“God is there . . . He is not silent; that changes the whole world.”i Francis Schaeffer wrote those words in 1982, commenting on a book he’d written a decade earlier. And he is precisely right. Merely think about it for a second, it’s not simply that God exists, which is an amazing reality. This world did not merely appear but the God who has always existed made it, bringing it into being, placing on it birds, fish, land animals, and humanity. He placed the stars in the sky, the sun and moon to light up the day and night. There is a being who made this. It is our God. He exists. Or, as Schaeffer said, “He is there.”
But if God merely existed with no communication to us, then we would merely be his unknowing creatures. However, he is not merely there. He has spoken. In the words of Schaeffer, “He is not silent.” That is one of the most glorious realities in all the world. The God who is and who created all that is and rules over all that is has spoken. He has revealed himself to us so that we might know him, relate to him, walk with him, love him, and obey him. The fact that God has made himself known to us (as opposed to many man-made, imagined gods throughout the ages who existed in man’s mind but never made themselves known) does change the world. It’s changed our lives altogether. As believers, we have placed our faith in Christ, live our lives oriented around him, and are together this morning worshiping him all because our God has made himself known to us. He has spoken, and that changes the whole world.
That’s what Psalm 19 is about. It’s about the reality that God has revealed himself, that he has spoken to us, and that he has made himself known. And it’s worth us not taking that for granted but pausing and meditating on this truth and responding with a life of worship toward our glorious God. I’ve mentioned before that once when I was in Salt Lake City, visiting one of our church planters, we were sitting in a Starbucks, planning, talking, and praying. And sitting in that Starbucks, you lose your sense of where you are. Sitting in a Starbucks in Utah doesn’t feel a whole lot different than sitting in a Starbucks in Jackson, TN. So, everything felt familiar, and I lost a sense of where I was. Then, as we opened the door to leave the store, right in front of my eyes was a glorious scene in front me. There were these huge mountains, covered in snow, dwarfing everything around them. I was so overwhelmed at the sight that I literally just stopped walking and marveled, which caused one of the brothers who had lived in Salt Lake for the last number of years to ask what I was doing. I answered, “I’m just overwhelmed by the mountains. They’re amazing,” to which he responded, “After you live here for a few years, you actually somewhat stop noticing them.”
Now, there may be some of you here today who would say, “I could never stop being awed by the glory of a mountain range around me.” But I think we can actually be prone to something much more devastating and unfathomable. We can become familiar with and no longer awed by the reality that the God of the universe has revealed himself to us, that he has given us his words, that he has made himself known. So, this morning, let’s ask the Lord to scrape off the dullness or hardness (perhaps through familiarity) that may have settled into our hearts and open our hearts, minds, and eyes to see and marvel at and love the reality that our God has made himself known as we look at Psalm 19. And my prayer is that this reality would create in us afresh a heart that yearns to worship our great God.
The psalm breaks down into three parts sections that we can lay out as follows: God has spoken in creation, God has spoken in his word, and this demands a response from us. Let’s first look at the fact that God has spoken in creation.
God has spoken in creation
David begins this psalm with a celebration of the fact that God has revealed his glory in creation, even as he mentioned back in Psalm 8 and as the New Testament makes clear in Romans 1. In Psalm 8 David had noted that God set his glory above the heavens. Now he writes, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (v. 1). As we’ve noted before, when God made the world, he created it with the imprint of his glory over all of the creation. He put the sun, moon, and stars in the sky with an imprint of his glory. So, David takes this note of the heavens “declaring” God’s glory and “proclaiming” his handiwork, and intensifies the picture by talking about creation speaking (or we might think of preaching). He writes, “Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (v. 2).
What we see in the day with the sunrise and sunset, and what we see at night with the moon and stars appearing, are different. Each reveals something a bit different, but each reveals and proclaims to us how glorious our God is.
On Wednesday morning this past week I decided that I would come into the office a bit early to get some work done before a breakfast meeting, and the path I take to work has me driving south for a bit before turning east. So, as I’m heading south, I’m not thinking about much of anything, but then I turned on that road that points me to the east, and all of the sudden I was looking at a sky that was lit up with deep pinks and oranges as the sun was rising in all its brilliance. It was preaching to me that God is glorious and worthy of worship.
Now, David acknowledges that there are no actual words, but you still hear what it’s saying. He writes, “There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard” (v. 3). You hear it. And every day as the sun comes up, that same proclamation is made. Every evening, as we gaze upon the beauty of the moon and stars, creation speaks to us, telling us that our Creator is glorious and worthy of worship.
And what’s so fun about the language of this psalm is that David wrote this at the same time that many people would look up at the sun rising and setting each day and worship it as if it were a god. The Egyptians would have done that. But for David, the sun is merely like an errand boy, racing across the sky to scream to everyone that God is glorious. He writes in verses 4-6, “Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridgegroom 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” (vv. 4-6).
