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Post Series on Psalm 19:

  1. How the Heavens Declare the Glory of God (Psalm 19:1-6)
  2. The Law’s Lesson: Desire God in his Holiness (Psalm 19:7-11)
  3. Make Me Acceptable in Your Sight, O LORD (Psalm 19:12-14)

Psalm 19 is one of the more well-known, beloved psalms—it’s been one of my favorites for as long as I can remember. After studying it a bit more closely, I came away with not only a better appreciation of the psalm itself, but for the glory of God, which is the David’s whole reason for writing the psalm.

In this psalm, David listens to what creation says about the glory of God, what the Scriptures teach us about the righteousness of God, and how we ought to respond in our prayers.

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

David opens his psalm by observing the ceaseless speech of creation to glorify God:

1The heavens declare the glory of God,
     and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

2Day to day pours out speech,
     and night to night reveals knowledge.

(Psalm 19:1-2 ESV)

The ESV has a great English version of Psalm 19, but there is always a lot lost in translation, no matter how faithful you can be to the text. Look at the tremendously vivid verbs David selects to describe how creation announces the glory of God:

  • “The heavens declare the glory of God…” would be more literally translated recount, because it’s the word used for actual counting and numbering. When you say that someone recounts a story, however, there’s a sense that they are including every part of the story, bit by bit. The heavens have not merely declared the glory of God; they are enumerating every wondrous detail of God’s glory.
  • “Day to day pours out speech…” is a very good word equivalent, because this word is used in Proverbs 18:4 to describe a flowing river.
  • “Night to night reveals knowledge…” property means “breathes out.” The exhaled breath of the night’s speech forms a gentler parallel image to the rushing water of the day’s speech.

Overall, the point of the first two verses is to declare the ceaseless nature of creation’s speech. There is never a silent moment during day or night when creation ceases to pour forth and breathe out its unified witness to God’s glory.

So, we might ask a brief question at this point: Why don’t we hear it? Is this speech bottled up in some kind of soundproof area so that we can’t hear it?

Not at all. Over the next few verses, David insists that the reach of creation’s voice is universal, so that there is no one who fails to hear it.

Creation’s Voice Praises God Through All the Earth

David continues his psalm:

3There is no speech, nor are there words,
     whose voice is not heard.

4Their 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,

     5which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
     and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.

6Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
     and its circuit to the end of them,
     and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

(Psalm 19:3-6 ESV)

Notice the insistence on the reach of creation’s voice:

  • “There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard” (v. 3)
  • “Their voice goes out through all the earth” (v. 4)
  • “Their words [go out] to the end of the world” (v. 4)
  • The course of the sun “is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat” (v. 6)

If creation’s single message is to announce the glory of God, and if creation’s voice reaches to the ends of the earth—so that there is nothing hidden from its reach—then how is it that we go through our lives oblivious to what creation is shouting at us at all times?

Certainly, there are points in life where a sunrise or a sunset catches our breath, or where we experience the overwhelming joy of looking out across a region of mountains after hiking to the top of one of the peaks, or perhaps where we are humbled to feel small in comparison to the vastness of the ocean, but David has something more in mind here.

All of creation is always declaring to us God’s glory. Every microscopic organism and every furious tornado recounts the detail, creativity, and power of our Creator. For those who have ears to hear, let them hear this sermon of praise to our God in heaven.

Why Christians Should Love God’s Creation

If this is true, then here are a few things we should consider in response. First, this probably means that most of us need to get outside more often—and I’m thinking primarily about myself. I’d much prefer to be in the artificially created comforts of my heated and air conditioned home, sheltered from the rawness of nature, but I should probably consider how that short-circuits my ability to understand God. As every Narnian knows, Aslan isn’t a tame lion, so creating a carefully tamed environment to live out my days probably isn’t the best teacher for understanding God as he is.

Second, this is a great motivation for Christians to pursue science, especially younger Christians who are trying to decide what to do with their lives. In the current intellectual climate, many Christians are inherently suspicious of science, but Psalm 19 gives us a firm theological foundation for doing science, because science is the systematic exploration of God’s glory in creation. In fact, the scientific revolution would never have happened without Christianity, because it was Christian theology that drove many of the first scientists to desire to explore God’s world more closely.

The confusion today is that many scientists actually promulgate a kind of philosophy (or even a religion) that takes as its first principle the belief that Psalm 19 isn’t true—that creation has nothing to do with proclaiming the glory of God. But as Christians, we know differently. Our science enlarges our view of God rather than shrinking it.

Finally, we need to make a mental note to allow ourselves to listen to creation’s praise of God. We are so busy in our lives that we fail to notice some spectacular beauty and wonder and terror within creation most of the time. Creation is preaching to us a sermon every day of the week, if we would but listen to it.

As Christians, we should love creation, because creation is God’s handiwork.

But here’s a question to consider: What are the limits to what we can learn from creation? For example, are we really justified to skip church in order to “worship” out in creation, as Christians sometimes do? Or, do we know everything about God that we need to know from creation, as the philosophers from a few centuries ago suggested?

We’ll talk about all this tomorrow.

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