Nature’s Song

Read Psalm 19:1-6

A few months ago we moved to a new state, a new city, a new neighborhood, and a new house. We are fortunate to live in a quiet portion of our city. The sounds which usually can be heard after dinner are the sounds of nature. Our new house has a spacious deck on the back for which we recently purchased some new outdoor furniture. This has led to a new, favorite pastime of sitting on our deck quietly while listening to the sounds of nature. Our neighborhood  is full of trees so the sounds of birds, later to be joined by sounds of frogs, make a beautiful melody. Nature reminds us of the wonder and power of the Lord.

In a song of praise to God, the writer of this psalm proclaims the greatness of the Lord demonstrated in nature. The proclamation which nature makes is not by using flowing words but instead through the greatness of its display. The wonder of the cycles of nature, the vastness of the sky, and the feelings generated in the life of the observer, puts before us the magnificence of the One who created and maintains  all of nature.

As I sit on my deck in the evening, experiencing the sights, sounds, and smells of God’s creation around me, awe overwhelms me. My soul joins in the chorus of praise sung by nature and the psalmist. It is important for each of us to take the time to truly experience the wonderment of what the Lord has created. Soon, you will be moved  to join in the praise song for our God.

Loud Enough

Read Luke 19:37-40

If you have ever had the privilege of being in a school cafeteria with elementary students at lunch time, you know that quiet is not a good description of the environment. There is a lot of chatter, laughing, and screaming which takes place. Any attempt to reduce the level of sound is an endless effort. Most of the time a reduction or, on a rare occasion, relief, is a short lived success.There is just too much energy.

The passage read for today comes from Luke’s account of the palm procession which we commemorate each year on Palm Sunday. Jesus enters Jerusalem to prepare for the upcoming Passover celebrations. His entry is noticed by crowds and the Jewish religious leaders. Luke records that the disciples begin to make a lot of sound as they praise God for the miracles performed by Jesus. This exuberant display prompts the Jewish leaders to ask Jesus to tell the crowd to be silent. Jesus explains that even if he could accommodate their request, the sound would come from other elements of the world. The crowd on that day is like the elementary students at lunch time, full of unabated energy. 

Reading this passage causes one to wonder if the level of enthusiasm and energy which one has for the Lord is similar to what is here described. Would anyone say that they witness such loud sounds of praise from us? If a person entered our worship setting, would they report the observation that nothing can quiet our praise? What about our personal display of praise for the Lord? We need to be as boisterous and full of energy when it comes to giving thanks and witness to our Lord as school children are in the cafeteria every day.

Expressions of Praise

Read 2 Samuel 6:12-16

There are different songs which when heard lead people to respond. Some songs generate a desire to clap your hands or tap your foot to the beat. Other songs may prompt a person to cry because of how the lyrics touch a person’s heart or maybe because they elicit a memory. Then there are those songs that move a person to start dancing. You are set in motion by the melodies and rhythms. Music can communicate emotions in ways which are seldom matched by many other aspects of our lives. Whether a song prompts you to join in the rhythm, sing along or dance, you are taken from the ordinary to the energized in a meaningful way.

The passage for today speaks of music, emotions, and responses. One of Israel’s greatest symbols of the presence of God, the Ark of the Covenant, was being hidden away in the household of Obed- Edom. King David decided it was time to bring the ark back to Jerusalem. He made a great fanfare with the procession bringing them to the city, even offering a sacrifice of thanks to God at the beginning of the journey. Dressed in a small amount of clothing, filled with great joy and being swept up in the trumpet sounds, David danced. His wife, Michal, disapproved of his dancing and behaviors. She began to hate David on that day.

How often people judge other people in regard to their expressions of joy to the Lord. Like Michal, people can make a determination of what are appropriate forms of expression of praise to God. Anything which goes outside the bounds of “appropriate” behavior causes a shunning and dislike of the demonstrator. Yet Scripture is full of all types of jubilant expressions in response to God. Dancing, singing, playing loud instruments, shouting, weeping, and removing clothing are all found as celebratory expressions in the Bible.

We should all take a lesson from David. When the Spirit moves us to respond to our Lord, we should do so with great enthusiasm. If others around us choose to express the joy given to them by God, we should not judge them or attempt to hinder them. Not all forms of expressions fit every person but it should be left to each person to respond as led. Instead of stifling praise to the Lord, let us support and encourage it in all forms.

