A Sermon Transcript: Psalm 19
The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
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.
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.
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.
The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
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.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Heavenly Father, I am humbled by your majesty, your splendor, your glory as revealed to us in creation. I am astounded at the words of David when he says the heavens declare your glory and the skies proclaim your handiwork. Open our hearts, our minds, and our souls to see the truth of Psalm 19. May the words of David proclaim with certainty the Work of our God and the Word of our God in our hearts. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
It was December 24th, 1968. One of the most turbulent and tragic years in American history quickly drew to a close. It was an eventful 365 day period that included the assassinations of both Martin Luther King Jr and Robert F. Kennedy, and also a silent demonstration against racial discrimination by two African American athletes at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City.
In a sea of pain, sorrow, and trials, one historical event provided a fitting opportunity to lift both the spirits and eyes of America from tragedy to triumph.
Christmas Eve, 1968… millions around the world were watching and listening as three Americans piloting the Apollo 8 spacecraft became the first humans to orbit another world, the moon.
One astronaut recalls how NASA had told the astronauts that on Christmas Eve they would have the largest audience that had ever listened to a human voice and the only instructions given was to do something appropriate.
And so, as their command module floated above the lunar surface, the astronauts beamed back images of the moon and Earth and took turns reading the first ten verses from the book of Genesis.
As the astronauts found their journey into space appropriate to include the reading of the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” so David, the author of Psalm 19 finds it appropriate to ascend to the loftiest heights of the universe in order to praise the maker and creator who spoke all of creation into being.
David begins his psalm saying, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).
Now, before we move any further it is important for us to recognize that David is about to compose a hymn, a song, intended for singing to God in Psalm 19. In fact, our English word psalm originates from the greek word psalmos, which is really just a translation of the Hebrew word mizmar, which is a term used for a song sung to musical accompaniment. Psalms were songs or hymns sung to God and are found throughout both the Old Testament and New Testament.
In Exodus 15, after the Lord parted the Red Sea and saved the people of Israel from the pursuing Egyptian army, Moses and Myriam led the people in singing victory songs.
1 Chronicles 6:31 tells us David put men in charge of the music, in the house of the Lord after the ark came to rest there. The following verse informs us “They ministered with music before the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, until Solomon built the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. They performed their duties according to the regulations laid down for them” (6:32).
The purpose of the book of psalms was to aid the musicians in ministering to the people of Israel and to worship God. The book of psalms was a service hymnal for the people of Israel to worship their God through prayer and praise.
In Jewish Literature, Psalms is entitled “the book of Praises” and this title most likely derives from the word Hebrew word “Hallelujah” which means “Praise Yahweh” … and it is a word exclusively found in the book of Psalms.
So it is that David, the writer of Psalms 19, is penning one more entry into the great service hymnal for the people of Israel. David is writing a song to be sung with musical accompaniment before the tabernacle, the tent of meeting, and in the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, and it is a great song indeed. As David writes Psalm 19, I wish to highlight for you three separate movements within this psalm. Three distinct themes that emerge from this song that create a beautiful, rich, and tremendous tapestry of praise, theology, and honor to God.
This morning, David will share with us:
1. The Work of God (Psalm 19:1-6)
2. The Word of God (Psalm 19:7-11)
3. The Wonder of Man (Psalm 19:12-14)
The Work of God (Psalms 19:1-6)
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 1:1).
David emphatically states that the heavens declare the glory of God! The heavens and the sky are like megaphones that shout the glory of God and announces the work of his hands to all.
The word “Heavens” in the Hebrew text that David used carries a variety of meanings with it. Heaven does not merely refer to one specific location but a variety of locations dependent on the context in which we find this word in Scripture.
In 2 Samuel 18:9, the psalmist David’s own son Absalom is caught in the branches of a tree by his hair and is suspended between the heaven and the earth.
So it is that heaven is the space where life exists suspended above the earth. Where butterflies and birds soar through the air, they soar through the heaven.
Now, in addition to this description, the heavens also include an area farther removed from the earth’s surface. Where the Richmond airport ascends passengers into the lofty clouds, so Scripture speaks of this region also known as heaven. From this area of heaven comes such things as frost, snow, fire, rain, dust, and hail.
Isaiah 55:10, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout.”
Deuteronomy 28:12, “The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.”
This realm of heaven is God’s storehouse and God is the dispenser of the stores. Heaven is the great storehouse where the seasons are unleashed upon the earth.
Heaven also represents the realm in which the sun, moon, and stars are located,
Genesis 1:14, “And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons,[a] and for days and years,”
Heavens can also mean our entire realm of existence, the entire creation that God has created.
Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Finally, heaven is the dwelling place of God where he most fully makes known his presence.
