A WEEKLY WALK THROUGH THE PSALMS

PSALM 19

At the end of this psalm, we have the verse that Pastor Anne likes to use as a prayer before she preaches: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  If our public words are acceptable in the Lord’s sight, then we have succeeded as proclaimers and witnesses; if in our private meditations, in our hearts, they are acceptable, then we have, by God’s grace, succeeded in a faithful life.  This is true because we are either speaking or meditating as if Christ was by our elbow, or at least as if we should not be surprised to look around and find Him there.

This psalm begins as a hymn that speaks of how creation ‘tells the glory of God’.  The heavens and the firmament show the beauty, the vastness and the steadfast order of our God.  In fact, they “pour forth” the story – and what that story tells us is that the hand that made us is truly divine.

Not only do the heavens tell us of God’s glory, but the ‘law of the Lord’ also tells us a great deal about the glory of our God.  The psalmist uses several terms for this Law, each lifting up a different aspect of the Law but all of the names speaking to the same thing.  For example, the Law is perfect – that is, it is entirely sufficient to live by, especially when it is summed up by Christ (see Matthew 22: 37-40 – The Great Commandment).  The law can give us something to ground ourselves in, especially when life is challenging and difficult.  The Testimony is sure – it is not something that needs to be changed according to circumstances.  Murder, adultery, theft, false witness are wrong, so we need not live with ambiguity about these things even as we seek to live with forgiveness about these things.  The Statutes are right – we can know which way we should go.  There is something comforting about not worrying if you are doing the right thing.  The Fear of the Lord is clean – which means it can be counted on even when other systems fail.  The Judgments of God are true or altogether right.  Each of these terms speaks to the same truth about the Law – that it is a gift from God to help us in our living.

For the psalmist, this Law not only produces a sense of awe at the Glory of our God, but also helps us see the commitment this Law requires.  It reminds us that being faithful in churchgoing, prayer, devotional reading, serving  – all of the practices that are a part of following God, are not things to be done simply when we are in the mood to do them.  They are really required of us as people of God.  Yes, we love because God first loved us, but we do need to love.  It is not enough to say ‘Jesus loves me, this I know’, without also showing that we love Jesus too.

The psalmist says we should desire the law more than gold.  He also says that ‘by the law the servant is warned’.  In Lutheran teachings, the law of God really becomes a gift of grace and mercy.  We are not a perfect people, but the Law can show us where we fall short and can help us as we journey through life.  The Law can help keep us from making decisions that will harm us or make our lives places of struggle.  God didn’t give the Law in order to be mean or make life less interesting – quite the contrary.  The guidance and direction of the law is intended to set us on the right path and to free us to live lives that are unburdened by the fears and questions that accompany the consequences of wrong decisions and misplaced actions.  God loves us enough to set boundaries and to lead us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

With all of that in mind, it is good to be able to ask that ‘the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer’.

PRAYER:  Faithful God, you sent your incarnate Word as the sun of justice to shine upon all the world.  Open our eyes to see your gracious hand in all your works, that, rejoicing in your whole creation, we may learn to serve you with gladness, for the sake of him through whom all things were made, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.