Saturday, June 16, 2012

Psalm 19

Psalm 19
A psalm of the perfect revelation of the LORD

"To the Chief Musician.  A Psalm of David. "(introduction)

      This Davidic psalm has been titled in my NKJV Bible as, "The perfect revelation of the Lord," and upon a survey of it's contents, I fully concur with the label. To reveal is to expose or make plain, to clarify or to enlighten. David writes about three ways that God has revealed His nature and character, in short, His person, to the world.
      First, [verses 1-6] God has revealed Himself in creation, and in particular, through the lights in the heavens. Secondly, [verses 7-11] God has revealed himself through His written Word, guiding men into what is Truth. And lastly, [verses 12-14] God reveals Himself through His servants, whose godly lives reflect His mercy, grace, and holiness. David delivered this beautiful, and yet very doctrinal psalm to the leader of the Temple Choir and Orchestra, the Director of Levitical Music... The "Chief Musician," for use in Temple worship services.

      The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.  Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.  
       In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race.  Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden from its heat." (verses 1-6)

      Have you ever looked up at a clear night sky and marvelled at the enormity of the power of God? Or stood, eyes closed, basking in the warmth of the blazing sun? The more I study about the universe, the more I find myself enamoured with it's Creator.  What a mighty, creative, beautiful God we worship!  David said in Psalm 8:3-4, "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" I am humbled by the majesty of the great Creator, and nothing like the night sky or the brilliance of the sun so clearly reveals His Godhead and eternal power.
      It says of God in James 1:17 that He is the "Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." The powerful heat and light of the sun which, although mighty, cannot reach everywhere at once, is a mere token sample of the might and power of our omnipotent God. Our God is the Creator and Source of light, who never changes and never dims. The God who made the great sun, and the greater suns (the distant stars), must be a Being even greater in power than they!
      Paul declared in Romans 1:19-20, "...what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."  God has revealed Himself to mankind through the vast and mighty things He has made. 

       God also reveals who He is in how He designed the heavens for the use of mankind. When God first created the heavens and hung the lights in the sky, He declared, "'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth', and it was so... and God saw that it was good." (Genesis 1:14-19) God created the sun, moon, and stars for man. He says He created them for the telling of time, for directional guidance, for measuring differing seasons, and for light both day and night.
      We are all familiar with the sun and moon in relationship to day and night. As the earth circles the sun, turning on it's axis, there is a consistent pattern of time, known as a cycle, in which each part of the earth experiences 12 consecutive hours of light and 12 hours of dark in a 24 hour rotation period. All nations have used the moon to tell time from ancient of days, marking the phases of the lunar cycle.
      By the combined observation of the sun and moon, ancient peoples have always been capable of constructing fairly accurate annual calendars, with a general acceptance of twelve lunar cycles constituting one year. The tilt of the earth's axis in relation to it's revolution around the sun is what determines our seasons, and through the lunar calendar, people have always had a way to chart the coming of the seasons. The sun and moon were designed by God for the measurement of days, years, and seasons. God set this all up from the beginning for our sake!
       Also utilized by peoples for thousands of years has been the map of the stars. Travellers and navigators from the earliest of times primarily depended upon the night sky to direct them on a journey or quest. By the knowledge of the stars and the seasons, ancient peoples have crossed and charted oceans, visited unknown lands, and colonized the whole world. It has been discovered in our age of increased knowledge, that the European explorers were by no means the first to "discover" the Americas and other continents, but rather that such lands had been discovered several times by star-gazing peoples of the east, including the ancient Phoenicians and the medieval Chinese.
       As David says, "There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the earth." The stars were designed as signs for man's use. Although mighty and vast, God cares intimately about mankind, making countless provisions in His Creation itself for our needs. The heavens reveal to us an almighty God who is a God of love.
     
