Introduction: The idea of revelation pervades the Bible from beginning to end. Indeed, its very existence is dependent on the undeniable fact that all knowledge depends on the revelatory capacity of every object of existence. Some things, inanimate creatures in particular, do not reveal volitionally but contain clues to reality that may be discerned by intelligent investigation. Everything asks of its observer to discover, “How do I differ from other things?” “Do I serve a purpose in my specific setting?” “How did I get here?” Honest and careful investigation will yield answers to such question and can lead to intelligent extrapolation data to answer the question, “What does my existence say about the power that brought me into being and preserves my existence?” Animate beings reveal knowable data in the same way but also with this additional perspective: their demeanor reveals other pieces of knowledge about hunger, hurt, gentleness, danger, affability, and instinct. More direct and intentional revelation comes from rational beings. We speak our mind, open our hearts, disclose our affections, expose our weaknesses, express our opinions, and argue our case. Virtually all we know about rational beings, except for those amazing issues of human anatomy, comes by means of rational, volitional, intentional revelation. So it is with God. The entire creation reveals an amazing and virtually inexhaustible amount of information about the power, purpose, perspective, beauty, and infinite intelligence of God. His moral purposes and attributes of holiness, righteousness, justice, patience, lovingkindness are revealed through rational processes—the giving of laws, the explanation of providentially arranged events, unveiling the future, and giving clear instructions on the standards of final judgment. Inspiration consists of the selection of fit words to preserve accurately and meaningfully the disclosure, revelation, of divine thoughts. Psalm 19 gives us a glimpse into the manner by which God reveals himself through creation and word.
I. Verses 1-6 – The Heavens: What do they say to us about God? “All nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres.” This is most truly “my Father’s world.”
A. Note the language of purposeful communication given to the created order. In the investigation of this great variety of objects, if we will listen we will hear a message of unequivocal certainty. Heavens “declare,” sky “proclaims,” day “pours out speech,” night “reveals,” and there is not a place where their “voice is not heard” for their “words” go “to the end of the world.” He is sure that all that God made necessarily contains a message from him that should be understood in a rational way by all observers.
B. David recalls the initial days of creation in order to point to divine wisdom in the managing of it all. On the first day of creation, God called into being “the heavens and the earth.” On that day also God separated the light from the darkness making them operational for day and night. Not till the fourth day did God create all the heavenly bodies that would be light-bearers. On the second day, God made a separation in the mass of matter that he had created establishing the “heavens” as distinct from the earth. (Genesis 1:1-8). This separation into earth and sky manifests the glory of God. Even before all the other things—plant life, planets and stars and sun and moon, animal life both in sea and on the land and in the air, and the crown of all, Mankind—the sky itself as a separate entity from the earth establishes the divine glory. We can make neither dirt, nor water, nor atmosphere, but God created them all and gave them distinct spheres of operation even while maintaining some degree of interpenetration each of the others.
C. Night and day in their regular interchange providing light for labor and dark for rest gave a pattern that has not altered since its first institution. It is a rhythm necessary to sustain patterns of life that proceed with purpose, order, and planning. They serve as a “measuring line” (4) throughout the world. The rhythm of night and day shifts predictably throughout the year and then that same rhythm is duplicated the next year. Not only do night and day give a regular rhythm by which lives can be ordered but the gradual shifts in proportion of light and darkness over each twenty-four hour period make for seasons. We can predict the shortest day of the year and the longest day, the two equinoxes, the summer solstice and the winter solstice, and the sunrise and sunset of every day in between. Eclipses of the moon and of the sun, the appearance of comets, and seasons of falling stars all may be measured when we learn their patterns. These ratios, measurements, manifestations of symmetry, teleological relationships, and awe-inspiring variety come not from an irrational natural determinism of blind physical forces but are the demonstration of an infinitely intelligent, perfectly purposeful, and indescribably beautiful Creator. “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. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19. 20).
D. The Psalmist focuses particularly on the Sun – (Verses 4c – 6)
- In his poetic description he looks upon the heavens as providing a tent for the sun. From the perspective of any observer, it emerges as if from his tent in which it has slept at night. From this tent of the heaven it emerges to begin each day and runs its course.
- In it splendor as “the great light to rule the day,” he likens it to a bridegroom who is fully arrayed in his wedding clothes as the dominant feature of each day. The rest of the heavens, all of the bridegroom’s attendants, recede to a position of virtual invisibility when the bridegroom comes forth.
- He likens it to a “strong man” with a course to run; he does it with a full display of his strength throughout its race. It is what he was made to do and he does it with joy.
- As a symbol of the omnipresence of God, The Psalmist views the sun’s influence as pervasive, “there is nothing hidden from its heat.”
E. Matthew Henry makes this comment: “From the excellency of the work we may easily infer the infinite perfection of its great author. From the brightness of the heavens we may collect that the Creator is light; their vastness of extent bespeaks his immensity, their height his transcendency and sovereignty, their influence upon this earth his dominion, and providence, and universal beneficence: and all declare his almighty power, by which they were at first made, and continue to this day according to the ordinances that were then settled.”
II. Verses 7-14 – The Law of the Lord: What does it say to us about God? Even as within the moral attributes of God we find his true excellence and glory, so his Law is a clearer expression of his true beauty as it unfolds the implications of his holiness. Also, this revelation in its converting power is more necessary to true life than is our daily food energized by the sun. The biblical rhythm of law and gospel is one of the most prominent themes of Scripture and a proper integration of these two is the key to a large part of doctrinal, as well as spiritual, perception.
