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know God’s smile

Sunset Botswana

By exploring the Hebrew words of some very familiar passages of scripture, one can stumble across a wider range of meanings than we are used to, and in this way we can read scriptures and psalms in a delightfully fresh way. For example, I recently took a look at the meanings of some of the words used in Psalm 19:

  1. The Hebrew word for the law, Torah, is derived from the word yara, which means to throw an arrow, or point toward a direction, but it also means to flow as water, or to rain. So instead of thinking of the law as harsh, critical and unyielding, it is beautiful to think of these kinds of references to the law as describing God’s word, and God’s presence, falling like gentle rain on the receptive ground of our hearts. This calls us to an attitude of soft-heartedness and open receptivity as we come to hear God. There is a profound shift in identity that takes place in the simplicity of opening to and receiving from God, as we give up being the controller and manager of life, and choose to open to this gentle rain of God’s Word, letting God have God’s way with us, nourishing and enlivening us with the life of the Spirit.

  2. The last verse has the phrase which is usually translated as “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight…” – this word acceptable actually means delightful – so one can read this instead as “bring delight to your face”. It’s a sense of the delightful look on the face of a parent when watching their child. I recently came across a wonderful chant written from this rendering of the Hebrew words, by the Epiphany Today community, and they use the phrase “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart know your smile, precious Lord”.

I have written a paraphrase of Psalm 19 using some of these thoughts as inspiration.

Psalm 19 paraphrase (by S Grussendorff):

I bring my awareness to the expanse of the skies, and am awed by your beauty, beloved Creator, an ever-unfolding, intricate composition that needs no words to tell of your wonder. In the silence of the spheres is the music of a wedding feast [1], in the warmth of the sun is the faithful radiance of your gaze.

Your Word, O Lord, brings wholeness and healing, falling gently like rain, refreshing the soul. Your companioning counsel is trustworthy, making wise the simple. The gentle illumination of your Spirit brings freedom and joy to the heart. The insights we receive are radiant, giving light to the eyes. True devotion to You is pure and receptive, it is not fickle or selective, knowing that the inner guidance of your Spirit is reliable, bringing clarity and authenticity – it is more valuable than wealth or status; More delectable than fine dining, more palatable than expensive wine.

Only You know the places where I remain trapped, caught in the shadowlands of shame, denial and self-protection. May I learn to hear and trust your Spirit with more abandon, to follow your guidance with whole-hearted courage.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart know your smile, precious Lord, [2] Bed-Rock for my soul Redeemer of my life.

[1] with acknowledgement to Thomas Merton for this line

[2] with acknowledgement to  Epiphany Today for this line

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