The Psalms are poem-songs that seek to articulate that which is beyond words, underneath them, that which surpasses the power of language. Today’s Psalm orients or re-orients our expectations, experience and expression of God’s person, passion and purpose. It begins and ends with the same exact phrase, invoking the majesty of God’s person, using the Divine Name which the Israelites considered too holy to be spoken aloud: YHVH or “Yahweh”. Revealed to Moses from within the burnin bush in Exodus 3:14, the name is impossible to exactly translate. It can mean “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be.” It points to mystery that God is not static, not a force we can put in a box, or an understanding we can put our finger on to define. It conveys the transcendence of God: that God is beyond our imagination, expectations and understanding.
And yet in our smallness when compared to this greatness of God, the poet of Psalm 108 sings of the mysterious love of God who chooses us, reveals the divine nature to us, involves us in the ongoing work of creation as stewards of creation and living life. This God, sung in the Psalm, is one who is praised and known by children and infants, the seemingly weak who yet are able to defend against the enemies of God.
There is a connection between knowing God and knowing ourselves, between being in relationship with the One who orders the universe and those who live alongside and with us. The poem points to the intimate link between each of us, between us and creation which springs forth from our relationship with God. This relationship isn’t static, but rather evolving and emerging, deepening and expanding, calling us from life into more abundant life. It’s this awe-inspiring experience of which the poet sings.
When have you experienced this awe? The realization of your smallness, and God’s greatness (transcendence) – and the paradox that God is with and among us, loving us, choosing us (immanence)? If you’ve had such an experience what feelings and thoughts did it raise up within you? How have you responded to it? How do you struggle to live, or stay present within that experience of awe, covenantal love and divine purpose?
Questions for the practice of Examen & Contemplation
- What strikes or shimmers for you in these passages ?
- When have you heard this psalm before? What do you think the Psalm is saying? What words or images in the poem-prayer do you use in your own prayer life, whether spoken aloud or imagined in your imagination?
- How does this psalm feed your soul?