Summary: Psalm 19 has been called the most majestic of David’s Psalms. It falls into two main sections dealing respectively with Creation and Covenant, with an application to follow. These seemingly distinct parts form one unified, progressive whole.
A HEART FOR GOD
In July 1994, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (formerly D/1993 F2) broke apart and collided with the far side of Jupiter. On that occasion I preached on “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1), and wondered at the perfection of God’s creation. God placed the earth in the ‘Goldilocks zone’, I taught, in the ‘just right’ place to sustain human life. He placed the gas-giant Jupiter exactly where it is in order to absorb the debris of deep space before it can damage our habitat.
Psalm 19 has been called the most majestic of David’s Psalms. It falls into two main sections dealing respectively with Creation (Psalm 19:1-6) and Covenant (Psalm 19:7-10), with an application to follow (Psalm 19:11-14). These seemingly distinct parts form one unified, progressive whole.
The first main section deals with Creation. This falls into two subsections, the first of which speaks of the ‘voice’ of Creation (Psalm 19:1-3): Creation’s witness to the existence of God. We are standing upon the earth admiring the results of God’s handiwork from Day 4 of Creation (Genesis 1:14-19). We share this pleasing view, this vista, with the whole of mankind: so there is no excuse for the ungodly (Romans 1:20).
Psalm 19:4-6 forms a second subsection, dealing with God’s sustenance of His Creation. We cannot live on sunshine alone, but we cannot live without it! We are not worshipping the sun or any other created object: but rather rejoicing in the hand that created all these things.
Yet Creation, general revelation, does not stand alone in its testimony to God. The LORD God has entered into a covenant relationship with mankind, and spoken to us Himself. This ‘special revelation’ is explored in the second main section of the Psalm, under at least six different synonyms for His Word to us (Psalm 19:7-10).
At this point we might recognize that God’s Word is not limited to Torah, to the Law alone. God’s Word is revealed in the unfolding of His special revelation throughout the Bible, from Genesis to the book of Revelation. This includes the historical books, the wisdom books (including the book of Psalms), and the prophetic books of the Old Testament; and the Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament. Ultimately, God’s Word is recognized in the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:1-5; John 1:14; Hebrews 1:1-3).
‘Now these things are written,’ writes John, ‘that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you might have life through His name’ (John 20:31). Paul concurs: ‘Now all these things… are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come’ (1 Corinthians 10:11). “By them is thy servant warned,” acknowledges the sweet Psalmist of Israel, the man after God’s own heart (Psalm 19:11).
Thus the application (Psalm 19:11-14) begins with a recognition of the need to heed the warnings of Scripture, and to acknowledge the value of keeping God’s law (Psalm 19:11). The heart of man is desperately wicked, and deceitful with it (Jeremiah 17:9): so the Psalmist searches his own heart, and asks to be cleansed from secret sins – those which have been committed in ignorance, and which he has not yet discovered to be sins in his life (Psalm 19:12). A thoughtful reflection on God’s Word will lead us in the same direction, teaching us new things every day, but leaving us also with a deep impression of how poorly we know and apply that Word.
The Psalmist prays also to be kept from presumptuous sins (Psalm 19:13). It is a cry for the grace of God. ‘The temptation is strong Lord, and only you can keep me from the great transgression.’
The other side of that coin is our responsibility: having escaped the dominion of sin and death, how can we live any longer therein? (Romans 6:2). Without holiness shall no man see God (Hebrews 12:14). The imputed righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ is that which makes us “upright” (Psalm 19:13) – but if we are thus righteous, we will also conduct ourselves in an upright manner.
I have called this Sermon ‘A Heart for God’, based on the last verse of the Psalm. As with other preachers, sometimes I use these words, or words very like them, to open my sermons. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
Paul puts it this way: ‘If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved’ (Romans 10:9). This is not only head belief, but heart belief, even as the LORD has promised (Hebrews 10:16-17). In the end, after all, the witness of Creation and Providence, and the words of Law and Gospel, are of no value at all to us unless they are allowed to take residence in our hearts.