Comments On Psalm 19
"To the chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse showeth the work of his hands. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech and there are no words, yet their voice is heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their language to the extremity of the world. In them hath he set a tent for the sun, and he is as a bridegroom going forth from his chamber; he rejoiceth as a strong man to run the race. His going forth is from the end of the heavens, and his circuit unto the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of Jehovah are truth, they are righteous altogether: they are more precious than gold, yea, than much fine gold; and sweeter than honey and the dropping of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is thy servant enlightened; in keeping them there is great reward. Who understandeth his errors? Purify me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be perfect, and I shall be innocent from great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Jehovah, my rock, and my redeemer." (Ps.19)
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse showeth the work of his hands." (v.1)
This psalm deals with testimony to God. In the garden that was not necessary, but since the fall, God being displaced by Satan himself in the minds and hearts of the creature it was necessary that there should be a testimony to God. Creation is a testimony, both Romans 1 and this psalm tell us that. It is remarkable how the psalm suddenly changes from reference to the creation (verses 1 to 6) to moral considerations that are now necessary in regard to God and the creature, and our position in relation to God (verses 7-14).
There is evidence in the creation that everything is of God, we were created for this creation. Romans 1 tells us that the creature is altogether without excuse in regard to this testimony, and yet that very testimony was disregarded, nevertheless God shows us faithfulness, God initiates everything in regard to our blessing. When the creature departs He is the One that is outraged, He is the One who is most affected, but the consequences of course fall detrimentally on the creature. God could never be indifferent to the departure of the creature and we can thank Him for that. The Lord Jesus reminds us in John 5:17, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work", immediately God began to work for the recovery of His creature. So if we get the mention of "day unto day" here, whether it be the literal day or even the dispensations of God, it is God who begins to work from His own side at His own expense, and for the complete recovery of the creature. To be carried through it must be His own wisdom and resource. This work is not complete until God has regained that place that He was deprived of by the usurper, by Satan himself.
The whole history of man began with the garden of Eden and a problem which only God Himself could solve. Man assumed that he could grapple with it, this was the suggestion of the serpent. Of the two trees, one he could have, the tree of life was available, but the other, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, was denied him, it was superfluous to his immediate necessities, for everything had been pronounced good by God. However, the usurper came in and they fell for his suggestion, they relied more on the suggestion of the serpent than what God had said, even though the evidence was there that everything was good. In taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil man suggested that he was equal to grapple with such a problem, the problem of good and evil. We live in a time after six thousand years of this grappling and groping and frustration, even though there is a great advance in science, so that man can manipulate and introduce all manner of conveniences, yet the vexed problem, the moral question of good and evil is still left unsolved. It is still a problem for the highest intellect. The very fact that they were deprived of it, God saying, "You shall not eat of it", was a kindly thought on the part of God showing a consideration for man, it was something that would be a heavy load for a child to lift, and any thoughtful parent would not expect a child to lift a load above its ability, so that tree of the knowledge of good and evil is beyond our ability or capacity or even our consideration. That was kindliness on the part of God; a great consideration.
From the very moment when man, in disobedience, tasted the fruit of this tree he was deprived of access to the tree of life, and from that very moment man has attempted to grapple with that problem and has never been able to solve it. The problem is as great today as it ever was, but it is just in such a situation that God shows his great resource. Paul refers to it in this way when he says, "Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor.1:24), that is, the very One who will attend to that problem and solve it bringing glory to God and blessing to man is the One to be considered in the verses we are reading, in Him are the blessings beginning with the company first and nearest to Himself, Israel, the nations and the whole universe all being brought into reconciliation on the righteous basis of redemption. The intimation of that was the very cross of the Lord Jesus when the serpent was threatened, "the seed [of the woman] shall bruise thy head". It had in view "the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world", the complete overthrow of Satan and the whole realm of evil, and the establishing of all that God will recover for Himself in right relations with Himself. So in this psalm we can clearly see that creation brought before us in this way is really God's faithfulness in the same realm where the handiwork of God, His eternal power and divinity is clearly to be apprehended unless we are blind, as we naturally are.
"Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech and there are no words, yet their voice is heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their language to the extremity of the world. In them hath he set a tent for the sun, and he is as a bridegroom going forth from his chamber; he rejoiceth as a strong man to run the race. His going forth is from the end of the heavens, and his circuit unto the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof." (vv.2-6)
Passing briefly over the reference to the creation, the testimony is universal, it goes to all nations on this earth, all depend on the same action of the sun, just as we depend upon God for everything. In reference to that testimony verse 2 tells us so clearly there is a communication in this, it is a reference to the fact that something is conveyed. God draws our attention to the testimony to Himself in the term "day unto day uttereth speech", and "night unto night showeth knowledge", but, if there is darkness, there God is willing to give light, a testimony.
There were those in John's gospel who came to the Lord and said, "What work shall we do that we might work the works of God?" (6:28). The fact is that, being in the darkness, no man can work, and the answer the Lord Jesus gave there was that what they needed was light. When a person speaks about works he is groping in the dark and cannot see the work. The Lord Jesus said, "This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he has sent", that is, in the darkness of sin in which the first thing they needed was a light to see where they were and that they should discern that God fulfilled this promise in the One who came down from heaven to be available for the whole world. Only God can meet the night by bringing in the light. The Lord Jesus said "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world" (John 9:5), this is what is needed.
In its universal application of this testimony of creation, there is no audible voice as there was with the prophets, but nevertheless there is the testimony in the inaudible voice in the way things are presented. They have no speech, yet the voice of the testimony is heard. The very creation would be useless without that sun. Wealth would mean nothing without the sun, for there could not be a corn of wheat were there no sun, therefore the place the sun has in relation to this creation the Son of God has in relation to us.
That which is absolutely necessary for the life of the whole creation is in the S-U-N, whereas God operates in the same sense in relation to man through the S-O-N.
"The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes......." (vv.7-8)
From the testimony of the physical creation we suddenly turn to the moral side of things, for immediately it says, "The law of the Lord is perfect". There are principles that God has brought that without them there would be no way out of the dilemma. When we read the Epistles, such as that to the Romans, the apostle brings in abiding principles which are essential to be observed and applied. I refer especially to Romans 6 where Paul speaks of the principle of sin, but then there is another principle in Romans 7, the principle (or law) of God. The principle of sin does not offer any way out, but the principle of God, in its application, brings in the greatest liberty to the Christian because it has brought in another man, and nothing could be understood in the whole of this Bible were it not for the introduction of that Man, and now we have a testimony to Christ.
Psalm 19 goes from the testimony of creation to the testimony of a Person, and that One, who has come on God's behalf to bring everything into focus so that we may have the truth in that very Person, said of Himself, "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). The truth of anything we may consider is only rightly to be understood in the consideration of Christ. Christ puts the true God before us, and in that way He captures our hearts and regains our confidence. He has displaced all the domination of Satan whereas hitherto God was displaced by Satan's lie. The Son has come to undo the works of Satan, putting the true God before us and attaching our hearts to Him. This is the simple gospel of Romans, there is deliverance from Satan, deliverance from sin and deliverance from the law in the very principle of life which is in another Man. God has brought in another Man, a new source of life, One who has, by going into and coming out of death, glorified God, and that Man is the One who brings in the great relief from the principle of sin which once governed us.
So we have the perfection of such a law of God and the testimony of that law which is sure. It remains constant throughout the dispensation, and makes wise the simple, taking up people like ourselves, Gentiles, and making us wise unto salvation, wise respecting all the vital things of God. It makes a place for Christ in our hearts and an intelligent response in our lives which is the true display of wisdom in this world. There is no folly like a life lived without God. Whatever the affluence and the 'success' in life, for a person to live a life without Christ is the greatest possible folly, that is what the Lord said in Luke 12, but what wisdom there is in the acceptance of that great principle, the principle of life in Christ Jesus, and the life that is dedicated to God, according to Romans 12, where we "present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is [our] intelligent service". This shows intelligence and wisdom, and it shows we have taken God's way, it shows we have taken account of the intervention of that one Man and the principle of that life in that one Man in which we live to and respond to God.
