The book of Psalms is a collection of poetic prayers that were written over the course of many hundreds of years. The term “psalm” means “a song recited to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument.” These songs were likely used in temple worship services in the kingdom of Israel. Though some psalms give us clues, we are not certain exactly how they were originally used or performed with divine worship.
The book of Psalms has always played an important role in the life of Christians. The songs it contains can be used both individually and communally. An early Christian leader, Athanasius, described the psalms as speaking for us, whereas most Scripture speaks to us. Perhaps this is one reason the psalms are easy for many people to connect with. When we read or sing the psalms, we often feel that they communicate what we are feeling. There are various categories of psalms, but the two main types are laments and hymns. Whether we are feeling joy or despair, we can find a psalm that helps us express and connect with our emotions.
Our scripture focus, Psalm 96, is a hymn. More specifically, it is an enthronement psalm, which praises the LORD as king. Psalm 96:1-3 calls upon all the earth to praise the LORD and calls the Israelites to share their understanding and experience of God with all nations. As you read through this passage today, how are you connecting with the words? In what ways is it speaking to you or for you?
As I reflect on this passage, I am reminded of one of my favorite pastimes with my husband: bird watching. I enjoy getting a close up look through my binoculars, and my husband likes identifying each breed’s unique songs and sounds. It is beautiful to see and hear the amazing variety of colors, textures, shapes, and noises. All the beauty these birds bring to our yard is just a tiny glimpse of the Lord’s marvelous works! Each one is unique and brings something new. My husband and I could just view this as an interesting hobby, but if we take the time to notice, it reminds us of this passage. When the earth sings to the Lord, we should stop and listen. Just as Psalm 96 calls us to this, the whole of creation invites us, as well. Each day we are provided with opportunities to join in as the earth sings to the Lord. Today, notice these opportunities and take time to praise the Lord as our King.
These birds declare God’s glory simply by doing what they were created to do and by being what they were created to be, and I think we have something to learn from them. We are called to declare God’s glory to all peoples and to proclaim His salvation day after day. What does this actually look like for us, practically? I think we can find part of our answer by looking to the birds. Every breed has its own distinct song and call. They all build their homes differently and eat different things. A blue jay never tries to be a chickadee, and we need to remember this, too. We can each share about God in our own way. We each have our own song to sing.
For some people, students and adults alike, this passage can be a bit scary. Speaking to other people comes very naturally to some, but for others it can be very intimidating. Help your students think of ways they can uniquely share about God’s glory and marvelous works from day to day. This starts by simply being who the Lord created them to be, just like the blue jay. The blue jay displays God’s workmanship simply by being itself. How are you doing this each day? What are some ways you can be intentional to share about God with your own unique gifts, personality, and experiences?
Haley Seanor serves as a hospital chaplain in Birmingham, Alabama. She feels blessed and humbled for the opportunity to walk alongside others in this role. Haley was a contributor for the book Reading the Bible Outdoors: The Practice of Lectio Sub Divo, A Devotional Guide.