Julie Schmidt from our Brisbane congregation has been hard at work, along with others, to set up a YouTube page with Psalms set to various tunes. Please have a look at the page, have a listen and then subscribe, like, ring the bell, etc to help encourage Julie in this wonderful work.
If there is something that has clearly emerged from this pandemic, it’s that the question of social instability can no longer be evaded. True. When we look at the mountains and the stars, we see a pattern of stability and immutability. But this appearance of unchanging endurance is misleading. Nothing is permanent in nature. Nothing is permanent in human existence. We grow old. The Twelve Apostles collapsed. Viruses disturb human welfare. Things have their limit. Things change. We will never catch the world taking a holiday from this universal law of development, change and instability. From a human point of view, stability is thought of as desirable. But from God's perspective, stability is not always good. Why? Because a stable existence often forces us to return to modes of life that are undesirable. For instance, the excessive attachment to things believing that they will go on unchanged. Please don't get me wrong. I am not saying that the current outbreak of the covid-19 virus and the insecurity that is unfolding right now is desirable. It is not! The virus is unleashing confusion, and is affecting the lives of thousands of people around the world. The point I simply want to underline is that we should not seek security in this planet. To do so will require a fundamental shift in our theological conviction regarding the divine promises of eternity. In times like this, it’s good that we don’t forget the truth of Psalm 102:25-28:
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you (ESV)
The Psalm begins with a prayer for help but in verses 25 to 28 the writer gives us a song of hope encouraged by the eternity of God. God created the world a long time ago and He continues to sustain the creation. Life as we know it, will change but God remains forever. This section in Psalm 102 is calling us to interpret this world of uncertainty and deadly viruses in a new way. It’s telling us to make a mental transition. From the deceptive idea of stability to renewed faith in the reality of God’s eternity. The moment we do this we begin to live life in the real sense of the word. We see therefore that our expectation of stability is not supported by evidence from nature and the Scriptures. So where does it come from? It comes from our persistent habit of regarding human existence as more important than the eternity of God. The Christian mind, however, can rise above the deceptive appearance of security by the spiritual insight that God alone is stable and unchanging. There is no reality that is more stable, more uplifting, and more comforting than the unchanging character of God.
"I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds".
For the psalm-singer it's not enough that Israel has experienced the redemptive acts of Yahweh in the past. The writer wants to rehearse and re-live them in his own life. So he "remembers, calls to mind, considers thoughtfully" the mighty deeds of the Lord. This intellectual act of recollection immediately becomes the foundation of ravishing praise. The point is clear: remembering the mighty deeds of God is a symptom of delight in the fame of God. Praise also includes mental reconstruction of the past.
In this song the psalm-singer incidentally touches on one of the most serious problems of human life –and it’s a problem that includes all other problems. The problem is to know who we are. If human beings knew who they were –there wouldn’t be conflicts in our personalities. When you know who you are –you can look into your relationship of yourself with yourself, and you become what you should be, and you also find God. So, I repeat: the most serious problem that we face as human beings is the problem of self –“knowing who we really are”.
Who I am? What I am? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is the meaning of these conflicting aspects of my personality? What is man? That’s the question! And to answer it we’re going to focus on some observations that David makes about what we are.