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The Lord our Light: Praying Together with the Psalms 33

Written by David Knight, posted on Tuesday, May 5, 2020

In these extraordinary times, as our nation and our world face the unprecedented challenge of the Coronavirus epidemic, our first task is naturally to support and enable the efforts of frontline staff tackling the disease and supporting those who have fallen ill. As we engage in every way we can with their work, we as Christians turn for guidance to God, in whom we have our origin and our end.

Here at Christ Church the book of Psalms – the prayer book of the Bible, as it is sometimes called – sustains our daily worship, now as always. Public worship is no longer an option, but the cathedral clergy here are maintaining the daily round of prayer and warmly encourage you to share in the spiritual communion that prayer makes possible across all boundaries of time and space.

At the core of this work of prayer the psalms voice the cry of our hearts to God. With this in mind the ministry team here is sharing one psalm each day with an accompanying reflection. Recalling the University of Oxford’s motto, Dominus illuminatio mea – ‘The Lord is my light’ – we pray that, together, we may know God’s strength, encouragement and blessing in this time of need.

‘The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom then shall I fear: the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom then shall I be afraid?’ (Psalm 27:1)

Edmund Newey, Sub Dean

Child clappingPSALM 47

Omnes gentes, plaudite

  1. O CLAP your hands together, all ye people: O sing unto God with the voice of melody.
  2. For the Lord is high, and to be feared: he is the great King upon all the earth.
  3. He shall subdue the people under us: and the nations under our feet.
  4. He shall choose out an heritage for us: even the worship of Jacob, whom he loved.
  5. God is gone up with a merry noise: and the Lord with the sound of the trump.
  6. O sing praises, sing praises unto our God: O sing praises, sing praises unto our King.
  7. For God is the King of all the earth: sing ye praises with understanding.
  8. God reigneth over the heathen: God sitteth upon his holy seat.
  9. The princes of the people are joined unto the people of the God of Abraham: for God, which is very high exalted, doth defend the earth, as it were with a shield.

Clapping is a universal expression of applause and usually approval. We have been doing it for millennia – and it currently finds common expression on a Thursday evening when we applaud all those working for the NHS and other social services during our Covid-19 crisis. The psalm cries out to be sung – as all psalms are in Jewish worship. There are numerous musical settings and hymns. One of my favourites is the anthem by Orlando Gibbons which was first performed when he received his D Mus in Oxford – ‘O clap your hands together’ in 1622.

We particularly use the Psalm with its words ‘God is gone up with a merry noise’ at Ascensiontide. Every verse centres on God and the coming of his Kingdom or Rule. Can we join this worship and express our own sense of God’s Kingship in our lives? Interestingly the Psalmist focuses on the Nations, not just humans and the rest of creation. It is the Nations – the world of politics? - who are called together to express awe and wonder at our complex but inspiring world. Here is a universal challenge:

May we see you Lord as King of all and sing praises with this psalm, for you are highly exalted and reign in majesty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

David Knight