"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; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgements of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.  
       More to be desired are they than gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.  Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward." (verses 7-11)

      It is wonderful that God did not stop at the night sky in revealing His nature and Godhead to mankind... He also gave us His Word!  The universe will eventually melt with a fervent heat, (2 Peter 3:10), but God has made His Word eternal. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away." (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21:33) and Isaiah said, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever." (Isaiah 40:8)
        David describes the perfection and beauty of God's Word, and think! he wasn't even including his own psalms, his son Solomon's amazing writings, any of the prophets, or the entire New Testament! All he had was the Law and early writings like Joshua, Judges, and Job! Yet, what is true of the small portion of Scripture David knew, is thus much more so for us, holding now the completed Canon of Scripture.
      The Bible is the infallible, living Word of God.  It is as relevant and real for me today as it was the day it was written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is just as effective today as it always has been. It was not written in a cultural context, to be taken literally just by those living at the time of it's writing. It transcends culture, time, and space. It is a supernatural book.
       Yet, God used ordinary men to pen the words. Why? So that ordinary men could easily understand His heart. God wants men to know who He is. He doesn't dwell in a mysterious cloud of confusion, offering knowledge and truth to only a select few.  He wants all men to know who He is and comprehend the great Truths of existence and eternal life. In His Word, He gives clear directions and detailed descriptions that we may comprehend what He wishes us to understand.
      David had a copy of the Law... you know, like as in, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The Law of Moses. When was the last time that Numbers delighted your soul? Yet, if that was the only book of Scripture you had ever seen, it would be glorious. Truth. Unadulterated truth, as revealed by the God who made the galaxies! David was enamoured with the Law of God.
       David lists several reasons he had fallen in love with the words of God. He uses various synonyms for the Word of God: the law, the testimony, the statutes, the commandment, the fear, and the judgement of the LORD. He then declares several ways that the Word of God benefits us:

       1) In it's perfection, the Law convicts our soul of the guilt of sin... that we may seek God's mercy.  The law can't make us righteous, but it can reveal our need for God's righteousness.  David knew his righteousness was found solely in the mercy of God, and said confidently in Psalm 17:21, "As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness."  The Law reveals our need for righteousness and the grace of God freely imputes it to us.
       2) The certain testimony of God gives wisdom to the naive, freely and liberally. David sees God's Word as a treasury of heavenly wisdom and cherishes the priceless gems he has uncovered through studying it. God has promised to give wisdom to all who ask in faith: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)
       3) God's righteous statutes cause great joy to those who love justice.  David was a king who sought to rule God's people justly, and the clarity offered in the Word of God regarding good and evil, justice and injustice, and right and wrong was invaluable to David. "He has shown you, O man what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8)
       4) The purity of God's commands exposes the secret motives of our hearts, helping us see our own areas of weakness and sin. When we know where we need to grow, we can come to the Author and Finisher of our faith, and ask Him to change us into His image. "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
      5) The holy scriptures will inspire a righteous fear of the holy One who wrote them. A holy reverence for God is the purest worship, and those who fear the Lord will spend eternity in adoration of His holiness and love. David loved and feared God with all his heart and looked forward to spending eternity in His presence. "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16:11)
      6) The fairness of God's judgements is a truth that surpasses time. Every decision God makes is always the right one; He never errors or makes mistakes. His judgement is perfect. David found both peace and purpose in this knowledge. He knew God would always be just and fair in dealing with him. God would not judge him unrighteously, yet, the same justice would demand consequence for his sins. God's justice inspired David to walk in righteousness. We never need to fear judgement, however, for in God's fairness He did not gloss over sin, but punished it... in his Son Jesus Christ. And God never punished twice.

      David loved the Word of God. It was like the sweetest food and most costly metal to him. Why? God's Word protected him from his own inclinations to sin... which has great consequences, by guiding him in doing what is right.... which has great reward.
      Greatest of all, the Word of God revealed to David the nature and character of the God of the Word. David's writings are overflowing with confidence in the mercy of God. Why? How could this great warrior, great sinner, and great musician be so certain that the holy LORD of heaven accepted him? David loved and read God's Word. God revealed Himself to us through His Word, and through His Word, we find that He is above all else a Merciful and Holy God.
 
