The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from the insolent;
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. — Psalm 19:7-14 (NRSV)
I’d like to have a dollar (hmm, in these inflated times, maybe a quarter would be more appropriate) for every time I’ve heard a sermon started with this invocation, or a variation of it. It’s a good invocation – scriptural, short, sweet and to the point. It certainly seems a favorite among those who preach since so many use it in that context.
Reading the portion of the Psalm for this morning, I can’t help but think of the Psalmist chanting glowing praise for God’s law which he, the Psalmist, uses six synonyms and six values. The law is further described as something of great worth like fine gold or even the gold of sweet honey. Sometimes I wonder if this Psalmist might not have been a lawyer. Still, it does extol how he sees the law of God and passes that vision on to us.
It also crosses my mind too that people today glorify the law of the land — as long as it is interpreted in their favor. The law of God says that the widows, orphans and strangers are to be sheltered, cared-for and protected; the law of the land manages to find umpteen million loopholes to close in the very faces of those widows, orphans and strangers while opening millions more for those who can pay to have the law interpreted in their favor. Yet if the law favors those on the other side of the case, then of course the law must be changed and forthwith!
What are the people of God to do? Many proclaim that this is a “Christian nation” founded on “Christian principles” and as such should follow Biblical principles. what makes this claim hollow is that many of the Bible’s injunctions, laws if you will, are ignored while certain snippets are frequently quoted as if they were all the law and the prophets. There are many verses about caring for those who need care, yet the focus today is on how much can removed from their plate without their noticing that there’s a pattern on the china and not very many mashed potatoes to cover it. Laws are more about restrictions on certain segments of the society rather than the well-being of all of it. In short, the laws of God about widows, orphans, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and imprisoned, caring for the dying and above all the worship of God in all things are less important than retaining tax shelters and privilege.
I wonder — what would happen if not just the preachers used that invocation before speaking but if all of us used it before committing to an act or a belief. I wonder what would happen if those Christians in congress would recite that prayer before rising to speak against legislation that would help provide a safety net for the most vulnerable? I wonder what would happen if they went into bipartisan meetings with that invocation in their hearts?
I wonder what would happen if I made that prayer throughout the day? What if I put the laws of God as they pertain to me and to those less fortunate uppermost in my mind instead of how I can get the most return for the least investment of time, talent or treasure?