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Psalm 19 --------
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. 2Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun, 5which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. 7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. 10They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
David in this psalm speaks of two of God's books: His Creation and His Word. We should all learn as much as we can about God from both of these books. David speaks of what we can know about God from each of these books: God's glory, wisdom and power, as understood from the Creation (v. 1-6); God's holiness and grace, as understood from His Word (v. 7-10). At the end of the psalm, David offers a prayer in response to the knowledge of God from these two books. The structure of this psalm reflects the progression of many men's knowledge of God: the testimony of the Creation leads them to His Word; the study of His Word leads them to a prayer of repentance and forgiveness, seeking the salvation of the Lord.
1The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. 2Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun, 5which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.
God has not hidden Himself, but has made Himself known to us in many ways. It takes a determined mind to behold the creation, and then say, "There is no God." "[The heavens] deliver to us such unanswerable arguments for a conscious, intelligent, planning, controlling, and presiding Creator, that no unprejudiced person can remain unconvinced by them... He who looks up to the firmament and then writes himself down an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar."[Footnote #3] Indeed, "the heavens declare the glory of God." Note that the heavens declare more than the existence of God; they declare "the glory of God." The heavens in their vastness and variety shout to us that our God is a God of "glory", worthy of our highest praise. Also, "the skies proclaim the work of His hands." The universe is well-constructed by our Creator. God did not randomly throw everything together, but carefully, by "the work of His hands", built a well-made universe, evidencing a Master Craftsman.
"Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge." The declaration of the glory of God is unceasing, chattering "day after day...night after night." And the creation speaks not only of God's glory and the work of His hands, but it "displays [His] knowledge". The scientific laws that govern the universe, as "declared" by the heavens and "proclaimed" by the skies, are magnificently designed with beauty and simplicity. For instance, the fact that the gravitational force between two objects is proportional to the masses of the objects and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them is exquisite. There are many ramifications to this simple law of gravity. Not only does it enable us to be anchored to earth so that we may be able to live organized, secure lives, but it governs the movements and orbits of the heavenly bodies. It enables the earth to orbit the sun so as to be close enough to receive energy from the sun, but also far enough so that the waters of the earth remain liquid. The energy of the sun is crucial to life; but so are the waters of the earth. God, through His great knowledge, has placed the earth, using His law of gravity, in the perfect place to sustain life. The law of gravity not only effects the scientific, but also breeds the aesthetic: it gives us the beauty of a full moon rising; it generates the excitement of a shooting star; it induces meditation as, through the tidal pull of the moon, it moves the waters of the earth, producing the crashing of waves on the seashore. The law of gravity allows all this, and yet, the law is mathematically very simple. This demonstrates the wisdom and knowledge of God: such a simple scientific law has complex, far-reaching effects, which are crucial to the order of the universe, indispensible for the sustenance of life on earth and, at the same time, through its aesthetic effects, increase our enjoyment of life on earth.
"There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world" The testimony of the creation is thorough. The evangelists of nature are unceasing and universal in their preaching, speaking in a universal language and dialect, reaching all corners of earth, heard and understood by all. The heavens and the earth overflow with the "speech" of natural evangelists proclaiming God's glory: trees raise their arms to the heavens in praise; towering granite rock formations speak of the power of God; deafening thunderclaps shout of God's righteous judgment; resplendent rainbows whisper of His mercy. Again, all have heard the sermons of these evangelists of nature. As Paul tells us: "[S]ince the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities--His eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Rom. 1:20).
David gives us one example of the creation's manifestation of God's glory: "In the heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat." In picturesque language, David speaks of the beauty and majesty of the sun, comparing it to a bridegroom "coming forth from his pavilion", and a "champion rejoicing to run his course." The sun's circuit demonstrates God's power, moving the heavenly bodies around at His will. The heat of the sun reflects the limitless energy of God: "Nothing is hidden from its heat." The whole earth is energized by the heat of the sun; and yet, as potent as the sun is, its energy is like nothing compared to God. God has made billions and billions of stars in addition to the sun, many of which generate much more energy than the sun.
7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. 10They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. 11By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Despite the great amount of knowledge about God that we can glean from the heavens and the earth, the book of the creation is akin to a children's primer as compared to the Word of God. The book of creation tells us the basics about God. For the complete story, we need to study the Bible. Also, the revelation of God's Word is much clearer and beneficial to us. The Word of God is written objectively, in black and white; the knowledge of God as gleaned from the heavens and the earth is filtered through our fallen nature, and a fallen creation. In this section, David enumerates six effects of heeding the Word of God. In these six effects, all our needs are met: new birth, wisdom, joy, light, stability, riches more precious than gold.
First, "the law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul." Note first that in this section, David refers to God as "the LORD", literally "Yahweh", the personal name of God. In the previous section about the creation, David referred to Him as "God", a more impersonal, general, universal name for the Creator. David uses the personal name of God in this section because of the personal relationship with God that can result from knowing His Word.
The term "the law" was often used by the Jews to connote the entire body of God's teaching in His Word. Indeed, so much of what God has to say in His Word concerns how we should live. And so, David here begins with a statement in general about God's Word. "The law of the LORD is perfect." Note the word David uses to describe God's Word: "perfect", without fault or blemish, in agreement with truth in every way. So, why are we always trying to add to or subtract from His "perfect" Word? We ignore much of God's "perfect" Word, thinking that it does not apply to us in this day and age.