Majesty

Read Psalm 8

There seems to be very little which shocks or amazes people most days. Psychologists have created the term trauma and compassion fatigue to describe this. With so many reports of crime, war, and natural disasters, humans have become tired of expending energy on responding to all the events surrounding them. What would have led people to have reactions of shock and horror in previous generations, now seems to be so prevalent that many do not even take much notice. This can also be true on the positive side of life. Since we have gained an ability to explain nature’s beauty and magnificent aspects of creation, there is a tendency to not be amazed by our surroundings anymore. Even human inventions and structures have less of an impact upon us.

The psalmist calls us back to a sense of wonder in the words of Psalm 8. We are reminded to consider how majestic is our God. The power seen in creation and the praises of the least of us is truly amazing. Whether we are standing at the base of a great waterfall or listening to the voices of the very young, we are aware of the strength in all which God has created.

The psalmist then speaks what is probably the most amazing of all observations, the One who created the mountains, the large sequoias, and the very sun, has chosen to take notice of each human and what each human is doing. This same One has chosen to view us as the highest of all creation and placed us in charge.

These realizations must create a renewed feeling of shock and awe in us. They lead us to be mindful of the magnificence of our own God. Each calls us to praise our Lord.

Before the Throne

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.”

11 All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 saying:

“Amen!
Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever.
Amen!”

13 Then one of the elders asked me, “These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?”

14 I answered, “Sir, you know.”

And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore,

“they are before the throne of God
    and serve him day and night in his temple;
and he who sits on the throne
    will shelter them with his presence.
16 ‘Never again will they hunger;
    never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat down on them,’
    nor any scorching heat.
17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne
    will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
    ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

Revelation 7:9-17 (NIV)

Recently we have been unable to gather in groups of any significant size. The pandemic caused a need for social distancing which prohibited large gatherings such as conventions, festivals, fine arts productions, sporting events and even worship services from happening. As the vaccinations continue, we are starting to see a return of some of these events and gathering of larger groups of people. Many of us can remember prior to the pandemic being a part of events where people from all over the nation and/or the world were in attendance. There exists a sense of awe when one witnesses this type of event. One day these events will occur again.

Our reading today speaks of such a gathering. We are presented with a vision of the throne room of God. There is a large group of people in white robes standing in front of the throne. This group is so large that it cannot be counted. The people moved palm branches and cried out praises to God and the Lamb. The angels around the throne sang praises to God. One of the elders explains that these people are the ones who came through tribulation and washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. These people have come from every nation and tribe throughout the world.

A feeling of great awe overcomes a person when picturing this gathering which will take place. The group standing before God will eclipse even the largest group imagined on earth. Knowing that people from every background and location we can define will be part of the composition of this group is mind boggling. All are united in the name and grace of God. All have been made clean of sin and made whole by the blood of the Lamb. Our cries of praise joined with the song of the angels will make a sound which will shake all creation.

Songs From the Sky

The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Psalm 19:1-6 (NIV)

Humanity has been impressed and awed by the magnificence of the sky since recorded time. The mysteries of the sun, the stars, the planets, and the weather associated with the sky have drawn humans to speculate and search for answers. Even prior to the launching of the scientific age, individuals had tried to explain what they observed in the sky. With the advent of science, the explanations have shifted from mythical and spiritual explanations to physical and temporal explanations. The awe and wonder still remains though. Our hunger to explore and go farther in our celestial understandings remain strong as evidenced by the increased interest in Mars and talks of returned trips to the moon.

In the psalm from today, we hear the psalmist claim the great wonder of the firmaments. These words link the awe of the sky to our understanding of God. When the psalmist gazes on the massiveness of the sky, there seems to be a voice which is singing the praises of God. The sun communicates the warmth which God provides to all of creation.

The imagery found in this psalm speaks to us about the greatness of God. Amazed at the vastness of the sky, we are led to contemplate the vastness of our God. As large as the galaxy and universe may be, God is larger. From the sun we receive warmth, necessary nutrients which create and sustain life, and light to direct all creation through the activities of a day. As we stand amazed at the wonders of the stars, planets and sky, we are prompted to be amazed by the One who created them all. So we join our voices with the creation’s celestial voices as we sing of the glory of God.

Come and See

Shout for joy to God, all the earth!
    Sing the glory of his name;
    make his praise glorious.
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    So great is your power
    that your enemies cringe before you.
All the earth bows down to you;
    they sing praise to you,
    they sing the praises of your name.”

Come and see what God has done,
    his awesome deeds for mankind!

Psalm 66:1-5 (NIV)

Hiking can be an activity filled with many wonderful benefits. Being outside along trails allows one to exercise which helps to reduce weight, improve heart and lung health, and benefit sleep. This form of exercise can also reduce stress and improve mental health. Hiking also offers beautiful views of nature, including experiencing wildlife. Viewing nature can create feelings of wonderment and awe.

