Fear and wonder
"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139.14
People are apt to lament Psalm 139 as a lyrical celebration of God's creative genius, ruined by its violent ending. But research into its probable origin - as a reflection of Israel's post-exilic status, coming to terms with being a vassal of the Persian Empire - invites re-evaluation... The nation's immediate prospects are curtailed, yet the shadow of David remains and the expectation of his "greater son" has not disappeared. No surprise then that out of a perplexing situation should emerge such a mixed expression conveying both the value of life and its vulnerability.
Herein lies the contemporary relevance of this Psalm: it speaks into our world too. Every scientific discovery brings fresh revelations of the beauty and integrity of creation and - for those with the eyes to see - its Creator, which find further expression in artistic reflections of word and song and painting and sculpture. Simultaneously every news bulletin reminds us of the fragility of it all in terms of creaturely suffering, climate change and its impact, or the delicate balance which holds together the whole web of creation.
Whether we shrug and plod on, or stop and ponder is a reflection of the extent to which we are spiritually alive - or sleep walking into oblivion. Choose life and let Psalm 139 be your wake-up call!