How God Speaks to Us, Psalm 19

C.S. Lewis wrote a book on the Psalms in which he said of Psalm 19, “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”

There’s a popular song today about a relationship between a man and woman that is falling apart, and part of the chorus is “Say something, I’m giving up on you.  I’ll be the one if you want me to.  Anywhere I would’ve followed you.  Say something, I’m giving up on you.”  There are a lot of people who echo those sentiments when it comes to God.  “God, if you would just say something, just speak to me, and I’ll believe, I’ll follow wherever you lead.  Just say something.”  But this Psalm says, “God has said something and is saying something to us, in fact He’s saying a great deal to us.”  We may say, “Say something.”  But this Psalm says, “Hear something!  Listen to something!”  It’s a Psalm about a couple of the ways that God speaks to us.

Verses 1-6 of this Psalm are about how…

He Speaks to Us Through the Heavens

Of course He also speaks to us through what we see around us on earth and in the sea and in the wonders of our bodies and all the other parts of creation as well.  But in this Psalm David writes about the part of God’s creation that may have had the greatest impression on him, the heavens above.

He says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.”  They’re speaking to us on behalf of God or God is speaking through them to us.  Did you hear them this morning when you looked out your window and when you went outside and as you drove here?  They don’t speak to us only at certain times.  David says they’re preaching to us day to day and night to night as often as we look at them.  And they don’t say just a little about God.  They don’t just say “He’s big.”  David says day to day they pour forth speech.  They have so much to tell us.  They’re conveying much to us about God.

In case we’re a little slow catching on to the figurative language, we have some clarification in verse 3. There’s no literal speech or words or a voice, yet they’re speaking to us. They’re speaking to all of us.  Verse 4, “Their line has gone throughout the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world.”

But we’re told today, as you know, that the heavens have nothing to say to us about this one we call God, and to think there is a God, who’s glory is reflected in the heavens, is the thinking of primitive man in archaic times; that we are too advanced and learned and  knowledgeable today to still believe such things.

I read a story about some mice in a piano that makes an apt illustration of our situation today.

Mice in the Piano: Our Situation Today

A large family of mice lived all their lives in this large piano, like we live in our little fragment of the universe.  In their dark little piano world came beautiful music and the music came on a regular basis.  At first the mice were impressed by it.  And they were in wonder and awe and comforted at the thought that there was some higher being, invisible to them, yet close to them, who played the music.  They loved to think of the Great Player whom they could not see.  But then one day a daring mouse climbed up in part of the piano and explored around and came back very thoughtful.  He had found out how the music was made.  Wires were the secret; tightly stretched wires of different lengths which trembled and vibrated.  That made the music.  So he shared his discovery with the other mice and impressed them and told them we have to revise all our old beliefs.  The music comes from vibrating wires.  Then only the real traditional conservative mice still believed in the Unseen Player.  Later, another daring mouse explored and discovered more.  He found that the secret to the music was not just wires but hammers that danced and leaped on the wires.  This was a more complicated theory, but the mice were impressed and convinced all the more that they lived in a purely mechanical, mathematical, coincidental world.  The Unseen Player came to be thought, by many mice, as a myth of primitive times and less intelligent mice.  But the pianist continued to play.

Science is not bad.  Science discovers how things work inside this physical universe we’re in, science discovers the wires, and the hammers that strike the wires, and the means by which the music is played.  But science is misused when it’s used to say that because we’ve discovered so much about how things work in here that we can conclude that there’s no unseen player of this thing we’re in or even a maker of this thing.  Science just deals with how things work inside this physical universe.  But it doesn’t deal with what is outside this physical universe, with the spirit realm, with who has made it to work as it does and who’s playing it.  And no matter how much science discovers about the way things work in here, it doesn’t make it any less reasonable and logical to believe in the Unseen Player.  And really, the more science discovers the more reasonable it becomes to believe in an intelligent maker.

The existence of God is one of the things that the heavens, along with all the rest of creation, proclaims.

Those stars up there and the sun are burning.  Did you know that?  When you walk outside and you feel the sunshine brush against your face, what you are experiencing is the radiation that the sun is giving off, and most scientists would say that the radiation the sun gives off is produced by the loss of part of its mass.  I read that the sun loses 4,200,000 tons of its mass every second, and it only recovers 1/200th of what it loses.  Not all believe that, there are a few that think it’s not losing anything as it burns because God is sustaining it.  But most believe the sun and the stars are running down.  And if the sun and stars are running down, as many believe, then that means they had to have had a what?…  A beginning.  If the universe is eternal, if it’s just always been here, the sun and stars would have already burned through their fuel and everything would have cooled down and become the same temperature.  And you know things up there are moving, spinning, and orbiting.  But if this has just always been here, everything would have already slowed down to a stop, everything would be motionless.  And you know, we can hear the heavens better than any generation of mankind ever before because of the telescopes that we have today.  We can look way out there in the heavens and hear what they have to say to us.  One of the things we have seen through the Hubble telescope is that other galaxies are moving away from us.  It looks like the universe is expanding, if it’s expanding, then you can imagine that back, back, back in time there was a beginning to it all.  What I’m saying is, it is evident that there was some cause to it all.

