THE GOD WHO REVEALS HIMSELF

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THE GOD WHO REVEALS HIMSELF

Psalms 19:1-14 NET

1     The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. 2 Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness. 3 There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard. 4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth; its words carry to the distant horizon. In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun. 5 Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber; like a strong man it enjoys running its course. 6 It emerges from the distant horizon, and goes from one end of the sky to the other; nothing can escape its heat. 7 The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced. 8 The LORD’s precepts are fair and make one joyful. The LORD’s commands are pure and give insight for life. 9 The commands to fear the LORD are right and endure forever. The judgments given by the LORD are trustworthy and absolutely just. 10 They are of greater value than gold, than even a great amount of pure gold; they bring greater delight than honey than even the sweetest honey from a honeycomb. 11 Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there; those who obey them receive a rich reward. 12 Who can know all his errors? Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of. 13 Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins; do not allow such sins to control me. Then I will be blameless, and innocent of blatant rebellion. 14 May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my sheltering rock and my redeemer.

          The author of Hebrews began his epistle with the words “at many times and in many ways, God spoke…” (Heb. 1:1), reminding his readers that supernatural revelation is not a rare commodity.  Jewish Christians in the first century are not the only ones who need to be reminded that such revelation exists.  People nowadays are very good at convincing themselves that it is impossible to know if God is real. The evidence that God has revealed himself is abundant, and that is what this psalm is about.

God has revealed himself by his creation (1-6)

1     The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork. 2 Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness. 3 There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard. 4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth; its words carry to the distant horizon. In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun. 5 Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber; like a strong man, it enjoys running its course. 6 It emerges from the distant horizon, and goes from one end of the sky to the other; nothing can escape its heat.  

At first glance, you might think this psalm is contradicting itself. It talks about the sky pouring speaking out in verse two, but then it says there is no actual speech and no word in verse three. You cannot catch that in some translations, because they add a word or two to make it say something else. What the psalmist is actually saying is that the universe around him does not need any words to explain itself. Its existence is constantly revealing the existence and glory of its creator.

God revealed his existence and character through the universe he created. The passage speaks of the universe as a constant light and picture show displaying how glorious God is. Paul asserts that unbelievers are not excused for rejecting God since “his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20).  This is the evidence of CREATION, but people often label it EVOLUTION, a term that suggests no need for an explanation beyond what is to explain what is.

Looking closely at the evidence in this box you will find a universe that has an origin that cannot be explained adequately through the powers and processes that currently exist.  Science has suggested some “big bang” happened billions of years ago to account for the present universe. But science also predicts that the current universe will eventually be destroyed because there is no power available within it to preserve it.  However, many scientists acknowledge an anthropocentric aspect to reality. That is, the universe seems to be designed for a purpose, and humanity seems to be central to that purpose. The universe also seems to contain sources of power that are not always apparent.

God is a Puzzle Maker

If I dare to assume that creation is displaying evidence of its creator, I can draw conclusions about the nature of the creator from a reasoned look at creation. For example, the universe can be categorized as a combination of systems, each of which has a definite structure. There are star systems in space, climate, geological and ecological systems on the planet, and circulatory, pulmonary, and digestive systems among creatures. The existence of these systems suggests an intelligent designer who enjoys artistically producing unity from diverse objects. It is almost as if every system is a puzzle, and God is encouraging people to search for patterns so that we can understand the systems as a whole. Science is our attempt at putting together the pieces of the puzzles. If there were no order to the systems – that is, if everything was random chaos – the universe would be impossible to figure out, and that would lead to an altogether different view of God.

God has a Purpose for Everything

The unity that God builds into all these interlocking systems is a unity of purpose. The systems work together to foster and sustain life, reveal God’s craftsmanship in the master design, and promote more unity-in-diversity.

