Flexing down there in the larynx, what more can one little set of vocal cords do in the face of contemplation of or encounter with this God of all creation, whose power is unleashed through His breath and cascades across time and space, never diminishing.
Haaa-LAAA-Louuuu bursts out and up from those cords, joining in the choruses already in progress from the highest and furthest places in the heavens. God’s creational voice has done its work and its effects remain on target forever. All the heavens, even that watery chaos, is bubbling outward and upward with praise to this LORD of it all. And so the earthly creatures rev up and join in. Pluto and a child in duet. Angel and dairy cow and fire-red cardinal forming a trio. The Milky Way a background chorus. Nothing beyond, above, more timely, more powerful than this LORD.
No room nor thought for real star wars, for ill health, for trivial earthquakes, for broken human relationship…all so transient, so minimal, in the midst of such an expanse. Or is there? Isn’t that the LORD right there leaning down into the noontime heat of a surgical intervention, into the grief of Mrs. Elstad, into the huge rifts in congregation and amongst friends? Sing out even more, you seemingly forgotten ones. The LORD is at hand, splendorous in the above as in the below. Like Israel, He’ll track you ‘til the end. Hallelujah!
The LORD is my shepherd. That’s it. That’s the whole deal, isn’t it? With Him as the shepherd (providing we get off our dead horses and other home-made power plants we obsess about) what more is there? You need more support for this little statement? some convincing? some performance stats, some customer reviews of this LORD? The rest of this little Psalm really is just overhead…description, really, because it’s all right there in the first five words. The rest is just what it’s gonna be like. Want? so “over,” isn’t it? wanting, desiring, politicking, manuevering, promotioning…all over and done with. All that fear of future, all that jockeying for plain old self-worth, that gritting it up for revenge, that getting mine…no more space for any of that rattling around up in the cranial cavities, down in the bones, clouding up the senses. It is all over, for He is with me through…whatever. It’s all there in that little preposition…with.
Lolling in green pastures or scraping through valleys where death lurks–no matter which or where or what, there’s nothing to fear. Go ahead, make a list of your fears, then cross them all off, burn ‘em up, or just give ‘em up to your Shepherd. He’s the leader, the advocate, the protector, the source of identity and worth and future, the caterer of food and drink and pleasure–already spread out for you. In short, the way, the only Way. Always a home, your home, ‘cause He guarantees it, this Shepherd, this LORD of yours.
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
As we dangled over the fires of hell, the LORD snagged us, our egos singed but not scarred– at least we’re back on track again. He’s been a terror at times, but it’s over quickly–course we’re never sure about that when it’s all heating up. More like never-ending night. And here we thought we had it all—I mean, all–on our way to the Big Time–that God of ours right in step with us. After all, who’s gonna sing praise and all that if we’re on our way down river. But this LORD has his own mind, his own MO. All he asks, all he wants is your trust, your love…then watch out! you who despair. You thought your mourning might be exchanged for shuffling along, or maybe even stumbling into a walk, but dancing? There’s His face shining in the dark, looking onto the stage where we’re lifting high those bony legs. Alleluia!
Your group all tangled up and about to drop into the fiery oil? Ask for healing: healing on the surface, into the skin and bones, down to the capillaries, all the way to individual members–verbal exchanges, glances, sighs, spits, sneers, and plain old fist-fights, all of it. Then give thanks to the healer! No other way.
Clear out those pipes and let those vocal chords flap and flop and vibrate in readiness. Then open up that mouth—WIDE—and let the wind from way down in the toes race up, vibrating through the tibias and fibulas, radiating into the femur, through the pelvis and the bowels and the stomach, churning through the lungs and bronchial tubes and then finally, the teeth chattering, racing past the lips. Whooooooosh! Here it comes…the loud screams of gladness: Glory! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Take another deep breath and do it all again. Let it sing through the air. Sing, shout, yell—just let loose. Glory be to this God, the Lord of the whole heavens, beyond the beyond. The Greatest! the Mightiest! the Everlasting! the One who actually performs, makes it all happen! Grab ‘em up, all those instruments of noise—anything, everything, just throw it all into the orchestra pit. The baton is raised up high and then like lightning the sounds ripple down the mountaintops and gurgle and hiss from the bottoms of the oceans—accompaniament to all those voices. What better use of that gift—breath?
Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament!
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his exceeding greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with timbrel and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the LORD! Praise the LORD!
It’s difficult to put up with this Lord whose goodness and mercy and love and kindness is so overwhelming and so everlasting. It’s not the “endures” so much as that adverb there–that “forever.” What brought that on? To what do I owe this? Talk about endurance, it’s my ego that can’t stand for this…puts me to shame, my own project–what is ME–that insists that it have some part of this deal, somewhere along the line, at least. Maybe the Psalmist knows all about my predicament, for there he goes, repeating it over and over–first Israel, then Aaron’s house, then any, any at all, who fear God. Perhaps all these advancing choruses will chip away a bit at that ego of mine. We could go for a shot of this love of God here and there, but this whole scene sounds so permanent, such a long term and tight relationship. Maybe He did pull me out of some distress back when, but I can get along now with most anything that comes my way.
Oh, if this psalm weren’t so long, so full of my dependence on the LORD, perhaps then I could hang on, but it goes on…and on…and on. That victory song in the tents is the last straw, that chorus that brags about His right hand, the Lord’s doing. All we can do is marvel, be-dazzled and befuddled that this LORD gets in our face, right down here personally to care and protect, for a long, long time. Maybe, just maybe, I could let go and join in that final verse about the forever-ness that He is offering up. But, I need some help.
Let us pray.
Lord, help me. My sin is my inability to be gifted by you with all that you have for me. Set me free of whatever it is that keeps me from you–your protection, your eternal Goodness and mercy. Don’t give up on me. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.