It was the sun pouring through the kitchen window at 7:00 am for the first time after the long winter that made me turn to Psalm 19 instead of the chapter in Colossians I had been reading that week to the kids at the breakfast table. And I thought I knew that “nature psalm,” for I’d heard it since childhood. I was reading it “for the kids,” right? So they’d focus on this glorious first sunny morning of early spring.
But as I read, I became overwhelmed with the way this fellow-poet had reached from the circumstances of his life (writing a song for this “director of music” to use) into mine more than two thousand years of mornings later.
The psalm was divided into five parts, I noticed as I read. It opened with the familiar “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” It went on to say that day after night the articulate heavens and the knowledgeable firmament verbalize wisdom, and there is no corner of the earth where their voices cannot be heard and no language barrier that keeps everyone from understanding.
Next is a lovely metaphor. Pretend that God has pitched a wedding tent in the sky and the sun is the bridegroom who comes out, greeting and spreading a warm welcome on all his guests. Or pretend that the sun is a champion rider who gets his joy from racing perfectly from one end of the course to the other delighting everyone in the stands on the way.
Well, then, the psalmist asks, what are the heavens declaring? And verses 7-11 are a list, an amazing all-encompassing beautiful list of what the heavens declare. These declarations so powerfully bring into focus what life should be about, so speak to our human frailties, so heal our broken dreams, so reassure our lost confidences, so pinpoint our areas of weakness that the Psalmist literally falls to his knees in repentance.
His error and hidden faults, his smallness and willful sins are all exposed. And more than that, he begins to ask himself if we are supposed to be the most articulate of all God’s creatures, what are our lives saying? Are our faults and pettinesses, our selfish narrow-mindedness and lazy preoccupations, our lack of faith and our paralyzing fears making the declaration of our days?
Shamed by the articulate firmament, we hear our own voices praying aloud with the Psalmist’s in repentance and supplication.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation
of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord,
my Rock and my Redeemer!”
The children were very silent as I sobbed through the final words of the Psalm, then together we prayed:
Jesus, this day let our actions and attitudes be in sync with all creation. May we articulate praise in the moments we have. Amen
A song lyric came from this morning’s devotion with the children. I simply called it “Anthem”, and I wrote it to music by Michael W. Smith. Steve Green recorded it. Here are the lyrics:
In the space of the beginning was the living Word of Light;
When this Word was clearly spoken, all that came to be was right.
All creation had a language—words to say what must be said;
All day long the heavens whispered, signing words in scarlet red.
Amber rays and crimson rainbows, twinkling stars and flashing light,
Punctuated heaven’s statement: “God is glorious, perfect, right!”
All day long the sun proclaims it like a bridegroom, dressed in white,
Coming from his tent to greet them, all his guests feel his delight.
Words of love and warmth he whispers, warming all who hear his voice,
“Oh, be glad and share my table, dance and celebrate! Rejoice!
All creation, sing His praises!
Earth and heaven, praise His name!
All who live, come join the chorus!
Find the words! His love proclaim!
Lyrics: Gloria Gaither © 1988 Hanna Street Music
Music: Michael W. © 1988 O’Ryan Music, Inc.