So it is that David declares the heavens, the space between earth and the clouds where butterflies, hummingbirds, fruit bats, and winged creatures of all kinds inhabit… this space declares and proclaims the glory of God.
So it is that David declares the storehouses of rain, frost, snow, and hail proclaim the glory of God. These storehouses are unleashed in seasonal cycles resulting from the yearly orbit of the earth around the sun. These heavens declare the glory of God.
So it is that David declares the heavens, the sun, moon, stars, and all of creation declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim his handiwork.
The heavens are a mouthpiece to speak of the glory of God.
What exactly is the glory of God?
Hebrew word Kavod means majesty or splendor. The glory of God is Yahweh’s unique majesty of being as revealed to man. It is the manifestation of his deity which the creature, humanity, should recognize with reverent adoration. The glory of God is his unique deity that separates the creation from the creator and causes us to worship God. It is the internal tug of our heart to exclaim “holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God almighty, who was and is and is to come.” It is interesting to note the Hebrew term for God used here in Psalm 19:1 essentially means “the mighty one” and it is a name associated with majesty and power. Thus the glory of God is his majesty and power on display as seen through creation and evidenced in the very name written by David.
David uses the heavens, in their vastness, beauty, wonder, and awe to draw a parallel, an impressive metaphor, to draw our attention to the majesty and greatness of the mighty one God.
All of creation proclaims the glory of God, his majesty, and splendor, and divine being that commands and demands our worship.
Did you know?
As the Earth orbits the sun, it completes one rotation every 23.9 hours providing us with our daily routine. It takes 365.25 days for the earth to complete one trip around the sun providing us with our yearly calendar.
The earth is also tilted at 23.4 degrees and it is this tilt that causes our yearly cycle of seasons in addition to the heating of the earth’s atmosphere from the sun.
Speaking of atmosphere, it not only shields us from much of the harmful radiation coming from the sun but also protects us from meteoroids, many of which burn up in the atmosphere before they can strike the surface.
Speaking of the sun, it would take 1.3 million earths to fill the volume of the Sun. At the core of the sun, the temperature is about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit.
Our sun is one of at least 100 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy. The Milky Way is part of the Local Group, a neighborhood consisting of more than 30 galaxies that are gravitationally bound to each other. Scientists calculate that there are at least 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, each one brimming with stars.
We attempt in our finite minds to contemplate the sheer vastness of the heavens, and of course, we cannot even fathom the magnitude of the universe. We, as simple man, merely stand in awe of the starry skies, for they are the divine speech that goes out to humanity.
Creation is the evidence of the creator, just as a painting is the evidence of a painter.
However, this creation is a masterful stroke of creativity, genius, majesty, power, and glory, unlike anything that is humanly capable.
This creation, David says in Psalm 19:2, “Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Psalms 19:2). He continues saying, “there is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.”
Creation is a constant communication not heard with audible words of a literal nature. Each morning the sun rises and each evening the sun sets, not with audible words but with clear communication revealing its presence and begging the question of its origin.
David continues saying, “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. 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” (Psalms 19:3-5).
The sun is the supreme metaphor and chief witness of God’s glory. He singles out the sun and personifies it as a king or hero whose home the creator has fixed in the heavens.
Now it is interesting that David uses the sun a witness to God’s glory because in the day he is writing this hymn pagan religions deified the sun, moon, and stars. David says, no, the sun is not a deity, a god, to be worshiped, the sun and the stars in heaven are merely a tapestry in which God is revealing himself to us. David says you want to worship the sun? I want to worship the God who made the two great lights (Genesis 1:16) – the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night – and the stars.
Do you want to worship the sun? I want to worship the God who said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” Psalms 19:6 concludes the work of God saying, “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.”
Just as the sun heats the earth, and the earth’s rotation bears the full heat of the sun, allowing no one to escape from its heat, so the universal revelation of God and his existence, his glory, his majesty is laid bare before all of mankind. As the sun bears on all men and women, all of the nations bear witness to the work of God.
The apostle Paul declares in Romans 1:18-20,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 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.”
The truth is suppressed by the unrighteous, and that truth is the evidence of God which Paul says is plain to us because God has revealed it to us. He has revealed His invisible attributes, which are on display, his power, and divine nature which are clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the “things that have been made.” Paul then concludes they are without excuse.
We are without excuse. Mankind is without excuse. The work of God is evident in creation. The heavens declare the glory of God. The universe proclaims his handiwork. The invisible attributes of God are on display, revealing his power and divine nature to all. The sun itself is the supreme metaphor of God’s glory, and its light and heat are inescapable, just as the truth of God’s existence is inescapable in creation.
