Summary: There is more to this psalm than teaching us about natural revelation or a useful benediction to our church service.
The Heavens Declare the Glory of God: an Exposition of the 19th Psalm
The nineteenth psalm is majestic and begins with lofty words. The Holy Sprit who inspired the psalmist to write these words speaks in beautiful poetry. The use of poetry paints a picture that lifts our soul to God. The King James Version goes to great length to make this Hebrew poetry sound as if it were spoken in English. As the book of Psalms is the Hebrew hymn book, it is only proper that it sing a song to our heart. We should also It also teaches us much about who God is. When we speak about God in the West, we tend to reduce this poetry to theological propositions. This can be proper as well as it speaks to a different part of our brain. So let us look further into what this psalm teaches us.
John Calvin, among countless others loved this psalm. He used it in his writings to teach us that God speaks to us in creation. God has revealed Himself in His creation. This psalm tells us that He speaks through Creation in a universal language. It was not restricted to the boundaries of language. The revelation of God in Creation also speaks clearly. Cornelius Van Til in his book on apologetics compares the revelation of God in creation to that of Scripture including what he calls in Reformed jargon “perspicuity.” It is strange why such a big word is used when the word means “clear.” It is necessary that God speak in creation and that He speaks sufficiently and authoritatively. Everyone who sees the majestic panoply of heaven should understand that there is a God who created it. The majesty of creation should declare that this God is glorious. Paul will remind us of this clear expression of God which renders all who deny this without excuse.
The human response to revelation is theology. In this case, natural revelation is responded to by natural theology. If man were as he was before the fall, then this theological response would be in harmony with this revelation. But Paul in Romans tells us that fallen man willingly suppresses this revelation. Even though God speaks clearly and infallibly in Creation, people do not respond to this revelation properly. There is always the human tendency to make the glory of creation and end in itself rather than being a sign to the One who is infinitely more glorious. The theological response to this natural revelation, and every one is a theologian of sorts, will cause one to worship the Creator. But the unconverted become the worshipers of Creation. As glorious is the sun which makes its circuit through the skies, the runner who skillfully races, and even the beauty of the wedding are, they point to God who created the Sun, the man who runs skillfully, and the joy of the wedding feast as it is He who ordained marriage.
But he 19th Psalm does not stop with natural theology. Theology, especially systematic theology, tends to compartmentalize topics, talking about natural revelation in one place, and Scriptural revelation somewhere else. But here they are put together. God speaks in creation in a universal language that transcends words, but God also speaks in the revelation of Scripture. Here, revelation is spoken through the restrictions of human language in a particular tongue, in this case, Hebrew. The response to this revelation is also theology. Like natural theology, the perfect revelation of Scripture is clouded by fallen human beings to one degree or another. It behooves the Christian to realize the possible distortions we create in our theological task. When we translate the Scripture into the tongues of the world, we have to strive that when our task is done, people can hear God speak. The same is true of our doctrine which we derive from Scripture.
When the teaching (Torah) of the LORD is clear, one result will be that people will be converted. Theologians cannot save anyone. The best we can do is to be as clear a sign to the truth of God as we can be. One proof that we are doing this task correctly is that people are genuinely saved and they glorify God rather than the preacher or the theologian. When we are lifted up or worshiped for our cleverness, then we are robbing God of His glory. Let them instead see that God has raised us up and gifted us by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Word and, then, glorify God who gives the gift. We need to speak beautiful words, encouraging words, and the converting words of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Word of God also makes us wise. Wisdom goes beyond the knowledge of facts or being familiar with theological argumentations. It produces confidence in God. Wisdom involves the correct use of knowledge. We should know as much as we can, and that rightly. But knowledge is not an end but the means to wisdom. If one wants to be wise, the Scripture reminds us that it begins with the fear of the LORD. Scripture also says that the one who denies God is a fool, regardless of how much he or she knows.