Daily Devotion for Sunday 4th February 2024

Sunday, 4 February 2024  Light and law Psalm 19
The heavens proclaim your  glory O God,
and the firmament shows forth the work of your hands.
Day unto day takes up the story
and night unto night makes known the message.

No speech, no word, no voice is heard
yet their span extends through all the earth,
their words to the utmost bounds of the world.

There you have placed a tent for the sun;
 it comes forth like a bridegroom coming from his tent,
rejoices like a champion to run its course.

At the end of the sky is the rising of the sun;
to the furthest end of the sky is its course.
There is nothing concealed from its burning heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
it revives the soul.
The rule of the Lord is to be trusted,
it gives wisdom to the simple.

The precepts of the Lord are right,
they gladden the heart.
The command of the Lord is clear,
it gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is holy,
abiding for ever.
The decrees of the Lord are truth
and all of them just.

They are more to be desired than gold,
than the purest of gold
and sweeter are they than honey,
than honey from the comb.

So in them your servant finds instruction;
great reward is in their keeping.
But  can we discern all our errors?
From hidden faults acquit us.

From presumption restrain your servant
and let it not rule me.
Then shall I be blameless,
clean from grave sin.

May the spoken words of my mouth,
the thoughts of my heart,
win favour in your sight, O Lord,
my rescuer, my rock!

Reflection

This psalm begins in the heights and ends in the heart. Its opening verses tell of sky and space as works of God’s hands. Their message of testimony and praise runs silently yet unceasingly across the universe. And in that stellar world, the great radiance is the sun. It spans our horizon and reaches irresistibly into our human living – with force and energy for light, life, joy and strength.
 
The middle verses of the psalm (vv.5-8 above) focus on another source of life – the law of God. This, for the psalmist, is a counterpart to the sun: by it people see, on it we depend, in it are life and insight, justice and joy, vigour and vision. God’s law, suggests the ancient poet, is the great light of the life of faith – no dim and distant glimmer, but like the sun, a bright and lively presence to define our days and direct our deeds. God’s commands are richer and more rewarding than any treasure, more satisfying than the sweetest sustenance.
 
[As an aside, I wonder if Christian reflection on these verses would now look on from Israel’s law to the teaching of Jesus, which does ‘not abolish but fulfil’ the ancient law (Matt 5:17). The ‘law of Christ’ (Gal 6:2) is wisdom to restore and refresh human living for Jew and Gentile alike.]
 
Finally, the last three verses of the psalm call us into humble and heartfelt relationship. Beneath the testimony of the skies and beside the teaching of the sages, we need God’s personal touch too – pardon, prompting and protection – if we are to live rightly. This psalm that began with the silent speech of the heavens ends in the words of our lips and the silence of the human heart. If God will guard and guide our mind and mouth, only then will we please and honour the One who supports and saves us.
 
 
Prayer 

God of the skies and the scriptures,
of countless constellations and ten commandments,
of shining sun and searching wisdom,
of joy and of Jesus,
will you direct our days and our deeds,
guard our mind and our mouth,
and help us to delight 
in the goodness of your world
and the guidance of your word.
Through Jesus Christ, our strength and our Saviour. Amen.

Today’s writer

The Rev’d John Proctor, retired minister, member of Downing Place URC, Cambridge.

Copyright

The Psalms: An Inclusive Language Version based on the Grail translation from the Hebrew © 1963, 1986 The Grail (England) GIA Publications

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