Everything has a purpose. We make mistakes when we use things for the wrong purpose. Children of God learn that everything that happens to us is allowed by God to benefit us in some way.  So Joseph told his brothers who had sold him into slavery ion Egypt: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:20). Paul told the Romans that “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Seeing God at work in the difficulties we face is not always easy. That is why David encouraged his soul not to forget all of God’s benefits (Psalm 103:2). Each of these texts points to the fact that God is at work in the universe all around us orchestrating it for his own purpose.

I want to invite you to see if I am right about this. Pick a corner of God’s universe — just one system. It doesn’t matter which one. Maybe you want to study the sky. Maybe you want to study the land all around us, the trees, or animals, or human nature. If you look for the daily speech without words, you will find it pouring forth.

God has revealed himself by his word (7-11)

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced. 8 The LORD’s precepts are fair and make one joyful. The LORD’s commands are pure and give insight for life. 9 The commands to fear the LORD are right and endure forever. The judgments given by the LORD are trustworthy and absolutely just. 10 They are of greater value than gold, than even a great amount of pure gold; they bring greater delight than honey, than even the sweetest honey from a honeycomb. 11 Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there; those who obey them receive a rich reward.      

By his word I mean his written word, the sixty six books of the Holy Bible. God revealed his standards, his desires and his plan through the scriptures.  God is our father. As a father, he wants us to do more than just acknowledge his existence. He wants us to follow his instructions. That is why deism, theism, or unitarianism will never please God. It is not enough to admit that he does (or might) exist. He is our father, and we must acknowledge that relationship through obedience. The Bible is God’s way of showing us what he wants – how we can obey him and please him.

The Bible is God’s witness to himself.” This truth serves as a foundation for all talk about revelation.  Biblical theology assumes that the author of Hebrews is right – that God has revealed himself. So a believer does not have to begin where an unbeliever does. Instead, a biblical theologian starts with affirming what the Bible says about itself, and then invites unbelievers, skeptics and atheists to evaluate the truthfulness of the statements.

The Bible teaches four things about itself.

  • Scripture is God’s word, so it speaks with God’s authority.
  • Scripture is sufficient to do what God wants it to do.
  • Scripture is as clear as it needs to be.
  • Scripture cannot be broken. When rightly understood, it is infallible.

Each of these qualities describes scripture because each faithfully describes the source of scripture: God himself.  He is the ultimate authority, having no superior from which his authority could derive. He is entirely self-sufficient, having no need for any other for fulfillment. His words and thoughts are completely clear to himself (in spite of the difficulty humans often have understanding them).  His words cannot be broken because the truth they reveal does not change, or go out of style. He is dependable.  Therefore the best thing anyone can say about scripture is not a negative statement (like “inerrant,” or “infallible,”) but a positive one.  Scripture is from God.

Scripture records the incidents when “God showed himself. He let himself be heard. He disclosed his presence. He revealed who he is. He made known his name. Today we may wonder why God chose to do so thousands of years ago to the fathers and prophets and apostles. We may question the wisdom of embedding the most important truth the world has ever heard in a collection of ancient Jewish stories. But we cannot deny that the revelation has happened. Even if we set aside the internal evidence presented in the scriptures themselves, we are overwhelmed by the impact that these Jewish stories have had on the planet.

What amazes me is that the Bible is so large. A few years ago, I decided to make an electronic scripture index of myself. It involved making folders on my computer and putting links in those folders to everything that I have written online — by chapter and verse. Apparently, not a lot of people do that because I couldn’t find an easy way to do it. So, I did it the hard way. I had to create a folder for each verse of the Bible! Just the New Testament alone has 260 chapters and 7,956 verses. The Old Testament has 929 chapters, with 23,208 verses. So, altogether, that’s 1,189 chapters with 31,164 verses. It took me about a month just to make the folders, and another month to file everything in them.

A few years ago, I realized that even though I had been a Bible college professor, I had been pretty lazy about studying the Bible on a regular basis. The Lord wanted me to read and study the Bible daily. When I first started, I was too lazy even to read a passage every day. So, I found a place online where someone would read a passage for me. I followed that site through the whole Bible in a modern version, for a year. By then, I was ready to read for myself, so I went through the Bible in three years in another modern version, and I wrote a short commentary every day.

