Psalm 23, which starts, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” is no doubt the most familiar of the psalms that are thought to have been written by King David. But Psalm 24 is also a familiar psalm of David, and begins, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.”
I heard it read aloud quite often growing up because it was a popular introduction for any kind of big celebration—like graduation or Thanksgiving. If it was a special day at church, it was almost inevitable that someone would get up and joyously proclaim, “The earth is the Lord’s!”
Phrases like “fullness thereof” and “dwell therein” were not a part of my everyday vocabulary, and for a long time I assumed that they were just fancy words for saying that everything in the world belonged to God—even us. And while that may be the case, I don’t think that’s what the poet-psalmist was getting at.
Here’s why. It is thought that this psalm was written when the Ark of the Covenant—the symbol of God’s presence—was finally brought back to Jerusalem after it was reestablished as the center of David’s kingdom. The Ark was the very center of the city that was the center of life as David knew it.
As a symbol, few objects were more powerful. Not only was the Ark a symbol of God’s presence, it was a symbol of God’s care, of His provision for their needs. It was a symbol of His protection from their enemies, and of God’s role in establishing them as a nation. When David spoke of the “fullness thereof,” he was not just saying that everything comes under God’s power; he was saying that God was actually present in every aspect of their lives. It seems like “fullness thereof” is another way of saying that God can be found in everything—throughout all the realms of the world.
What does this mean for us these many centuries later? That not only are we alive in God, but that God is alive in us. That through His presence, God touches the world through the lives that we lead! We live in God’s grace, and God also extends His grace out through us. We are the “fullness thereof.”
I think this adds an extra layer of clarity and significance to the mission statement of Adventist HealthCare. If the psalmist is correct, when we state, “We extend God’s care through the ministry of physical, mental and spiritual healing,” we are also recognizing the power of God that is expressed in our actions. God is active in our work. God’s grace and mercy flow through our routines and everyday actions. Our hospitals are a part of the “fullness thereof” of God’s love.
Each day we place ourselves in God’s hands, and in prayer we ask that God will be honored by our lives. And each day, in every circumstance, our gracious God finds ways in which the fullness thereof comes shining through, making His presence felt and His power to heal known.