What could have caused all this?  I cannot understand believing that the cause was nothing.  Stuff does not come from or start moving from nothing.  I cannot understand believing that the cause had no intelligence, no mind, no consciousness, that it’s not even alive, and not even very big, that it was just a densely packed pebble-size ball of matter and energy 10 to 20 billion years ago, which came from nobody knows.  And for some reason, still yet to be figured out, it just suddenly, rapidly expanded, and it didn’t just expand, but according to the leading cosmologists today (still yet to be figured out), did this thing called inflation where it rapidly, as it expanded, created more and more matter and energy.  It just expanded and created and expanded and created, eventually forming our entire vast universe, including our world, by some explosion or accident.  Our world… it just happened to fling together all the right ingredients in the right proportions in the right arrangement, situated just the right distance from our sun so it’s neither too hot or too cold, tilted, orbiting and spinning at just the right speed, with an atmosphere with just the right mix (78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, 1% variant gases), just the right amount of water, and just the right “thousand other factors” necessary to sustain life.  And somehow, also by chance, it flung together all the right ingredients in the right amounts, in the right arrangement, to make a basic life form.  Just by accident it flung together all these complex components necessary for basic life to form in the right arrangement; proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, nucleic acids, etc.  And then somehow, still yet to be figured out, the dead stuff came to life and began to reproduce itself.  Then genetic mutation and natural selection, over billions of years, created every life form we see today including ourselves.  That’s what I hear from the opinions of men.

But when I go outside and I look at the heavens and I’m struck by the beauty and how perfect this atmosphere is for us, how perfectly situated we are from the sun and not spinning so slow that the part facing away from the sun is freezing while the part facing it is burning up and not so fast that we go flying off into space, and I think about the fact that I am thinking about the heavens, I am alive and I have consciousness and self-awareness. What an incredible thing!  Then I hear loud and clear that the cause was alive and very intelligent, much bigger than a pebble and powerful beyond imagination.

But David in Psalm 19 doesn’t even mention that particular message from the heavens: that God exists.  You know, in ancient times, just about everybody took for granted that there is a God or gods of some sort responsible for all this.  That was like a no-brainer back then.  The big question in ancient times was, who is that God or those gods, and what’s He or they like?  David says if you want to know a lot about the God who exists, pay attention to the heavens.  They’ll tell you of His glory.

Paul was maybe thinking of this Psalm when he wrote Romans 1 and said that men who worship idols made in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures, as though those images are appropriate representations of the creator or creators, men who worship gods who are limited in power and wisdom and fickle and needy like us, they incur the wrath of God when they do that, because God has made it evident in what He has made that He is so much greater than those gods.  Paul wrote in Romans 1:20, “For since creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”  They attribute creation to the impotent, flawed limited gods they worshiped.  It’s like pointing at a painting by Leonardo Di Vinci and saying “That was painted by my hamster.”

David focuses on the sun in particular in verses 5-6.  He speaks of how it rises over the horizon every morning like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber.  Like a young man on his wedding day, it’s about the greatest day of his life.  He comes out looking good, excited, radiant, beaming, and full of energy.  Every single morning the sun comes over the horizon like that, full of radiant energy.  It never tiers, never fades, never diminishes, never grows old, it’s always as bright and radiant as ever.  Every morning!

When it comes up over the horizon, David says, it’s like a strong man who rejoices to run his course.  In other words, it’s like a fitness nut, the kind of person that’s just beaming with eagerness and excitement and joy to run a marathon.  Many of us probably don’t understand that; the only joy and excitement we’d experience if we did a long distance run would be when it was finally over.  But the sun is like those crazy fitness people, bright and radiant with joy to run a long distance.

David marvels at how, in 12 hours, the sun goes from all the way on the other side of the world to all the way on the other, other side of the world; every single day.  It so strong and fast and never gets tired, never grows dim.  Now, of course we know today that it’s actually not the sun moving around the earth but the earth spinning.  But that’s beside the point.  David is just describing what we see and saying that the sun is so amazingly powerful, and marveling at its stamina and constancy and reliability and beauty and perfection.  It doesn’t break, it’s totally reliable, we don’t have to worry if the sun is going to come up and give us enough heat and light.  It’s just always faithful, it runs its course, it never tiers, it’s incredible.

