/ Psalm 19 / Andrew Kerr

What A Wonderful Word - Psalm 19

Introduction

There are few psalms in the Psalter that muse so loudly on the Bible (not forgetting Psalm 1 and 119) - yet there are parts of this hymn which are quite hard to pin down. My aim in this blog is to set the main parts out, then apply it to our minds, that it might set our souls on fire. Various suggestions have been made for section divisions and headings - to me it makes good sense to suck out marrow with three points.

The Light of the Word in Nature - Verses 1-6

Verse 1 lays out the premise and verses 2-6 flesh out the details: David makes it plain creation is God's 'Pop-Up Picture Book.' The verbs in the original signify non-stop, unceasing, on-going, continual declaration and proclaiming. This atmospheric 'motor-mouth' reveals the almighty Creator's handiwork.

The heavens are declaring the glory of God and the works of his hands the firmament is proclaiming - my translation

The middle section of the verse, which I highlight in bold, centralizes the thought of that 'the Glory of God is seen through what His hands have made'. The bookends of the verse, the start and end, complete the proposition, 'this is what the cosmos says!'

It seems clear enough that Paul is thinking of this text when the apostle expounds his 'general revelation thesis' in Romans 1:19-20, and later explicitly cites and applies Psalm 19 to the Gospel in Romans 10:18.

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

David then reflects further on the scope of general revelation: 24/7/365, both before and after the Flood, all mankind is splashed by words of divine knowledge, which gush forth like millions of gallons of the Falls at Niagara (85,000 cubic ft/sec or 2,400 cubic m/sec), verse 2.

Day to day pours out speech, and night to night makes-known knowledge.

Both verbs here are in the continual tense - a steady, all-season, stream of words like water floods the world.

Esperanto was invented and intended to be an international language. Today Spanish, at 420 million, is the 4th most commonly spoken language. Arabic comes 3rd at 560 million speakers. 890 million speak English, putting it in 2nd place. Mandarin, Chinese, takes top spot - at 1,030 million speakers it is the lingua franca for most people on the planet. Yet there are many, many, nations where none can understand it - that is not so, for general revelation. Every continent, nation and island can grasp the basic facts about God - their glorious Maker, good Provider and righteous Judge, to whom all will give account, as verses 3-4 make clear.

There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

Are there parts of the globe where there is no 4G coverage or a mobile phone signal is absent? That can never fairly be said of the Creator's communications.

David gives three pictures to emphasize the truth and drives facts home to hearts: like desert sun, from dawn to dusk, whose light and heat no Saharan or Mohavian escapes; like a magnificent, handsome, bridegroom strides from his house to meet his bride, through guest-lined streets; like an athlete in the arena chomping at the bit to race; out, out, out, comes this fantastic stream of light - it is this word of nature that leaves men without excuse, verses 4b-6.

In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy ...there is nothing hidden from its heat.

Application

First, for every creature, we have a duty to give thanks. God shows all men his glory and his goodness - we should add our voice to a grateful choir of praise.

Second, for every christian, don't think pagans have no light: it is true that sinners, in unrighteousness, suppress this knowledge of God. Yet, deep down, despite what skeptics claim, there are no real atheists.

Third, for every church, we must presuppose these facts: when you share the Gospel, or discuss with unbelieving classmates or neighbors, don't waste breath trying to prove that God exists - everyone knows He exists, along with a further significant body of truth. Be confident, when you witness, that the Bible sounds right even to a wicked heart: yet even that, in itself, without the Spirit's work, will not cause them to repent.

Fourth, for every child, learn to delight in God's world: when you go on vacation learn to see Your Maker in the mountains; as you gaze down the microscope study the LORD of the leaf; when you see through a telescope glorify the God of the Galaxies.

The Power of the Word in Scripture - Verses 7-11

The second section  contains a comprehensive, cohesive, description of God's special revelation in Scripture - the Law refers to the oracles that were entrusted to the Jews. It would be mistaken to think of TORAH, the word for Law, as purely legal bans or rules. The term 'Law' is broader: it signifies divine teaching and instruction, put forth from God's mouth, and sent out to reveal truth, in all the genres it was given.

Six attributes of the Law are mentioned in this portion: the Word of the LORD is perfect (complete, the finished article, with all parts dovetailed to fit perfectly - this is the Book of Books and Best Book to read) verse 7a; it is utterly trustworthy (God's promises are faithful, to be believed, and worthy of our trust and complete confidence) verse 7b; it is morally upright, verse 8a, and pure, verse 8b; it is clean (a word associated with God's realm of holiness), verse 9a, and truth, verse 9b; putting these things together brings great comfort to the Church - the Word is fully sufficient for all our spiritual needs, without mistake or error in the original autographs: it is to be fully trusted when reliably translated; the Word sets out the upright path in which Adam should have walked, the Last Adam stood, and the believer follows; the Word of God is sacred, Holy Scripture from the very mouth of God; the Word of God, far excels the value of human opinion - it has divine authority to bind the conscience and frame the life.

