Wednesday, October 23

Light Dawns

Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.
Ps 97:11 

Psalm 97:11 is a beautiful verse, and one that, when it stands alone, can bring reassurance: Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. But what happens when I put that verse in context? I've just been led (yesterday's devotion) through what appears to be a wildfire during an outbreak of night lightning. What could be more terrifying or unpredictable? The message that human beings cannot control the holiness of God has been received loud and clear.

But in the midst of this terror in the dark, God's children realize that there is goodness. There is a light dawning in the distance—consistency and predictability at last! If I depend on my own righteousness, I know

Tuesday, October 22

Holiness Breaks Forth

The Lord is king! Let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!
Clouds and thick darkness are all around him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
Fire goes before him, and consumes his adversaries on every side.
His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.
The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his righteousness; and all the peoples behold his glory.
All worshipers of images are put to shame, those who make their boast in worthless idols; all gods bow down before him.
Zion hears and is glad, and the towns of Judah rejoice, because of your judgments, O God.
For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
 
Ps 97:1-9 
Though it didn't reach my house, I experienced San Diego's Witch Fire in 2007. To live through a wildfire is a fearful thing. But I also know that, because of the way humans have settled certain parts of the earth, we have placed ourselves in the way of nature. We can only avoid its impact for so long before it finally makes

Monday, October 21

The Lilies of the Field

Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it. Then shall all the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord; for he is coming, for he is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with his truth.
 
Ps 96:11-13 

Yesterday I meditated on the phrase in the adornment of holiness (Ps. 96:9), and how that probably isn't referring to all the trappings of liturgical worship, but rather adorning oneself with holiness as with finery. And now I see further evidence of it as Psalm 96 comes to a close. Jesus told me in the Sermon on the Mount to

Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his

Sunday, October 20

Adornment of Holiness

Worship the Lord in holy splendor; tremble before him, all the earth.
Ps 96:9

Much has been made of what this psalm means regarding liturgical worship. Holy splendor might be beautiful prayers, vestments, incense, or vessels made of precious metals encrusted with jewels (aka "smells and bells"). I might also look to the incident in which a woman "wasted" expensive ointment by anointing Jesus with it. When she was criticized for it (by Judas, according to John), Jesus replied,

You always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.
Mark 14:7

And so is it not true that resources reserved for the worship of Christ do not take food out of the mouths of the

Saturday, October 19

Worthiness of Praise

For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.
Ps 96:4-5 

Once again, the otherwise venerable tradition of translating the Name of God—יהוה—as The Lord gets in the way here. So let's look at it this way:

For great is יהוה, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but
יהוה made the heavens.

This makes it much easier to understand this psalm's context. Israel's God is great, and is worthy of worship—much more so than all other divinities. For these other divinities exist only in imagination, but it was

Friday, October 18

Forever New

O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 
Ps 96:1 

When the psalmist calls on all the earth to sing to the Lord, I have to remind myself that that's not what the Hebrew really says. The Lord isn't some vague god that might or might not exist and have power over all people. The Hebrew specifies that The Lord is none other than יהוה—Israel's God, whose Name can be spelled but not pronounced—who is named twice in Psalm 96:1.

Since The Lord was not praised beyond the borders of the land where Israel dwelt, Calvin points out that this psalm must refer to "the kingdom of Christ," since "other nations were at that time necessarily altogether incapacitated for any such exercise" as praising a God they'd never heard of. This psalm is still much more of

Thursday, October 17

Other Sheep

For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would listen to his voice!
Ps 95:7 

Israel was God's chosen people. Other gods had other nations, but the Lord claimed Israel as a particular possession. That this choice would not forever be based on ethnicity is predicted in many places in the Bible, but nowhere is it more beautifully stated than by Jesus in John 10 (vv 14-16):

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Thus we know that God, the Maker of all things and all people, has forever been reaching beyond the borders