1 My heart has heard an oracle about the wicked’s sin: There is no fear of God in him; he feels no dread within.2 He views himself with blind conceit, his sinfulness denies. 3 He speaks with evil and deceit, no longer good or wise.
4 In bed he plots his evil ways; he schemes throughout the night, As he commits himself to sin, rejecting what is right.
5 Your steadfast love is great, O LORD; it reaches heaven high. Your faithfulness is wonderful, extending to the sky.
6 Your righteousness is very great, like mountains high and steep; Your justice is like ocean depths. Both man and beast you keep.
7 How precious is your steadfast love! What confidence it brings! Both high and low find shelter in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast within your house, and drink from streams of your delight. 9 For with you is the source of life; in your light we see light.
10 To those who know you as their God, your steadfast love impart; Maintain your righteousness to those of pure and upright heart.
11 Let not the ruthless foot of pride approach and threaten me, Nor let the hand of wickedness force me to turn and flee.
12 See where these evildoers lie, who righteousness despise! Thrown down are they, and there they stay, unable to arise.
You can hear a Free Church of Scotland congregation sing this here to the beautiful tune Land of Rest.
C.S. Lewis wrote: “The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock” (God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics).
The Psalmist might challenge C.S. Lewis’s accusation, for in today’s Psalm we also see God in the dock. The wicked and the sinner do not fear God. They put themselves above God. They do not see themselves as God sees them, but only in their own blind and conceited way.
We might not like the language of ‘fear’, but we certainly need a humble and reverent awe as we come before God. We need to recognise that God is God – and we are not. We need to be prepared to hear from his word – not ours. We need to seek his will – not others. This is so relevant to our everyday lives, and to our church lives. Take Church Meetings, for example. So often I’ve heard it said that the URC is ‘democratic’, but are they meant to be? Surely they must be about theocracy: listening to the Spirit and discerning God’s will together. How might that change our meetings – and, crucially, our decisions?
The wonderful news is that when we humble ourselves before God, our eyes are opened to God’s true self: to his steadfast love that reaches to the heavens; to his faithfulness that extends to the sky; to his righteousness and justice that go from the top of the mountains to the deepest depths of the ocean. The person who makes themselves God – and let’s be honest, all of us do at times – misses out on this truly stunning panorama. We replace an indescribable and beautiful and awe-inspiring God with… me. There is simply no comparison. May David’s prayer be ours: “Let not the ruthless foot of pride approach and threaten me.” Amen.
Awe-inspiring God, Open our eyes that we may see you as you truly are: loving, faithful, righteous and just. Open our eyes that we may see ourselves as we truly are: broken and sinful, yet loved and restored. Help us to be humble, resisting the ruthless foot of pride, and trusting in your steadfast love. Amen.
The Rev’d Matt Stone, Herringthorpe URC, Rotherham