I don’t know how much time you spend on social media or look at books or magazines, but there are a few images that seem to be very popular (other than selfies!), and I see a lot of sunsets and sunrises and even a lot of photos of clouds. I get that. I love to take walks early in the morning and watch the sun rise; one Easter Steve and I celebrated the Resurrection at a sunrise service on the rim of the Grand Canyon; and last week for my mother’s birthday, we hiked up A Butte to catch the sunset. What is it that compels us to look at and to want to share that kind of image?
We hear words like “Beautiful!” “Glorious!” “Heavenly!” That last one is ironic, as part of our theology (may not be accurate) is that “up there” somewhere is our final destination (we hope!)
This morning we are going to read the words of the King as he reflected on the wonders of our Creative God. Please rise to honor the reading of God’s Word:
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
The decrees of the LORD are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
This psalm is so powerful and insightful—it teaches us—it exhorts us to remain faithful to reading and meditating on God’s Word BECAUSE we need it. Because without it we do not understand our place in creation. Because without it we will be unhappy, unfulfilled, untethered to anything meaningful.
So let us read that most famous part of God’s Law that we know as the Ten Commandments, or the Decalogue:
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Some of us have heard these words so many times that we think we know and understand the, but let’s revisit them.
The Hebrew Bible calls this list the “Ten Words.” These ten words establish the conditions necessary for a free, loving, and just community of God’s people to develop and flourish. If we are going to live in community, dealing with the God we cannot see takes priority over dealing with those we CAN see. Our relationship with God forms the plumb line in our relationships with others. When the vertical line is plumb, the horizontal lines have a standard by which they are all kept level. And that is how community is built.
The first 3 Words tell us how we must think of God.
The 4th Word tells us about Holiness. We believe in Sabbath because it is a necessary pause in our busyness. A purposeful breaking of our work habits in order to refocus ourselves on what is important and necessary. Keeping God as God. Putting work in its place.
The 5th through 10th Words tell us how to treat each other. I wonder why we even need to be told these things, but it is obvious that we do.
We believe that the One Who made the heavens, the transcendent, eternal-reaching vistas also made us. And because God made us, God has a perfect design for us, and was good enough, so good, that God told us what it is, so that we can perfectly follow it.