GAIN FRESH PERSPECTIVE

 

Week of January 4, 2009

 

Bible Verses:Psalm 19:1-14.

 

Lesson Focus: This lesson is about taking steps to gain fresh perspectives of God and life. Based on Psalm 19 those steps include appreciating Godís greatness revealed in the created universe, deciding to obey Godís perfect instruction revealed in the Scriptures, and seeking Godís forgiveness and cleansing.

 

Look at the Sky: Psalm 19:1-6.

 

[1]The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. [2] Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. [3]There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. [4]Their measuring line 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, [5]which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. [6]Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.[ESV]

 

The psalm comprises three separate themes brought together by the author into a unified wisdom hymn: creation praise [1-6], a wisdom psalm [7-11], and a prayer for forgiveness and acceptance [12-14]. The revelation of God in nature and in the law is truly a revelation of God the Father. But the incarnation of God in Jesus shows more clearly the divine perfections [7-9]. We hear more clearly the voice of our Father by listening carefully to what Jesus said and to how He interpreted Godís law. The issue in this psalm is not law versus grace or law verses Jesus but the greater revelation of God in Jesus and, consequently, the greater freedom and maturity of Godís children. The psalmist considers the revelation of God in the world of nature. For him, creation reveals the Lordís royal majesty and sovereignty. It evokes a response of recognition of Godís existence, majesty, and wisdom and therefore of praise.

 

[1-4b] The Revelation of the Skies. The glory and wisdom of God are evident in the vastness of space. Glory here refers to Godís power, wisdom, and His worthiness of honor and worship. The psalmist calls attention to the word the heavens as he begins the first verse and concludes the verse with the synonym the sky. These words signify the place where God put the sun, moon, and stars for the purpose of giving light and for distinguishing day from night [Gen. 1:14-19]. For the psalmist, space is not empty but a revelation of Godís creation of the magnificent heavenly objects, which are characterized by radiance and regularity. The verbs declare and proclaims are participial forms, expressive of the continuous revelation of the heavens, and could be translated ďkeep on declaring Ö; keep on proclaiming.Ē God alone is the Creator, because the magnificence of the heavenly bodies confirms that they are all his handiwork. The verb pours out denotes the spontaneity of the revelation. It bubbles forth like a spring. The alternation of day and night reveals the constancy of Godís creation. The cycle of day and night contribute to the regularity of the seasons. They reveal knowledge in their own distinct speech. The knowledge is not only knowledge about God but rather a special kind, best understood as Godís wisdom, revealed in His creation. Natural revelation is without words and is universal, being unrestricted by the division of languages. It transcends human communication without the use of speech, words, and sounds. To those who are inclined to hear, revelation comes with no regard for linguistic or geographical barriers, even to the ends of the world.

 

[4c-6] The Revelation of the Sun.Life on earth depends on the regularity of the sun. The psalmistís concern was to portray in a phenomenal way how the sun rises, as it were, from a tent. The sun is metaphorically compared to a bridegroom and to a strong man. The joy of the bridegroom, coming from the wedding canopy or the bridal chamber, represents the radiance of the sun. the strong man rejoicing in his strength as he sets out to run his course, represents the power of the sun as it seems to move through its course. From the perspective of this earth, the sun rises and runs its course with radiance and vigor, so that it warms the earth. The sun also reveals Godís glory, power, and wisdom. One does not have to listen for words, because the effect of the sun is evident, as nothing is hidden from its heat. The sun, in running its journey throughout the earth, is like a fierce warrior from whom nothing can be hid. Thus the proclamation of Godís glory is spread throughout all of creation. Just as there is no place that the sun does not shine on earth, so there is no place on earth that Godís glory is not declared.

 

Look to the Scriptures: Psalm 19:7-11.

 

[7]The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; [8]the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; [9]the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. [10]More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. [11]Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.[ESV]

 

Special Revelation. Abruptly and without warning the subject changes from Godís general and natural revelation through creation to His special and supernatural revelation through the law, which refers not merely to the law of Moses but to all Old Testament Scripture. The transition, though abrupt, is not arbitrary. The heavens and the law both make God known. With the change of subject comes a significant change in the divine name. The One who reveals Himself in nature to all people is God, Hebrew El, the God of creation; but it is the Lord Yahweh (seven times in the second half of the psalm), the God of the covenant, who has revealed Himself through His law to His covenant people Israel. It is a revelation not now of His glory but of His will, and its excellencies are set forth in perfect Hebrew parallelism in verses 7-9. The symmetry of these verses is so precise that each begins with a different aspect of Godís will, and goes on to describe both what it is and what it does.

 