The result of knowing and heeding "the law of the LORD" is that it "reviv[es] the soul." It brings new birth; it brings life from death. To know God's Word, and the grace through Jesus Christ that it reveals is available to us, is life-giving, can save us from death. In support of this, throughout the ages, there have been millions and millions of examples of dead souls that were revived through the knowledge of God as revealed in His Word.
"The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple." The understanding of God's Word defines wisdom. The simplest man in the world's eyes could be the wisest in God's eyes, given a knowledge and understanding of God's Word. I have seen wisdom through God's Word at work. I have benefited much from Bible studies led by the "unlearned". Ex-motorcycle gang members can teach valuable biblical lessons to biblical scholars. This wisdom is available to all, through knowledge of the Word of God, through the aid of the Spirit of God. Note that this wisdom results because the statutes of the LORD are "trustworthy". Since they are "trustworthy", anything that we learn from them necessarily makes us wiser.
"The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart." The Word of the LORD brings "joy to the heart". It heartens me greatly as I look around at a congregation after a church worship service. I see so much joy. Nearly every face I see has a pleasant, contented expression. This is the Word of God at work. No worldly joy can match the joy of a good conscience before God. One cannot have deep-seated, lasting joy, joy from the heart, apart from God. Note that it is the fact that the precepts of the LORD are "right", that brings joy. A "right" life is a joyful life, absent of pangs of conscience.
"The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes." We would not know right from wrong, were it not for the "commands of the LORD". Man has devised systems of justice, but the fallen nature of man has been reflected in the flaws of these systems of justice. Only God's commands are pure light, rooted in His righteousness, thus teaching us true righteousness. Men without God's moral standards live in darkness. As Paul informs us: "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the LORD" (Eph. 5:8). And so we are to "live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)" (Eph. 5:8-9).
"The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever." David, in context, is speaking of the "fear of the LORD" as developed through the knowledge of His Word. Note that the fear of the LORD is "pure". It is a good thing to fear the Lord. His holiness and power deserves our reverence and fear. Once we know the Lord and His awesome power, our fear of Him will "endur[e] forever".
"The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous." When you read the Word of God, you can be sure that you are reading truth. When you obey a commandment of the Lord, you can be sure that you are treading the correct path. There is not much that we can be "sure" of in this world, but the Word of God is a rock, and can be a sure foundation for our lives if we would allow it to be.
David sums up the value of all the effects of God's Word and Law: "They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb." Can you say this? Is God's Word more precious to you "than gold, than much pure gold"? If we do not esteem God's Word above all, we need to pray for a right appreciation and valuation of God's magnificent revelation to us. "Wealth can heal no wounded spirit, cheer no sinking soul, give hope to no desponding mind, defend against none of the worst ills of life, point no weary traveller to the way of rest, give no assurance of happiness beyond the grave. God's word can do all these things, and a thousand times more."[Footnote #4]
David goes on to give two of the many reasons for the value of God's Word and Law: "By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward." First, in God's Word, we are "warned" many times of the consequences of disobedience. Many blame God for the misery in the world, but God has warned us of the consequences of the sin of man. Second, obedience to God brings "great reward", not only in the next life, but in this life also. Note David does not say "for" keeping them, but "in" keeping them. David is not speaking of recompense for good works, but the natural rewards brought about by living a life in obedience to God.
12Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Our first response to the knowledge of God through the revelation of His creation and His Word should be self-examination, a valuable activity for furthering obedience to God. Self-examination is the bane to hypocrisy. But depraved as we are, even self-examination cannot successfully root out all sin. Thus, David asks: "Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults." We understand and repent from only a small percentage of our many sins, and so we all need to pray this prayer: "Forgive my hidden faults." God is holy, and so all sins, even sins of ignorance, are an affront to Him. Thus, we are still responsible for our "hidden faults", and need God's forgiveness from them.
Another response to God's revelation should be a desire for righteousness. The best way to cultivate righteousness is to pray, as David did: "Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me." Prevention is better than cure, and so it is much better to pray to be kept from sin than to pray for forgiveness afterwards. Such a prayer separates the evil from the righteous: the evil man hates to be restrained from sin, the righteous man welcomes such restraint. Indeed, our only chance of being "blameless, innocent of great transgression" is by God's help. Without God's restraining influence, our sin would "rule over [us]".
David ends the psalm with a prayer from his heart: "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." Our overriding concern in life should be to please God. David prays concerning the two areas in our lives which are most difficult keep "pleasing in [God's] sight": the words of our mouths, and the meditation of our hearts. To keep our speech pleasing to God is very difficult; to keep the meditation of our hearts, our deepest thoughts, pleasing to God is near impossible. Since we all need help in these areas, we should all make a point of praying this same prayer.
David's prayer is addressed to the "LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer." David needs a personal relationship with God, and he has one in the "LORD"; he needs stability in his life, a place to turn for absolute truth, and he has one in the LORD, his "Rock"; he needs a Savior, one who has redeemed him out of his slavery to sin, and he has one in the LORD, his "Redeemer". What a great God we have!
Lord, we praise You for being our Rock and Redeemer. We praise for allowing us to have a personal relationship with You. What a blessing that we can approach in prayer the Creator of the universe! We praise You for the revelation of Yourself through Your creation and through Your Word. May we come to know You better. Enlighten us through the study of Your creation and Your Word, and through our increasing knowledge of You, may we worship You more fervently, and serve You more faithfully. In the name of Christ, who is our Redeemer, we pray these things, Amen.
3. C. H. Spurgeon, A Treasury of David, Vol. I, pg. 270.
4. Plumer, Studies in the Book of Psalms, pg. 265.
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