thoughts on my favorite Psalm

bumper sticker once seen:  “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.”

The middle clause in this bumper sticker, though well meaning, is irrelevant. What I believe has little to do with the “settling” of the first clause. Because…

God has spoken.

He speaks through His creation and to us particularly through the Bible and both of these kinds of revelation impact our lives. THAT is the wonderful message of Psalm 19. God has spoken and His word is all around us.

As a traveler I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the beauty that surrounds me. Whether it be the coast of North Carolina where I am as I think about this, or next to the mountains of Virginia where Sweet Anna and I make our home or Central Europe where I invest a great deal of my life, there is much in our world to cause one to sit and marvel. Indeed, as I finish these thoughts, the storm named Andrea rages around us as high winds and hard rain pelt this house. As I look across the street at the ocean, the waves are much higher than usual. Simultaneously, over in Budapest, thousands of Hungarians have worked through the night filling and placing sand bags all along the Danube as it is set for a record flood level on Monday or Tuesday, I will be there to see that. The power of the creation speaks loudly.

Yes, there is much to marvel at when we gaze at creation. But as I sit and look at the waves and listen to the pelting rain, this marveling is not just an appreciation of the painting (creation) but of the painter (God). Indeed, C.S. Lewis argues that the painting points to the painter as a building points to its architect… God. That is what the theological writers call general revelation. Listen to the psalmist…

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.”

This is a psalm of revelation. Once upon a time, when I taught theology to 18-19 year olds (do not attempt, professional driver on a closed course) I tried to get my students to catch the ideas of revelation. Primarily, there are two: general and special revelation. Psalm 19 gives us both “voices” of God. When He speaks generally through His handiwork and when He speaks specifically using the words He created… listen again to the psalmist speak from the canvas of God’s painting…

“In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”

What do you hear in this text? I think of wintertime in Central Europe, which means short days. Cold days. I always have my eye on the sun and its “circuit”, that “circuit” is dependable. This speaks to the faithfulness of God. When the day is cold I try to walk on the side of the street where the buildings of Budapest are not blocking the warmth of the sun. But the sun is not just warming, it is illuminating.

Whenever possible, in a winter afternoon, I route myself through Batthyány Square so that I can stop and gaze momentarily at the Parliament building across the Danube. A brief gaze at beauty brings delight to the soul. About 3 p.m., when the sun is an hour or so from setting from it’s dependable circuit, the angle of its rays illuminate this amazing neo-Gothic building to that it fairly gleams in the late afternoon. I often pause in gratitude to God for this incredible sight. For in this, a human creation beams and glorifies Him since the architects and craftsmen who built this view can only accomplish such because they have the image of God within them.

To God be the glory.

But we are not left to discern the elements, we have been spoken directly to… for we know that fallen man needs guidance and inspiration to bring God glory. This is why I love the Word of God, God’s special revelation. The psalmist continues…

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.”

I find it helpful to linger over that section as it provides a catalog of some of the benefits of God’s revelation…

reviving the soul;
making wise the simple;
rejoicing the heart;
enlightening the eyes;
enduring forever;

As we sit with the Bible, it revives our soul. I have thought much about how the Scriptures are used by God to train our mind, strengthen our heart and deepen our soul. As the writer of Hebrews says: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

Much is said about reading, studying and meditating on Scripture. It is my contention that we should seek to cultivate a desire for God’s word, I think the psalmist understood this with his emphasis upon desire… about such the psalmist says…

“More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.”

Consider the comparison… two things some of us have such a desire for honey and gold… he states: that Scripture is more desirable than gold, sweeter than honey… taste of food and gaining of wealth… the psalmist is familiar with what is so often important to man and gives us an apt comparison. Then he expands his teaching from desire for to the results from following its teachings:

“Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”

Then like the writer of Ecclesiastes, the psalmist begins asking questions and shifts into an important theological prayer. First he states that God is just and perfect: “Who can discern his errors?” Second, he asks for justification… yes, he asks for that declaration that only God the just judge can give: “Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” This truth would be clarified by Paul in Romans as he explained the impact of the work of Christ.

Then, coming from prayer with confidence, he asks for God to keep him from sin. Consider the beauty of the gospel here… the psalmist knew the gospel! He has no ability! He is not able to battle sin! He knows that he must rely on God!

“Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.”

Blameless!!!! That is the gospel of Jesus! We are blameless because of the work of Jesus and the declaration of God!

Finally, as I read this psalm, I read the benediction… and I have learned to integrate this prayer into my prayers… meditate on these last words with me and pray these words with me as you continue your day…

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord , my rock and my redeemer.”

From the creation around us to the word before us, God is speaking to us that we may know Him, be redeemed by Him, be changed by Him, and live for Him.

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Filed under seeking understanding, spiritual questions/musings/wonderings

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