Delivered 30 September 2018.
Sermon text: Psalm 19.
A few weeks ago, I arrived at the Lions Club park on a Wednesday night for the weekly Ultimate Frisbee game. I arrived first, meaning no one had turned on the lights to the field.
I stepped out of my car and looked up at the sky.
With no light pollution, the stars practically leapt out of the darkness. Constellations emerged from the chaotic patterns. After others arrived, one of the Horseshoe Farms fellows pointed out the Milky Way filling a swath of the sky.
Unquestionably, “the heavens declare the glory of God.”
During his life, David experienced the beauty I saw at the park on many occasions. The skies back then lacked all the light pollution we suffer today, so nights out in the Judean wilderness would have awed almost anyone. As someone who saw the handiwork of God all around him — as someone who saw beauty in words and music as well as in creation — David would have found his eyes drawn upward to admire creation, finding inspiration for today’s Scripture.
The psalm today neatly divides into 3 sections. The first section describes the perfection of God’s creation. The second section describes the perfection of God’s law. The last section describes the desire of David to keep God’s law and live in the place of blessing. After 3,000 years, Psalm 19 continues to call us to meditate on God’s creation and to request His help in living godly lives before Him.
David’s first inspiration for this psalm came from the grandeur of the heavens. David saw the “glory of God” in the beauty of the night sky. We sometimes forget that after God finished His creation, He declared it “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Even though humanity’s sin of rebellion has marred us, God’s creation remains good, functioning as He created it.
No matter where he looked, David saw the work of God and heard the voice of God. The days spoke to him about God; the nights taught him about God. Using poetic language, David described the sun’s movement. Some people may think of sun deities when they read David’s description of the sun running “a course with joy,” but David never ascribes deity to the sun; he correctly views the sun as a vital part of God’s creation.
As David gazed upon the perfection of God’s creation, his thoughts turned to the perfection of God’s words. Every term David used points to the perfection of the word of God.
First, the word “law” in verse 7 refers to the “torah.” “Torah” refers to the teaching of the law. In later times, the word “Torah” would come to refer to the books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These 5 books held the entirety of the Mosaic Law. Every king was expected to keep a copy of the “Law” (probably the book of Deuteronomy) with him at all times. The Torah laid out God’s expectations of Israel.
David next used the word “testimony.” This word always refers to the testimony of God. The Psalmist who authored Psalm 119 would use this word as a synonym of “torah” to refer to God’s law. The word translated “testimony” usually refers to a warning more than what we would call testimony. In other words, the “testimony,” or warning, of God, would help the “simple” become wise. The word for “simple” refers to those people who believe anything they hear.
David then wrote, “the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.” We’ll look more at the adjective here. The word translated “right” refers to a straight line. Those who follow the precepts of God will walk rightly on the straight path He requires of us.
David referred to the “commandment of the LORD.” Everyone thinks of the Ten Commandments when we hear the word “commandment.” David wrote that following the commandments will “enlighten the eyes,” showing us clearly the will of God.
Lastly, David wrote of the “rules of the LORD.” The word translated “rules,” like the word translated “precepts” above, both refer to the commandments of God. These nouns all point to the words of God that will guide humanity into righteous living with God. Everyone who approaches God rightly will come in the “fear of the LORD” until he receives forgiveness.
How precious are God’s words? David wrote, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” Once he ascended to the throne, David became the wealthiest man in Israel. He would have given every ounce of gold to follow the law of God. David realized God’s word, God’s commandments, “warned” the servants of God and kept them on the right path.
This brings us to the last section, the section of request.
David prayed God would keep him from “hidden faults,” “presumptuous sins,” and “great transgression.” David wisely prayed for God to reveal those sins he would hide from others, a prayer God answered when Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba (cf. Psalm 51). “Presumptuous sins” refers to pride, the greatest of all sins. “Transgression” refers to a military rebellion, in other words, those sins we know better to commit but intentionally commit anyway.
David concluded this psalm with one of the greatest prayer requests any of us can make. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” David recognized the safety that came from relying on God, his Redeemer.
Today, on this side of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, we can view even deeper into the timeless words of David.
First, we know that God’s creation speaks today as it has for the existence of humanity, pointing people to the reality of God. St. Paul wrote, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).
Creation may reveal God’s existence, but only the Word made Flesh (John 1:14), Jesus, can tell people how to come to God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Israel quickly learned they could never keep the Torah; they could never keep the law of God. God had graciously given them a system of sacrifices by which they could have peace with Him, but the author of Hebrews wrote, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). The Word of God, Jesus His Son, became the sacrifice on our behalf on the cross. Then, the Word rose from the dead, assuring our eternal life when we confess Him as Lord and believe in His resurrection (Romans 10:9-10). St. Paul wrote that faith in Jesus “will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 4:25-5:1).
David called on God as his “redeemer.” St. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).
Tonight, I encourage you to behold the glory of God in the heavens, but this morning, I encourage you to behold the glory of God in Jesus, His Son. Behold the beauty of God’s grace in Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Behold the love of God in Jesus’ resurrection. One day, Jesus will raise us into a new creation, where we will see the glory of God face to face. Until then, may we pray in perfect confidence to our Father in heaven: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”