Psalm 19, 12 Sep 21

Psalm 19 declares the glory of the divine as seen in the creation. It smoothly progresses to how this declares the presence and influence of the creator, specifically the theme of the similarly-numbered Psalm 119, the importance of divine guidance to humankind — the ‘law’, to those who are so influenced, and our own ability to turn a blind eye to our faults.

The early verses contain grandly imaginative imagery of creation:

1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
    and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
    and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
    their voice is not heard;
4 yet their sound goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.

The psalm concludes with that prayer used frequently, perhaps less so today, by ministers before their sermon:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (14)

(More on this psalm here>)


The pull of the early imagery and oft quoted verses in Psalm 19 has drawn many composers to bend them to music. G F Händel used verse 4 quoted above in one of his choruses in The Messiah. Perhaps you have enjoyed singing this grand piece. You can feel the broad sweep of these opening verses, even if it does at times seem a little like practising your scales:

Songs no. 7 and 8 in Together in Song refer to this psalm, although neither covers the full lectionary reading. An all-Australian song, in hymn format, is found in TiS 166, Sing a new song. The verses by James McAuley are a good read, if only loosely based on the psalm. The music is by prolific composer Richard Connolly (1927-), who was also responsible for the ABC Play School theme, There’s A Bear in There.

At Woden Valley this week, given the limitations imposed by that big bug bear of lockdown, we shall not attempt anything that feels like practising scales.

An easy and familiar sing for home bound participants is Bob Marley’s reggae tune By the rivers of Babylon. Former South Woden types have sung it many times. The verses of the original song refer to Psalm 137; but he also uses that last verse of Psalm 19 as an appropriate chorus. That is invitation enough. I wish I had a rhythm section for this one.

Handel’s take. Practice your scales from 0:25. (More exercises available in And the glory.)

3 thoughts on “Psalm 19, 12 Sep 21

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