A Bible Lesson on Psalm 19

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This is a lesson outside the current ISSL lesson rotation on Psalm 19.  This wonderful Psalm of David considers and offers praise for God’s general revelation in nature and His special revelation, first in the holy Scriptures and looking ahead, in the Word that became flesh and dwelt among us, His Son Jesus.

Psa 19:1  To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

David rightly says “look up human, it’s obvious from the night time sky that there is a Creator of great majesty and power.”   The heavens declare His glory and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.  But human beings by nature want to hide from and suppress this truth.  That’s what Paul points to in Romans 1.  In some times and places, humans have foolishly worshipped the sun, moon, and stars.  In our day, humans deny the Creator His place by looking at the order in the universe and insisting that it’s really nothing, completely the product of chance.  Or people play silly astrology games, seeing the natural order, but acting as if it’s some impersonal force to be manipulated and exploited.  People of the Book look up, see the handiwork of God, understand something of His great power and person, and give Him praise.  That is only reasonable.

2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

The regularity of days and nights “pours out” or more literally “gushes forth” like a continuous sweet spring of gracious revelation.  God’s general revelation in nature is not intermittent, it’s there every day and night.  It’s available to every human being.  It is sufficient to inspire any person who really considers this world we live in to seek after the Creator and inquire about Him.

3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.

So there is this wonderful irony.  The heavenly bodies don’t “say” a thing in English (or German, or Spanish, or any other human language)  but at the same time their voices ring out across the whole universe.  It’s completely plain and obvious what they are saying.  No one can claim he or she hasn’t heard.  The heavenly bodies have spoken, the regularity of earthly rotation has spoken, the order of all that is has spoken.  If they had spoken in human words, only some would have been able to hear and understand at a single moment.  But every human being hears their voices all of the time.  We may put out fingers in our ears and pretend not to hear, but

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,

Their voice goes out, their cry goes out through all the earth, to the end of the world.  Again, the Apostle Paul wrote

Rom 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.

20 For 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. So they are without excuse.

David’s attention turns now specifically to the sun and its testimony to the Creator.  He pictures the heavens or the nighttime as a tent from which the sun daily emerges.

5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

The figure here is one of a joyful universe gladly giving praise to its Creator.  The sun arises every day, ready to go, full of the enthusiasm of a young man on his wedding day.  The sun is exuberant, yet completely obedient to its Maker.  It’s in the place set for it by God and it runs in the path that has been assigned to it.  From the perspective of man, it runs from one end of the earth to the other and

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.

There is nothing hid from its heat.  This picture is the pivot of the Psalm.  There is no escaping the brilliant penetrating light and heat that the sun produces.  The testimony of the natural world to the glory of God is inescapable.  It’s hot like the noonday sun in the desert, but it’s not the whole story.  It leaves man without excuse for failing to seek God, but it doesn’t tell us anywhere near what there is to know about God.  David gives us a signal to that clear back in verse 1 in the name he uses for God.  In verse 1, the Hebrew is “El” the most generic of the Old Testament names used for the God of the Bible.  Beginning, now in verse 7, when David pivots to turn from the general revelation of God to His revelation of Himself in the word, he changes to the personal name of the God of the Bible, the LORD, the I AM, the self-existent One, Jehovah, Yahweh.  What is generally and constantly available to all people everywhere is more than enough to cause them to seek God, but it isn’t enough to bring them wholly to Him.  That is the work of God’s word.

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, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.

The Psalm says “law,” “testimony,” “precepts,” “commandment,” “fear,” “rules.”  These are all different ways of talking about the same thing.  “law” is a comprehensive word for the whole of God’s revealed will.  “testimony” emphasizes that it is attested to by God Himself.  It’s He that authenticates it.  (Who else could be in the position of doing so?)  “precepts” and “commandment” emphasize that God speaks to us with precision and with authority.  He tells us plainly and carefully how things ought to be with us.  He provides definite rules to govern our thoughts and actions.  His word ought to cause us to respond in humility and reverence, in the “fear” of God.  His “rules” or judgments or ordinances refer to His pronouncements as judge over human affairs.   These are all facets of His holy word.  It is all, every bit of it beneficial and desirable.

