‘God of Stars and Broken Hearts’. That’s the title one commentator gives to this Psalm (Leslie Allen, Word Biblical Commentary). This is a hymn about creation and compassion, about nature that shows God’s power and the nurture that embraces God’s people. In this Psalm greatness and goodness go together, the splendour of God’s world and the secure relationship God offers to those who trust.
There are three movements in the whole Psalm (vv.1-6, 7-11 and 12-20): two of them are in our reading. The three together issue a lively and repeated call to praise, and together they paint a picture of grace at work. Each of the three explores and connects the psalm’s two big themes – creative power and covenant love. In creation, the first tells of the starry skies, the second of rainfall, watering the earth and feeding animals and plants, and the third of winter storms and summer crops. Then in covenant we hear first of a broken and scattered people restored, second of a call to trust and hope rather than rely on worldly might, and finally of a people shaped by God’s purposeful word. A wrap-around creation, of skies, seasons and sustenance matches the loving care that gathers, guards and guides.
A Psalm like this is always both a comfort and a challenge. The power that made the earth is a personal power, a power that notices people and calls us into relationship, a power we can turn to and trust. That’s the comfort. The challenge is never to take God for granted. God’s grace is no reason for our complacency. When God builds us up and binds us up, this is an invitation to live faithfully, to reflect grace and pass it on, that others too may trust in this God of creation and care.
When I look at the starry heavens, Lord, help me to feel small but secure. When I see the green earth, keep me aware of your presence and provision. In trouble teach me to trust. Out of healing may I learn hope. That I may praise you, gladly and gratefully. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The Rev’d John Proctor, General Secretary of the URC, member at Downing Place URC, Cambridge