When I finished that project a few years ago, I asked the Lord what he wanted me to do. He said, “translate.” I am translating the Bible from Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. I do just a few verses a day. I’m starting to believe I can really finish this project. So far, I have just over 40 books translated. But the New Testament alone has 184,590 words in it (in English). The Old Testament has 622,771 words. So, altogether, that’s 807,361 words.  It’s going to take a while. But every day I learn something more just by staying on task. The project has given me a whole new appreciation for those who have been involved in translation. It also continues to remind me how important it is to keep it up. We are not there yet. We have a long way to go. There are still truths in the original scriptures which are not clear from our numerous translations.

God also reveals himself through personal experience (12-14).

There is another way that God who is not silent has revealed himself as well. Notice what the last few verses of this psalm tells us:

12 Who can know all his errors? Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of. 13Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins; do not allow such sins to control me.Then I will be blameless, and innocent of blatant rebellion. 14 May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my sheltering rock and my redeemer.

God has overwhelmed us with evidence of his existence – first by placing trademarks in creation itself that point to his character and power, then by getting specific through the special revelation in the Bible. Through these means, anyone can recognize that God exists, and have a clear understanding of what he wants. Sadly, we humans have developed world-views that enable us to either ignore the God of the Bible or replace him with a substitute that we can be more comfortable with. But occasionally God intervenes in this mass stupidity and his Holy Spirit produces a believer.  By REGENERATION, he opens an unbeliever’s eyes, and suddenly she can see a universe that reflects its creator, and a Bible that reveals his will.

The result of this miracle is a personal experience with God – a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The miracle itself is a third means of God’s self-revelation. The final words of Psalm 19 are about this kind of revelation.

The focus of this section of Psalm 19 shifts to the personal level, as can be seen in the use of the first person (me, my). The focus also shifts from instruction through the law to redemption from sins. This amazing psalm shows that God wants to do more than just get us to acknowledge his existence, or understand his word. He wants to cleanse us from our personal sins so that we can be reconciled with him, and redeemed for the purpose of an eternal relationship with him.

The God who has flooded the universe with evidence of his creation is not silent. He has revealed himself. He gave us not just one word but over 800,000 words to reveal his will. But if you really want to get to know God, you can go beyond even these two forms of revelation. You can get to know God personally. He can redeem you and forgive you for all your past mistakes. He can walk beside you and change the words of your mouth and the musings of your heart. You can actually stand before him blameless and cleansed. You can do this because of Jesus Christ. His death on the cross was God’s answer to your sin problem. Come to Jesus today, and you will begin to know God like you have never known him before. 

Pray with me.

OUR GOD, YOU HAVE REVEALED YOURSELF.

YOU HAVE FLOODED THE UNIVERSE WITH EVIDENCE OF YOUR EXISTENCE AND GREATNESS.

OUR GOD, HAVE REVEALED YOURSELF.

YOU HAVE REVEALED YOUR WILL IN DETAIL IN THE SIXTY-SIX BOOKS YOU GAVE US.

OUR GOD, HAVE REVEALED YOURSELF.

YOU HAVE SENT YOUR SON TO DIE IN OUR PLACE SO THAT WE CAN BE REDEEMED AND FORGIVEN.

YOU, OUR GOD, HAVE REVEALED YOURSELF, SO WE CHOOSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR REVELATION.

WE ACKNOWLEDGE THE GLORY THAT WE SEE ALL AROUND US.

WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORD, WHICH TO US IS MORE VALUABLE THAN GOLD, AND SWEETER THAN HONEY.

WE THANK YOU FOR YOUR SON, OUR REDEEMER.

In Jesus’ name. Amen!

Author: Jefferson Vann

Jefferson Vann is pastor of Piney Grove Advent Christian Church in Delco, North Carolina. You can contact him at marmsky@gmail.com -- !

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