The Four-fold Witness
We’re all familiar, I’m sure with at least the first 2 verses of Psalm 19 which declare the glory of God through creation. But as we continue to read on, you might be forgiven for becoming somewhat perplexed as it takes a somewhat seeming disjointed tangent. I know I was; and hence my desire to study this Psalm and discover the common thread.
As we see, by verse 7, Psalm 19 takes a completely different turn. We move from a description of creation [in particular the heavens] to an extolling of God’s law. Then in verses 9-11 his holiness [and subsequent fear] and finally in verses 12-14 mans’ sinfulness [and subsequent desire for moral purity].
And yet, in all these things is God glorified and his very existence witnessed and attested to.
It is only in this context that this Psalm has any cohesion.
4 points today:
“The Glory of God Witnessed in Creation”
“The Glory of God Witnessed in the Law”
“The Glory of God Witnessed in His Holiness”
“The Glory of God Witnessed in the Believer”
The Glory of God Witnessed in Creation:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 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, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. 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. Psalm 19:1-6
In the first 6 verses, the Psalmist gives us an astronomy lesson as a testimony to the greatness of God who framed the worlds by his very word and who by wisdom founded the earth and by understanding established the heavens…
Bear with me while I go line by line and explain some of these lessons…
A declaration is an emphatic statement of truth and this is exactly what we see in the opening line of Psalm 19 “The heavens declare”… This is not unlike the very first words of our bible: “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth”. Everything we see around us is HIS handiwork.
In verse 2 we read: Day unto day: that is from one day to the next..
That they “uttereth speech” is of course a metaphor…but nevertheless their existence communicates to mankind the very existence of God as Creator. Indeed they speak volumes.
“Night unto night: from one night to the next: There is a continuity in their existence and we know that as long as there is time, these things will continue to be, for the simple reason that the Lord put these things in the sky to mark time. There is also a sense of order here; we know that God is a God of order.
Furthermore: there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard: the night sky is visible throughout the entire world and people of every language can see it.
“…showeth knowledge”. The word showeth is very important here. To be shown something [in this case knowledge] implies that there is something that can be known. There is so much that we can learn from the night sky; far beyond the scope of this message. But the mere fact that we can actually learn from the world around us tells us one thing for sure…
THE UNIVERSE WAS DESIGNED TO BE DISCOVERABLE
Anything contrary to that truth is absurd [Surrealists and philosophers have made an art form out of absurdity]
I will give you one example of something we have learnt from observing the heavens:
In 1676, the Danish astronomer Ole Roemer (1644–1710) became the first person to measure the speed of light. Roemer measured the speed of light by timing eclipses of Jupiter’s moon Io.
In verse 4 we see a familiar phrase and if you are reading your bible you’ll recognize it instantly:
“…Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world”.
Compare this with: “But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.” (Romans 10:18)
In Romans chapter 10, Paul expounds on several Old Testament verses as evidence that the gospel had already been preached by the Old Testament prophets.
In similar manner, the heavens also preach the gospel in that they reveal the God who created them. Believing that “God is” is the first step of faith…
But sadly [and to his detriment] mankind has historically either:
Regarded them with superstition and consequently worshipped them.
Viewed them from the perspective of the BIG BANG and science falsely so-called.
In verse 5 David describes the passage of our sun as it traverses the sky He describes it as a strong man running a race…and race it does
Of course, it is the earth’s rotation that causes the movement but nevertheless, the sun moves at a distance of 15 degrees [of arc] per hour which equates to approximately 1,670 kilometres per hour.
As someone who has dabbled in amateur astronomy, I can attest to the speed of the earth’s rotation as I viewed various celestial objects through the telescope’s eyepiece quickly moved out of sight.
Given all that we know about the stars and creation itself, mankind is certainly without excuse for denying the existence of God, as Paul tells us in Romans chapter 1
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,” (Rom 1:20-22)
And this is reminiscent of Psalm 14 [Can anyone tell me how it goes?]
“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Psalm 14:1-3)
Incredibly, Psalm 14 runs contrary to Psalm 19 and we see the denial of God’s existence leads to moral depravity. [which leads to our next point]
The Glory of God Witnessed in the Law:
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. Psalm 19:7-8
Not only created did God create a physical universe; but a moral one also. The mere fact that we have a standard for right and wrong points to and is witness to the existence of God.
If we have a design, there must be a Designer
If we have laws there must be a Law Giver
It needs to be said however:
That when we think about the law of God, there is a part of us that has a natural aversion to the mere mention of it. This is because it convicts us of sin and thus judges us sinners…
“For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”
On the other hand:
“But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;”
As you can see, we have this double-edged sword..
Paul has this to say in 2 Corinthians and it partway explains the double edge sword:
“But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away: How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious.” (2Corinthians 3:7-11)
Clearly we see that the handing down of the law was glorious in that Moses’ face shone as he presented the stone tablets to the children of Israel.
