Wednesday, October 10, 2018

More Majestic Than the Waves

The Lord is king, he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed, he is girded with strength. He has established the world; it shall never be moved; your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring.
More majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the Lord!
Your decrees are very sure; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore.
Ps 93 

Psalm 93 is a fine psalm that always plays second fiddle in the church. According to the Common Lectionary, it's an alternate to Psalm 47 every spring when we celebrate Christ's Ascension. And once every three years, it's the second suggested psalm on the last Sunday of the liturgical calendar when we celebrate the Reign of Christ.

I find Calvin's commentary on the opening words of this psalm to be rather amusing:

The heavens revolve daily, and, immense as is their fabric, and inconceivable the rapidity of their revolutions, we experience no concussion -- no disturbance in the harmony of their motion. The sun, though varying its course every diurnal revolution, returns annually to the same point. The planets, in all their wanderings, maintain their respective positions. How could the earth hang suspended in the air were it not upheld by God's hand? By what means could it maintain itself unmoved, while the heavens above are in constant rapid motion, did not its Divine Maker fix and establish it?

Clearly, the Reformer was still living with the belief that the earth stood in a fixed position, and that not only the sun, but every star and planet in the heavens revolved around our little planet. We can't blame him, of course, for this is the biblical viewpoint as well. For this, I can certainly excuse him, since Copernicus didn't publish his theory that the earth revolved around the sun, not vice versa, until just about the time Calvin was writing this commentary. And since he was a theologian and not an astronomer, I believe we can excuse his ignorance on the subject.

Calvin's mistake notwithstanding, the true meaning of Psalm 93 stands firm—namely, that all things serve to praise God. The moon revolving around the earth, the earth revolving around the sun, the sun—along with billions of other stars—making an ages-long circuit around the center of the Milky Way, and the countless other galaxies, all hurtling through space: These are all creatures of the one God, who so ordered the universe that its parts work together for God's glory and our good.

It's interesting that the main example of such praise mentioned in Psalm 93 is the crashing of the waves; for the chaos of the seas is usually symbolic of chaos—that which God brought into order so that the universe itself could be possible. So even that which is opposed to God cannot help but glorify God.

As you ordered the universe, O God, so bring my willfulness under your control. For I know that, in the end, all things will glorify you, that which is far away will be brought near, and even that which is evil will serve your divine purpose. I pray this in the Name of your Son, my crucified Savior, who taught me to pray...