The Nineteenth

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(Every ten weeks we intentionally pause and reflect. This is a series of reflection upon the Pslams greatest hits. My goal is to highlight a few key verses where something is happening within the experience of the writer, in hopes that the words will bring us into a similar experience. As such, this series is not so much about knowing as it is unknowing and experiencing.)

Have you ever been completely struck by the scale, detail and beauty of nature? I think it’s a shared human experience that transcends our languages, words and concepts. It’s the subject of art, poetry, reflection, repose, and recreation. It’s the reason campers exist. But it’s really not about nature, its more about what is just beyond it and how it grips our deepest core of being.

The nineteenth chapter of Psalms starts like that.

“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.” (V.1-4)

It’s like the physical word is saying something. We say: “Nature speaks to us.” If we pull back and reflect on these experiences, isn’t it true that these moments of awe in the created world (nature if you prefer), cause us to get a sense of our deeper priorities?

When surrounded by nature, we gain a sense of what is really important. We get a sense that the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives doesn’t matter as much as we think it does when we are in the midst of it. David captures this in his words. He tells us:

“More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” (V.10)

What is he speaking of? What can have such value?

The law (Torah) of the Lord is perfect (temîmāh),
    reviving the soul;
the testimony (êdūt) of the Lord is sure (neêmānāh),
    making wise the simple;
the statutes (piqqüdê) of the Lord are right (yešârîm),
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment (miswât) of the Lord is pure (bârah),
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear (yirat) of the Lord is clean (tehōwrāh),
    enduring forever;
the judgements (mišpetê) of the Lord are true (ëmet),
    and righteous altogether.

What revives the soul? What makes the wise more simple? What makes the heart rejoice? What enlightens the eyes? What in our world lasts forever? What dow we know that is altogether righteous?

Are these experiences not what we need at our deepest level if we are to thrive and be whole in a turbulent, fallen world? Isn’t this what people truly desire but often cannot possess in life? What life do we have if we lack rejoicing, enlightening and enduring? The deep things of life are not things, they are nothings.

These no-things are being proclaimed in and through the created world. As the mystics say, nature is the first bible, it’s the first revelation of God. For David, nature and the scripture, the law and teaching of God align. They are the same, no-things that exist just beyond the things. The things lead us to the no-things and vice-versa.

“Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.”

Beyond therapy, is inner transformation. Beyond knowledge and advice is wisdom that feeds us and sustains us. Wisdom is the skill to use what we know. The effect over a lifetime is a life well-lived, a life that has avoided the pitfalls into which stumble our blinded world.

“Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.” (v.13)

Nature and scripture are the conduits for the voice of God within our lives. They have a shaping effect, a whittling down of our misconceptions and deformed sense of reality. Like David we must return over and over again and ask that we remain receptive to the most important thing in life, our footing, our foundation: OUR FAITH

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (V.14)

Does your soul need some time on a rock? May I encourage you to find deep solitude in nature this week. Find someplace quiet and isolated. Then, in the beauty, let your questions emerge. Regain your sense of priority. Find your soul, find your life’s true foundation. Don’t leave. Stay put. Don’t let your mind wander. Remain within the tension of the thing and the no-thing. Wait for the sense of “Yes.”

Then walk back and rejoin our world knowing that you and your Maker are good.