Man will be accountable to God for either accepting or suppressing the truth of His existence.
To those who suppress the truth Paul says the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
The Work of God causes man to either accept or reject the truth of God.
God is a God of truth, and a God of wrath. However, God is also a gracious God, loving and merciful who Paul also writes in 1 Timothy 2:4, is a God “who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
It is with this desire, that David acknowledges in Psalm 19:1-6 that the Work of God testifies to the existence of our creator and proclaims his majesty, but also that the Word of God reveals to us the God who is both creator and Lord.
The Word of God (Psalms 19:7-11)
There is a profound subject change here in verse 7, where David moves from the Work of God to the Word of God.
Psalms 19:1-6 established the work of God in creation and the general revelation of the majesty and glory of God as witnessed through his eternal power and divine nature that created the heavens and the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars.
But now, in Psalms 19:7, David changes from the Work of God to the Word of God. He says, “the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
The Word of God is the subject for the next four verses, but it is not the mighty name of God used in Psalms 19:1, it is the proper name “Lord” in English, Yahweh in Hebrew. The name pictures God as the one who is self-existing and causes existence to occur, the God who engages in a personal relationship with his creation and the means in which he enters into this personal relationship with his people is through His Word, the Word of God.
David first says God relates to his people through his perfect Word which is “reviving the soul.” Psalms 23 describes the Lord as our shepherd; who leads us beside still waters and as David personally states, “restores my soul.” It is the words of God that bring restoration to the soul. How many times do we find comfort, solace, encouragement, and soul refreshment as the words of Scripture are read, recited, taught, applied, and taken to heart? We find refuge in the words of God, revival in our souls when the truths of God are recited at funerals, weddings, and on the Lord’s Day, even here this morning.
It is the words of God that bring revival to the soul, because 2 Timothy 3:15 says it is the sacred writings, “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
“The Word of God is perfect, reviving to the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalm 19:7).
In Psalms 19:8, David reveals that the precepts of God are right and produce joy in our hearts. With joy we receive the governing commands of our God. With joy we receive our divine orders, the “commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.”
It is with joy that we receive the words of our Lord because before our salvation we were dead in our trespasses. Before our salvation in Christ, we were blinded to the saving words of our Lord. We were dead in our sins as Ephesians 2 says. We cried out like the Psalmist in Psalms 13:3 saying,“Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death.” But God is our Yahweh, God is our salvation, and faith in Jesus Christ our savior brought revival to our souls, sight to our eyes, and scales fell off of our eyes and now we look at the commands of our God, our saving Lord Yahweh, and we receive with joy the words of our Lord because now we have the mind of Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person doesn’t accept the things of the Spirit of God, they are folly to him.” But we have the mind of Christ and our eyes are enlightened, we are no longer dead in our sins and trespasses and so we rejoice because the commands of our Lord are right and pure.
Furthermore, David writes in Psalm 19:9 saying, “the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.”
In other words, David says the aim of the law, the purpose of the law, the purpose of the Genesis narratives, the tabernacle in Exodus, the Levitical dietary laws and sacrificial system, the purpose of the law is to implant reverence or worship for God into your heart. Out of the heart, Jesus said in Matthew 5:19, “come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” And so the fear of the Lord is heart transplant surgery. The fear of the Lord replaces the fear of aimless, purposeless, unrighteous living worshipping the creation and suppressing the truth of God’s existence and our relationship to him. God accomplishes this heart surgery through His Scripture.
Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Though we are saved, we are still imperfect, and God is making us clean through His word, and through our fear of Him. His rules are true and right and so our obedience to the rules, to the Scriptures, brings about correction and reproof and training in righteousness. The fear of the Lord is heart transplant surgery.
David continues in Psalms 19:10, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”
The Word of God is to be more treasured than riches because it is only through the words of God that we live. Moses spoke to the people in Deuteronomy 8 saying God fed you with manna when you were in the wilderness that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Jesus quoted these same words when he was tempted in the wilderness. We live, walk, and breathe each and every day because God has commanded and allowed us to live and breathe and walk each day. Riches are fleeting and temporal, just as our lives are as well, we should desire the words of Him who is eternal and has promised us eternal life. Psalms 119:127, “Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.”
In addition, the psalm continues “The words of the Lord are more pleasurable than even the finest tastes” (19:10).
Proverbs 24:13-14 says, “My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”
The wisdom of God is sweet to taste and is such to our soul, providing comfort and answers to life’s many perplexing and difficult questions. If you find it, if you find wisdom the proverb says “there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”
David concludes his musical song, his worship hymn, concerning The Word of God saying in Psalms 19:11, “Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
Finally, David recounts the many benefits of the word of God and says by them is both blessing and warning to the servant of God. If one does not heed the word of the Lord there is great warning, but if one does keep the commands of the Lord, there is great reward, great blessing.