God has revealed himself in the created order. I mentioned the sunrise overwhelming me that one morning. Well that came after the previous afternoon when Michael and I were heading somewhere in the car when a brilliant rainbow filled the sky in front of us after an afternoon rain. Brothers and sisters, that is the heavens declaring the glory of God. And if you don’t see it it’s only because you’re suppressing the truth of God in your unrighteousness, according to Romans 1.
But now, let me make a note of application. If the Lord made the created order in such a way that he is constantly and consistently preaching to us through it how glorious it is, day and night. And if the unbeliever suppresses that truth in such a way that he does not honor God or give thanks to God, then doesn’t it follow that we—who rightly see the creation as declaring God’s glory—would make a habit of honoring God and giving thanks to God as we behold creation?
In other words, it’s not a Christian response to the created order in which we live to merely ignore it or get used to it. We cannot be like the dear brother who said to me that day, “Eventually you stop noticing.” We, as believers, must not stop noticing the mountains or the trees or the sun or the stars or rainbows or rain showers. We must rather train our hearts to recognize the glory of God and honor and thank our God for making the world in such a way that he speaks to us about his glory. He is there, and he is not silent.
But as glorious as God’s voice is in creation, it actually pales in comparison to his revelation that he has given us in his Word. So, let’s now turn to the second part of the psalm and consider that God has spoken to us with his Word.
God has spoken with his Word.
It’s one thing to say that creation “speaks.” It does. It tells us of God’s glory. But God actually has spoken in a clear way with words that we can see, read, memorize, speak after him, and say, “God has said these very words to us.” He’s done that with the Scriptures. And that’s what David turns to in verses 7-11.
It’s as if David says, “If you think what I just said is good, then consider this miracle of a blessing that God has given us. He’s given us the Scriptures.” And, just to be clear, David didn’t have the whole Bible at this point. He may have had something like Genesis to Joshua. Yet listen how he goes on and on about how glorious God’s Word is.
In verses 7-9 he gives all kinds of terms to refer to the Bible. He speaks of God’s law, testimony, precepts, commandment, fear of the Lord, and rules. It’s as if he’s just saying the same thing again and again and again, adding glorious descriptors of this. This is why C. S. Lewis said, “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter.”ii But he doesn’t simply use different terms for the Scripture, he uses different adjectives for it again and again, piling up praise after praise. He says that it is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, and altogether righteous. Nor does he even stop there, but he also notes the good God’s glorious Scriptures bring about, writing that are reviving the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes, and enduring forever. It’s as if he cannot speak too highly of what he’s found in God’s Word.
So, he says, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (v. 10). They warn us and hold out reward to us if we obey them (v. 11).
Now, let me ask a question that may be convicting to all of us. I do not doubt that when I spoke of the glory of the sunset earlier that many of you found your heart resonating with David. You probably thought, “Yes, David, you’re right. The heavens do declare the glory of God. I’ve seen it again and again.” But do you also feel your heart leaping up within you to agree with David in verses 7-11. Have you felt the Bible revive your soul, rejoice your heart, and enlighten your eyes? Do you treasure the Bible so deeply that if someone were to hold out piles of much fine gold, you would think that it pales in comparison to how desirable God’s Word is?
If not, have we forgotten what the Bible is? It’s no mere book. It is God’s Word. God has revealed to us in the Scriptures who he is, what he has done for us and our salvation (by sending his Son to live, die, and be raised), and how we might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. He has interpreted the world around us and told us what is true of ourselves. He has given us his very words that we can read and say, “God has spoken.” And those words give us life. Do we realize this?
A few years back I decided that I would take a year and read Martin Luther. I read biographies about him, and I read things that he wrote. If you know his life, Luther was deprived of the Bible for many years. One of his biographers, Heiko Oberman, writes of a fascinating moment when Luther chanced upon a Bible that was chained to a lectern, and he read the story of Hannah and Samuel, fascinated that he was reading God’s Word. And so when he could have his own copy, he was overwhelmed.
He wrote, “The Word of God is the greatest, most necessary, and important thing in Christendom.”iii After having his copy of the Bible, for ten years straight he read it through two times every year. He would write, “When I was young, I read the Bible over and over and over again, and was so perfectly acquainted with it, that I could, in an instant, have pointed to any verse that might have been mentioned.”iv
Now, we could hear that and say, “No wonder, he went so many years without his own copy of God’s Word.” But let us never be with regard to the Bible as if we are merely walking out the doors of Starbucks, staring at the ground, unmoved at the mountain range around us, merely because we’ve grown accustomed to them being there? Let that never be true of us. You and I (like Luther) have God’s very Word. My prayer is that we might mimic David in our delight for God’s Word—and think about how much more of it we have then he had.
