A reflection for New Year
From the womb of the dawn, the dew of your new birth is upon you: Paula Gooder
One of the
things I love most about reading the Bible is that every now and then a verse, or part of a verse jumps out, lands in your heart and lives in you
for a while, changing the way you think about yourself, about the world and about God.
A few weeks ago this happened while I was reading Psalm 110 at morning prayer. The section that sprang out was the second half verse 3 ‘from the womb of the dawn, the dew of your new birth is upon you.’ I have read Psalm 110 more times than I can remember and I had never noticed it until a few weeks ago. Of course, as with so many of the Psalms the original Hebrew is complex and could be translated in a variety of ways (and different English translations give it different emphases) but let’s just stick for a moment with the version as found in Morning Prayer from the Church of England.
‘from the womb of the dawn, the dew of your new birth is upon you.’
Psalm 110 is
addressed to a king probably in the context of a coronation (though over time it became associated with a longed for Messiah and then, in the New
Testament with Jesus himself) and contains promises of what will happen during the king’s reign. Some of those promises are about how the
king will endure when the going gets particularly tough, verse 3 is one of these.
Dew was a vital commodity in Israel as rainfall was limited and sporadic. It’s presence in the morning was regarded as little short of miraculous (especially since it did not appear every morning) and an essential source of water for the soil. In 110.3 the king was promised that when times were tough – when he faced insuperable challenges - the ‘womb of the dawn’, which brought life giving nourishment to the land would also bring to him new life and energy – the strength of youth – to face the challenges ahead.
Although God isn’t mentioned directly in this verse, God is present throughout the Psalm ruling the world and supporting the king. In addition, the ‘womb of the dawn’ implies God’s nurturing, life-giving, creative being summoning each new day into existence, bringing nourishment and hope for the day.
There seems no better thing to pray for as we await at the end of one of the most difficult years that many of us have ever faced and the start of 2021:
As this New Year begins,
may you feel God’s love even through the hardest times.
May a refreshing dew fall upon your heart,
from the nurturing, life-giving womb of the dawn
bringing new life and hope,
renewed energy and the strength of youth
to help you face the challenges that lie ahead.
Dr Paula Gooder is Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral and a leading Biblical scholar.