Six Powerful effects of the Law are also delineated by David: regeneration or conversion, verse 7a; instruction and comprehension, verse 7b; joy and enlightenment, verse 8; abiding forever and righteous altogether verse 9; once again the words signify continuing acts - the king is keen to stress exactly the ways in which the Word of God powerfully works: for those who receive the revelation that it gives, the beginning, middle, end and goal of godliness are fully provided for in God's Word which can never let them down. These sacred scrolls possess power to convert, instruct, mature and endure - this 'Textbook of God's Truth' has precious, incalculable, worth both for this world and the next.

Four other things can be noted: the clear name change from God (verses 1-6), to Covenant LORD (verses 7-10) - this revelation is both the possession and enjoyment of God's people who are in Covenant with Him; the great worth of His Word - more valuable than the finest gold to be mined, more tantalizingly sugary to the soul than honey dripping from the comb, protecting from danger when its warnings are taken on board, and really, rewarding, and satisfying, when put into practice in the life by strict observance of the truth.

Why does Holy Scripture possess these outstanding divine attributes? Among other things, this Holy Book was decreed by the Father, breathed-out by the Spirit, to make known God's mercy-to-sinners in Christ - the Son holds the key to God's triune treasury of truth.

The Work of the Word in Believers - Verses 12-14

The Psalmist is undone by exposure to the Word. Truth has done its work and cut its reader to the heart. He describes a quadruple effect of the Spirit's application of God's Book. If the Holy Scriptures are a scalpel to cut, they are also balm to cure, light to lead to Christ, and power to mend the gait till the reader walks right paths.

Firstly there is conviction in verse 13a: there are errors, oversights and blind-spots now exposed, that hitherto he had not discerned or understood - and there are things hidden in the heart which, in light of God's pure truth, he suspects may be corrupt. Confronted by this book, that is a mirror image of Christ, he can't think of any one who would own a long-enough line that could honestly plumb the depths of depravity in man's heart!

His hidden errors (or oversights) who can discern - acquit me from those things that are hidden - verse 13

Secondly there is contrition over sin - for this he seeks acquittal in verse 13b.

Third he prays for conquest in verse 14: he simply cannot rest with the covering of sins but aims at crime prevention for this genuine penitent - restraint from sins of insolent presumption or high-hand, and power to overcome indwelling, powerful, temptation which might lead him into rebellion.

Also from acts of insolence restrain your servant - let them not dominate me: then I will be mature (with all parts well-integrated) and innocent of great rebellion - verse 14

Fourth there is consecration in verse 15: the words of his mouth which issue from a musing heart he wishes to be pleasing and acceptable to the LORD - his Covenant Rock is both this believer's refuge and strength.

May they find acceptance in your presence - the words of my mouth and meditation of my heart - O Yahweh, my Rock and my Kinsman Redeemer.

He desires that His kinsman would pay the ransom price to effect deliverance - "Body and soul, redeem me Lord from sin!"

Application

It is a wonderful thing to delight in the glory of Natural Revelation, and to linger on the sweetness of Special Revelation - however, to know we have gained the intended spiritual benefit from a sermon, reading or mediation on truth, it is vital that we ask 'Has there been something of this inward, transforming, spiritual work?' Have I been awestruck by God's goodness and greatness until it casts me down to dust? Have I been awakened to my sin until my heart is broken and contrite? Have been drawn magnetically to the sweetness of Christ, my Redeemer and Rock, through whom God paid the ransom price - to justify a guilty sinner, to sanctify a guiltless saint, and to strengthen me to struggle to subdue indwelling passions and rebellion? Is my great desire to honor and glorify God through the life I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me? Have I been convicted, contrite, converted and consecrated that I might more and more be conformed to the Crucified Christ of the Word, unfolded expansively in Scripture? Such questions, surely, cause us to call down light and grace as we open the book at the desk or take our seat prayerfully in church!

Gracious LORD, I pray, in mercy, as I read and hear this text, let there be light and shed love abroad in my heart!

Conclusion

To begin, continue and finish such a miracle of grace, on any former child of wrath, is surely an effect of God's almighty truth - What A Wonderful Word!

Andrew Kerr

Andrew Kerr

Pastor of Knockbracken in Belfast - Husband of Hazel, Dad to Rebekah, Paul and Andrew, Lover of Skiing, Walker of Lucy (our Bernese Mountain Dog), with a Passion for OT - in Deep Need of Grace

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