Updated: Mar 3
1 The heavens declare the glory of God, *
and the firmament shows his handiwork.
2 One day tells its tale to another, *
and one night imparts knowledge to another.
3 Although they have no words or language, *
and their voices are not heard,
4 Their sound has gone out into all lands, *
and their message to the ends of the world.
5 In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun; *
it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;
it rejoices like a champion to run its course.
6 It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens
and runs about to the end of it again; *
nothing is hidden from its burning heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect
and revives the soul; *
the testimony of the Lord is sure
and gives wisdom to the innocent.
8 The statutes of the Lord are just
and rejoice the heart; *
the commandment of the Lord is clear
and gives light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lord is clean
and endures for ever; *
the judgments of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold, *
sweeter far than honey,
than honey in the comb.
11 By them also is your servant enlightened, *
and in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can tell how often he offends? *
cleanse me from my secret faults.
13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;
let them not get dominion over me; *
then shall I be whole and sound,
and innocent of a great offense.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my
heart be acceptable in your sight, *
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
This is the Psalm of David selection for the thirds Sunday in Lent, Year B, from the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. This song of praise will be read in unison or sung by a cantor, following an Old Testament reading from Exodus 20, listing the Ten Commandments. It will precede an Epistle reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, where he talked of God’s foolishness being greater than all the world’s wisdom. Finally, this song of David accompanies a Gospel reading from John, which tells of Jesus’ first trip to Jerusalem for the Passover and his encounter at the temple.
This song of praise paints a clear picture of one’s faith, trust and devotion to Yahweh, the Lord God. Verses 1 through 4 show poetically the wonders of Creation, where the workings of nature – the sun, stars, planets, moons – have all be set on their courses with purpose and plan, which goes far beyond the ability of a human brain to comprehend. They become the way David sang about the wisdom of God being greater than human intelligence.
In verse 5, where the sun is said to rise above the horizon, bringing light and life to the earth, this is said to be “like a bridegroom out of his chamber.” The significance of that imagery states how David’s soul was married to God’s Holy Spirit. David’s soul was a wife to God. To then sing, in the same verse, “it rejoices like a champion to run its course” says the light of day is when the truth can be known. The joy of that light is the joy held in one’s soul.
In verse 7, where David sings, “The law of the Lord is perfect,” this refers to the Ten Commandments, which are the wedding vows that married the Israelites to God, as all became His wives. “The Law,” in Hebrew is “Torah,” which goes far beyond the Ten Commandments. The “perfection” becomes a statement of “completeness” (from “tamim”), where that implies a cleansing of a soul from blame or sin, making one as sound as is God. This state cannot exist in one without union, two joined as one whole. That unity is what “revives the soul,” where the Hebrew “shub” states a “return” of a lost soul to God.
When David sang in verse 8, “The statutes of the Lord are just and rejoice the heart,” this refers to the union of God placing His throne within one’s heart, where the laws are etched upon the walls of that organ. The heart center is the place of love, meaning God can only enter one’s heart when one loves God with all one’s heart, soul and mind.
When David sang in verse 9, “The fear of the Lord is clean,” the intent of “tahor” is purity, as a soul no longer dirtied by transgressions, past, present or future. That purity leads one’s life in the flesh to be righteous, so the only judgment of one’s soul by God can be the reward of eternal bliss in union with God. This reward is far greater than anything the material realm can offer, where gold is lusted for by so many who remain lost. Salvation is far better than gold.
In verse 11, David refers to the one whose soul is married to God as His “servant” (“ebed”), but service unto the Lord is enlightening and it leads one to repair all past inequities, especially those kept in secret. The Lord knows all, so no secrets can ever be hid.
It is that exposure that leads one to surrender self to the Will of God. This commitment of marriage then will “keep [God’s] servant from presumptuous sins; let them not get dominion over [one]; then shall [one] be whole and sound, and innocent of a great offense.” (verse 13)
Verse 14 then says poetically how a servant of God will speak the words that are God, which please Him and one’s soul. Those words come from the “meditation of the heart,” which is where God lives within a wife. That presence says one’s soul has been redeemed or saved from death of all mortal limitations. To avoid the traps of death demands one have the strength of God within one’s being. Without God, one is too weak to defeat the lures of the world.
As a song of praise read during the season of self-sacrifice that is Lent, it is clear that marriage to God is the epitome of that price one must pay for redemption. Lent is a period of personal experience, more than a test of what one has been taught to know, without having “been there, done that.” One cannot experience marriage by living with one’s parents or seeing friends being married at an altar. One can only know marriage by being married; and marriage to God is a feeling that cannot be imagined without personal experience.
This song of praise during Lent says a wilderness testing is not about forced compliance or an expectation to hurt and suffer from being torn from something one thinks one cannot ever do without. The Lenten experience can only be passed through love and willingness to be tested. This element of love is the essence of marriage to God. David sang praise to state how wonderful it is to be tested for one’s faith, because one’s faith comes from personal experience that one never wants to let go.