Established on the Rivers -- A River Crossings Reflection

The Rhine from the Niederwalddenkmal

Psalm 24 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Of David. A Psalm.

The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it,
    the world, and those who live in it;
for he has founded it on the seas,
    and established it on the rivers.
Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
    And who shall stand in his holy place?
Those who have clean hands and pure hearts,
    who do not lift up their souls to what is false,
    and do not swear deceitfully.
They will receive blessing from the Lord,
    and vindication from the God of their salvation.
Such is the company of those who seek him,
    who seek the face of the God of Jacob.[a]Selah
Lift up your heads, O gates!
    and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
    that the King of glory may come in.
Who is the King of glory?
    The Lord, strong and mighty,
    the Lord, mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O gates!
    and be lifted up, O ancient doors!
    that the King of glory may come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord of hosts,
    he is the King of glory.Selah

Being on Sabbatical, I am not preaching today (I was a Lutheran). Instead, I offer this Psalm for your meditation and reflection. There is only one reference here to rivers---that is the word in the New Revised Standard Version. Other translations offer other possibilities from waters (CEB, NIV to nether-streams (Tanakh). But I'm going to take the NRSV lead since this is a "River Crossings" reflection. 

The Psalm itself serves as a call to worship, likely in the Temple. We are invited to worship the "King of Glory," who is the "Lord of Hosts." It is this Lord who established the earth and set it upon the waters/rivers. As J. Clinton McCann notes, the opening verses may not speak of God as king but they emphasize God's sovereignty. Thus, "The 'seas' and 'rivers' are symbolic of the chaos that God has ordered into a cosmos, a world. God has 'founded' it (see Pss 78:69; 89:11; 102:25; 104:5; Isa 48:13; 51:13, 16). The words translated here as 'world' (tebel) and 'established' (yasad) also occur together in Pss 93:1 and 96:10, both of which explicitly affirm 'The Lord reigns.' Thus vv. 1-2 anticipate vv. 7-10, where God is addressed five times as 'the King of glory.'" ["The Book of Psalms: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections," in New Interpreter's Bible, IV:772].

The vision that draws from Genesis 1 suggests that this new earth that God creates is set upon the waters/rivers. We know that water is a major component of our world. It is what makes life possible. Thus, a passage like this, that celebrates God's creative power invites us to care for these waters.

Therefore, whether it is a mighty river like the Rhine, which I recently encountered, or a small stream, as we ponder it, might we consider the creative power of God. May we then move into the worship of God, lifting up praise to the King of Glory.

I invite you to reflect on the river picture and upon the Psalm and enter into worship of God our Creator. 

Rhine River at Mainz


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