This is wisdom. So these moral things can be traced, as in the New Testament teaching, in the way that there is response to God. God is looking for this moral change in the saints and what a wonderful thing it is when there is the fear of God.
"......the fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of Jehovah are truth, they are righteous altogether......" (v.9)
"The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov.9:10). What a wise thing it is when the heart turns to God, that is wisdom, and the pursuance of that is a life lived in wisdom. This is purifying. The statutes of the law are right, they are perfect, a true standard. In every direction the commandment of the law is pure, eyes are opened, enlightened, we see correctly, distinctly, and this enables us to see righteousness fulfilled in that God has put Christ where He is in the place of exaltation, crowned in heaven. This is where righteousness is. The very crucifixion of Christ is one thing, a very base thing on the part of this world, and it shall have to answer for it, but then He could not remain there, "thou wilt not leave my soul in hades, nor wilt thou give thy gracious one to see corruption" (Acts 2:27), righteousness demanded Christ be raised and exalted.
Our eyes are enlightened to see Jesus (Heb.2:9), our eyes are properly adjusted, this is a recognition of God's testimony to Christ. Then "the judgments of Jehovah are truth, they are righteous altogether", what beautiful expressions these are, they adjust us, and everything in every way is then able to answer to God accordingly.
"......they are more precious than gold, yea, than much fine gold; and sweeter than honey and the dropping of the honeycomb." (v.10)
Verse 10 speaks of the things to desire, the things to go in for, these things which are of a moral worth. The standards of the world are one thing, they do not count to God, prospering in this world does not matter to God. Think of the great things in this world, the great ships, the big roads, the extensions, the improvements, these do not matter to God at all, it is man's world, man's greatness, man's glory, Babylon. What does matter to God is a heart bound in the presence of God, "to this man will I look" the Lord declares (Isa.66:2).
This is what arrests heaven's attention, a man who is "afflicted and contrite in spirit, and who trembleth at my word", such a man will draw all the attention of heaven. In this way even the poorest or the feeblest amongst us can command the attention of heaven. If ever a person should know himself that, despite what we are, God in His infinite love has designs for blessing for us, it will cause us to bow down before God.
These are the things more to be desired than gold. What a pursuit there is for gold, the dominating principle in man's world, it is the very best of all there is in this world, that which is to be desired and our gold will enhance our standing before men in this world. It has many friends in this world, but the judgments of Jehovah are to be accounted of more value by us.
Further, they are "sweeter than honey". Honey refers to the best of nature. This turns me to a word of the Lord in John 16:24 and repeated in 1 John 1:4 where in two instances it says, "that your joy may be full". I do not think that any person who has made a success of himself in this world and amassed all the gold has been brought to where his joy has been full. I do not think that whatever we are seeing taking place in nature in the happiest of families can answer to our joy being full. It is not to be found in this world, not even in the best of nature, but we are to pursue and desire it.
Honey and the honeycomb here refer to the best there is in nature and God has been very bountiful in regard to the realm of nature. Israel were called to nature and they were blessed according to nature. We see a bit of that in Deuteronomy 26, the character of the blessings to Israel was the land and the cattle and the family, an abundance of fruit, all the very things that appeal to the natural man. However, death has come in and has become the great spectre that can separate us from the very best of nature, from fellowship and from our amassed fortunes. This is a great concern, having got acquisitions the fear then is the loss of them through death itself. So here in psalm 19 we have revealed that which is to be desired more than fine gold and even better than the best of nature because it is beyond death, it is in company and in communion with a risen Christ and in communion with God concerning His Son. In this our joy is full in that we are called to the place Christ has in the presence of the Father and called to share the Father's pleasure in the Son.
"Moreover by them is thy servant enlightened; in keeping them there is great reward." (v.11)
These words are very timely in a world like this. This world is in darkness, and without the scriptures and the Holy Spirit and the One who is the Captain of our salvation we could not get through this world successfully for it is a maze, a maze that we shall get wrong at every turn, so we need every warning and guidance of Scripture. Let us take heed to all that is available for our preservation.
