John Calvin introduces his commentary on Psalm nineteen with: “David, with the view of encouraging the faithful to contemplate the glory of God, sets before them in the first place, a mirror of it in the fabric of the heavens, and in the exquisite order of their workmanship which 0we behold; and in the second place, he recalls our thoughts to the Law, in which God made himself more familiarly known to his chosen people.”
Psalm 19 begins, “The heavens declare the glory of God;” and “Day unto day uttereth speech.” There are two words that come from the same Hebrew root; one is translated ‘speech’ in verse two; the other is translated ‘word’ in verse fourteen. The meaning has to do with an utterance, a decree, a command or purpose. We read in Psalm 68:11, “The Lord gave the word; great was the company of those who proclaim it.” Verse one reads that the heavens “declare”, meaning that they enumerate or narrate, the glory of God. In verse four we read that creation’s words go to the end of the earth. ‘Word’ means here, a speech, discourse, or topic. Verse seven teaches about the testimony of the Lord. ‘Testimony’ is a word most directly associated with God. Its meaning includes witness and warning, and is found in connection with the Ark of the Covenant. Therefore, we conclude that we have come face to face with that which is able to communicate the glory of God.
David’s soul is fastened to heaven; and, with these words, he fastens our hearts to God’s throne of grace: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork.” Our Lord Jesus taught us to direct our prayers to “Our Father, who art in heaven.” “For in substance the heavens declare that they are not their own make, but that they are made by one infinite, incomprehensible, omnipotent, everlasting, good, kind, and glorious God” D. Dickson, The Psalms. The nature and extent of the heavens and firmament (expanse of the sky), is seen in verses 2–5. Their speech is a 24-hour witness to the glory of God. Day after day, night after night they display true knowledge. There is no place on this earth that the message does not reach, “where their voice is not heard.” And, “Their line has gone forth through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” They speak the truth of Creation and its Creator.
God reveals the beauty of his creation when he moves David to write, “In them (the heavens and firmament) hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a mighty man to run its race.” Christ dwells in the midst of his congregation, giving light to those whom he brought out of darkness by his precious sacrifice on our behalf. God has also set a tabernacle for the sun, a place of which no one can say, “There is no sun;” for its brightness is beyond such foolish words. David applies this tabernacle to that of a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, heading toward his bride with much rejoicing, as a strong man ready to run a race. Our eyes are directed to the Sun of Righteousness, Christ Jesus our Savior! He who was spoken of by the apostle John, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” [John 1:14].
The instructions of the triune ‘I AM’ God are complete, sufficient, and efficacious to our souls. The testimony of the LORD is faithful to us as children of the Father. His statutes lead us in the path of righteousness, rejoicing our hearts.
There are a number of words in these verses that refer to the communication of God to his people. They embrace the whole counsel of God through his Word and his operation as Lord and Savior. We could say that we are now observing God and his governing of his creation. All of these words concern the Lord: The law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord, the statutes of the Lord, the commandment of the Lord, the fear of the Lord, and the judgments of the Lord. Those things originate from God—that which the Christian, the child of God, finds “more to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine God; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
The first word is ‘LAW’ or “TORAH”—meaning instruction or doctrine. The first five books of the Bible are called the Torah, teaching us that God has given us certain directives and statutes that must be learned and obeyed. They teach us of the moral character of those who are created after the image of God.
The second word is ‘TESTIMONY’—which speaks of God’s witness, his law, such as the Ten Commandments. These are said to be sure; they stand firm, are enduring. They are words of God which you can trust without doubting. Therefore, in them alone, we find wisdom and knowledge.
The third word is ‘STATUTES’—it is what Gods allocates, assigns to us, commands us. They are right and true, the righteousness that rejoices our hearts. Blessed are the children of God, “who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6).
The fourth word is ‘COMMANDMENT’—which speaks of the Law of Moses, the ordinance of God. It is pure, without error, enlightening the eyes. Paul (1 Cor. 2:9–10) reminds us of what God has written, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him.”
The fifth word is ‘FEAR’—a very strong word meaning ‘terror.’ When we are in right relationship with God, as creature to Creator, as child to God the Father, as sheep to the Good Shepherd, then we have that which endures forever! The Christian fears God, standing before him in awe, reverence, with wonder and admiration. From pulpit and pew we must see Christ in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells. Nehemiah writes, “Our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God” (9:32). We set our eyes upon our Lord with awe and reverence.
The sixth word is ‘JUDGMENTS’—these are the verdicts that are handed down in the courtroom of the King, the judge of all peoples. They are judicial pronouncements before all civil and religious courts of this world. It speaks of justice and decrees, of guilt and rule by law. This is where character counts, where righteousness and unrighteousness are judged. It does matter to our Creator that our lives and our hearts reveal the righteousness of God. It is in Christ that we find hope, as he is the one who has satisfied the justice of God for us on the cross of Calvary.
Having seen the sovereign God as Creator—as the King who issues decrees and commands, demanding righteousness, as the Savior, who alone can forgive sins and give life eternally—the Christian can, with David, pray, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my Strength and my Redeemer” Only when we come to God, confessing our sins, and receiving forgiveness from our Father in heaven, through Christ who shed his blood for the forgiveness of our sins, will we know that we, who are sinners, are considered blameless before God. To be innocent of transgressing God’s law means that Christ, while we were still sinners, died for us. Christ has paid the penalty for our sin and guilt.
What are we praying for in these words of David? Are we not praying that the grace of God moves in our hearts and souls, in our daily activities, so that we will be continually cleansed from unrighteousness and live to Christ and not to self? Without the grace of God in our lives, there is no life in us. He alone enables us to live for him and to his glory. We pray that the Holy Spirit will be the One who will keep us, and guide us, and enable us to obey the will of God. Let us, therefore, “learn so much the more the necessity of our being governed by the Holy Spirit, in order to regulate our life uprightly and honestly” (Calvin).
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