There's a wideness in God's mercy,
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in God's justice
which is more than liberty.
There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than up in heav'n.
There is no place where earth's failings
have such kindly judgment giv'n.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and a promised grace made good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.
There is grace enough for thousands
of new worlds as great as this;
there is room for fresh creations
in that upper home of bliss.
For the love of God is broader
than the measures of our mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
But we make this love too narrow
by false limits of our own;
and we magnify its strictness
with a zeal God will not own.
'Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
it is something more than all:
greater good because of evil,
larger mercy through the fall.
Make our love, O God, more faithful;
let us take you at your word,
and our lives will be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.
Faber's lyrics come from the mid-nineteenth century, a time during which many were crossing the sea to seek a "better" life. The still new American States as well as the burgeoning colonies of the world's empires in Africa, South America and the Indian subcontinent promised a liberty and freedom unmatched in human history. From the vantage point of the future though, we are able to see that this liberty was a boon to some, while shamefully, a burden for many.
Perhaps Faber has an insight to this discrepancy of justice when he describes the wideness of God's mercy exceeding even that of the mighty ocean traversed by so many desperately seeking that better life. So much so that in verse 3 he appeals to the "broader love of God" that we so often make "narrow" by "false limits of our own." Thus comes the appeal in the final verse that God might make our love "more faithful" and our "thanksgiving" a reflection of God's goodness.
Make us thankful for your gift of rest Lord, that your wide mercy and broad love may be known through us. Amen.
In my particular Bible, the "heading" for this week's psalm, which we'll look at tomorrow, is "God's Appeal to Stubborn Israel." Indeed the commandments, and all of the law, are for the purpose of mitigating bad behavior which results from our stubborn, "I'll do it my way, thank you," attitudes. Like a mother reproaching her child, "Don't sass me," God needs to break the bad out of us and make us ready to enter polite society.
But the commandments, like the best understanding of a mother's instructions, are perhaps better received as gift. "Observe the sabbath day" urges us not only to "get our lazy bodies out of bed and go to synagogue," but reminds us of the blessing that we can be to one another. Days of work are necessary and beneficial, but so is the opportunity to connect with others, even strangers. Perhaps, like Jesus, we can do good for them.
Make us thankful for your gift of rest Lord, and remind us to share our lives with others. Amen.
Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (NRSV)
12 Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you.
13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work.
14 But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work--you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.
15 Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.