Scripture Text – Psalm 19
Two quotations help to introduce this psalm. The first is from the German philosopher Immanuel Kant:
“Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing wonder and awe, the more often and the more seriously reflection concentrates upon them: the starry heaven above me and the moral law within me.”
The second is from the well-known Christian writer C. S. Lewis:
“I take this [Psalm 19] to be the greatest poem in The Psalms and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”
Many church lectionaries assigns this psalm to be read on Christmas Day, when the “Sun of Righteousness” came into the world (Malachi 4:2) and the “Living Word” was laid in the manger (John 1:14). The emphasis in the psalm is on God’s revelations of Himself in creation, Scripture, and the human heart.
The Worlds Around Us – God the Creator (Psalm 19:1–6)
The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, And rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, And its circuit to the other end; And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
David focused on the heavens above him, especially the circuit of the sun; but there are many worlds in God’s creation. They include the earth beneath our feet, the plant and animal worlds on earth, in the skies and in the waters, the human world, the world of rocks and crystals, worlds visible to the human eye, and worlds so small we need special equipment to see them. World famous biologist Edward O. Wilson claims there may be as many as 1.6 million species of fungi in the world today, 10,000 species of ants, 300,000 species of flowering plants, between 4,000 and 5,000 species of mammals, and approximately 10,000 species of birds. But these large numbers pale into insignificance when you start examining the heavens, as David did, and begin to calculate distances between stars in light years. David knew none of this modern scientific data, and yet when he pondered the heavens, he was overwhelmed by the glory of the Lord.
The Jewish people were forbidden to worship the objects in the heavens (Exodus 20:4–5; Deuteronomy 4:14–19; 5:8–9), nor were they allowed to practice astrology (Isaiah 47:13–14; Jeremiah 10:1–5). They worshiped the Creator, not the creation (Romans 1:25). The existence of creation implied the existence of a Creator, and the nature of the creation implied that He was wise enough to plan it and powerful enough to execute His plan and maintain what He had made. So complex a universe demands a Creator who can do anything, who knows everything, and who is present everywhere. But even more, David knew that God was speaking to the inhabitants of the earth by means of His creation. They didn’t have to worship God’s creation to be in awe of it! Creation is a “wordless book” that everybody can read because it needs no translation. God speaks through creation day after day and night after night; His speech pours out silently, abundantly, universally.
In Romans 10:18, Paul quoted verse 4 of this Psalm as part of his explanation of why Israel rejected the Gospel and what this rejection did to the nation. The Jewish people could never say that they had not heard God’s message, because Psalm 19:4 says that the whole world has heard. Therefore, both Gentiles and Jews stand guilty before God and need to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ, and we must take the salvation message to them (Romans 10:1–15). Paul quoted from the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, which uses the word “sound” (meaning voice) instead of the Hebrew word for “line,” but the sense is the same. Some translators use the word “influence” instead of “line.” Whichever word is used, God’s voice of power in creation prepares the way for His voice of grace in the Gospel. When Paul preached to Gentiles, he started with creation and then moved into the Gospel message (Acts 14:14–18; 17:22–31). Phillips Brooks gave the first instructions about God to the now well-known, Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, and she replied that she had always known there was a God but didn’t know what His name was. Our task is to tell the world that His name is Jesus (Acts 4:12).
David was an outdoorsman and often watched the sunrise and sunset, and what he saw day after day reminded him of a bridegroom leaving the marriage pavilion to claim his bride, and a vigorous athlete running a race. The first image speaks of glory (the groom was richly attired), love and anticipation, while the second speaks of power and determination.
But in spite of this universal message that pours out day and night to the entire world, most people ignore it and reject God because they want to live as they please (Romans 1:18–22). The often repeated question, “Are people lost who have never heard about Jesus?” has two answers:
- Yes, they are lost, because God speaks to them all day long through His creation, and they refuse to listen;
- What are we/you doing about getting the message to these people?
To Be Continued