THE TWO UNIVERSES
Lord, truly, Your name is to be praised.
Read PSALM 113
1 Praise the Lord.[a]
Praise the Lord, you his servants;
praise the name of the Lord.
2 Let the name of the Lord be praised,
both now and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the Lord is to be praised.
4 The Lord is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the Lord our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
6 who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust
and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
8 he seats them with princes,
with the princes of his people.
9 He settles the childless woman in her home
as a happy mother of children.
Praise the Lord.
- Psalm 113:1 Hebrew Hallelu Yah; also in verse 9
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation. / O my soul praise Him, for He is your health and salvation.’ (Joachim Neander, 1650–80, ‘Praise to the Lord’)
Psalm 113 traditionally begins the Hallel Psalms (Ps 113-118) – psalms sung at major Jewish festivals, particularly at Passover. It is almost certainly, therefore, the first of the psalms forming the ‘hymn’ that Jesus and his disciples sang after the Last Supper, before going out into the darkness in which Jesus would be arrested and taken away (Mark 14:26). It is thought-provoking to read this psalm with Jesus in mind, to try to empathize with what were, in effect, His last thoughts as the 30 years of His earthly life were drawing to a close and His passion was about to begin.
The striking thing about this psalm is the juxtaposition of the material and spiritual worlds. We praise God for creating and sustaining the physical universe (2,3) and, in the same breath, we praise God for His involvement in the moral universe (7). God, whose glory is above the heavens, also cares about the poor and needy.
This association of the physical with the spiritual is foreign to the modern western mind, fueled by the apparent (but false) dichotomy between religion and science. In the psalms, there is no such gulf. Many psalms speak of both the perfection of the created universe and the perfection of the God-given Law. ‘The heavens’ and ‘the Law’ both reveal God (Ps 19).
Jesus went out into the darkness with words of confidence ringing in His ears. God was in control of the natural and human universes, the physical and spiritual laws. Jesus’ confidence in God’s ultimate control, however, would be cruelly tested in the agony of the crucifixion. Did God forsake Him? But after Good Friday is Easter Sunday. The resurrection is both a physical and spiritual miracle. God was indeed in control, although that is hard to see from the cross.
God of the universe, Creator of time and space, thank You for caring about me. Help me always to know that You are in control, even in the darkest moments.
Lord, we thank You for being near to the poor and needy despite being high and lifted up.
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