Saturday, July 14, 2007

Psalm 19 and the Word of God

Many people treasure Psalm 19 as a favorite. The Psalm has plenty of depth and beauty that meets the eye, but more still when we stop and consider the outline of the Psalmist's thoughts. Just for easy reference, here it is with the verse marks before I mention some thoughts on it:
1The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
3There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
4Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun
5which is a like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

7The law (Torah) of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
8The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
9The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.
10They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
11By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
The Psalmist first considers the general glory of the heavens -- the knowledge they proclaim, the light shining forth -- and progresses to the sun, with nothing hidden from it. The second section repeats the same pattern with the Word of God -- the knowledge proclaimed, the light being given -- and the hidden faults that may be uncovered.

Often the Bible compares the Word of God to light. And often the Bible mentions light in some form when speaking of the presence of God, whether the light is seen as fire or lightning or simply an emanation of God's glory. In comparing the Word of God to light, the Word of God is being proclaimed as a special case of God's own presence. The Word of God is God With Us. When we learn the Word of God, as we study and remember and proclaim the Word of God, the presence of God is there with us.

The first time God speaks in the Bible -- the first Word of God -- creates light. The wonders of creation are not seen as an unrelated revelation compared to the Word of God. Instead, the wonders of creation are seen as ways in which the Word of God has been displayed as creative, living and active. The Word of God is seen as the source of the natural wonders that parallel it and shadow it; they participate in proclaiming the same message.

The Psalmist does not leave it there. Praise is given to the beauty and knowledge and message of the heavens; more praise is given to the beauty and knowledge and message of the Word of God. Both declare the glory of God, both pour forth knowledge, both give light. But the Word of God renews life, makes the simple wise, and is more desirable than the wonders of creation. The wonders of nature proclaim God's wisdom to us, but the Word of God creates a measure of God's wisdom in us.


codepoke said...

We looked at this today in Sunday School. We all missed the parallel you draw between the first part and the second. Excellent.

Frustratingly, we stopped at verse 10. We spent 50 minutes talking about the background material, then left without the point. The teacher was going to try to tie this back to Heb 4:12. The payout happens when the light of God, the word of God, is able to discern my errors and illuminate me such as to purify the meditations of my heart.

I narrowly managed to keep my mouth shut when he closed down the class 5 minutes early without making the point. Thank you for the opportunity to get my rant out. :-)

Clay said...

Thank you for sharing this insight.

And thank God that He not only reveals our hidden faults but forgives as well.

I know this is not what the Psalm says, but your post led me to think this thought:

The love of God...nothing is hidden from its heat.

Enlighten us, O LORD.
Purify us with the fire of Your love.

Weekend Fisher said...

Thanks for chiming in, guys.

Poke - I like that. Definitely. I have more "word of God" posts in the hopper too, though it'll probably be two weeks before the next one hits the blog.

Clay - I think that's exactly where we're supposed to go -- not necessarily because of Psalm 19, but because it's not a standalone. Psalm 51 is part of the same collection.

Take care & God bless