Looking at today’s text in verses 7 & 8:
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. Psalm 19:7-8
The question that we need to ask is this: “How does the law convert the soul?” Especially if it is described as the “ministration of death”, the keeping of which, is NOT the means by which we are justified.
God’s word simplifies it for us:
“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” (Romans 7:12-13)
That’s the bad news…then we read
“Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)
Through the law comes the knowledge of sin. It teaches us that we are sinners in need of a Saviour. Thanks be to God for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Looking back at verses 7 and 8:
It is interesting that these 2 verses present statements mirrored in two halves.
In verse 7 we see that when the sinner is converted; he who was once simple is made wise: and this because the converted sinner now has an understanding of God’s law.
And in verse 8 we see a connection between the state of the heart and the brightness of one’s eyes.
The Lord Jesus reiterates this truth:
The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! Matthew 6:22-23
It is only upon conversion through the conviction of sin [which is the transgressing of God’s law] that man is able to rejoice in those commandments. We agree that the law is good despite the fact that when we were under it we were condemned by it…
At best the commandments of God are grievous to the sinner. We know that fallen man has a natural tendency to rebel against God and throw away any restraint placed on him.
The silent protest of our wicked heart was constantly saying: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us”. [Psalm 2:3]
Yet now being converted unto Christ, we find the opposite to be true. We have come to know that his “yoke is easy and his burden is light [Matthew 11:30]”
For the believer..
Now it is sin which grieves him and the commandments which are NOT grievous to him.
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. 1 John 5:2-3
The Glory of God Witnessed in His Holiness:
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Psalm 19:9-11
The fear of the Lord is described as “clean” in verse 9 [which is a curious description] and is a reflection of his holiness and perfection. It is only when man acknowledges the reality of God’s holiness and perfection… compared to his own wretchedness and imperfection… that he comes to fear him.
It is also described as “enduring forever” implying that it is eternal and incorruptible. Therefore, it is immutable [just as God is both eternal and immutable] and not subject to the shifting tide of popular opinion.
The opposite of clean is unclean and this is synonymous with sin and a state of corruption.
Interestingly we see the fear of the Lord demonstrated in the Lord Jesus:
“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:”
Even more compelling is the testimony of the prophet Isaiah himself…to the holiness of God and the subsequent fear that it invokes
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:1-5)
There are numerous other accounts of people who encountered the holiness of God and responded in fear: For example
We have the dedication of Solomon’s temple where the priests could not stand.
How many times did the prophet Ezekiel pass out and fall on his face.
We have the apostle Peter’s reaction to Jesus “depart from me, for I am a sinner”
The apostle John in Revelation falling down as a dead man.
And so [returning to our text]…
If our second point is true; that is to say we live in a moral universe and not the random universe that evolutionists and atheists would have you believe.
Then a moral law presumes a moral Law-giver. Not even a universe governed by some impersonal force can explain the REALITY of right and wrong.
And if we acknowledge that this law is absolute and perfect Or as verse 9 says: “true and righteous altogether” then this must be a reflection of the Law-giver himself.
In other words we acknowledge that God is perfect and holy…
Just as his law is perfect and holy… remember that Jesus is the embodiment and so named The WORD of God
And being “warned” by them we stand condemned before a holy God
Remember in our previous point, Paul describes the law as “the ministration of death” simply because “the wages of sin IS DEATH”
Make no mistake; the fear of the Lord is real fear [I draw on my own personal experience before coming to Christ] and not to be re-interpreted as reverential awe or some other watered down term. Jesus didn’t speak lightly when he said to fear God who has the power to destroy both body and soul. Therefore we have every reason to fear God who is completely justified to exact revenge upon the sinner.
But ultimately the fear of God is a good thing… if responded to in the correct way. And the worst possible response to the fear of God and the conviction of the Spirit is to harden your heart. Yes, the word of God is sweet as honey comb to taste but on occasion, but in the belly…bitter. We need to take our medicine regardless.
Ordinarily, the fear of something or someone would drive you away. But not so with God. It has the amazing ability of drawing you to him. What’s more it has the ability to cause you to bow your heart and bend your knee and seek forgiveness from God… And then to worship him.
The book of Ecclesiastes sums it up perfectly:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
The first thing we need to obey is the gospel
Sadly: within a relativistic world view, the sinner makes the grave mistake of comparing himself with those around him rather than measuring himself against a holy God. He fails to realize that his own goodness “ extendeth not to God” [Psalm 16]. He tells himself that he isn’t as bad as the murderer or the paedophile or the bank robber.
He fails to realize that none is good and holy but God. He fails to realize that it is only through the fear of God that one attains wisdom and understanding [Proverbs 9:10] and a knowledge of the holy.
We see the psalmist declare the perfection of God’s law in saying that his judgements
[which are synonymous with his law] are TRUE and RIGHTEOUS. God is the administrator of this law and although to the unbeliever he may seem slack concerning his promise to act according to his judgements; the believer recognizes the work of God both in his life and those around him.
The convert knows that it was only the long-suffering of God which prevented the swift hand of judgement on his impenitent heart which had been storing up wrath unto the day of wrath.
