1 To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
2 O my God, in you I trust;
let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.
3 Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
5 Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
6 Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love,
for they have been from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions;
according to your steadfast love remember me,
for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
8 Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
9 He leads the humble in what is right,
and teaches the humble his way.
10 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness,
for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
It was one of those hot, humid, summer days which afflict a person in Missouri. We were taking a much-needed break from baling hay, sitting in the shade of a spreading oak tree. Neil, whose hay we were baling, also ran a service station in town. The farm was more of a hobby for him. He asked me with some disbelief in his voice, “you mean you don’t understand how air conditioning works?” The topic had come up rather naturally considering the temperature in the barn. I had to admit that I did not have this knowledge. Air conditioning was a mystery. One pushed the button, turned it on, and cold air came out. I can still remember him patiently and thoroughly explaining how a liquid converting to gas absorbs heat and makes air-conditioners work. As a man who fixed cars for a living, he thoroughly understood the subject.
I thought about Neil the other day. We were making ice-cream and I was pouring rock salt onto the ice. Neil had used ice-cream making as an example of the principle of air-conditioning. Against all my intuition but along the lines of what Neil taught me, ice-cream firms up faster on hot days than on cold days. The reason is that the ice melts faster. That means it absorbs the heat from the churn faster. And the cream freezes faster. You would think it would take longer to freeze ice-cream on a hot day. But it is the other way around. You must melt the ice to freeze the cream.
The psalmist asks God to teach him his paths and to make know the ways of the Lord to him. If you remember the Isaiah 55 reading from not long ago, God reminds us that his ways are not our ways; they are higher and better. I would never imagine that more salt and a hot day will get me ice-cream faster. But it does. God, who is holy and just, approaches sins and sinners with love, compassion, and forgiveness. Who would have imagined it? Yes, God, teach me your strange and upside-down ways that do not remember the sins of my youth or my middle age. Instruct this sinner in your ways and I will rejoice with your psalmist that God’s ways are steadfast love and faithfulness.