"Who can understand his errors?  Cleanse me from secret faults.  Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me.  Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression."  (verses 12-13)

       God reveals who He is through the lives of those who trust in Him. This is, perhaps, the hardest one, of the three mentioned in this psalm, to accept at first. Although a Christian, my life is not a perfect reflection of Jesus, is it? I still stumble, sin, and struggle to walk in godliness on a daily basis. But this is not what I mean when I say that He reveals Himself through us. Jesus alone live the perfect life, that we might rest in His perfection. It is the humble, reliance upon God's mercy that so beautifully reflects the character of our God. Our fallen lives, in the process of renewal by His Spirit at work inside us, and our dependant trust in His grace and mercy, cries out loudest of all that there is a God and He loves us!
       Yet, too, a characteristic of one who belongs to God is the continual growth towards godliness that will be evident in their life. We are not talking sinlessness, but sinning less and less. God is constantly at work in our hearts, showing us areas that He is going to change in us, if we give Him room to do so.
       God wants to clean out the areas of sin or self in our lives that are preventing us from experiencing all the best that He has planned for us. In Hebrews 12:1-3, Paul wrote to believers to "lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."
      King David knew that he was far from perfection and may even be in sin ignorantly at times, for he often prayed for God to show him his errors. In Psalm 26:2, he prayed, "Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart," and in Psalm 139:23-24, he cried, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
       It is so easy to see areas others need to grow in, but as the prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9) We are often blind to our own faults.  It is wise to ask the Lord to reveal areas in our lives that are blind-spots, spiritually, and when He does, to thank Him for showing us! Knowing an area of weakness or discovering an area of compromise is the first step to having victory over it!
      David deeply desired to live a life that both pleased God and was blameless before men. He wanted to be clean and to avoid sinning.  Jesus Christ, by his death on the cross, made a way by which we could be made clean from all our sins. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
      Jesus also provided a means by which those who trust in Him could become more like Himself, sinning less and less.  Jesus prayed for us in John 17:17 saying, "Father, sanctify them by Your truth; Your Word is truth." What does "sanctify" mean? To sanctify means to "set apart," or to make holy... holy like Jesus. Sanctification is the process of growing more like Jesus.
      Jesus asked the Father to make us more like Himself by the truth, which he then defined as the Word of God.  We become more like Jesus through the Word of God. David knew that the Word of God was like a mirror that would reveal areas in his life that did not line up with God's best for his life: areas of sin, compromise, or just rough edges. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
      But it is so much more than a mirror. It is also a surgical knife. When it pierces our hearts, revealing our sin, it begins an operation on that part the heart, gently cutting out the diseased areas. "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." (Hebrews 4:12)

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight.  O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer." (verse14)

     The words of our mouth arise out of the meditations of our heart.  "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." (Matthew 12:34) James said that a man who never sins with his mouth is a perfect man. He goes on to declare that the source determines the outcome, whether talking about words, water, or fruit: "Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water." (James 3:11-12) If the heart is right, the words will be right. If the heart is wrong, the words will also be wrong. Out of the abundance, or the overflow, of the heart, the mouth speaks. Or as a friend once put it, "Bitter root, bitter fruit."
       If the meditations of our heart... what we think about, what we dwell on, what we abide in... are acceptable and pleasing to God, we need not worry about our words, for they will follow suit. Why then does David seemingly list the two out of order? In context, he speaking about his hidden faults. If the heart is secretive about it's sins, leaving even the owner of it unaware of his faults, what is one way to find out what is going on in there? Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The deceitful heart has a vent. Whatever is stewing within, will eventually find its way out through that vent.
      If we find ourselves speaking words that are self-serving, unkind, angry, cutting, crude, or foolish, we can be certain that they are arising from a heart that needs to be checked. Sin, left undealt with, only bears more sin, which will in time destroy the heart that holds it.
      Like David, we must come to the Lord daily and seek Him in His Word, allowing Him to sanctify and change us from within. We must seek Him daily in prayer, asking Him to work in our lives, make us aware of any error we are in, and to change us by His Spirit. We must listen to ourselves, and check our hearts, lest we create a rut of sin that is hard to escape from.
      And we must not try to do any of this in our own strength!
      David describes the LORD as his strength and Redeemer. And rightly so, for He is! Those who have places their trust in Jesus can be confident that the LORD will be their source of strength in living out the Christian life. And when we fail? He is our Redeemer! You cannot lose in Christ!

The lives of believers, with all our faults and failures, are the best revelation of God to the world, because we exemplify His great mercy. It says in 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, "You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart." We are LIVING epistles, or letters, that everyone around us can read. When you are read, what do people learn about God? May our lives reflect the great mercy and love of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
   
   



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