Deuteronomy 28:1-2 gives us a backdrop for David’s words.
“And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.”
Deuteronomy 28:15 says, “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.
And so David finishes recounting the Word of God as revealed to mankind in the Law of the Lord. In Psalms 19:1-6 we saw the Work of God, now David concludes the Word of God declaring it is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true. The Word of God revives the soul, makes wise the simple, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures forever, and is righteous altogether. It is to be more desired than gold, and sweeter to taste than the finest honey. By the Word of the Lord is mankind warned not to disobey, and blessed when they do obey. Finally, Psalms 19 moves from the Work of God to the Word of God and now to the wonder of the author David himself speaking on behalf of mankind, Psalms 19:12-14 illustrates to us the Wonder of Man.
The Wonder of Man (Psalm 19:12-14)
In light of the great work of God and the great Word of God…
David is so overwhelmed with the majesty and power of God and the Word of God that is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, that it pierces to his very soul. This is the power of the word of God, even penetrating the human authors that God divinely inspired to write the word of God.
Hebrews 4:12-13 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
David is so overcome with the word of God piercing his soul, discerning his thoughts and the intentions of his heart. David knows fully well that “no creature is hidden from its sight, and all are naked and exposed to the eyes of God to whom we must give account” … like the Sun exposing the earth to its heat, so the Word exposes David to his soul… and he cries out to God asking Him to “declare me innocent from hidden faults.”
Psalm 19:12 says, “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.”
David recognizes his sin, confesses his sin that he is aware of and asks God to forgive even his most hidden sins, perhaps forgotten or committed in ignorance.
In this moment, even King David, youthful slayer of Goliath, and chosen king of Israel recognizes his sin and acknowledges he is counted as one of all of mankind who has “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23).
He continues saying,
Psalm 19:13, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!”
Restrain me Lord, I know how deep my sin can go… restrain me from disobeying your commands in an arrogant disregard of that which I know to be true. Do not let me sin and create a pattern of sin that then has dominion over my life. Keep me from walking down a dark and vicious cycle of sin. Then, and only then David knows and sings
“I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.”
Finally, David concludes this song,
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
May these words sung, and the thoughts of my heart be an acceptable sacrifice to you God. May this hymn of Psalm 19 sung by Israel of old, by the church of today be a suitable act of worship before you, and may our lives, may the wonder of man be an acceptable sacrifice as we behold the Work of God and the Word of God and let it guide us into praise and worship of the one true God.
David concludes this hymn, and we conclude here this morning that all of humanity stands accountable to God. All of mankind stands accountable to God because of his revelation to us concerning his glory. The Work of God stands as a lighthouse, guiding our lost ships to the wonder, majesty, and eternal power of God. The Sun stands as the supreme metaphor of God’s glory… blazing upon the earth, standing as testimony to the creator who spoke it into existence. As all of humanity cannot escape the scorching heat and light of the sun, so all of humanity cannot escape the The Word of God. The Word of God declares the saving ability of God through the Scriptures, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). As Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The Wonder of Man stands humbled and in awe of this God, of his power and strength, divine nature and eternal power, and His saving relationship with mankind through his Son Jesus Christ. The human race stands accountable to God because of his non-verbal and verbal communications to us. The Wonder of Man leads us to acknowledge our own sinful state before the majesty and glory of God. We cry out “declare me innocent from my hidden faults” because all have “sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). It is in Christ, and only in Christ, that God answers David, and the Wonder of Man.
Jesus declares David innocent, and Jesus declares all believers innocent before God.. Romans 3:23 says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, v. 24 says, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”
The Wonder of Man leads us to confess our sins before God, and cry out for salvation. The Wonder of Man leads us to acknowledge the glory of God in His works of creation, to humble ourselves to the purity, truth, and righteousness of God in the Word of God, and to receive with great joy the salvation that is available to us in Christ Jesus through our faith that He died on the cross for our sins, and bore our punishment, that I may be declared free from sin and walk in the newness of life, an eternal citizen of heaven, and a new creation in Christ.
Father, we are so humbled that a mere hymn, a song, written to praise you can speak such deep, divine, and eternal truths that revive our soul. May we humble ourselves and believe in your wonderful creation that speaks of your existence. May we humble ourselves and believe that your Word speaks of truth, and righteousness, and salvation, and that it is able to pierce even to our souls. May we wonder at the revelation of our God and may we repent of our sins, turn to Christ, believe upon his name and his saving death on the cross and count ourselves as new citizens in heaven. It is in Jesus’ name we pray, amen.