Pay attention to the tension in your body. Let go of it and any expectations to do anything other than God’s will today. Prepare yourself to hear God’s word.
Psalm 36:5-10 (NRSV)
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains; your judgments are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your salvation to the upright of heart!
Shepherds would be familiar with the heavens. They spent long nights alone among sheep with stars (and their constellations) to keep their minds occupied. It is not surprising that the shepherd-psalmist would compare God’s love to the familiar things in his world like the heavens – high above the earth, vast and mysterious. Then David extends the word picture defining God’s love with “All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings,” (v.7) a reference to majestic eagles that soared into the heavens and over the mountains. Huge, powerful eagles, ever-present enemies in his world, were caring parents for their offspring, wrapping their young under their wings and reminding David of God’s care for the human part of his creation.
My family vacations often in the mountains of New Mexico and Colorado, partly because of my emotional attachment to mountains. Their grandeur inspires awe in me. I can sit peacefully, gazing at mountains for long periods of time, coming away refreshed and renewed. David compares God’s righteousness to “mighty mountains,” places of refuge and safety for people in Bible times. With today’s modern technology, geologists confirm the “mighty” of David’s statement, considering the power needed in nature to push mountains up into the heights.
Mountains have been places for powerful, personal encounters with God throughout the Bible – the law was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai, Mt. Carmel was a place of fiery victory against hundreds of false prophets, Mt. Zion was the site of the ancient fortress known as the City of David, we call Jesus’ most powerful sermon “The Sermon on the Mount,” and he was crucified on Mt. Calvary.
In Psalm 36 David uses nature to describe the attributes of God that characterize his interaction with humans: lovingkindness, faithfulness, righteousness, and justice. We, his creation, are drawn to those characteristics and are challenged by him to emulate those characteristics in our interactions with others.
Dear God, on wintry nights when the world is still, your heavens inspire us with the magnitude of your creation. Others of us are inspired by the grandeur of mountains, the starkness of deserts, or the depths of the sea. Thank you for your creation in all of its forms. We are also inspired by your righteousness, your steadfast love for us, and by the way you deal with all humankind with justice. We lift open hearts to you today for you to guide us to live in accordance with your will for us.
Go with God!