The Heavens Tell

Labor Day in the United States is an opportunity to take a brief respite from work and enjoy a rare weekday off. It signals the end of the summer rush here on the Outer Banks, and when the weather cooperates with a lessening of the humidity and heat, the tangible promise of fall is nothing short of glorious. We are having that kind of weather right now, and our minds have turned to college football, fall festivals, and all things pumpkin spice-flavored. Forget about Christmas! This, right here, is the most wonderful time of the year.

Psalm 19 is the perfect reading for today. David draws us into a vibrant and lyrical praise song of all of God’s creation. He begins by directing our attention to our surroundings. He invites us to see what the heavens are doing. What does the night say? Can anything compare to the glory of the rising sun?

The heavens are telling the glory of God;
    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
    and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
    their voice is not heard;
yet their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
    and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them;
    and nothing is hid from its heat.

You probably have noticed that I post a lot of sunrise pictures. I have friends who have practically made it their life’s work to be up at dawn with cameras and cell phones ready. I have another friend who sends me sunset pictures almost every night from her deck overlooking the sound. We are blessed to live on an island that affords both east and west views of the sun’s activity in the sky. “Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them” perfectly describes the sun moving from rising over Atlantic Ocean to setting into the Albemarle Sound. David unknowingly captured Outer Banks living at its best.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure,
    enduring forever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
    and drippings of the honeycomb.

In addition to his affection for creation, David also loved the law. He understood that the clear and unadulterated precepts of the Lord are right, sure, perfect, and true. As a king, he appreciated the structure that the law provides for society. As an individual, he was less successful in keeping the law, and it brought him great pain.

11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
    Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
    do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
    and innocent of great transgression.

The challenge for us today is to spend a moment reflecting on the beauty of all these things. Take a walk if you are able and dwell in the glory of what God created for you. Search your heart and see if there is any “hidden fault” that is causing you to stumble in your walk. Where is God trying to correct or even rebuke you for departing from the law…and from him?

May we rest today, knowing that when sins are revealed and confessed, we can offer our repentance and know that we are heard, loved, and made new.

Go and make it a great day!

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable to you,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Heavenly Sunrise by Michelle Robertson

Gladdening the Heart

What rules did you have to obey as a kid? Every family establishes its own set of house rules so that order is maintained and fairness is achieved. In my house, there were rules around homework, bedtime, respect for one another, taking turns, and not chewing with your mouth open. That last one was so strongly enforced that, as an adult, I have had to walk away from people who chew with their mouths open. There is some remnant of a childhood aversion in my spirit that makes me not be able to tolerate the breaking of this particular rule, as though a punishment is going to come down from heaven and I don’t want to be any part of that.

Plus, it’s gross!

We appreciate the safety net that society’s rules and regulations place around us. Don’t speed. Don’t run though red lights. Place your trash cans on the curb on certain days. No swimming without lifeguards. Rules are good for us.

In today’s Psalm, David celebrates the laws and instructions that God has laid down for his people. David knows firsthand the chaos and devastation that come when you break the rules, as he personally violated all of the Ten Commandments and experienced the misery of living outside of God’s safety and provision.

Psalm 19 (Common English Bible)

The Lord’s Instruction is perfect,
    reviving one’s very being.
The Lord’s laws are faithful,
    making naive people wise.
The Lord’s regulations are right,
    gladdening the heart.
The Lord’s commands are pure,
    giving light to the eyes.
Honoring the Lord is correct,
    lasting forever.
The Lord’s judgments are true.
    All of these are righteous!
10 They are more desirable than gold—
        than tons of pure gold!
    They are sweeter than honey—
        even dripping off the honeycomb!

David’s love of the law almost goes overboard here. He declares that the law is more desirable than tons of gold and sweeter than honey dripping off the honeycomb. As we say, there is nothing stronger than the testimony of a reformed sinner! He has seen both sides of the law and knows that staying on the right side of it is far preferable to the punishment that comes from breaking it. Remember, he lost a son because of his sin.

