Psalm 19 — Exposed to the Son: Revelation’s Warning in the Works and Word of God

19 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,

5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.

13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is full of His glory (Is. 6:3). For by Jesus Christ all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created by Him and for Him (Col. 1:16). God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (Heb. 1:1–2). In these profound Christological statements, our view of Messiah is elevated, as He must increase, and we must decrease.

Despite these marvelous claims, humanity remains in utter rebellion against the Creator. The exception is the redeemed people of the Lord Jesus. In Psalm 19, we learn of dual witnesses established by our Creator. The first is Creation itself (vv. 1–6), and the second is Torah, the law or word of God (vv. 7–11). The Psalm closes with man’s proper and penitent response to God (vv. 12–14).

Despite scholarly skepticism in recent generations over the unity of section one (vv. 1–6) and section two (vv. 7–11), the Psalm has held its unity for thousands of years with no dispute until recently. The rhythm clearly shifts between v. 6 and v. 7, from 3+3 to 3+2, but the holistic message is indisputable. God has revealed Himself and man must respond to the message.

Other creation Psalms (8 and 104) and other Torah Psalms (1 and 119) send the same message separately. Psalm 19 combines the message, revealing a unique Psalm of wisdom, thanksgiving, and petition. David, the Psalmist, appears to be reflecting on, if not offering a subtle elaboration of Genesis 1–3. In addition, the compiler has found connections with Psalm 18.

The previous Psalm begins with a personal relationship with YHWH and expands out globally. Psalm 19 begins with a universal proclamation and closes with personal repentance. To show this we observe the generic title “El” for God is used once in verses 1–6. The more specific name “YHWH” is used seven times in verses 7–14. Global revelation will result in personal penitence by the author. The use of similar language and imagery also build a bridge between the two poems. Psalm 19 is a song, too. It is a hymn of creation and hymn of Torah.

David claimed the sky bears witness to God’s glorious works (v. 1). The glory of God is the object of the Psalm. When we speak of the glory of God we are saying, “the glory of His visible perfections.” The verb chiasm here is the first of manifold grammatical and literary devices employed by the author. The subject of section one is immediately introduced, the heavens (creation) bear witness of God’s handiwork.

David proposed the day and night sky, in tandem, reveal knowledge of God (v. 2). Here, the merism used for time serves as a complement to the scope of space in v. 1. Day speaks, and night teaches all over the place. The sun, the superstar of daytime, will take center stage in v. 5. However, night is equally important because the removal of light exposes the universe to the naked eye.

Included in the knowledge of night is the story of Christ written in the stars, with the Southern Cross prominently displayed. The zodiac calendar reminds us of God’s collaborating time and space, even in the heavens. The ancient Chinese, Persians, and Egyptians were astronomers. The wisdom of Egypt, taken from the stars, produced the giant Sphinx. The half-man, half-lion figure anticipates the second coming of Jesus Christ, the Son of man, the lion of the tribe of Judah. Where did they get that idea? The heavens!

David alleged the heavens are speechless, but they communicate anyway (v. 3). The oxymoron of speechless, wordless, voiceless communication is presented with three negations. God is the master of illustration. How can the scientist look into the heavens and not see the story on God’s heavenly flannel graph? The constellations clearly reveal someone’s mind design by their obvious configuration.

David declared the heavenly revelation is global, if not universal (v. 4). “Their line has gone out” is familiar to us when we recall Amos (7:8) observing the divine plumb line, or we would say, “measuring tape.” The focus here is spatial.

The earth is measured, and creation’s utterance extends to the farthest point. The sun is introduced as the star of the show. The firmament in v. 1, including the sun with its “tent,” a hyponym for the shelter of the sky, is helped by an understanding of ancient near east cosmology. The circle of the earth was itself encircled by a protective upside-down bowl that held a heavenly ocean of water above it. No doubt, the blue sky aided their perception of this phenomenon.

God’s (“El”) release of the water was either blessing or curse depending on whether the crops were nourished or destroyed. The sun, going by the name Utu or Shamash, along with water (rain) were both worshiped as gods by different groups at different times. Tragically, the spiritually blind man cannot see the fallacy of worshiping the creation, rather than the Creator.

Paul quotes this verse in Romans 10:18. How will men believe in God, if they have not heard, and how will they hear without a preacher? The Gospel of Jesus Christ, according to Paul, has gone out to the whole world like creation’s utterance (19:4). Paul also seems to allude to this passage in Romans 1:18–21, in arguing man’s penchant for dishonoring God by suppressing the truth about His divine attributes, power, and nature.

David used two similes to describe the power of the sun (v. 5). First, the bridegroom emerges from the door of his chamber after a night of consummating his marriage. He is a happy man like the rising of the sun. Second, the strong athlete, enjoying his runner’s high, glows in anticipation of noonday glory. The sun is life-giving and strong to sustain.

David depicted the sun on its daily circuit as touching everything in the earth (v. 6). Everything is exposed to its heat. Its pattern is consistent. It is observed universally. Darkness is removed by its power. It serves as light, heat, and life to the earth.

