An Honest Searching

Psalm 39
For Jeduthun, the choir director: A psalm of David.
I said to myself, “I will watch what I do
    and not sin in what I say.
I will hold my tongue
    when the ungodly are around me.”
But as I stood there in silence—
    not even speaking of good things—
    the turmoil within me grew worse.
The more I thought about it,
    the hotter I got,
    igniting a fire of words:
“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
    Remind me that my days are numbered—
    how fleeting my life is.
You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.”        Interlude

We are merely moving shadows,
    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you.
Rescue me from my rebellion.
    Do not let fools mock me.
I am silent before you; I won’t say a word,
    for my punishment is from you.
But please stop striking me!
    I am exhausted by the blows from your hand.
When you discipline us for our sins,
    you consume like a moth what is precious to us.
    Each of us is but a breath.        Interlude

Hear my prayer, O Lord!
    Listen to my cries for help!
    Don’t ignore my tears.
For I am your guest—
    a traveler passing through,
    as my ancestors were before me.
Leave me alone so I can smile again
    before I am gone and exist no more.

By Chuck Griffin

This season of Lent is, again, a time for spiritual searching. Today’s psalm is a powerful example of how that search can whip one to and fro, triggering a range of emotions including stoicism, anger, despair and humility.

If you just skimmed over the psalm, please, slow down, or wait until you have time to slow down, and read it carefully. When you reach the words translated as “Interlude,” take time to breathe and to ponder what has been said thus far.

We also could say that the psalmist moves from an effort at self-control to something more valuable—willing surrender to God, to God’s majesty and undeniable power.

And remember, God does not ignore our tears. In fact, he refuses to ignore us, even if we plead with him to do so. Christ came not to ignore us, but to rescue us. There is no reason to fear that we will be gone, that we will exist no more.

Lord, this is a somber time in the Christian year, but we also feel ourselves being pulled toward hope. In our humility and despair, help us to anticipate the freedom to come. Amen.

Psalm 19: Look Up

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

Let’s finish out the work week contemplating some key portions of Psalm 19. These words could easily inspire us for the weekend.

The first six verses speak of how God is revealed in the heavens above—what the psalmist would have seen as a mysterious but usually predictable dance of lights in the sky. As I’ve mentioned before, we now know so much more about the universe beyond earth, but simultaneously we have deepened the mystery as we find new questions to ask.

I encourage you to do something simple, particularly as the weather grows cooler and the night sky becomes more still and clear. Take time to look up. Maybe even go to a place where you can better see the brilliant show above, a place away from the electric lighting interfering with our view.

Simply revel in the wonder of it all. I will always remember a night in the Arizona desert many years ago, far from any towns. I was able to kick back and gaze upward on a cool, clear evening.

I saw the majesty of the night sky as the Israelites must have seen it on any clear night. The Milky Way looked like the backbone of the sky; Jupiter’s brightness was piercing.

The heavens don’t reveal God in full, of course, but they can restore a sense of wonder, which we need if we are to approach God like a child.

Lord, as we gaze upward, give us a sense of your presence and power, and help us translate all of that into a deeper appreciation of the revelations we receive here on earth. Amen.

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A Greater Sense of Majesty

By Chuck Griffin
Life Talk Editor

Psalm 8 (NLT)

In the 1987 movie “Roxanne,” Chris, the newly arrived fireman, has yet to meet the department chief, C.D. Bales. He has been warned, however, that the chief’s nose is, well, unusual, and that C.D. is a little sensitive about the subject.

And then they meet. Chris is mesmerized; all he can do is stare in shocked fascination, following every movement of this huge proboscis. “It’s hypnotic, isn’t it?” the chief finally asks.

“It’s huge! It’s enormous! It’s gigantic!” Chris responds. “I mean, they said it was big, but I didn’t expect it to be big!”

Although C.D. does joke at one point about his nose influencing the tides, noses and celestial bodies are very different things. But when I consider Psalm 8, I have a reaction a little like Chris’ as I consider the night sky and its moon and stars.

In the day the psalm was written, those who peered into the dark using only their naked eyes were astounded by what they saw—dazzling, inexplicable pin pricks of light, some coursing across the center of the sky like a river of milk, with a bright, shape-shifting orb as the dominant feature. And as they paused to imagine God making it all, they felt overwhelmed.

They did have one slight advantage over us. They had clear desert night skies with no artificial lights, a rare experience for most of us looking toward the stars now. But as we consider the sky, we have a huge advantage over them, rockets and telescopes of all kinds, some floating in space. Human feet have even trodden the moon.

What we see is in many ways far better understood than ever. Science has explained much. But simultaneously, as we better sense creation’s vastness, we also realize the scale of space and time is simply beyond full human comprehension.

Called the eXtreme Deep Field, or XDF, this photo was assembled by combining 10 years of NASA Hubble Space Telescope photographs taken of a tiny patch of sky inside the constellation Fornax. You could easily cover this patch of sky with the tip of your pinky finger held at arm’s length. The lights are galaxies, each made up of billions of stars. The image at full resolution contains about 5,500 galaxies.

When they said it was big, we didn’t expect it to be big!

Faced with all this, some people give up on the idea of God. I simply become more intrigued. The precision, power and beauty of the universe combine so as to trigger every possible human emotion, even when the tale is dumbed down to an article suitable for a non-scientist like me.

We seem to have been created in part to appreciate God’s handiwork, and whenever we think we’re starting to get used to its intricacy, we see a little deeper, or we find something else needing explaining.

I am glad we are made in God’s image, tiny, poor reflections that we might be. We at least are able to scratch the surface of what God knows, appreciating our creator’s magnificence more with each discovery.

As the psalm says in its own ancient way, the universe is vast, but at the same time, we also believe its maker has taken a direct, loving interest in us. Perhaps God has done so repeatedly with other beings scattered across his vast life machine—the idea intrigues me. But what’s immediately important is we know he is in relationship with us now.

We’re on quite a ride, with enough scenery in heaven and earth to keep us mesmerized for eternity. Thanks be to Jesus Christ, who makes eternal life, understanding and awe possible!

Lord, thank you for science, technology and curiosity; may they always provide new ways to view your majesty and dominion over all things. Amen.