Psalm 19 is one of the most beautiful and most famous of the psalms. Most likely you are familiar with at least some of the verses in this psalm. It starts out as a meditation on how God speaks clearly from creation, moves into a description of how clearly God speaks from His Word and then ends with David thinking about how he has not followed God’s Word, but desires to be in sync with his creator. This psalm points out two things that are a witness for the existence and character of God: His creation, and His Word. We move from a general revelation about God, to a specific revelation about His character.
1 – 6
“Heavens” and “sky” are two different Hebrew words but they essentially mean the same thing—the arch of the sky above. What David is saying here is that without using literal words (verse 3) the creation speaks loudly and constantly (“pours out”) the glory and works of God.
Paul echoes this idea in Romans 1:19-20 “Since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. 20 From the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.”
Before I had a relationship with God I was what you might call a philosophical naturalist. I would only believe that which I could see and make sense of. I used to picture the planets circling the sun and thought that it was all a part of a natural order, an order that came about essentially by chance. Carl Sagan once said “The cosmos is all that there is, all that there ever has been, and ever shall be.” Clearly he is mocking Jesus Christ who “is, was, and is to come, the Almighty”. But when I let the incredible beauty, complexity, and immensity of creation really hit me, I realized that there is nothing “by chance” about it. The cosmos is not there is, there is a creator behind it all. Just because you can’t explain something in scientific terms doesn’t mean it hasn’t been created by God.
In verse 4 he describes the sun as having the brightness of a new husband after his first night with his bride. Then he describes the feeling as that of a runner on a race course. These two ideas suggest youthful strength. The fact that nothing can hide from the heat of the sun suggests that it is the most powerful of all the signs of God’s creation.
Now David moves to wonderful exaltation of the actual words of God, spoken through the Scriptures.
7 – 11
David uses six descriptions of God’s word and their effect on the human heart.
“Instruction” is the word Torah, which represents the Scriptures—the books of Moses. “Perfect” means complete. “Renewing” is the Hebrew word “to return to the starting point.” God’s Word strips away all the manmade philosophy and religious thought and shows us the character of God and the unvarnished character of man.
“Testimony” is “witness”, “trustworthy” or “firm” – providing wisdom to those who “are seducible” ie: able to be moved to another opinion.
“Precepts” means “appointed by God” and is the Law, “right” means “straight.” “Making glad the heart” is a good translation.
“Command” is literally that, and refers to the Law again. “Radiant” can also mean “beloved.” “Enlightening” means “to illumine like the dawn.”
Verse 9 basically says the reverent awe or fear of God will stand forever.
“Ordinances” can mean “verdict”. “Reliable” means “stable” and “righteous” means “to be right”.
God’s Word brings us back to how we should be thinking, resonates with us that this is truly the right way, the stable way, the enduring way.
In verse 10: both honey and gold where precious commodities in David’s day, but God’s Word is more valuable than either of them. In fact, all that we hold precious on this earth will fade but God’s Word will never fade away!
We are indeed warned by God’s Word, but we are also encouraged by sticking close to God in His Word—the rewards are so much greater then honey or gold—they are God Himself!
So as David is reflecting how wonderful and pure God’s Word is, basically a statement of His character, he starts thinking of how unstable he is in obeying that Word.
12 – 13
Three things in mind here: David first realizes that even if outwardly he feels like he is obeying God, he knows that he probably violates God’s character on a regular basis and isn’t even aware of it. We all have “hidden faults”— David’s descendant, Jesus Christ, bore the penalty for all those faults we could never see. But He also bore all the blatant things we do—those things that are well aware of but seem to “rule” over us anyway.
“Cleanse me” and “keep me” is David’s prayer. That should be our prayer too—and not just once in a while but every day. As one guy said: “Keep short accounts with God.”
Verse 14 basically says that David wants both his outward life “words of my mouth” and his inward life “meditation of my heart” to be lived in a sacrificial way (“acceptable” reflects an acceptable sacrifice) to the Lord.
If are not in relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, I would encourage you to take a fresh look around you, at the complex, beautiful, wonderful world around us in terms of the creation. The closer you look the more you see the marks of a loving creator and the more you hear the unspoken speech of God. I would also encourage you to look more closely at God’s Word, starting with the gospel of John—read it fresh—let the character of this person Jesus wash over you in a new way. He is the creator or new life and life that will never end for those who love Him.
