A college philosophy professor asked one question on his final exam. He picked up a chair, put it on his desk, and wrote on the board, “Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist.” Philosophy classes get into that kind of thing.
The students opened their notebooks and wrote as much as they could think of for a while hour, some of them churning out 30 pages of heady philosophical debate and logic. But one student turned in his paper after less than a minute and he was the only one to get an “A.” What did he write so quickly that turned out to be just the right answer? He wrote: “What chair?”
In the beginning, Satan used a single question to get Adam & Eve to doubt whether God can be trusted. Satan wants to get people to the point where they not only don’t trust God… but that God doesn’t even exist. He wants to get people to the point where they ask: What God?
Enter Psalm 19. The Psalm tells us that above the questions Satan poses, there is a better word which is spoken announcing that there is a God, He has spoken, and He continues to speak. The question we must ask is not “What God?” but “Are we listening?” If we will listen to the silent witness of the world & the spoken witness of the Word these will evoke a spiritual response in us, namely, worship
God’s still speaking; are we listening? The world & the Word combine to invoke worship from us.
The Works of God (1-6) – General Revelation
The Glory of the Sovereign (1-4a)
1The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
When we speak of glory of God, we are talking about “the sum of His perfection” or His character. So all of creation is “celebrating” the character of God. The sky “announces” His handiwork, or they are saying, “Hey, guess who made us!”
2Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
Everyday “gushes” speech & every night is revealing knowledge about where everything came from. So there is an abundant, continuous revelation from creation testifying to a Creator.
3There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
So here is the interesting thing: there’s no words being used. Creation is a silent witness to the Creator. It is divine sign language and everyone sees the pictorial message & therefore should draw certain conclusions, esp. there is a God.
4Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Though there are no words, the “voice” of creation is universal going to “all the earth…the end of the world.”
The Glory of the Sun (4b-6)
David uses the sun as a specific example of God’s glory on display, the crowning achievement of God’s creative power.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
The “tent” for the sun may be night; the sun retreats there each night.
5which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
What is pictured here is youthful vigor, energy, strength.
6Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Though their knowledge about what the sun is was limited, they knew enough to give proper praise to the God who made the sun. Much more should we praise God!
The Word of God (7-11) – Special Revelation
Like the sun from which “nothing is hidden from its heat,” so the Word is likewise inescapable, “no creature is hidden from His sight” (Heb 4.13). The Psalmist gives 6 titles for the word; 6 qualities of the word; 6 effects from the word.
The Law of YHWH (7a): 7The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
The doctrine of God, the great body of truth used to instruct God’s people. The Law is “perfect” as a whole, lacking nothing & needing nothing. “It is a crime to add to it, treason to alter it, and felony to take from it” (Spurgeon). The law “revives the soul” or “converts the soul.” It brings back the spirit from death to life & is able to raise up children for Abraham from even the most hard of hearts.
The Testimony of YHWH (7b): the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
Divine declaration of right & wrong, truth & error, sin & righteousness. God’s testimony is “sure,” that is, it is a firm foundation & permanent. “All other ground is sinking sand” but God’s word is terra firma. It makes the simple wise, enlightens their moral judgments.
The Precepts of YHWH (8a): 8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
Or statutes which indicate a specific duty. The precepts are “right” or straight & smooth path thru a dark woods. The heart rejoices in knowing that remaining on such a path will ensure it safe travel. Notice: the converted soul becomes wise and finds joy (progression).
The Commandment of YHWH (8b): the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
Rules to regulate the entire life. The command is “pure” and produces & promotes purity of life. How? By causing the light to shine upon darkened eyes (cf Eph 1.18). Sin & sorrow are driven away by the pure light of God’s word.
The Fear of YHWH (9a): 9the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
Reverence and respect produced by the word; awe & piety. The fear of God is “clean,” both ceremonially & ethically, for this reverence for God drives away the love of sin. “Endures forever” with God’s word is something greater than Pilate’s decree, “What I have written, I have written” (John 19.22). Or as Jesus, “Heaven & earth will pass away, but my Word will no not never pass away” (Matthew 24.35; Mark 13.31; Luke 21.33). Wise men still fear God.
