I wonder where David was when he wrote Psalm 8? Wherever it was, he was filled with awe and wonder as he considered the vastness of the universe and the absolute magnificence of God’s creation.
In recent months we’ve all been reminded about the value of green spaces, of connecting with nature and of experiencing the joy of the outdoors. Many of us will have special places that inspire us to share the wonder of the Psalmist. Maybe it’s the top of a mountain, a beautiful river valley or a cliff-top coastal walk with the waves crashing on the rocks far below. Perhaps as we look back over the summer there will have been times of refreshment and the opportunity to wonder at God’s creation.
And then, after the awe and wonder, there comes the question: ‘What is man that you are mindful of him and the son of man that you care for him?’ It’s as if the Psalmist feels insignificant, even worthless, in the face of such majesty and vastness.
When I read these verses, I remembered, from my Sunday School days, the words used in the Authorised Version: ‘….or the son of man that thou visitest him?’ I rather like the word ‘visit’. There’s something intentional about a visit. It’s more than just popping in. It’s about spending time with someone, perhaps sharing a meal or simply a cup of tea. Folk in our prisons will have very varied experiences of visits and many of them will have missed visits due to recent restrictions. There will be those who never receive a visit. We often use the word ‘visit’ in relation to pastoral care, when we think about those in hospital and indeed about those in our prisons. The link between ‘visit’ and ‘care’ is clear.
God visits us in the person of Jesus Christ and He cares about us. The answer to the Psalmist’s question is that man is worth the ultimate sacrifice that God made in sending Jesus into a hurt and broken world. God wants to spend time with man. He wants to meet us all in our brokenness and pain. He wants to bring comfort to the lonely, hope to the despairing and peace where there is anxiety and fear.
I’m reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:36: ‘I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ The disciples didn’t quite get what Jesus was saying; as far as they were concerned, He had never been in prison. His explanation, in verse 40, must surely have encouraged them, as it encourages us now, to continue faithfully with our prayers, our letter writing and, when possible, our visits to those in prison who may feel worthless. ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Rachel Pitman is a letter writer and member of PF Leamington Spa.
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