And then he marvels that “there is nothing hidden from its heat.”  The sun warms every home, every creature, every field, every hill side, every valley.

And it tells about God, because God made the sun from nothing.  God spoke that sun into existence.  It ought to impress upon us the unfathomable, eternal power of God; the reliability, the dependability of God just like we know every morning the sun is going to come up and run its course as we need it to.  And if a sun can go around the world and nothing is hidden from its heat so can God and nothing is hidden from God.  It also tells us something of God’s faithfulness and the perfection of His engineering, the heaters we make don’t last long, they eventually fall apart.  But the sun doesn’t fail and it also tells us something about God’s kindness.  It gives light so we can see and warmth and food for the plants.  It’s preaching to us about God every day.

And there’s more to be heard from the heavens.  But let’s move on to the rest of the Psalm.  A second way God’s speaks to us is…

He Speaks to Us Through the Scriptures

Verses 7-11 here are a description of the written revelation we have from God and the benefits it brings us if we listen to it, trust it, and apply it.  David, I think, was writing here what he had discovered through personal experience through many years of listening to and following the Scriptures.  The scripture in David’s day may have been just the first five books written by Moses, Genesis through Deuteronomy, and maybe he had the book of Job and Psalm 90 (which was a psalm from Moses) and maybe the book of Joshua.  But what was true of the Scriptures in his day is also true of the scriptures to be written after his day, because II Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness…”

David has found that these Scriptures are totally consistent with the nature of the God that the heavens proclaim; the Scriptures are what we would expect from the creator and sustainer of the heavens.  The heavens tell us that God is perfect and powerful and beautiful and totally reliable and consistent and good and enduring.  David says here, this is what he’s found about the Law of the LORD (the Scriptures), they are perfect, sure, totally reliable, right, pure, clean and enduring forever, and powerful to transform, to restore the soul, make wise the simple, bring us joy…  This book, and only this book, fits with the nature of the God that the heavens proclaim.

Every day for the last 14 years, I have studied this collection of writings, and at least weekly before that, as far back as I can remember, and I feel in the depths of my soul what David is saying here about the Scriptures.  I am in awe at these writings like I am in awe of what we see in the heavens above us.  You would think, after 14 years, studying a book everyday (unless I’m just really not very smart), that I would have exhausted the book and got all of the meaning, depth, and significance out of it.  But this is like nothing you have ever seen before.  This is like no book of man!  There are layers and layers of meaning and significance and application and blessing and I am still blessed with every day at the study of this book and that’s incredible to me.  I feel so unfairly privileged that I get supported to spend a lot of time studying this book, because I have found it to be exactly like David says in verse 10.  The truths of this book are like fine gold and sweeter than the drippings of the honey comb.  I kind of feel like I get paid to eat dessert.  It not fair at all.

I know the words of this book are as dependable as the sun, because I see Christ in all the writings written before He was ever born (all over the place), and I see all of the promises and fore-shadowings fulfilled in Him, I see history foretold incredibly in places, I have experienced the fulfillment of promises of God in my own life, and I have seen how much better life is when you follow this guidance, and I know it’s reliable and trustworthy.  Like I see great wisdom in this world and solar system, I see great wisdom throughout these pages for life, for relationships, for mental health, for finances, for handling the trials in life, etc.  The story of these writings, the love and grace and mercy and sacrifice and righteousness and the creation to the new creation, is beautiful like the beauty I see in the heavens.  O and I think of the total mess I know I would be without what I have learned from this book.  I would be an angry, self-centered, hopeless, depressed, and probably immoral person without this book.  And I have found this book to be like a mine full of hidden treasures, the deeper you dig the more you find and I’ve never found another book like it, that you can study every day for 14 years and still be learning and being blessed by it.

Let’s just notice here real quick the blessings that come to us through hearing and applying the written word of God.

In verse 7, it restores the soul.  The books of man teach you how to restore broken, decayed, blemished, weak furniture, cars, houses, and other things.  But God’s book gives us truth and guidance to restore us, heal our souls’ diseases, heal our brokenness, and it makes us into the people God wants us to be, abounding in love and joy and peace.

The books of man can make us skillful in many areas, giving skill and know how in woodworking and sewing and cooking and computer programming, etc.  But God’s book makes wise the simple.  The word wise in the OT means skillful.  And it refers to, generally, being skillful at the craft of living life.  So in the hands of one who is inexperienced with life, immature, and doesn’t know how to act, what to do with their self or with their life, this book can make that person skillful at life.  It teaches us how to live life well, how to relate well to people and to God, how to handle money and time and circumstances and children and friends and enemies, how to live in a way in which we are blessed and a blessing to those around us, and so that we have God’s favor and the favor of people generally (Proverbs 3:4; Luke 2:52).