God’s word is “perfect.”  It is inerrant.  It’s without the slightest flaw, fault or failing.  It’s sufficient and complete.  God’s word is “sure.”  It’s firm and it’s confirmed.  It’s faithful as it reflects the fidelity and loyalty of God Himself.  God’s word is “right.”  It’s straightforward and just.  It’s morally straight.  It’s not crooked or perverse.  It encourages the godly to be upright and morally straight.  God’s word is “pure.”  It’s radiant.  It’s unadulterated and it produces a “clean” fear of the LORD.  It produces a purity of life that lasts.  God’s word is “true.”  It is dependable.  It’s trustworthy.  It reflects God’s own integrity.  It is true in principle and it is verifiable in practice.  It gives us an honest picture of the way things are.  And God’s word is “righteous.”  It is righteous every bit of it, all of the same righteous piece.  Contrast these characteristics of God’s word with man’s word, what men say to each other.  Stack them up against the compromise, insincerity, and half-truths that characterize human interchanges.

This wonderful word does wonderful things in those that properly esteem it and make it the delight of their lives.  The word of God revives the soul.  You and I can become sick at heart, spiritually ailing or exhausted.  It’s the word of God that restores us, that brings strength, comfort and health.  Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul.   He does so through the ministry of His word and the ministry of His Spirit.  The word of God makes wise the simple.  You and I are naturally gullible.  In ourselves, we are easily led astray into error and harm by whoever happens to be blabbing.  God’s word matures us and grows us up.  God’s word rejoices the heart.  It produces real peace and tranquility as we mediate on it, roll it around in our minds, savor it.  God’s word enlightens the eyes.  It puts life in the eyes of the believer.  It’s evident that there is “somebody home” in the countenance of a Christian believer.  Walk along the sidewalk and look into the dull glazed eyes of the masses of people who have had no real exposure to eternal truth.  There is no light in the eyes.  But God’s word gives light.  And God’s word endures forever.  It is immutable.  It changes not with the time or with human fashion.  There is nothing transitory or passing about it.  It, like God Himself, stands absolutely steady.

Mat 5:18  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Mat 24:35  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

In light of what God’s word is and does, David says

10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Do we really need to be told this?  Really?  God’s holy word is more desirable than chrome, more important than a chocolate milk shake?!  If we take seriously what Psalm 1 and verses 7-9 have said, this is almost absurd.   We’ve just read this magnificent, substantial statement about the nature of God’s word.  How could it possibly be compared to temporal things, even ones we like?  True enough, gold and honey are at the top of their categories, but it almost seems that this is either irony or is meant as a statement that what the word produces in God’s people is so excellent as to be evident to even those of the world fixated on chrome and milkshakes.  No one with any sense, eyes opened by the word, would be weighing it against such trivial things.

Verses 11-14 are the counterpart of the last part of verse 6.  There is nothing hidden from the natural light and heat of the sun that reveals God’s glory to all.  And God’s word penetrates to the very core of who we are.  Meditation on the revealed will of God translates to prayer for cleansing from all defects of character and transgressions of conduct, and flight to God for His mercy.

11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

The revealed word of God warns us.  It tells us what is consistent with the God who called all into existence.  It tells us what really is good and profitable.  Of course, to get crosswise with that is to choose harm.  And to live consistent with the revealed will of God is to live in line with the basics of how things are and should be.  There is great reward.  James Boice wrote ” … the world about us is clever and persuasive, and there is nothing except the Bible to stand against its deceptions”  John Bunyan said “This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.”

12 Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

But you and I are blind to ourselves.  The errors of others we can see, but our own we cannot see.  Our hidden faults are hidden from ourselves but surely not from our great God.  Only as God Himself through His Spirit and word works humility in us and shows us ourselves, is there hope that we will be able to see ourselves.  Even then, as Calvin put it “… Satan has so many devices by which he deludes and blinds our minds, that there is not a man who knows the hundredth part of his sin.”  All you and I can do is flee to God for mercy, recognizing our need, and praying for Him to change us and to keep us.

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.

David ends this Psalm, a grateful servant, expressing longing to be truly right with His God.  His fitting response to the wonderful revelation of God’s majesty in nature and the purity of His eternal word, is to offer back his sacrifice of his own words.  May they be acceptable, O LORD, the I AM, my rock and my redeemer, our great God, the steady and merciful One who has pledged Himself to us.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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