It is only through the gospel that we not only see and understand the righteousness of God but also the wrath of God:
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;” (Romans 1:17-18)
The last verse of this portion of scripture in Psalm 19, promises a reward for those that keep his commandments.
“…Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward”
I think that it is safe to say, the implication is one of an eternal reward. Jesus assures us that our treasure is in heaven…or at least ought to be.
The truth is… the more we grow in the the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, the less conscious we are of any material gain we might derive from following God; knowing that godliness with contentment is great gain.
What’s more: we’re told that God himself is our “exceeding great reward” [Genesis 15:1]
Therefore it doesn’t surprise me that the prosperity gospel is so popular among those who truly do not know God.
Equally there is a distinct lack of godly fear in the modern church as it continues headlong towards complete apostasy. Paul concludes his description of man’s depravity [Romans chapter 3] by saying “There is no fear of God before their eyes” Tragically, this is where the church is headed.
Which makes our final point all the more important.
The Glory of God Witnessed in the Believer:
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. 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. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:12-14
There is a progression of thought now and we are given to see another outcome or effect both from the knowledge of God and from his word.
It’s always interesting when the scriptures ask us questions. It’s almost as if we are being tested in some way. And here we see David [inspired by the Holy Spirit] ask the question: “Who can understand his errors? Underpinning this question is motive and the question: “Why did I do that?”
The fact is without an understanding of who God is [His holiness and his perfect law], nobody can understand his errors. And it’s only the Spirit of God in conjunction with God’s word which can bring these things to light. It is the word of God which searches the heart and discerns its thoughts and intents.
Of course bringing our sins into the light isn’t always a comfortable practice even with the light of the gospel shining in our hearts. Confronting sin in our lives requires humility, consequently there is still the real temptation of hardening our hearts or hiding in the darkness of denial…which is the natural position of the unconverted man as we read in the gospel of John:
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:19-20)
We know that sin is a product of the heart and is deceitful above all things; who can know it? We also know the things which proceed out of our hearts:
“…For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:” (Matthew 15:19)
And yet despite all this, David is inviting the Lord to examine his heart and deal with sin in his life.
The more we know God, the more we are able to know and understand our errors. This only comes [you guessed it] from spending time with the Lord in prayer and through reading our bibles.
It is the word of God which searches the heart and its motives and gives us understanding of these. We are also comforted in knowing that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1Jn 1:9)
Therefore: David’s prayer ought to be our prayer:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
This cleansing or sanctification now becomes the outward witness of our faith. And particularly of our faith in Christ who is the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of his person. This is also the reason our earnest desire should be for Christ to be fully formed in us.
We are his witnesses.
Witnesses of the reality of God in our lives and the witnesses of what the Lord has done in our lives.
And we need to be ever conscious of the fact that our outward witness can either glorify God or blaspheme him.
In this we have the example of David’s own sin [with Bathsheba] which gave the enemies of God cause to blaspheme.
“Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” (2Samuel 12:14)
David learnt the hard way of course and it was only when the prophet Nathan confronted him that he was truly convicted. He paid the ultimate price in the death of the child conceived through adultery.
The amazing thing about his subsequent prayer of contrition in Psalm 51 is that it emphasizes the fact that the natural consequence of salvation and the forgiveness of sins is the desire to lead others to Christ.
“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” (Psalm 51:12-13)
It is not only what the Lord has done in us but also what the Lord desires to do through us [all for the glory of God]: This will ultimately impact our eternal reward:
I remember growing up in the Catholic school system where we were instructed to write at the top of every page the letters AMDG which we colloquially translated as “All my deeds for God” but which in reality is Latin for Ad maiorem Dei gloriam” or “For the greater glory of God”. As grievous as it is that this phrase was coined by such a wicked group of people [the Jesuits] it is certainly a motto worthy of living by.
In light of this we read in 1 Corinthians:
“There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.” (1Corinthians 15:41)
And in Daniel chapter 12:
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (Daniel 12:2-3)
In regards to our resurrection and more particularly the state of our resurrection, we see that some are destined to inherit a better resurrection.
Those that are wise are they that turn many to righteousness because he that winneth souls is wise [Proverbs 11:30] These are the stars which will shine the brightest.
David concludes the psalm in a simple yet profound way. And in a way which underpins the last 3 verses of the psalm.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
It’s the meditations of the heart which direct our lives and whether or not towards that good and perfect and acceptable will of God. It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks. And it is the tongue which the small rudder which is able to steer this ship and prevent it from being shipwrecked upon the rocks.
Praise God, we have the assurance that if we delight ourselves in him… HE will give us the desires of our heart. And those desires will be his desires. All glory to God…
My prayer for us today is twofold:
Firstly that you have gained an understanding of the cohesion and therefore context which exists within any passage of scripture. And in doing so, you will use it to your advantage in you personal bible study.
Secondly [and more importantly] you will have a greater appreciation of God’s worth; knowing that all things were created for him. Indeed that we would concur with the 24 elders in saying:
“Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Rev 4:11)