Verse 8, it rejoices the heart as no books of man can, because it answers the biggest questions we’re longing to know that only the one who made us can answer.  It gives us purpose and meaning in life, hope beyond this life, clarity to the path we’re to walk so we’re not uneasy about what we should do.  True joy, as many of us have found out, does not come from what you possess or self-indulgence or self-promotion or some ambition fulfilled, true joy comes from knowing God, following the word of God.

It enlightens the eyes.  Without it we live in the darkness of ignorance, deception, confusion, and uncertainty.

He says in verse 11, “Moreover, by them Your servant is warned…”  It shows you the pitfalls, the traps, and the cliffs.  It shows us that some things may seem harmless, but actually if we go there, will destroy us.  It shows where not to go and helps us navigate through this world.  “In keeping them there is great reward.”

I Timothy 4:8 says “bodily exercise is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”  If we neglect to keep the commands, we miss out on the best of both worlds, the best of the life to come and this present life.

So, David says you listen to the heavens and you pay close attention to the scriptures.  Now, I love how David ends the Psalm in verses 12-14.  He ends with a prayer in response to the glory of God revealed in the heavens and in His written word.  And it’s a prayer that elaborates on a phrase at the end of verse 11: “in keeping them [God’s commands] there is great reward.”

What does it mean to keep God’s commands?

There’s great reward in keeping them verse 11 says.  Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commandments.  Hebrews 5:9 says He’s the source of salvation to all those who obey Him.  But what does that mean to be one who obeys Him, who follows Him, who keeps His commands?  Is that somebody who never ever sins?  Does that mean every single time I sin I have to realize it and confess that particular sin and make it right and ask forgiveness, every time?  What does it mean to be considered a person who obeys God?  These verses provide a very helpful sort of definition of one who’s considered a keeper of God’s word.

Notice the rhetorical question in verse 12, “Who can discern his errors?”  Who can perceive, realize all his errors, all his faults and flaws?  It’s a rhetorical question.  The answer is nobody.  We all have errors and flaws in our character and thinking, and faults in our conduct and time use and our speech, that we don’t even realize.  We all have sinned, past tense, and do fall short, present tense, of the glory of God, says Romans 3:23.  We all stumble in many ways, says James 3:2.  In the rest of verse 12 David prays, “Acquit me of hidden faults.”  “Lord, I know I fall short of your glory in many ways I don’t even realize, and I ask You to forgive me for those.”  So being one who keeps the commandments of God does not mean being perfect.

Then his prayer in verses 13-14 expresses the heart of a man who is considered obedient and who has God’s favor.  “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! [keep me from willful, defiant, intentional sins, let them not rule 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.”  I think somebody who is keeping God’s commandment is not somebody is ruled by presumptuous sin, he’s someone who does not go on sinning willfully.  Hebrew 10:26 makes it very clear to me, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”  So obedience means, I’m not the kind of person that says, “okay I know that’s wrong, but I don’t care, I’m just going to keep on doing that anyways.”  You’re considered an obedient person of God, a keeper of His commandments if you’re trying, and that when you see that you’re in error, you repent, you try to do the will of God in your life, walking in the light.  And David says if that’s where you are, you’re honestly trying and repenting when you see you’re in error, then you will be acquitted of great transgressions,  David had murder and adultery to be forgiven, but he knew God would forgive that if he was truly pertinent and trying to do the will of God in his life.

Verse14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight…”  What does that mean?  I don’t think that just means that you don’t speak vulgar language or lie, or that in your mind you don’t have impure or hateful thoughts.  I think that David had more the idea of Joshua 1:8 on his mind.  This is God speaking to Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”  “Joshua these words will be on your mouth all the time and you meditate on them day and night.”  What does it mean to have the words of your mouth and the thoughts of your heart acceptable in His sight?  I think it means that we don’t just talk all the time about stuff that doesn’t matter, like football, TV shows, things that are happening with the Kardashians, etc.; all this other stuff that doesn’t matter.  But what we do is we talk a lot about what really matters, God’s word.  We’re in conversation about that with one another and our kids.  I think also, it means that we think a lot on the word of God.  Our focus is not just on the here and now and these temporary things, but the eternal things, the things that really matter about our existence here on earth.  Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight…”  For me that means more talking and thinking about the word of God and the truths that are revealed in it.

So let’s hear God speak to us, let’s hear Him in the heavens, let’s hear Him in His word, and we’re going to be blessed in so doing.

-James Williams

 

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