Psalm 97 – Repetitions that Delight – Christmas 2011
Some things bear repeating. And so, I’m repeating this blog post from Christmas 2011 – repetitions that delight! Relevant today as it was eleven years ago. Merry Christmas!
Psalm 97 – Repetitions that Delight
When my son, Dan, was a baby, he had one book he wanted me to read over and over and over, Busy Timmy, to the point where he had it memorized at one year. Needless to say, I grew tired of this repetition much quicker than he did. When we like something, we tend to want to repeat the experience over and over, whether watching a favorite movie, reading a favorite book, eating a delicious dessert, or listening to music. Like Psalm 97, some repetitions delight.
Good Stuff Bears Repeating
Some repetitions are annoying: scales on the piano by the beginner, the refrain “Are we there yet?” while undertaking a long trip with children, musak on elevators. I recently traveled to New York for the weekend. Riding on the subway, I quickly tired of the refrain, “stand away from the door,” at every stop.
Some repetitions never fail to delight: a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a starry sky at night, the Harvest moon, that first cup of coffee in the morning to greet a new day, the great works of literature, Shakespeare, Dickens, Tolstoi and others, love stories. We love a good love story, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy finds girl, vice versa, and every variation thereof. That’s why there are so many books, movies, songs about love. We never tire of them.
Psalm 97 states nothing new or unusual, nothing we haven’t heard before. Some might say why even include it in the book of Psalms. It could easily be eliminated or condensed into another psalm, like a Readers Digest condensed book. Yet it is worth keeping, worth repeating.
It is a psalm of praise of our God, the wonder of God, that God reigns as king forever. It isn’t the words themselves that are so wonderful or unique, but the passion for the subject by the writer. These are words written by someone who knows his subject, loves his subject, and that makes all the difference.
The psalm follows a traditional format of three parts. The first verse introduces the subject, the theme for the psalm. “The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice,” it states.
Verses 2-6 speak of the cosmic power of God enthroned in heaven. “The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory.” (5-6) Traditional terms for a theophany are used, showing God in nature, with dark clouds and lightning.
Verses 7-9 contrasts the shame of idolatry with rejoicing of Zion, God’s people. Verses 10-12 exhorts the faithful to hate evil and rejoice in the Lord. “Rejoice in the Lord, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name,” the psalm concludes, a repetition that delights!
Good Stories Are Repetitions that Delight
Every good story has conflict and plot twists, which is true of Psalm 97. The conflict seen in verses 2-6 is our desire to know God, yet God is covered with a veil of mystery. The darkness is lit up from within by blazing fires and lightning, glimpses of God, but more often than not our path is dark. We don’t know our future, don’t know our God, don’t even know ourselves all that well at times. While on this earth we walk in darkness yet walk we must. We get glimpses of God, moments of clarity when the way seems clear, but those are short lived. This causes conflict, yet the conflict creates interest in knowing how it will turn out. A story worth repeating in different forms.
The other conflict in the psalm is between believers and unbelievers. We are reassured that our God guards the lives of those who are faithful, that right will prevail, we need only remain true to our God.
The Christmas Story Bears Repeating
The Christmas story is the greatest story ever told, a great love story. It is the continuation of the story of God’s love for his people which echoes throughout the Old Testament. This story starts anew in the New Testament with the birth of a baby, something new and unique, never before seen, never to be seen again. The story is repeated every year, yet never gets old. Well worth the repeating.
Years of life enrich this story with memories: memories of Christmases past, Christmases yet to come, full of nuances, light and dark. Not every Christmas memory is pleasant. The first Christmas without a loved one at the table can be very difficult, yet the story goes on.
God’s Love – a Repetition that Delights!
God so loved the world. God’s love for us goes on. We need to keep repeating the story, through good times and hard times.
So much of our life is darkness. We need to treasure these moments of light when God’s presence reveals itself to us through the darkness. Treasure this time when the people who walk in darkness, all of us, see God’s light. They are all the more precious for being few and far between.
So, as we gather on yet another Christmas, let us relish the story of that first Christmas long ago. Let us remember other Christmases in our lives, not so long ago. Like in Psalm 97, let us praise our God who reigns as king forever. And may we never tire of repeating the story, the story of God’s great love—-a repetition that delights
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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