For those of us who already love Him, when was the last time you just marveled at the revelation of God in creation? How long since you have just sat back and marveled at God’s Word? Finally, for all of us: don’t despair about the failures in your life. Take them to the cross and leave them there!
I find this psalm to be interesting in that, though written by David, it is mostly in the second person—as if the psalmist were talking about someone else. In verse 9 we get the real reason for the psalm: David is praying to God for victory over some enemy. The psalm is about what you rely on in times of trouble and is an encouragement to look to Yahweh for all that you need.
Let’s read the whole thing through – it’s short, then come back around and look more carefully.
Verses 1 – 9
Notice the prayers for God’s response: answer (vs 1, 6, 9), protect, send help, sustain, remember, accept, give…desires, fulfill (vs 4,5), give victory. Seven things that God does when we cry out to Him.
I think this is a wonderful encouragement to us to pray for others as well.
1 – 3
The King James uses the word “hear” instead of answer. But the Hebrew word aw-nah has the implication of a response. “Trouble” means “straits” or “distress.” It was first used in Genesis 42:21 when Joseph’s brothers felt guilty that they did not see his anguish when they threw him into the pit.
Saying “the name of Jacob’s God” suggests the personal nature of our relationship with God. He is not just a force to call on, but a Father to cry out to. “Protect” is the Hebrew word “help”. Usually it means in a military sense.
The Sanctuary and Mount Zion both suggest God’s abode with man. Now that touching point is in Jesus Christ and because of the giving of the Holy Spirit, God is in all of us who love Him. To “sustain” means to uphold. Sometimes all we need in a crisis is for God to help us keep it together and not panic. But I am reminded too that the Sanctuary was a place of sacrifice, where our sins were covered.
So David also prays that God would “remember” the offerings given at the Tent of Meeting. The word “remember” means “to mark” or “to be recognized.” God recognizes the sacrifice on your behalf by Jesus. It is acceptable to Him, so you are acceptable to Him.
This is such a wonderful verse. Some people might take this to the bank and think: “Wow, I can ask God for anything at all—how about a million dollars, a disease free life, and great position and power!”
Two things I’d like to add to that in order to clarify. First: Psalm 37:4 says: Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires. The word “delight” there means “to be soft and pliable.” As you give yourself over in a delightful relationship with God, He begins molding you into His image. His desires then become your desires. Second: John 14:13-14 Whatever you ask in My name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. God will only answer prayers that bring glory to Jesus. So ask away, but thank God that He will never answer a prayer in a way that is detrimental to your relationship with Him or to the kingdom of His Son.
The imagery here is of a victory in battle. Armies in those days held up banners to represent different divisions of their armed forces; much in the way our armed forces do today. On those banners, however, were often symbols of the regional gods they served and worshiped. So here are pictured banners with the name of Yahweh on them. A question comes up: is your life so dedicated to God that when you come into a room or speak that it is like holding up a banner with Jesus’ name on it? I don’t mean that every word is a Bible verse, but your life ought to slowly but surely reflect the character of God so much that people look at you and see Jesus.
The Lord’s anointed often referred to the king who was appointed by God to lead Israel. Notice before David was asking for help and sustaining from the earthly sanctuary, but here he recognizes that God’s real abode is in heaven, and it is from there that victory will come…and not just any victory but “mighty” victory. Some manuscripts say: “with the victorious might of His right hand.”
7 – 9
David is reminding us that though Israel may have faced a militarily superior army that “no weapon formed against you will succeed.” Isaiah 54:17. Humans take pride in human ability. We may even take pride in our ability to get ourselves out of trouble. But when we do that, sometimes we actually short-circuit the kind of victory God wants—one that helps us draw closer to God, and brings others into His family. Sometimes what looks like defeat for us God works into victory for Him.
Even in the worse times, even when your human efforts collapse and fall, you will stand firm in your relationship with God. Remember the verses of Psalm 18:36 “You widen a place beneath me for my feet, and my ankles do not give away.”
Notice too at the end of verse 9 that David has gone from second to third person plural. Victory for him is victory for Israel. And relying on God and seeing God win His kind of victory is a victory for us all.
So what kind of victory to you need today? Over sin, weakness, fear? Pray this psalm. Seek God’s victory, God’s fulfillment, God’s help, God’s touch. Look mostly for enhancement of your relationship with Him.
I leave you with one of my favorite verses: Philippians 3:10 “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”