

 

Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and frost, stormy wind fulfilling his command!

 

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!  Wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!  Young men and women alike, old and young together!

 

Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.  (Ps. 149:1-13)

Praise the Lord!  Praise God in his sanctuary.  Praise him in his mighty firmament!  Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness! ... Let everything that breathes praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD!  (Ps. 150:1-2, 6)

 

Have you pondered the idea that the same force responsible for creating the sun, moon, stars and everything else is the Source of your life?  

 

The Psalmist understood that he was mystically and morally related as a created being to the sun, moon, stars and everything else in Creation.   The Psalmist understood that he was a servant among other servants in the Creation to proclaim God’s glory!   

 

The Psalmist pondered the sky and was inspired to realize that he was part of a Creation.  He was an instrument among instruments.  He was not the object of Creation.  He was not the center of Creation.  He was not the reason for Creation.  David affirms at Psalm 19 that the celestial objects call him to affirm the glory of God with them.  The celestial objects call him to praise God with them.  And in that sense the celestial objects call the Psalmist—and through the Psalmist us also—to fulfill God’s purposes, obey God’s decrees, and observe God’s commandments with them. 

 

In the second half of Psalm 19 David declares that God’s law, decrees, precepts, and commandments enliven, instruct, encourage, and ground us in what is right (Psalm 19:7-9).  David is talking about the function of Scripture (Torah).  The celestial lights declare the glory of God.  Scripture teaches us how to glorify God.

 

Meanwhile David confesses that humans need to be protected from our “errors,” “hidden faults,” and from the corrupting influence of “the insolent.”  The sun, moon, and stars function to glorify and serve God.  But humans are constantly tempted (by ourselves and others) to live for ourselves.  Our words, thoughts, and behavior all too often show that we do not consider ourselves “servants” of God and related to the rest of Creation.  We consider ourselves the center of Creation.

 

Here are some examples of the “errors,” “hidden faults,” and corrupting influence of people described as “the insolent” at Psalm 19.

 

We do not hear or heed the danger warnings of climate change and melting glaciers.

 

We ignore the suffering of immigrant people across the world desperately trying to escape war, crime, racism, hunger, disease, and poverty.

 

We embrace Wall Street greed for profits while rejecting needy children, parents, and elders.  

 

We protect nursing home operators and firearm manufacturers from being held accountable for harms caused by their conduct and products.

 

We prefer spending public funds on building and filling prisons than on building schools dedicated to help children live full and engaging lives.  

 

We would rather talk about athletes than think about how we treat the aged.  

 

We despise human need and prize Donald Trump’s greed.

 

Psalm 19 concludes with familiar words.  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock, and my redeemer (Ps. 19:14).  

 

David did not use that word “LORD” loosely.   To call another “LORD” is to identify oneself as servant.  To call another “LORD” means to respect the will of that other as law.  To call another “LORD” means to be in relationship with everyone and everything else that the one called “LORD” rules.  

 

David pondered the sun, moon, and stars and knew he was not “LORD.”  David pondered the will of God revealed in Scripture and knew he was not “LORD.” David realized that he, like the sun, moon, stars, and everything else in Creation, existed for God’s glory.  His first, highest, and best living involved praising God in the way he related to the rest of his neighbors in Creation, not self-advancement.  That is the inspiration he received from pondering the sky.  That is the humility he learned from pondering Scripture.  

 

Psalm 19 teaches that we, like the celestial lights above us that we all too often ignore, are here to glorify God, not ourselves.  Psalm 19 declares that Scripture exists to teach, inspire, encourage, and correct us as we serve and glorify God.  And Psalm 19 reminds us that we are morally flawed beings in a universe ruled by a Divine Creator.  At Psalm 19 David declares that the sun, moon, stars, everything else in Creation, and Scripture call us to accept and fulfill our calling as God’s servants.  

 

Today, tomorrow, and always David, the sun, moon, stars, everything else in Creation, and Scripture call us to affirm God as “LORD,” trust God as our “rock” (foundation for life), and turn from trusting and praising ourselves to trusting and praising God as our redeemer.  

 

When did you last look up at the sky at night and notice the moon and stars?  When did you last take a walk in nature and ponder the sun?  

What did you see?  What did you feel?  What did you learn?  Were you inspired to worship and glorify God?  

 

Perhaps we would be more humble, reverent, and obedient servants of God if we, like David, would begin by taking time to stop, look up, and ponder the sky.  Amen.

©Wendell Griffen, 2015