The Rules of YHWH (9b): the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
His just decrees or “rules” against sin & in favor of righteousness; the right settings. These are “true,” not only in the sense that they contain no falsehood, but also that they are trustworthy & faithful words. So God’s judgments are just, in history or pertaining to sin. His justice is always above reproach to the enlightened mind.
Reward for Desiring God’s Word (10-11)
10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
cf. 119.72, 127. Greater than gold & sweeter than honey – that’s God’s Word! Better than profits & pleasure. Do we always desire God’s word like this, though? Consider Jerome, 5th century theologian who more readily desired the philosophers’ writings to the prophets’ writings:
Many years ago, when for the kingdom of heaven’s sake I had cut myself off from home, parents, sister, relations, and—harder still—from the dainty food to which I had been accustomed; and when I was on my way to Jerusalem to wage my warfare, I still could not bring myself to forego the library which I had formed for myself at Rome with great care and toil. And so, miserable man that I was, I would fast only that I might afterwards read Cicero. After many nights spent in vigil, after floods of tears called from my inmost heart, after the recollection of my past sins, I would once more take up Plautus. And when at times I returned to my right mind, and began to read the prophets, their style seemed rude and repellent. I failed to see the light with my blinded eyes; but I attributed the fault not to them, but to the sun. (Letter XXII – To Eustochium; see Nicene & Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd series, vol 6. Pg.35)
How often do we desire to watch the latest TV show or sports match more than Scripture? But “there is great reward” in keeping or observing the Word. But to keep it we must know it; and to know it we must read it; and to read we must deny ourselves the various activities & things which would steal our attention away from the word. “Great reward” when? Someday, sure, in heaven. But today also & absolutely as we live life with God.
Our Worship to God (12-14) – The Revelation of Our Hearts
One cannot think about the Law without being reminded of disobedience to the Law. This led David to intense prayer to YHWH, his Rock & Redeemer.
Cleanse Me (12)
12Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
“Declare me innocent” is the language of forgiveness. “Hidden faults” are either 1) Sins practiced in secret or 2) Sins we commit which are secret even to ourselves. Both are grievous, but surely the former is most grievous. One of the saddest sights is when a long-time brother or sister or even a minister is found out to be engrossed in secret sin. Those kinds of incidents cause grief & astonishment. Which sheds light on the first clause: “Who can understand error?” Who can unravel the deceitfulness of sin? However, the latter category – sins God sees in us which we fail to see in ourselves – which David has in mind. No doubt we fail to love as we ought, being humble, judging to harshly, hastily, &/or ignorantly; we perform some duty while neglecting another more urgent tho uninteresting one; we fail to forgive as God forgave us. The list goes on and we know these are sins in need of God’s forgiveness because we feel guilty when they are pointed out. What a multitude of sins are hidden faults, hidden from our memory & imperfectly enlightened conscience! With David let us plead with God, forgive, cleanse, declare me innocent!
Correct Me (13)
13Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
“Keep back your servant” thru the word. “Presumptuous sin” is also called sinning with a “high hand.” It is arrogant, self-willed sin. So grievous is this kind of sin that there was no atonement for it (cf. Numbers 15.30-31; Deuteronomy 17.12). This kind of evil was purged from the land. No wonder David prayed to be kept from this. And so also should we.
Commend Me (14)
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Let my words & thoughts be acceptable. David wanted what he thought & said to be pleasing to God. Here is a sweet prayer which every Christian ought to take up. Before words leave our mouth, we ought to meditate about it. In other words, think before you speak lest you say something which is unacceptable to God.
“Let the door of my lips by kept, that I utter no evil word, and the recesses of my heart be purged, that I think no evil thought” (Pulpit Commentary 130).
Natural theology (world), revelation (Word), spiritual experience (worship) – this is the successive course of this psalm. “He is wisest who reads both the world-book and the Word-book as two volumes of the same work, and feels concerning them, ‘My Father wrote them both.’” (Spurgeon) God still speaks – through the world He tells us He exists; thru His word He tells us He loves us; and in our worship we tell Him we love Him.