TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6
God calls the consecrated people to the court of His covenant – both heaven and earth together
Together with Psalms 46-49, this psalm is part of a liturgy of five sections which are all about the recalling and renewing of covenant by God’s covenant people. It has three parts in all: announcing the Lord coming to call His people to account; The Lord’s words of correction for those whose intentions are righteous; and the Lord’s rebuke of those of unrighteous intention – called ‘the wicked”. We are just reading the first part of this, but it is helpful to know the whole context.
1 The Mighty One, God, the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets.
- This psalm includes seven titles and names of God, three in the first sentence.
2 From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth.
3 Our God comes and will not be silent; a fire devours before him, and around him a tempest rages.
- Fire and storm are often used to describe the intense presence of God, as in the Mount Sinai encounter, Exodus 19:16-18.
4 He summons the heavens above, and the earth, that He may judge his people:
- Best seen as God exercising righteous rule over His people. God’s judgment is linked to His righteousness, and can mean vindication as well as punishment.
5 “Gather to me this consecrated people, who made a covenant with me by sacrifice.”
- Sacrifices were part of the ritual that sealed the covenant.
- The privilege that comes from being in covenant with Almighty God as provider and protector, also brings with it the responsibility of covenant.
For further study, see Exodus 24:3-7
6 And the heavens proclaim His righteousness, for He is a God of justice.
- “For He is a God of justice” is rendered “for God Himself is judge” in earlier NIV and ESV. “Judge” is used as a title for God in Psalm 94:2 – the Hebrew for king and judge are sometimes used interchangeably.
- “His righteousness” in the Psalms and in the OT refers to His faithfulness in acting as the divine King of kings, following up on commitments He has expressed, including protection for the poor and justice for the oppressed, Psalm 4:1.
For further study, see Psalm 27:7, Psalm 102:2, Genesis 32:6-12
We don’t have priests offering animal sacrifices to seal the covenant (v.5) but a New Covenant in Christ Jesus, sealed in His blood. So is God still a God of righteous justice, experienced in wrath as well as love, whose presence can be fire and storm as well as shekinah glory, intimacy and peace?
In churches where it is usual for members to be admitted on the basis of having a story of their personal encounter with Jesus and perhaps making the choice to be baptised as a believer, public confession of sin is generally de-emphasised and sometimes left out altogether. The sense of being called together to be accountable to God in His righteousness comes as a challenge to what can become a casual approach to worship, lacking in awe and reverence.
Many liturgical churches do have confession of sin, often at the start of a service as a ‘first things first’ statement, and reflections of self-examination e.g. in the prayer of Humble Accession. The danger here is not a lack of reverence, but rather an unhelpful reinforcement of unworthiness and condemnation which is not what the Father wants for His children, Romans 8:1-2.
However, seasons of reflection, encounter and repentance are often times when God speaks prophetically to encourage His people. Where the experience of God’s leading, answered prayer and hearing His voice is diminished, these few verses offer a remedy. Allow God to be the just judge and so discover what is wrong.
For reflection and discussion
How do we, post-resurrection and relating to God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, celebrate and renew our covenant relationship with Him? What does God really want from us?
Read ahead – all the readings for Sunday, Feb 11