John T. Willis

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

God Reveals Himself in Nature and in His Law--Psalm 19

Psalm 19 is similar to Psalms 1 and 119 because these three psalms emphasize the importance of God's Law. They underline the truth that God's Law is not negative, but positive. God's Law is the only reliable guidance for human life. Billions of people on earth recognize this intuitively. Psalm 19 contains two parallel concepts: God reveals himself in nature--verses 1-6; God reveals himself in his law--verses 7-11. Finally the poet makes some practical applications--verses 12-14.

The Superscription is very short and simple: "To the leader. A Psalm of David." It is doubtful that this was original.

I. Yahweh reveals himself in nature. Psalm 19:1-6.
    a. Without any hesitation, the psalmist declares: "The heavens ARE TELLING the glory of God." The verb here is very important. It is LINEAR ACTION. The heavens CONSTANTLY--MOMENT BY MOMENT ARE REPEATEDLY TELLING the glory of God. Everyone on planet earth can look up into the heavens at any point and see and experience the glory of God. The glory of God is his splendor, his magnificence, his incomparability. No human being or group of human beings could create or master the universe in which God has placed us. Put in a similar way: "the firmament [the arched sky above us] proclaims God's handiwork." Who MADE the stars, the clouds, the earth, etc., etc.? No human being did it. God alone was able to do this marvelous structure. BUT, do the heavens and the firmament actually TELL and PROCLAIM, that is SPEAK? Obviously, not in human words. But there are other ways to communicate. All creation SHOUTS OUT the existence and ongoing powerful work of God the Creator. 19:1.
    b. Day to day and night to night, the heavens pour forth speech and declare knowledge. The universe is not a great mess or haphazard or disorderliness or confusion or mishmash or pandemonium or helter-skelter. On the contrary, God thought of everything in its right place and time and order. Everything is coherent. Our lungs demand that we have oxygen, and it is all around us even though it is invisible. Our eyes demand light, and it is all around us. Every detail declares the wisdom of the God who created us. 19:2.
    c. The psalmist openly and unashamedly declares:
           "There is no speech [from the heavens], nor are there words;
                  their voice is not heard;
             YET their voice goes out through all the earth,
                  and their words to the end of the world."
God's most powerful "words" are never spoken but acted out daily. Day and night is a simple, powerful example. 19:3-4b.
    d. The psalmist uses the example of the rising and falling of the sun every day.
           "In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,
                 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
                  and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
             Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
                  and its circuit to the end of them;
                  and nothing is hid from its heat."
This is not literal, but figurative language. When the sun rises in the morning, this is like a man comes out of his tent in the ancient Near East. The sun does not live in a literal tent. This is clearly figurative. The emergence and activity of the sun is like a bridegroom coming out of his wedding canopy to greet his bride at the wedding or like a strong man who runs a marathon. No matter where a person lives on planet earth, the sun beats down on the land and everyone involved. 19:4c-6.

II. God reveals himself in His Law. Psalm 19:7-11.
     a. The psalmist compares nature with God's Law. He uses FIVE terms for God's law: law, decrees, precepts, commandment and ordinances. He uses TWO terms as metaphors for God's Law: gold and honey. He uses SIX adjectives to describe the nature of God's Law: God's Law is perfect, sure, right, clear, pure and righteous altogether. He uses FOUR fruits of God's Law in the lives of those who obey him: reviving the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, and enlightening the eyes.
     b. The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. We all tend to lose interest and to be distracted to sinful temptations. God's Law REVIVES us. "The soul" here is the whole person. The decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple. We are blind and ignorant. We must have spiritual direction. This comes from God's Law. 19:7.
     c. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. Sin and lies and wrong information bombard us at all times. The precepts of the Lord are correct, and thus they rejoice our hearts. The commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes. When a runner becomes tired, he/she desperately need GATORADE or some means of reinvigoration. The same is true of the human heart. We become tired. God gives us his word like GATORADE, and this "enlightens the eyes." This expression means to "give new energy." The story of Jonathan eating honey in the forest emphasizes this truth--1 Samuel 14:24-30, especially verses 27, 29. 19:8.
    d. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. Here "the fear of the Lord" is obviously a positive force in life. Fear means respect, reverence, highest regard, etc. The fear of the Lord is almost identical to the love of the Lord. The ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. Here the psalmist reminds all hearers to consider ALL of God's Law, not some isolated law out of context. 19:9.
    e. God's law is more to be desired than much fine gold, and sweeter than honey. Human beings hold gold and honey in the highest regard. God's Law is much more important and precious than either of these. 19:10.
    f. One purpose of God's law is to warn God's sinners against disobeying God and following sinful practices. When one keeps God's law, this brings great reward. 19:11.

III. The psalmist concludes with THREE practical applications. Psalm 19:12-14.
      a. We human beings often are not even aware of our own sinful thoughts and feelings and actions. So the psalmist prays in a personal way: "Clear me from HIDDEN FAULTS." All of us need this sensitivity and prayer. 19:12.
      b. All of us human beings are full of pride. This is the way we are wired. We need constant reminders that we are not nearly as important as we assume. The psalmist personally refers to himself as God's servant, and beseeches him to stay away from his own pride and the pride of all around. Otherwise, pride will have dominion over us. The psalmist desperately desires to be innocent of this great transgression. The great sin of all people is "I STRAIN." 19:13.
     c. What motivates all of us is our heart and our words. The psalmist naturally beseeches Yahweh:
               "Let the WORDS OF MY MOUTH
                 and the MEDITATION OF MY HEART
                 be acceptable to YOU, O Lord."
We must constantly focus on God, not on ourselves, and be concerned not about the activities and concepts of others, but about our own thoughts and our own words. The Psalmist describes Yahweh as "MY ROCK" and "MY REDEEMER." These are common epithets for Yahweh. Rock emphasizes Yahweh's strength and protection. See Psalm 18:2, 31. Redeemer emphasizes Yahweh's deliverance. See Psalm 107:1-3.

Share YOUR ideas and misgivings and errors and determinations and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis