1 Praise the Lord!
How good it is to sing praises to our God;
for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3 He heals the brokenhearted,
and binds up their wounds.
4 He determines the number of the stars;
he gives to all of them their names.
5 Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.
6 The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
he casts the wicked to the ground.
7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
make melody to our God on the lyre.
8 He covers the heavens with clouds,
prepares rain for the earth,
makes grass grow on the hills.
9 He gives to the animals their food,
and to the young ravens when they cry.
10 His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Immanuel Kant wrote (Critique of Practical Reason, 1788), "Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the oftener and the more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral law within." Having rejected his Christian upbringing, Kant nevertheless thought that God's existence could be postulated (though not argued for) by our sense of duty, "the moral law within." Morality, for Kant, essentially replaced revealed religion. Becoming a good Christian was reducible to becoming a dutiful person. For Kant, God is not involved directly in human life. Nor is God's involvement really necessary according to Kant. Autonomous human reason was sufficient to help us get by. To try to rely on God was a mark of an "unenlightened" person, a person still in the grips of religious superstition. Sadly, Kant's attitude and philosophy were to have a deep and lasting impact on European thought.
How far removed is Kant's belief from the Psalmist's conviction about God! The Psalmist above delights in God for the full range of His good actions: from building up Jerusalem, to gathering Israel's outcasts; from setting the stars in their place, to providing rain; from causing the grass to grow, to feeding the animals. There is no place on earth where God's active goodness is absent, according to the Psalmist.
What's particularly noteworthy is that the God of creation and providence is also the God of the brokenhearted. The God of stars and planets is also the God of the downtrodden. The power of creation and the power of sustaining all things come from the same source as the power to heal human hearts. That source being God. And if you ever wonder how "powerful" might be the power to bind up wounds, consider the power of the sun which God created. The power of the sun and the power to heal hearts are of a different order and kind, which goes without saying. But the basic point remains: God is the author of both the sun and the heart. Whatever it takes to run the sun, God will do it; whatever it takes to heal hearts, God will do it. Such is the commitment of the Triune God.
Now for those who trust God's commitment -- those who find hope in His steadfast love, as the Psalmist says in verse 11 -- there is waiting for them a particular gift: the gift of knowing that God takes great pleasure in them! A double joy, we can say.
Let's pray: Father God, when we look at the starry heavens above and our broken hearts within, we know that you are the God of both. The stars find their place in the firmament; our broken hearts find their healing in your hands. Therefore we delight in you, for you are the God of the great beyond and the God of nearby intimacy. You are indeed a Big God. And when we consider what the Psalmist is saying, we recognize that you delight in us, that you take pleasure in us, as we fear you and as we hope in your steadfast love. To give God joy by our hope is an amazing thought! In Jesus' name, amen.