Perhaps you want to make it your habit just to read a chapter each time your family gathers around the dinner table, or read a bit each day with your morning coffee, setting an aim to work your way through it in a year or two or three? Maybe you want to set about to memorize some of it? Maybe all of the above. But whatever we do, let it be that we read Psalm 19:7-11 and are able to say, “I know what you’re talking about, David. I’ve experienced this in my own Bible reading. I’ve experienced this in hearing the Bible preached.” Our God is not silent, and he has given us his actual words. May we commit our lives to knowing them.
But David is not merely content to note that God has spoken in creation and in his Word, he also longs to be shaped and changed by God, and this brings us to the final section of this psalm which reminds us that we must respond to our God who has spoken.
We must respond to our God who has spoken.
What we see in verses 12-14 is David’s response to this meditation on God’s revealing of himself to us. What it provokes in him is a desire for holiness. He ends up asking the Lord to reveal his sin, keep him from sin, and make his words and heart acceptable to God. And this kind of response is somewhat common in the midst of God’s revelation of himself. Think, for example, of Isaiah when he sees the Lord in Isaiah 6. He immediately recognizes that he is unholy in the presence of a holy God. And so David here, as he contemplates how God has revealed himself to us, looks at his own holiness.
He first asks a question, “Who can discern his errors?” recognizing that if he were merely to deal with the sins and shortcomings in his life that he was aware of, he would miss many. No doubt there is much is our lives that we are simply blinded to, for no one can discern all his errors on his own. Thus, he asks the Lord to help him. He prays, “Declare me innocent from hidden faults. 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” (vv. 12-13).
He asks God to reveal his hidden sins, keep his heart from high-handed (intentionally rebellious) sins, and let him be blameless, meaning characterized by righteousness. And he sums this up with a prayer in verse 14: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Let’s let God’s Word today push us toward time with the Lord, praying this very way, asking our God to help us in living holy lives.
But this psalm isn’t merely pushing us toward personal holiness. It’s also pushing us toward the gospel, isn’t it? First, it pushes us toward the gospel in terms of David himself. If you were an ancient Israelite, thinking, David is our king and savior. This psalm (along with much else) says, “No, David is one like you. He has hidden sins, intentional sins, and is in need of mercy himself.” Psalm 19 says keep looking for another king and another savior. And one day, David’s great Son would come, and Jesus would be able to sympathize with us in our weakness, but he did not have sin. He was the true and better Adam, the sinless Savior. This psalm says look for another and a greater “David.”
David’s prayer in verses 12-14 also shows our specific need for the gospel. As David sees the glory of the Lord in creation and then more beautifully in his word, he sees that he has sin. And that’s us as well. There is much about each of us that is not loving God perfectly that we don’t even see. There is also much that we’ve done in terms of acting out our selfishness and pride in intentional ways. Maybe we even deliberately have thought through, “If I do this or that it will elevate my glory for others to see.” In other words, like David, we’re exposed. It pushes us forward to one who would come and deal with our sin. And that’s what Christ has done.
Not only did Jesus come and live a perfect life without hidden faults or presumptuous sins, he also came to pay the penalty for our sins. Having lived a perfect life, he died on the cross to pay for our sins, and then was raised from the dead on the third day so that we might have forgiveness of sins and have his perfect righteousness credited to us if we place our faith in him. And that changes the world.
Now, as you and I go to the Lord, maybe echoing the prayer of David in verses 12-14, we know that we do not come to him as one condemned, but as his forgiven child. We can say, “Lord, expose my sins, even the ones I don’t see, because I know this will not leave me condemned. Christ has died and was raised for me so that as you expose, I can confess them and know I have forgiveness. I can know that as you expose my sins, you are pleading with me to run to you and find mercy.” Psalm 19, like Psalm 13 we saw last week is a psalm guiding us once more to run toward our God.
But it reminds us of another glorious facet of running toward our God. One way we run toward him is by opening his Word that he has graciously given to us, that is his very words, and read them, meditate on them, be warned by them, be encouraged by them, be delighted in him, and find that they are more desirable than gold as in them we grow in our knowledge of and love for God. So, let us respond this morning by running to the cross, running toward our Lord in prayer, and running toward a life of knowing and meditating on and delighting in his Word. Amen.
Francis Schaeffer, Francis Schaeffer Trilogy: The Three Essential Books in One Volume (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 275.
iiC. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, quoted by Willem VanGemeren, Psalms: Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 178.
iiiPlas, What Luther Says, vol. 2, 913.
ivKerr, A Compend of Luther’s Theology, 16.