A. God’s revealed law benefit the soul transformed by grace in several ways. A particular trait of the law is mentioned along with one impact of that trait. (Verses 7-9)
- Perfect – As 2 Timothy 3:17 says about the Scriptures and the man of God, perfection as a trait of Scripture causes its believer to move toward the maturity and perfected holiness that will be completed in heaven. The perfection of the law as a standard of righteousness does not change but constantly calls us to change, thus “restoring our soul” to the divine image (Ephesians 4:24).
- Sure – God’s testimony to us about his nature, his decree, his world, his determination for judgment, his remedy for sin—in short, all those truths of divine revelation prepare for a life of purpose and true worship here and for eternal life hereafter. Wise philosophers without divine revelation have not known these things, but even the simple in the contrivances of this world may know God and his truth through his testimonies.
- Right – The precepts of the Lord, that is, all those things he requires of us in our thoughts and actions toward our neighbors and toward him are right, according to all principles of goodness and holiness. They are not to be changed in light of time and culture, but transcend all permutations of human society. Those who rejoice in the good, find food for their joy in his precepts.
- Pure – Since God is light and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), his commandments allow us to see out of the darkness and shadows of this sinful world and our sinful hearts. His commandments are unblemished, unalloyed by compromise, untainted with evil of any sort. The eyes of the human soul, therefore, are given a way to bring to light the evil within as well as without. It leads to mourning for sin, repentance from sin, and an endeavor after new obedience to God.
- Clean – The fear of the Lord is clean. Those precepts and commands that show us that God is to be feared both for his mercies and his judgments are clean. True knowledge cannot be divorced from fear of the Lord (cf. Proverbs 3:5-7; 9:10; 10:27; cf Ecclesiastes 12:13). The fear of the Lord endures forever, for it incorporates the primary reflex of standing in the presence of absolute holiness, and does not exclude joyful gratitude, sober knowledge, and perfect satisfaction.
- True – Because God’s rules reflect his character, his decreed purpose for the creature, and his holy prerogative they are all consistent with the One who is absolute truth and cannot lie (John 14:6; Titus 1:2). His rules, therefore, are not arbitrary but reflections of absolute reality. Not only are they factually true, they are righteous, consistent with unvarnished equity at every point.
B. The law as God’s truth has deep desirability for the soul transformed by grace. (Verse 10).
- Their value transcends that of any earthly standard of riches. Material wealth cannot compare to the richness of the soul that understands and loves God’s law. The one who grasps such value can say, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me” (Psalm 119:97, 98).
- There is sensible delight for the one who has tasted God’s goodness in his righteousness. David wrote, “sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” The author of Psalm 119 wrote, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” This language of sensibility reflects a state in which both the mind and the affections are convinced of and approve a biblical idea as if the senses themselves had recorded it on the consciousness as an invincible and indelible fact. So, when one tastes the sweetness of redemptive truth it makes the kind of impression on the affections that the taste of honey does to the taste buds.
C. How the law creates a desire for godliness in the soul transformed by grace. (Verses 11-14)
- God’s perfect law warns. The first law threatened, “In the day you eat thereof, you shall surely die.” It was so, and ever since the pervasive truth placarded over all commandments is, “The wages of sin is death.”
- God’s perfect law gives discernment. Without the law, we would hardly know what to classify as sin. With the law, however, the soul begins to discern how pervasively sin has saturated the affections and the will. Paul saw clearly the operations of the law in the unsaved as well as the saved person. “Apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. . . . Through the commandment, [sin] might become sinful beyond measure” (Romans 7:8-10, 13). Later, as a regenerate man, Paul saw this clearly as he came to “delight in the law of God, in my inner being” while at the same time the perfect purity of that law still operated in such a way as to make him discern that “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:22, 18).
- God’s perfect law hinders the believer from habitual sin and its powers of progressive corruption (Verse 13). Though we find that through the law’s purity and our indwelling sin, we do not match the righteousness of the law perfectly in this present flesh, but yet we may be kept back from overt and presumptuous violations of God’s holy law. God’s Spirit operates to remove the sins of the flesh from us and to shape us more and more according to the spiritual standard of the law. The condemning power of the law is gone; it has been fulfilled by Christ. Now by the Spirit the law’s true spiritual intent (Romans 7:4-6, 12), may have ever greater sway in producing holiness in us (Galatians 5:13, 14, 18, 22, 23).
- God’s perfect law trains us to be well-pleasing to God. Trained by the mandates, rules, principles, and statutes of God’s revealed law, one may speak and meditate in accord with divine holiness, growing ever in Christ-likeness to be well pleasing to God. We can “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him” (Colossians 1:10). By training the mind according to God’s truths, he will “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 13:21).
- God’s perfect law brings the sinner to justification. [second part of each verse, 11-14]
- The redeemed person finds great reward and blessing through Jesus Christ in shaping his life according to God’s law as reflected in the gospel of Christ (James 1:23).
- “Hidden fault,” those sins so subtle and deeply embedded in the soul that we have not yet attained a capacity to discern them will not condemn the justified person. From these all these he has been, and will continue to be, washed and cleansed and justified (1 John 1:7, 9, 2:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), even as he has presently escaped from grosser violations of the law.
- Sin in any form does not have dominion over us, for, by God’s Spirit, we have renounced our love for sin, have trusted Christ and view his righteousness as the goal of our lives. Informed by the law as seen in the hands of Christ, and empowered by the Spirit, we now present ourselves to God as alive from the dead and as lovers of true righteousness (Romans 6:12-14). Justified by Christ, we are blameless and innocent of any transgression; raised with Christ to new life, we eschew all of the things for which Christ shed his blood; sanctified by the Spirit we now do not give ourselves to impurity and lawlessness but as “slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification” (Romans 6:18, 19).
- Led by the righteousness of the law, through the Spirit of God, to the completed work of Christ we now may address the Lord as “my rock and my redeemer” (14b).