Hope for the New Year!

A Reflection on Psalm 147.13 – End

Readers may remember that, during the Vacancy, I wrote Reflections based on the Bible Readings for Sunday mornings. Much of the Vacancy coincided with weeks of lock-down or severe restrictions which meant that numbers able to attend Services were very limited. The Reflections were a way of keeping us in touch with each other. Peter and I have talked about these and he is happy for me to write Reflections again and I am very happy to do so, probably twice each month, and hopefully you will find them helpful.

Thank you so much to those who have sent Vicky and I Christmas cards or messages and especially messages of sympathy following my sister’s death.

At first sight the choice of this part of Psalm 147 for the first Sunday of a new year may seem strange . Verse 1, shown in the picture above, would surely be better than starting half way through!

It’s a bit like skipping the first chapters of a book! Perhaps those who compiled the lectionary – the Bible readings set for worship – chose the second half because verses 17 and 18 refer to snow and hailstones, normally associated with winter! Whatever the reason, the entire psalm is one of praise and thanksgiving and verse 13 picks up the theme of verse 1.

“Sing praises to the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise your God, O Zion.”

It is, however, well worth reading the whole of this psalm which, as well as being a song of praise and thanksgiving, also reminds us that, whatever happens to us, God is with us at all times. The God of the Jews, for whom the psalms were originally written, was all powerful, the Creator of all, the world’s Saviour. He could be very angry and jealous when His people turned their backs on Him. But He was also a merciful, compassionate God who, as verse 3 says, “heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.”

Psalm 147 was written after the Jews had returned to their homeland after they had been in exile. Pondering its verses can therefore lead us to pray today for the thousands of refugees and others who are homeless and support them in any way we can. Those originally using this psalm would have much to be grateful for. Verses 13 to 15 celebrate their return to Jerusalem and, in time, the rebuilding of their Temple. From now on, the writer of the psalm says, they can look forward to security and peace.

But they can also enjoy God’s creation! See verses 4, 8, 9, 15 and 16.Reading this psalm we have a picture of the One who is in control – even if and when it doesn’t feel like it! In the run up to Christmas (and we are still in the season of Christmas) Vicky and I received several “newsletters” with cards, all of which referred to the past year as one in which the writers had been challenged by illness, covid restrictions and, in several, concerns about mental health. Many will look back to 2021 as a year when we were ‘disappointed’ that, largely because of the virus, it felt like a continuation of 2020. “We had hoped things would have been better this year!”

We don’t know yet what 2022 has in store for us. However, Psalm 147 can give us hope. For whatever happens, Christmas-tide reminds us that “God is with us!” And as long as we have faith – as the writer of this psalm clearly had – nothing can take this truth away from us.

May God be with you and give you hope throughout this New Year!