Sunday, August 15, 2010

Catching God's rhythm

Today I'll be reflecting on Psalm 4 at our afternoon and evening gatherings.

It's one of those psalms we tend not to notice but which is foundational for the spirituality of the book as a whole. It forms a pair with Psalm 5, the latter being a morning Psalm, while Psalm 4 is an evening psalm. Together they draw us into God's time zone.

They put prayer into the rhythm of Genesis 1 with its refrain of 'evening and morning' as it counts the symbolic days of creation. They are rooted in God's core principle that we work from rest and not vice versa - hence the evening coming before the morning in God's time zone (this is why the Jewish sabbath starts on Friday evening and ends at sunset on Saturday).

We see it in the fact that human beings were made in God's image to carry out his mandate of managing creation on day 6, then on day 7, their first full day on the planet, everyone rests: we work from a place of resting in our relationship with God.

And that's what this psalm is calling us to at the end of the day, before we go to sleep to be refreshed for the adventure of the coming day.

And as it does, it reminds us that without our relationship with God, without his Spirit at work in us, his word giving our lives shape and meaning, we are, like the earth at the start of Genesis 1, formless and void. Hence the psalm starts with anxious asking - playing out the anxieties the day has so often left us with - but ends in quiet trust in the one who gives our lives shape and hope.

In between verses 1 and 8, in a framework of trust and gratitude for all that God has given, it commends an evening dialogue with ourselves as we settle into bed that reviews the day, lays open its disappointments and failures and offers ourselves afresh our lives as living sacrifices to the God who calls us through sleep into the working day ahead (v5).

This psalm (along with its close partner) is God's gift of a rhythm of life built on trust and partnership with the creator who shapes our days according to his grand design. Why not weave it into your daily devotional pattern?

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