11 No doubt about it:
    your servant is enlightened by them;
    there is great reward in keeping them.
12 But can anyone know
    what they’ve accidentally done wrong?
    Clear me of any unknown sin
13         and save your servant from willful sins.
        Don’t let them rule me.
Then I’ll be completely blameless;
    I’ll be innocent of great wrongdoing.

David’s plea to be cleared of any unknown sin is a reminder to us today to be diligent in reading God’s instruction for our lives. During Lent, we are called to immerse ourselves in scripture everyday. This is a call that will last past Easter and should be the “rule of law” for every day of our lives.

So good for you…you have read scripture today! Like David, we are enlightened by studying God’s commands. Our hearts are gladdened when we read and obey.

Gladdened Hearts by Jessica Spiegelblatt

Again

March in the Outer Banks is a confused and confusing month. Half winter, half spring, spits of windy days followed by spats of rainy days…it simply can’t make up its mind what season to be. Yet the beauty that surrounds me every waking day, regardless of the weather, is breathtaking. Even on the worst day, this place sings of God’s handiwork.

This beautiful song reinforces that notion that God’s creation has a language of its own. Heaven doesn’t need words. The sky can communicate without them. The days and nights proclaim God’s handiwork by their very existence. We are surrounded by evidence of God’s grace and glory.

In the presence of such majesty, words are unnecessary.

Psalm 19 (Common English Bible)

Heaven is declaring God’s glory;
    the sky is proclaiming his handiwork.
One day gushes the news to the next,
    and one night informs another what needs to be known.
Of course, there’s no speech, no words—
        their voices can’t be heard—
    but their sound extends throughout the world;
        their words reach the ends of the earth.

When was the last time you stood outside and just reveled in God’s handiwork? With no other thought, petition, need, or want crowding your mind…just the experience of creation informing your soul of God’s presence?

God has made a tent in heaven for the sun.
The sun is like a groom
    coming out of his honeymoon suite;
    like a warrior, it thrills at running its course.
It rises in one end of the sky;
    its circuit is complete at the other.
        Nothing escapes its heat.

The sun rises every day, bringing light, heat, and the promise of new things. You can count on that, just as you can count on God’s presence in your situation. So no matter what you are going through right now, know this: God is with you. God is here. God redeems.

If you forgot that, just go outside and look up.

Again by Michelle Robertson

Pouring Out Speech

This has been a week for “pouring out speech.” The presidential debate and ensuing commentary have not lacked for words. If we thought things could not get worse on social media, news commentary, and our overall feeling of woe, we were wrong. A lot of speech was indeed poured out, but not much knowledge was revealed. We just left feeling battered and bruised.

This phrase actually appears in a psalm of David. Where would we be without David? The Old Testament would be lacking in so much learning had there been no King David. From his many acts of sin, which teach us about repentance, to his incredible way of shaping and forming word-pictures in the Psalms, we owe David a debt of gratitude for his life and his work.

Today’s Psalm is a favorite of mine. I can hear the music from an old choir anthem I sang decades ago in the first verse. The last verse is a common prayer used by pastors before they preach. You may have heard this in church and not realized that it is from Psalm 19:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

I think this is a challenge for us as well, but first let’s dive into the beauty of the beginning of the Psalm. Pay attention to the way David figuratively gives voice to the different aspects of creation…the sky proclaims, the day pours out speech, and the heavens declare:

Psalm 19 (English Standard Version)

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

We see an image of God’s entire creation singing his praises in David’s words. It is chill-bump worthy. Then David pays homage to the safety and comfort of the law. As one who broke it many times he should know!

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules[d] of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward
.

At the end of the Psalm is the challenge I would like to put before you today. It’s not just preachers who need to pray that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to God…it’s all of us. It applies to what we say to our spouses, how we discipline our children, what we post on social media, the words we wear on our t-shirts and yard signs, and how we behave in Presidential debates. We, too have been given a voice to either declare the glory of the heavens and be a proclamation to God’s handiwork or be an embarrassment to him. So here is your challenge: THINK before you speak or post.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
    be acceptable in your sight,
    O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Heaven Declares God’s Glory by Karen Warlitner