Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard
Psalm 19: 1-14, page # 433
March 4th, 2018
“Hear now these words from Psalm nineteen, verses one thru fourteen. Allow your heart to be open to the psalmist as he describes the glory of God.”
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 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, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is ‘hid’ from its heat. 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes; 9 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. 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. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
“As we consider these ancient words attributed to the psalmist let us stay open to their meaning in our understanding of God in the Twenty-First Century.”
“In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. /Genesis 1:1-5/ The psalmist proclaims for all who have ears to hear the glory of God! The words of Psalm nineteen were written so we would not forget that we live in God’s Creation and we reside in God’s Country! “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” /Psalm 19:1/ All praise be given to our God, the God of Creation, the God of Adam and Eve, the God of Cain and Abel, the God of Elijah and Moses!
“God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.” /Genesis 1: 27-28/ And thus and therefore, the story of creation led to the accounting of a tribe called ‘Israel’ and a people who came to know God. Yet their human nature caused them to fall into peril. Much has been written about their journey through time and their interactions with creation, so that we whom read of their understandings of God, might grow and prosper under the guidance of the Heavenly Creator!
One of the great biblical stories was the telling of the boy born a slave, whom was hidden in order to save his life by a desperate mother. The legend tells us of how he was raised in Egypt by Pharaohs daughter. As a man he discovers his origin and soon finds himself thrown into exile where he begins a new life, yet not void of his heritage. Later on, we learn God has only just gotten started with Moses. “Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush.” /Exodus 3:1-4b/ The story continues in the midst of the vastness of that region of the world. Throughout his journey we are constantly reminded that Moses exists in God’s creation, a vast uncharted world which sets scene after breath taking scene, causing story tellers and novelist and even great movies to be made in order to keep telling the fullness of such wonders and happenings, throughout the biblical journey of Israel, the Hebrew people of old.
You and I, we live in God’s country. Floridians know of God’s country. Northerners flock here ever winter, just as the robins and the birds of the air know God has created a marvelous thing here – on this peninsular on the southern tip of the east coast of these United States of America! Yes indeed! “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” /Psalm 19:1/ What a great place to live and a fabulous place to visit in the wintertime! But God has not restricted this thought to just us, nor the people of Israel. I have only seen a bit of the world, yet it is clear that there are many peaks and valleys worthy of such praise. From Mount Washington to Mount Everest and across the mountains of South Korea where the Winter Olympics have just concluded! We can continue on from the Grand Canyon to the River Nile. The sandy beaches of Florida give way to the shores of the Hawaiian Islands and lagoons in countless sea resorts around the globe. Niagara Falls is breath taking when you stand close to the thunderous roar of the falls; likewise, when the Sun rises and then sets, the majesty of Creation is proclaimed for all to see and hear! Yes, it is right to proclaim the glory of God throughout the world!
One theologian shouts out to us: “The heavens are telling God’s glory, and so can we, as our words and thoughts are pleasing to God.” /James Howell/ But, this is only the beginning of what the psalmist proclaims! C. S. Lewis called Psalm 19 “the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” The Psalmist wrote for humankind believing God would forgive their transgressions. “The psalmist knows that no one ‘can detect their [own] errors.’ Therefore, the psalmist prays, ‘Clear me from hidden faults’.” /Rolf Jacobson/ For the people of biblical times and for all of us in modern times, the psalmist petitions God on our behalf, knowing we need help clarifying what is right from what is wrong in the sight of God. “The laws of God are perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of God are sure, making wise the simple; the precepts, the teachings, the guidelines and the instructions of God are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandments of our God are clear, enlightening the eyes;” /Psalm 19:7-8/
As modern children of God, we need to cling to the words of scripture which teach us the ways in which God desires us to live in community together. These instructions, the psalmist tells us, are “More to be desired are they then gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.” /Psalm 19:10/ When we tell an untruth, for our own sake, to another, we are going against the will of God. When we allow the words of our mouths to put down our neighbors we are turning our backs on the teachings of God. When we speak ill of a brother or a sister, we are not following principles which are written for our guidance. We must cling to the words, which come from the teachings of the prophets of old. Furthermore, we must follow the teachings of Jesus and the disciples whom knew and who know God through Christ. We must do so for our understanding of God begins at the start of time and continues into these times in which we now live; here on the fifth day of March in the year 2018, in the Twenty-First Century!
Our protection from the traps and weaknesses of our humanness, of humankind, come with our grasp and our perceptions of the will of God. The psalmist has added to our understanding as we are reminded that this is God’s Creation, this is God’s World, God’s Country! If we humble ourselves, long enough to be reminded of these simple thoughts, then we shall come to appreciate the simple edicts and guides the psalmist points us toward. If we want to return to the idealism of the ‘Garden of Eden’ where all are innocent, and everything is good and justice for all prevails, then we shall need to put our trust in God, not in the knowledge of what humankind can do with technologies and science, or with force and power.
From out of the mouths of the younger generations we are being called to task for our failings as a people. God bless them. Perhaps they are the voices of the modern psalmist pleading our case to God, for all to hear. From out of their generation shall we will find the new leaders, whom will lead us, with integrity and truth, into the Twenty-Second Century?! Let us pray that just as we have seen the torch of our Olympic champions passed from generation to generation that this too shall come to pass. Here in our own country we saw the struggle for freedom to worship God as we understand God. We have seen the injustice of slavery reversed. We have seen women gain equality in the work force. We have seen our way through civil war and two world wars. Let us pray we can find our way through the wars that still rage throughout the world, while overcoming the wars that still seethe and fume within our own society: bigotry, racism, and social injustices – to name but a few. May the heavens hear our pleas for help and for our restoration!
We know from the scriptures how Moses followed the will of God. Throughout his journey Moses continually uncovers the power of God to overcome great obstacles. The psalmist clarifies and reminds us that God is good. God hears all and knows all. God knows our hearts, and thus has set forth simple guidelines that are to direct out modes and to shape our character. The psalmist glorified all of creation and all of the laws set down via Moses from the Mount of Horeb, the Mount of Sinai. The psalmist asks God, on behalf of we the people, to protect humankind from those whom would steal them away from the will of God. The psalmist proclaimed it and a modern theologian restates it for us: “Hearing the voice of God in creation, hearing the voice of God’s law that gives us life, we can join the voice of the psalmist in the psalm’s final section, appreciating the law’s warning and its intention of keeping us from falling into transgression, praying at last that our words, our voice, be acceptable to God.” /Fred Gaiser/
“Let the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, O God, our rock and our redeemer.” /Psalm 19:14 adapted/