I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the thoughts and words of this reading that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
Psalm 19:7-11 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
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,
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.
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
The Psalmist is singing and praising God. In his praise, he remembers the ways in which God speaks to us and the tremendous difference that makes.
The psalmist begins with nature in the first six verses of the Psalm:
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.
Pope Gregory the Great (c. 540 – 12 March 604) said, “All…wondered to see the water turned into wine. Every day, the earth’s moisture being drawn into the root of a vine, is turned by the grape into wine, and no [one] wonders. Full of wonder then are all the things which [we] never think to wonder at.”
But, the natural world is not the only place we encounter God. As the psalmist insists, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”
If you grew up a Christian, it may be that you remember Paul’s struggles with keeping the law and think of it as spirit-killing, oppressive, heavy, and burdensome. If you did not grow up with a faith, it may be that you think of the law as restrictive and confining, necessary, but a kind of necessary evil to keep things from getting out of control. But, that’s not the attitude of the psalmist, at all.
The word that is translated “law” in most translations is TORAH. TORAH really is better translated “teaching.” The Torah is the teaching of God for living life. The Torah is the guidance for life. It is sweeter than honey! It is sure! It is right! It is pure! It is true! It is more valuable than gold! It is perfect! That means it is whole, it is complete, it is all we need, it is sufficient. It is anything but spirit-killing or oppressive.
As Glastnost and Peristroyka were in progress, the Soviet Union released some of its citizens from its own prisons and work camps. There was a Newsweek article about one of the ones who was released. He was like many of them, whose biggest crime was to have disagreed with the government. I do not remember his name, but I remember one thing he said: he had one steady companion all that time. His psalm book! Most of his other possessions were taken away from him, but he clung to his miniature copy of the psalms that his wife had sent him. In fact, he once spent more than four months in solitary confinement because he refused to allow the authorities to confiscate his Psalms. Why? Because reading the familiar old songs of agony and faith, doubt and courage, gave him the strength to go on during his long, long ordeal. He knew in his darkest moments that God was with him. It was the perfect word that told him of God’s presence. It was the perfect word that gave him strength. It was life-giving and sustaining for him.
Writer Katherine Mansfield died of tuberculosis. She came upon the Bible only in her mature life, never having read or studied it until then. “I feel so bitterly,” she wrote in her journal, “that I have never known these writings before. They ought to be part of my very breathing.” As part of our very breathing the words of the Bible give us comfort and strength when we need it and challenge and prod us when we need that.
I used to lead worship sometimes in an Alzheimer’s unit. Many of the people were non-communicative. They couldn’t carry on a conversation or remember what happened the day before. However, they could recite Psalm 23 or John 3:16. They could say the Lord’s Prayer and sing the words of familiar old hymns. How could that be? It was simple: those things were written in the heart! Or, to use Katherine Marshall’s words, they were a part of their very breathing.
The teachings of the Lord are perfect, says the psalmist. They are life-giving.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster