Our text for today is Psalm 19. These are God’s Words.
19 TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A PSALM OF DAVID.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them, he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the LORD is clean,
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
SUMMARY OF THE TEXT
Psalm 19 is the Psalm of 3 words. First, we hear words about God from the heavens. (v. 1-6) Then we hear words from God found in the law of the Scriptures. (v. 7-11) Finally, in response, we speak words back to God. (v. 12-14) It’s also been called the book of the three laws: the law of nature, the law of God, and the law of the conscience; each of them teaches us who God is, who we are, and what is required of us.
First, the heavens speak—they are not silent. What do they proclaim: God’s glory, God’s weightiness. And, they’ve been piling this message up for millennia. (v. 1, 2)
We all hear this message. A Ukrainian may not be able to have a conversation with a Chilean, but they cannot understand the language of the heavens. (v.3-4)
From the vantage point of the earth, the dominant voice in the sky is the Sun. Who wakes up every morning, without ceasing, like a young married man; bursting with energy and joy. And each day, as he runs across the earth, nothing escapes his life-giving warmth. (v. 5-6)
The Psalm shifts in v. 7, from the Sun whose light touches every nook and cranny of the earth, to the divine law, which touches every nook and cranny of the soul. But notice, whereas the law of nature reveals God generically, the law reveals his covenant name: Yahweh.
Just as sunlight disinfects an algae-grown pool, the laws of God disinfect the soul. Though this law comes from on high, even the simple can understand it. (v. 7)
The Lord’s precepts and commands refer to God’s moral demands: which are “right” or straight, as opposed to crooked. And their radiance gives spiritual perception: they enlighten our eyes (v. 8, 9)
God’s law is not oppressive to the one who understands it. Instead, it’s like a honeycomb so jam-packed it overflows and drips with sweetness. And in reading it there is many rewards (v. 10, 11)
The third law is the law of the conscience. Our conscience acts like an internal attorney: either accusing us of breaking the law or defending us when we have kept the law. But notice David’s concern. “Who can discern his errors,” is a rhetorical question and the presumed answer is: no one. (v. 12)
This leads to the central request of the prayer: guard me and declare me innocent. (v. 13)
What is the result of hearing the words of the heavens, the words of God’s law, and the words of our own conscience? We ask God for cleansing so that the words of our mouth might be pleasing. We want to join the harmony of all creation. (v. 14)
THE HEAVENS, NOT SPACE
So, how can we become better readers of these three books? First, we have to recognize nature for what it is. It is not God, but it declares his reality, his eternality, his glory. We’ve all been taught that the night sky is “Space,” a cold, black, vacuum of emptiness and deadness. In the words of Lewis, Psalm 19 tells us instead that the heavens are vast oceans of radiant fullness, whose blazing and innumerable offspring look down nightly upon the earth. “Space” is a blasphemous libel on the starry hosts.
“All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.”
The Spacious Firmament on high,
With all the blue Ethereal Sky,
And spangled Heav’ns, a Shining Frame,
Their great Original proclaim:
Th’ unwearied Sun, from day to day,
Does his Creator’s Pow’r display,
And publishes to every Land
The Work of an Almighty Hand.
Soon as the Evening Shades prevail,
The Moon takes up the wondrous Tale,
And nightly to the list’ning Earth
Repeats the Story of her Birth:
Whilst all the Stars that round her burn,
And all the Planets, in their turn,
Confirm the Tidings as they rowl,
And spread the Truth from Pole to Pole.
In Reason’s Ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious Voice,
For ever singing, as they shine,
The Hand that made us is Divine.
For too long, modern man has divorced knowledge about the physical world from knowledge about God. In doing so, he lost his grip on knowing God. The modern man says, “Geography, temperature, mathematics, and biology are facts while the existence of God and the soul are just beliefs. And we should never refer to things we cannot empirically verify as facts.” The result of that Kantian division is that we’ve now lost our grip on knowing biology as well.
But the Scriptures present knowledge as integrated. And thought you cannot prove the existence of God with a chemistry set, you don’t have to, because there are some things you can’t not know, and to try to prove them would be to pursue insanity.
THE NECESSITY OF DIVINE REVELATION
As stated earlier, the heavens can reveal God’s reality and his immensity, but they cannot tell us his name. Only the special revelation of Scripture can pull back the curtain and tell us of the covenant-making Yahweh. This is why nature can never be our church and birdsongs cannot be our hymns.
The Soviets shot Yuri Gagarin into the heavens and he declared, “I’ve looked but I didn’t see God.” But we don’t relate to God the way a cosmonaut relates to outer space. That’s like Hamlet going into the attic of his castle to try and find Shakespeare. The only way Hamlet can know Shakespeare is if the author writes himself into the play.
And that’s exactly what God has done. In the incarnation, God wrote himself into the story, and his law enlightens the eyes. “So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
“what is Creation’s loudest declaration to a deaf man, or the clearest display to one spiritually blind? The Holy Spirit must illuminate us, or all the suns in a milky way never will.” (Spurgeon)