The biblical imagery, revealing the identity and function of the sun, especially with its multiple metaphors, is very rich. “And there is nothing hidden from its heat,” is the key clause of the Psalm. In New Testament language, the sun and Torah working synonymously, declare that “all things will be revealed.” The light of the sun exposes everything, as does the light of Torah. Here then is the bridge between the dual witnesses to the glory of God.

David shifted his focus from general revelation to special revelation found in the Scriptures (v. 7). Six synonyms are introduced to represent Torah. The structure in verses 7–9 is identical: Law synonym + YHWH + predicate adjective + participle + noun affected. Torah is the subject. It has the power of God to revive the soul because it is the perfect word of God.

Too many Christians today have a negative view of the Law of God given to Moses. Whew! Jesus saved us from the oppressive Law. This is a complete misconception. Torah was a guide to right living in the presence of YHWH. To follow the guidelines would result in blessing, but to ignore or presume upon the Law would produce natural, negative consequences. The people of Israel knew they sinned; hence, their sacrifices in the Temple.

The second hyponym for Torah is testimony. The Law testifies to a sure path of right living. Unlike the simpleton in Proverbs, the ignorant become wise in following the path, believing the truth, and living the life revealed by YHWH. “…of the Lord” is the prominent genitive showing repeatedly, the possession of God’s Word by YHWH.

David argued the Word of God brings joy and spiritual vision (v. 8). The third term for Torah is precepts. The legal code of God is a perfect, sure, and the right line. It is the straight and narrow path manifesting joy in the heart as one of its products. Justice is a joy for the righteous, especially in a world so corrupt. The fourth term is commandment. God’s Word replaces the confusion of darkness. It is pure light exposing truth from lies.

David made an apologetic to the veracity and eternal qualities of God’s Word (v. 9). The fifth term is the phrase, “fear of the Lord.” Here is another product produced by the Law. The washing of water by the Word has a cleansing effect. That which is cleaned shines with reverence for the cleaner. Reverence for God is contrasted with humanistic atheism and its denial of YHWH’s existence. Once a person is introduced to YHWH, reverence for Him has an eternally enduring result.

Finally, the sixth term for Torah is judgment. The established Law of God naturally plays the role of judge. Sinful man is condemned already, as proven by Torah. God’s justice comes with true judgments, unable to be manipulated in court by the unrighteous attorney. In sum: Torah, testimony, precept, commandment, fear, and judgment are perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true and righteous, producing men who are spiritually revived, wise, joyful, enlightened, reverent, and truly righteous. Jesus Christ fulfills the identity and function of Torah in His people. The Spirit of the Law and of Christ has been placed in our hearts.

David compared the worth and goodness of the Word to gold and honey (v. 10). Money and honey are the world’s desired objects. David compared temporal pleasure and security with eternal joy and security. The indicative now becomes the imperative in the text. What will you choose in this revealed comparison?

David brought application from creation and the Word as a warning to men that they are without excuse (v. 11). The dual witnesses serve like Ezekiel’s watchman on the wall (Ezek. 3, 33), warning men. The bad news, as it is with Jesus, also comes with good news of God’s blessing and great reward for obedience.

David confessed that God’s revelation exposed sin in him (v. 12). Light exposes darkness in all realms, including the deceitfully wicked hearts of men. The rhetorical question, “Who can discern his errors?” troubles the poet’s conscience. Revelation exposes him like a cockroach in the sudden light of an illumined light bulb in a garage. David is in the light as He is in the light. He chooses not to run, but to be arrested by the Law. His question leads to his plea for mercy. There is nothing else.

Man is guilty of sin and is without excuse. Mercy is the only way, and God has mercy upon those whom He will have mercy (Rom. 9:15, 18, 23). David humbly petitioned, “Acquit me of hidden faults.” So is the way of repentance. The light of truth, in the Son of God, compels repentance in the humble. All are exposed to the light of the world, but only those who receive God’s regenerating power can make their light shine before men.

David requested help from YHWH in avoiding sins against Him (v. 13). There are sins of ignorance (v. 12; c/f Num. 15:27–36), but the hardened heart presumes upon God. David needed refuge from his own arrogance. His request is also for deliverance from Satan, the great facilitator of sin. Who has the power to resist the devil? Who has the power to flee immorality? Sin rules over the human heart, if the heart is not inclined to the power of God for salvation. The believer knows the way of salvation is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ; and therefore, he is delivered from the “great transgression” of denying God and the unforgiveable sin of refusing the witness of the Holy Spirit.

David prayed his thoughts and words would be acceptable to God (v. 14). No prayer is more common before a sermon by the preacher than this one. The words of his mouth and meditations of his heart must be acceptable to God for the Gospel to have any effect on sinners or saints. God searches our hearts and weighs our words. Your only hope of surviving divine scrutiny is to cling to your rock and redeemer. He is mighty to save and mighty to protect His people. All glory to God from the trinity of witnesses: His creation; His Word; and His people!

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

June 8, 2021

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher