Psalm 19:1-14 NLT 1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. 2 Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. 3 They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. 4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. 5 It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. 6 The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat. 7 The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight for living. 9 Reverence for the LORD is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair. 10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. 11 They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them. 12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. For the choir director: A psalm of David.
We are continuing our series on the psalms. Last week we talked about the process that you can use to study a text so that you make sure that you are getting the same thing out of it that the original hearers did. This discovery process requires that we ask certain questions.
The BACKGROUND question is a little trickery than for Psalm 3 because the only things the superscription tells us is that David wrote it, and dedicated it to the choir director. This actually tells us a lot, though. It suggests David finished the final version of this song while he was king. I think he started it while a shepherd, based on the nature imagery of verses 1-6.
The WORD STUDY question also reveals some interesting progression. The names he uses for God keep getting more and more personal.
The THEOLOGICAL FOCUS of the psalm is on the doctrine of revelation, that is, how God reveals himself to us.
The STRUCTURE question puts these elements together and you can see a progression of ways that God revealed himself to David, and how David chose to respond to those revelations.
This first part was probably written early in David’s life, perhaps while he served as a shepherd. You can picture David out on a clear day, clouds floating by, and he just takes in the glory of creation. What David sees is the craftsmanship of a divine artist, communicating through the canvass of creation itself. He discovers a great deal about God from staring at that canvass. He also comes to the conclusion that this is what God wants. He wants his creatures to look at the majesty and glory of creation and say “My God did that.” The message is that God is glorious, and that message goes out to the whole planet.
Penny and I just got back from a hiking trip on the Appalachian Trail. We climbed Catawba Mountain, and enjoyed the view from McAfee’s Knob. It was so stunning that we actually came back for seconds on the same day. Our God is awesome, and you can see how awesome he is by looking at what he has created.
Next, David goes from the general to the specific. He highlights the glory of one part of this glorious creation: the sun. He describes it as a radiant bridegroom, bursting forth from his wedding canopy. Then, he changes the simile, and says the sun is like a great athlete, eager to run the race and show everybody what he’s got in him. I can imagine young David, sitting under a shade tree, watching his sheep, and following the sun’s course as it rises at one end of the sky, and, over the day, burns its way to the other end.
The sun’s daily course speaks of incredible power under control. The one controlling this great power is the one who created it. Scientists tell us that the earth’s relationship to the sun is incredible. We live in what they call the Goldilocks zone: 93 million miles from the sun’s surface. If we were 92 million miles away, life could not exist on earth. If we were 94 million miles away, life could not exist on earth. But God puts us right where we need to be in relation to this glorious sun.
At verse 7, we see our first major structural transition. David is no longer talking about the natural creation, and starts talking about a supernatural one: the Bible. God is still revealing himself to David, but he has added a new form of revelation. I imagine that at some point in David’s life, he was so overwhelmed by the glory of God that he saw in creation, that he started seeking more. That is what the Bible is for. God’s word brings us from recognition of God (Elohim, vs. 1), to revival of the soul through a covenant with the LORD (Yahveh, vss.7,8,9).
Some people never get to this stage. They know that God exists, but they will not accept the Bible. David did accept the Bible as God’s word, and it made a tremendous difference in his life. Look at what he says about the Bible here. Because of God’s revealed word, David says his soul was revived, he was made wise, his heart found joy, he had insight for living, and found truth that was pure, true, fair, , true, fair, desirable, sweet, and rewarding. That is what the Bible can do for us.
But, wait, don’t pay yet. There’s more. Another transition is found in this next section. I’m pretty sure that this last part of Psalm 19 was written by David after his great sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. Once again, David uses an even more personal title for God. In this section, the LORD is “my rock and my redeemer.” This speaks of the glory of a personal relationship with God. David knows God as the one who forgives his sins and sustains his spiritual life. He recognizes that although he recognized God in creation, and honored his word, that was not enough. God wants to be more to him, and sanctify and cleanse him, so that they could walk together.
God wants to reveal himself to us in the same way. He wants to change us so that the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts are pleasing to Him.
The apostle Paul knew about this too. In Romans 12:2, he said “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. ” He told the Roman Christians that the real payout to being a Christian was more than just knowing that God exists and created the world. It was even more than knowing that God gave us the Bible as instructions to follow. There’s even more to God’s will than that. We really know God when we are doing that which is good and pleasing and perfect. The good news is, that (according to Romans 1-11) Jesus’ death on the cross makes that possible. Listen to Romans 5:10-11 “For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”
So, now we are ready for the big idea: THE MORE WE KNOW ABOUT GOD, THE MORE HE CHANGES US. The process begins when we recognize the handiwork of God in the world around us. That awareness of his presence and power drives some us to seek a covenant with him to follow the perfect instruction in his word. But that very word convicts us all of sin, and forces us to seek forgiveness outside of ourselves. We find that forgiveness in Christ. We also find a relationship with God powerful enough to transform us so that we can please him in our daily walk. It is one thing for me to know that God exists. It is another for that God of all creation to be my rock and redeemer. It is one thing to know what God wants, as he reveals it in his word. It is another thing for me to walk with God and prove his will for me by doing it. That kind of change takes a lifetime, but that is what he wants for us.