The list of four benefits [7-8] is given to encourage the godly to embrace the law of God as an expression of His wisdom. First, Godís word revives. Its restorative quality gives healing to the whole person by assuring forgiveness and cleansing and by giving life to the godly. It unleashes the promises of God by his gracious redemptive acts [Ps. 80:3,7,19]. Second, Godís word is the source of wisdom to all who are ready to receive it. Both the inexperienced (the simple) and the wise develop as they begin with the fear of the Lord and embrace the will of God in all aspects of life. Third, Godís word gives joy. The heartfelt joy is equivalent to inner peace and tranquility as one loves God with all oneís heart, i.e., with oneís innermost being. Fourth, Godís words gives light to the eyes. The internal joy radiates through the eyes. It expresses the joy of being alive and of receiving Godís blessings. Thus Yahweh has made the sun for light in creation and has given His word for light in redemption. The reason the revelation of God in His word is superior to natural revelation lies in its clarity and openness to all. Godís written revelation manifests a perfect internal harmony between God and His word. Godís word reflects Godís integrity, uprightness, and fidelity. It is trustworthy in the sense that His statutes are true in principle and are verifiable in the situations of life. It is right in the sense of straightforward and just. Godís word is not perverse or crooked but encourages the godly to be upright. The Bible is an open book; there is no hypocrisy in it. It is radiant or pure, and its purity effects the clean and upright way of those who are pure. It is pure or flawless, being refined like silver. It is enduring forever, as it does not change with the times and the incessant variations in fashion. Godís word is always ďin.Ē It is sure, faithful, true, as it reflects the fidelity and loyalty of God. It is righteous as it reflects Godís righteousness. It is sweet like the finest honey. These metaphors refer to the great value of Godís word in terms of its effects on those who observe them. It causes integrity, loyalty, uprightness, purity, and growth in righteousness. The efficacy of Godís revelation is set forth by the synonyms for law, the characteristics of the word, and the beneficial effects on the godly. The word of God in itself, in its revelatory qualities and its transforming effects in the godly, is, therefore, of greater value than the most valuable objects of manís striving: money (gold) and fine food (honey). It keeps the wise on the narrow path by forewarning them of possible pitfalls and by guiding them on to the rewards of godliness: life, God-given joy, wisdom, and contentment.

 

It may be surprising to us that the psalmist did not find Godís law a burden to him. But Godís law is only a burden to those who attempt to justify themselves before God by their own obedience to His law. The psalmist had discovered that the sweetness of the law was due, not just to its commandments being right nor to its promises being sure, but because the law was the revelation of God, the special means which He had chosen to make Himself known to His people Israel. And we, too, will see the sweetness of His law when we come to understand that it reveals to us what pleases and honors our God.

 

Look in your Heart: Psalm 19:12-14.

 

[12]Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. [13]Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. [14]Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.[ESV]

 

[12-13] Prayerful Reflection. The psalmist reflects on himself in relation to God and His revelation and focuses on human sinfulness and limitations. God is perfect; and His revelation in nature and the word reveal His glory, power, and wisdom. Just as nothing is hidden from the heat of the sun, and even as the voice of the natural revelation penetrates to the ends of the earth, so Godís word with all its perfections [7-9] penetrates and examines human hearts. The godly stand, therefore, in fear before their Creator-Redeemer, knowing that they may have hidden faults or errors [12] that they have not yet discovered. The word hidden shows the flow of thought in the psalm: just as the sunís heat searches every nook and cranny so that there is nothing hidden from its heat, so too the law searches all the hiding places of the soul. The psalmist shows even a conscientiousness pertaining to the hidden faults, because he aims at pleasing God so as to live blameless before Him. Therefore he asks for forgiveness and an ability to express humility and contrition. He desires true godliness according to which he will not knowingly sin against his God [13]. Presumptuous ( or willful) sins are those often attributed to the arrogant who have no regard for God. These, when repeated, come to have dominion, and thus to enslave. Instead the desire is to become blameless which is what the law is. The psalmist recognizes that he is unable to accomplish this in his own strength. Thus his plea that God will do this work in His servant.

 

[14]The psalmist closes with a prayer that is frequently echoed by Christian ministers before they preach. In it the writer goes beyond his plea for deliverance, to a positive and very personal desire that all his words, and even his thoughts, shall be pleasing in the sight of God, whom he now declares to be both his Rock (strength) and his Redeemer. Redemption is a deliverance from slavery to sin and condemnation through the payment of an acceptable price (the atoning death of Jesus). By the psalmist declaring God to be his Redeemer, he is recognizing his need for deliverance and forgiveness that can only come from God. He shows that the pure and perfect revelation of Godís law has convicted him of his own sinfulness. The word acceptable comes from the language of sacrifice [see Lev. 22:20]. Thus the psalmistís request is that his words and thoughts be a suitable act of worship before God, like a sacrifice offered in Old Testament worship.

 

Questions for Discussion:

 

1.†††††††† Take time this week to meditate on the beauty, power and wisdom of God shown in all of creation. Offer your praises to Him for His handiwork. What advantage does natural revelation have over special revelation?

 

2.†††††††† Why does the psalmist switch to Godís name Yahweh in verses 7-14 instead of the name El that he used in verses 1-6? [Yahweh is a more personal name for God. It is the name God gave to Moses at the burning bush. By switching to Yahweh the psalmist is telling us that Godís revelation in His Word is more personal than that in creation]. What advantage does special revelation have over natural revelation?

 

3.†††††††† In verses 7-9, the psalmist uses parallel terms to describe Godís verbal revelation in His Word. List the terms and the benefits that the psalmist describes in these verses. Why does the psalmist say that Godís revelation of Himself in His law is more desirable than money or fine food? What are the great rewards [11] that come to those who keep Godís commands?

 

4.†††††††† Note how the psalmistís meditation of Godís special revelation in His law convicts him of sin in his life [12-13]. Does this happen to you when you meditate on and study Godís Word? If you have not already down so, memorize verse 14. This week, recite this verse before your personal and family devotions. Think about what it means to you that Yahweh, the covenant keeping God, is your Rock and your Redeemer.

 

References:

Psalms, Volume 1, John Goldingay, Baker.

Psalms, Willem Vangemeren, EBC, Zondervan.

Favorite Psalms, John Stott, Baker.