Praise awaits you, our God, in Zion;
to you our vows will be fulfilled.
You who answer prayer,
to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose
and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house,
of your holy temple.
This Psalm celebrates and revels in the luxuriant grace of God. Verse 3 describes us in our natural state, falling short of God’s will for our lives, failing to to be his image bearers, failing to care for one another and failing to care for his wonderful creation. But rather than being overwhelmed and sucked down by the vortex of sin we find to our amazement that we are forgiven. In the New Testament and in the Gospel of Jesus we see more clearly the beauty of that outstanding forgiveness and in the cross of Christ we see the incredible cost of that forgiveness to God.
Like the parable of the prodigal (Luke 15) forgiveness is not about staying at arm’s length from a distant deity who has begrudgingly let us off the hook, but here the Psalmist celebrates that forgiveness has led to reconciliation and restoration and revelry. We don’t stay far away but amazingly are invited near, to live in God’s court (v. 4). When Jesus died the temple curtain which represented a ‘no entry’ sign into God’s presence was torn in two from top to bottom meaning all God’s children were free to come through and dwell in our heavenly Father’s presence forever.
The God who forgives our sin is the one who is sovereign over the whole world. He does what is right, he is the one who created the high mountains and the foaming seas (vv. 6, 7), although they might menace us they are in his hands. There is no problem, no situation beyond him (v. 7), ‘The child of God in seasons of trouble should fly at once to him who stills the seas: nothing is too hard for him’ (Spurgeon).
The God who forgives our sin is also the creator of the whole world. He didn’t just light the blue touch paper and retire into heavenly glory but is intimately involved with his creation. The Psalmist states that the whole earth is filled with awe at God’s wonders but that’s on a good day, it’s all too easy not to be awed and to take the wonders of nature for granted. Many of us live frantic lives but when we slow down and take the time to look around us there is joy to be found in creation, in its beauty, and in its rich abundance.
What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?WH Davies
No time to stand beneath the boughs, and stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, and watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.
The Psalmist would have added ‘and praise God on whom this rich earth depends’, the God who constantly waters the crops, watches over them, blesses them, bales out the hay and numbers the livestock (vv. 9–11).
As we thank God for his material provision, we are powerfully reminded that not all share in this bounty, there are still many in our world who go without and for whom life is a constant struggle to survive. There is enough for everyone but greed and conflict get in the way. The Psalm challenges us to do all we can to see that others share in the fruits of creation.
The Psalm also encourages us to care for creation, our number one job (Genesis 1:28, 2:15). At the time of writing, Extinction Rebellion have brought central London to a halt. Some people have objected to the disruption environmental activists have caused but there will be far greater disruption and damage done if their concerns are not prioritised. In his daily readings on the Psalms, Tim Keller writes, ‘God’s people should be at the forefront of those who care for creation.’ Sadly, far too often, we have been in the rear guard. Take time today to appreciate the handiwork of our creator and care for his creation.