The Bible is the most widely read book in all the world. It is also true that the book of Psalms is the most read book in all of the Bible. The psalms provide a window for the soul through which we can express our worship toward God. The psalms reveal the heart of man for God and the heart of God for man. The psalms are songs, hymns of the Hebrew people. They are principles of praise and ways to reverence God. They are the words to congregational singing.
The Greek word psalmos are songs sung with the accompaniment of a stringed instrument. The Psalms are also Hebrew poetry. This kind of poetry was not based on rhyme, but on parallels of thought. The most common kind of Hebrew parallelism is synonymous parallelism, where the second line, stanza or paragraph reinforces the first. As an example, in Psalm 19, the message of God’s revelation in nature is compared to and reinforced by God’s revelation of Himself in His Word. Where nature gives indications of God, the Word of God gives us specific information about God. Psalm 19 also illustrates a second kind of parallelism where the second paragraph elevates the thought of the first. It is like putting high octane gasoline in a high-powered engine.
Thus, Psalm 19 both builds on two ideas: vv 1-6, the revelation of God in nature or natural revelation and vv 7-11, the revelation of God in His Word, or special revelation. This building concept, which elevates the thought of the author, is seen when God reveals His existence in nature. But His precise revelation of Himself in what is written in the Bible. We know that God’s self-revelation of Himself in salvation is not revealed in nature, but only in the Word of God. The lasting value of His revelation to us comes from what He has written.
But Psalm 19 does not end there. The study of the psalm must be applied in order for it to be life changing. That is why the author concludes His psalm with a prayer. In his prayer, he prays that the principles he has learned from all of this would create within him a life that pleases God. Psalm 19 teaches that it is one thing to be in the Word, but it is another to allow the Word to be in you, to change you. When the Word of God changes a life there will by necessity be a personal holiness in that life that will please God.
I. NATURAL REVELATION (Psalm 19:1-6)
It is natural to appreciate beauty in nature. This was especially true of former shepherd-boy turned king. In Psalm 19:1-3, David wrote of the nighttime glory and splendor of God’s handiwork in the heavens. Today it is like going camping on a high mountain top and sleeping out under the stars on a summer night. In a clear sky, where the city lights are distant, you will see a cascading panorama of myriads of stars, close enough to almost touch. Occasionally you may see a shooting star darting across the heavens. It is so beautiful it is difficult to get to sleep.
This is probably what David had in mind when he penned these verses. He attributed it all to God’s glory literally “bubbling up” yohnaah, of his handiwork. To him it is something like a beautifully embroidered tapestry. The result of all of this was that day and night, God’s creation in outer space quietly spoke volumes to our planet. This message is easily heard worldwide by people all over our earth.
But the main feature in all of this, in vv 4-6, is the dominance of the sun. In this passage the sun is like a bridegroom coming out of his wedding chamber in the morning. It is like a champion racer running his course. In other words, what stands out in the psalm, while describing our star studded universe at night, is the reigning power of the sun that shines out to all our world, each day. Its presence is essential to maintaining life on earth.
But with a simple discussion of natural revelation in verses 1-6 can merely create an interest in nature. With just this information, we would all subscribe to the National Geographic and enroll in an online environmental course. The naturalist has a great interest in our physical world but little concern for the condition of one’s soul. But the discerning spirit longs for more.
II. SPECIAL REVELATION (Psalm 19:7-11)
This section describes God’s revelation of Himself in Scripture. There is a parallel of thought here. In verses 1-6, as the sun dominates the sky around planet earth, so the Word of God is to dominate the soul of man and bring light and life. To expound this, David uses six synonyms, six adjectives, and six results that come from an allegiance to the Word of God. To demonstrate the dominance of the Word of God over nature, he highlights how the perfect, flawless Word changes people, revives the soul and makes man wise. Internally, it brings joy to the heart, enlightens the eyes and guides one’s choices. It also brings a reverential respect for God.
To enliven his meaning, David chose two metaphors to help us evaluate the value of the Word. Here, the Bible is like the finest gold and the sweetest honey. One symbol is monetary, the other nutritional. One brings a sense of external security, the other internal satisfaction. In summary, the Bible is not a burden, but a blessing. It is better than money in the bank and sweeter than honey in your mouth.
The problem is that a great many people know the Bible without any visible changes in the way they live. Instead they have a cold callousness toward God. The only thing that is worse than not knowing the Bible is to know it and to not use it, (cf. James 1:23-24).
III. A PRAYER FOR CHANGE (Psalm 19:12-14)
Some Bible teaching is like standing in line at the cafeteria. The Bible teacher lays out the meaning of the Bible and then leaves it up to the listener to pick and choose what he wishes.
Psalm 19:12-14 gives us a precedent for stressing more application in Bible education. The discussion of the psalm is now directed toward David himself. His goal is to allow the Word of God to guard him against the eroding effect of evil on his life. We can get so accustomed to sin that it is possible to imitate the godless value systems of our world. For example, some subscribe a line of thinking that says that good is evil and to do evil is good.
David’s prayer is to use God’s Word like a cleaner on pots and pans. The Word of God is to clean off the corrosion and encrustations that form a barrier against a quality spiritual life with a holy God. The Scriptures will expose us to an open evaluation of what is really right and wrong in our lives. We must become vulnerable to the Holy Spirit’s teaching through the Word. In Hebrews 4:12, it is to experience the cutting edge of the sword, the Bible.
During this time of “openness” to God’s surgery, the believer becomes quite vulnerable. This is why David used the metaphor of God as a rock. The stability of God is revealed as our redeemer secures us in His life-changing service.
In conclusion, the author is anguishing in prayer. Then, in one verse, Psalm 19:14, he summarizes the meaning of the entire psalm to the reader. He reaches back and pulls together the purpose of God’s revelation of Himself. Here David reveals his need to line up two action points in his life: his thought life and his speech. He wishes his life to be so conditioned by Christ and purged of impurity that “the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart would be acceptable to God.” In response to an understanding of God’s Word, he wishes to think through what he says. He wants his ways to always please God.
IV. WHAT IT ALL MEANS
Psalm 19 is like a “V” in which God’s revelation of Himself is focused in upon the author. The goal of Psalm 19 is to bring change and transformation in the life of a believer. This comes from the Word spiritually cleansing our behavioral “blind-spots” that keep us from being effective for the Lord. In essence, this psalm says that to know God is to know His Word. To know His Word means we need to change. In the New Testament, this change is observable. We become more Christlike, “conformed to the image of His son” (Rom 8:29).