"Who understandeth his errors? Purify me from secret faults." (v.12)
In Christianity everything is taken into account as being delivered from the 'Adam' state and being 'in Christ' before God and we now live in Christ who has been into death and who now lives unto God. He is our life by whom we live to God, and in the power of the Spirit we live in a deliverance from those things that once dominated us as secret faults. The answer to all this is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the application of it is in the power of the Spirit of God. This great deliverance of verse 11 is in keeping with Romans 7 which brings us into the fact that there is "no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus".
"Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be perfect, and I shall be innocent from great transgression." (v.13)
We are not in the dark, and if we live in the light of the Lord we shall not be driven by those presumptuous things. We have to remember that in the first book of psalms there are those which refer to Christ Himself personally and there are psalms which have the remnant of Israel in view where the Spirit of Christ is in the remnant and the remnant, expressing themselves in these terms, anticipate the coming of a great deliverance in a coming day. But these cannot be accepted by us in the way that they apply to Israel.
"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Jehovah, my rock, and my redeemer." (v.14)
This would turn us to the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 15, "Not what enters into the mouth defiles the man; but what goes forth out of the mouth, this defiles the man." There are no such things for the Christian as the clean and the unclean foods as there were for the Jews, the Lord makes that very clear, it is from the heart that evil proceeds.
James also tells us of the ability of man in the realm of creation, he can tame lions, horses, birds, etc., but then he says, "but the tongue can no man tame" (3:8), it is the index of the human will. That is a very solemn thing with all of us. The very circumstances of our individual lives will bring this to light, that even as Christians we have a will, and I do believe that the greatest thing that God will ever do with you and me is to bring us to surrender our wills. With the Lord Jesus it was a complete surrender, but with us we will find that our wills are many a time seen to be antagonistic and opposed to God's will, and it is here that all Christians bear the mark of God's discipline, they show it in that they renounce their own wills and are subdued before God, not answering back, careful not to stand up for themselves. Let people say and do what they will, the lesson to learn in the presence of God is to renounce our wills and God will see to the rest.
So the tongue is the index to the will, and here the psalmist anticipates that. Most of the trouble has been not only the thoughts of the heart but then the tongue uttering what is in the heart. The psalmist had some conscious sense of that and so have we as being near to the Lord. In our readings we are directed to one glorious Person. When Scripture speaks about being pure we are purified by His love as we look upon such a perfect Person. This is God's pattern for you and for me, we are to be occupied with what is pure, we are to be occupied with God Himself as revealed in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the way for that transference to have its effect in the hearts of His saints in a very practical way. This is real Christianity. This is Christianity which is for every Christian. The last verse of 2 Corinthians 3 bears this out, "We all" - it is not for certain people, it is the privilege of every believer to have his eyes turned to that blessed Person just as the heavens were opened upon Jesus and our attention directed solely to Him.
Jesus is not here now, He is in heaven, but His people are here and the wonderful thing is that His people take His place here in this world. What does this mean? It means that Jesus, alone as God saw Him here, is God's pattern and God's standard and every one of us has got to be like Him. What is said of the Lord is said of the saints in Colossians 3, we are, as He is, elect and beloved and precious, and in the life of the risen Man and by the power of the Spirit the saints are in that life in answer to God, and while there is sin and the flesh in us God has given us deliverance and the power of the Spirit like the sword of David which slew Goliath.
There was a time later in 1 Samuel 21 when David went to Ahimelech and when he had got the bread he said, 'What else have you?' Ahimelech replied 'I have only got the sword by which thou cut off the head of Goliath'. David said, 'Give me that, there is nothing like that'. There is no weapon in the arsenal of God that is so mighty as what it is for a Christian to be in the life of the living Christ by the Spirit. That applies to everyone that comes to God here in this world. Bearing in mind that the psalmist began with the greatness of creation, he has come down to a very practical application from creation, from all these wonderful considerations, down to our own hearts in the way that we can answer to God in a way that is acceptable.