Like many of the psalms, Psalm 66 is a psalm of praise. The psalm begins with a call for all creation to express joy. Singing of God’s glory and offering of praise sets the tone for this psalm. The fifth verse in the psalm invites all people to come and see. The psalmist seems to indicate that by seeing what the Lord has done it is almost inevitable that one would shout for joy and sing praises to the Lord.

Experiencing God’s marvelous work in creation is one of those come and see moments. How the Lord has created the brilliant colors, the amazing effects of sunlight on rippling water, and the interaction of creatures, communicates the awesome deeds of the Lord. The key for us in hearing the invitation. Most people benefit from first-hand experiences. We are surrounded by the awesome deeds of the Lord but we must take the time and open our eyes to see.  Our praise will follow. 

An Invitation

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
    he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
    from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

Isaiah 25:6-9 (NIV)

Imagine receiving an invitation to attend a banquet. This banquet is being hosted by a very important and powerful person. The individual is known to have access to the finest food, wines and drinks known to humanity. You are also aware that the location of the banquet has been described as having unparalleled views, amazing furnishings and ideal weather. You are not required to bring anything or pay any sort of fee to attend. What you wear to the banquet does not matter because a special robe, exactly your size, has been prepared for you to wear once you arrive. Would you even consider turning down the invitation?

The passage which we have read today from Isaiah is part of a song of praise. The song speaks of God’s faithfulness to Israel. God’s protection of Israel from foreign enemies and the destruction of those foreign cities is lifted up. Then the words of the song switch to the telling of the Lord preparing a great banquet for all people. This is where our reading begins. The song moves from speaking about a great feast to God’s work in destroying death and its power over humanity. The Lord will remove the tears and disgrace of all people. The celebration then begins.

You have received an invitation to a banquet. The Lord has invited you to come to a celebration where death, tears and shame no longer exist. You know the host and the host’s abilities. The location has been described throughout Scripture.  There will even be people who you have previously known there. The price of admission has been provided. A special robe to cover all the dirty parts of your life has been made especially for you. Only one thing remains to be done, accepting the invitation. Will you?

Making Requests

Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.
Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love,
    for they are from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth
    and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
    for you, Lord, are good.

Good and upright is the Lord;
    therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
    and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful
    toward those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, Lord,
    forgive my iniquity, though it is great.

Psalm 25:4-11

We make requests of people all the time. As parents, we ask our children to put away their toys, clean their room, hang up their coats, take the dogs out, and the list goes on ad nauseam. In the work environment there are requests going both ways between employer and employee; i.e., employers request tasks to be completed, employees request time off. Everyday life is filled with examples of requests being made and being fulfilled or granted.

In the midst of Psalm 25, we see a series of requests being made. First is a request for the Lord to show us the Lord’s way. A request is then made for the Lord to teach the Lord’s truth. The requests continue with a desire for grace and mercy to be shown instead of our rebellious behaviors. The Lord is acknowledged for the way in which the Lord instructs sinners and guides the humble. Requests, confession and praise fill these verses.

These verses serve as a guide in regard to how we need to humble ourselves and seek the Lord. Each of us are aware of the times we rebel against the Lord. Those times when we choose to exert our independence so we can go the direction which we think is best in our lives. Often we discover that such rebellion leads to problematic results. This is when we must humble ourselves and make the above requests of the Lord. The first request should be for mercy, forgiveness and grace. Then a request to be taught, or retaught, about the Lord’s ways, paths and truth. Because of the Lord’s great love for us, we can be assured that these requests will be granted.

Make your requests of the Lord. Then humbly learn and strive to rebel no more.

Overwhelming Praise

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV)

Have you ever had such a strong emotion that it seemed like it was coming from the core of your being? Your whole body seems to be overcome by this emotion. It feels like you can sense it in your skin and body parts. You might even tell someone that you feel like you are going to burst with the emotion.

The writer of today’s psalm expresses a desire to have such an emotion. Specifically, a desire to praise the Lord with a level of emotion that comes from the core of being. A list of reasons then accompanies the desire; reasons that should never be forgotten.

This is a good reminder for each of us. We have more than sufficient reason to offer praise to the Lord. The reasons listed in this psalm apply to each of us. There are other reasons not listed here which we could, and should, add. Our praise should not just be half-hearted but consume our very being.

Take a moment right now to recall all which the Lord has done and is doing for you. Then after reviewing that list, determine the level of praise which befits the list. Finally, offer such praise to the Lord.