Kidner suggests that the thought of this glorious psalm ‘may underlie the argument of Rom 1:18ff, that God’s eternal power and deity are “clearly perceived in the things that have been made”. Its theology is as powerful as its poetry.’
For the music director; a psalm of David.
19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the sky displays his handiwork.
19:2 Day after day it speaks out;
night after night it reveals his greatness.
19:3 There is no actual speech or word,
nor is its voice literally heard.
19:4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth;
its words carry to the distant horizon.
In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun.
19:5 Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber;
like a strong man it enjoys running its course.
19:6 It emerges from the distant horizon,
and goes from one end of the sky to the other;
nothing can escape its heat.
The lofty thought of vv1-6 serves as a corrective to a number of misconceptions: to that of the pagan, who worships the sun, moon and stars, to that of the astrologer, who imagines that the patterns and movements of the the celestial objects determine our lives on earth, to the materialist, who may contemplate the stars with wonder, but has no-one to thank for their creation. ‘Only the Christian is moved to filial wonder and joy at the thought of their Maker.’ (Kidner)
‘God’s world is not a shield hiding the Creator’s power and majesty. From the natural order it is evident that a mighty and majestic Creator is there. Paul says this in Romans 1:19-21, and in Acts 17:28 he calls a Greek poet as witness that humans are divinely created. Paul also affirms that the goodness of this Creator becomes evident from kindly providences (Acts 14:17; cf. Rom. 2:4), and that some at least of the demands of his holy law are known to every human conscience (Rom. 2:14-15), along with the uncomfortable certainty of eventual retributive judgment (Rom. 1:32). These evident certainties constitute the content of general revelation.’ (Packer, Concise Theology)
‘In the expanse above us God flies, as it were, his starry flag to show that the King is at home, and hangs out his escutcheon that atheists may see how he despises their denunciations of him. He who looks up to the firmament and then writes himself down an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar. Strange is it that some who love God are yet afraid to study the God-declaring book of nature; the mock-spirituality of some believers, who are too heavenly to consider the heavens, has given colour to the vaunts of infidels that nature contradicts revelation. The wisest of men are those who with pious eagerness trace the goings forth of Jehovah as well in creation as in grace; only the foolish have any fears lest the honest study of the one should injure our faith in the other.’ (Spurgeon)
Spurgeon quotes McCosh: ‘We have often mourned over the attempts made to set the works of God against the Word of God, and thereby excite, propagate, and perpetuate jealousies fitted to separate parties that ought to live in closest union. In particular, we have always regretted that endeavours should have been made to depreciate nature with a view of exalting revelation; it has always appeared to us to be nothing else than the degrading of one part of God’s work in the hope thereby of exalting and recommending another. Let not science and religion be reckoned as opposing citadels, frowning defiance upon each other, and their troops brandishing their armour in hostile attitude. They have too many common foes, if they would but think of it, in ignorance and prejudice, in passion and vice, under all their forms, to admit of their lawfully wasting their strength in a useless warfare with each other. Science has a foundation, and so has religion; let them unite their foundations, and the basis will be broader, and they will be two compartments of one great fabric reared to the glory of God. Let one be the outer and the other the inner court. In the one, let all look, and admire and adore; and in the other, let those who have faith kneel, and pray, and praise. Let the one be the sanctuary where human learning may present its richest incense as an offering to God, and the other the holiest of all, separated from it by a veil now rent in twain, and in which, on a blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, we pour out the love of a reconciled heart, and hear the oracles of the living God.’
‘The notion of a Deity is engraven on man’s heart; it is demonstrable by the light of nature. I think it hard for a man to be a natural atheist; he may wish there were no God, he may dispute against a Deity, but he cannot in his judgement believe there is no God, unless by accumulated sin his conscience be seared, and he has such a lethargy upon him, that he has sinned away his very sense and reason.’ (Thomas Watson)
Pour forth – ‘suggests the irrepressible bubbling up of a spring, and therefore perhaps the unfailing variety with which the days reflect the Creator’s mind.’ (Kidner)
Night after night they display knowledge – ‘Without the night skies man would have known, until recently, nothing but an empty universe.’ (Kidner)
‘Paradoxically, though they pour forth speech (2) there is no speech (3). The created order both tells and does not tell: it speaks to our intuitions, that there is a glorious God who created such marvels, but its message is limited—it cannot tell about him—and confusing, for the beauty of the hills tells one truth and the storm and volcano another.’ (NBC)
Their voice goes out into all the earth – The repetition of ‘voice’ is ‘clumsy’ (Kidner). Following the lead of the LXX, we should perhaps read this sentence: ‘Yet their cry goes out into all the earth, their sound to the ends of the world.’
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun – The sun, magnificent as it is, has been put in its place by its Creator.
The rising of the sun is as joyful and welcome as a bridegroom setting forth to meet his bride.
If the allusion is to the pagan myth of a sun-god who returns at the end of each day to his bride, it is to ‘repudiate’ it (Kidner). The sun is a part – though a glorious part – of God’s handiwork.
19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect
and preserves one’s life.
The rules set down by the LORD are reliable
and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.
19:8 The LORD’s precepts are fair
and make one joyful.
The LORD’s commands are pure
and give insight for life.
19:9 The commands to fear the LORD are right
and endure forever.
The judgments given by the LORD are trustworthy
and absolutely just.
19:10 They are of greater value than gold,
than even a great amount of pure gold;
they bring greater delight than honey,
than even the sweetest honey from a honeycomb.
19:11 Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there;
those who obey them receive a rich reward.
19:12 Who can know all his errors?
Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of.
19:13 Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins;
do not allow such sins to control me.
Then I will be blameless,
and innocent of blatant rebellion.
‘Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe…the starry heavens above and the moral law within.’ (Kant) This psalm goes further than ‘the moral law within’ and contemplates the divine law revealed.
Reviving the soul – something that a contemplation of the splendours of the cosmos (vv1-6) can never do.
The law – ‘the comprehensive term for God’s revealed will’. (Kidner)
Various synonyms will be used in these verses (law, precepts, commands, and so on). These ‘are no sharply distinguished, yet each has a certain character of its own…Together, these terms show the practical purpose of revelation, to bring God’s will to bear on the hearer and evoke intelligent reverence, well-founded trust, detailed obedience.’ (Kidner)
Note not only the nouns, but also the adjectives: ‘perfect’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘right’, ‘radiant’, ‘pure’, ‘sure’, and so on. These ‘move in a different world from the compromise, insincerity and half-truths of human intercourse.’ (Kidner)
Then again, as Kidner remarks, the verbs are equally telling. They tell of what Scripture does for us. It ‘revives’, ‘makes wise’, ‘gives joy to the heart’, ‘gives light to the eyes’, etc.
The Lord – Until now, this psalm has used the most general word for God (El). In vv7-14 his most personal, covenant name of Yahweh will be used no less than seven times.
‘Precepts’ and ‘commands’ ‘indicate the precision and authority with which God addresses us.’ (Kidner)
‘Fear’, or reverence, ’emphasises the human response fostered by his word.’ (Kidner)
‘Ordinances’, or judgments, are the judicial decisions he has recorded about various human situations.’ (Kidner)
By them is your servant warned –
A wise minister replied, “Take heart. When you pour water over a sieve, no matter how much you pour, you don’t collect much. But at least you end up with a clean sieve.” (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, 29)
Forgive my hidden faults – ‘a fault may be hidden not because it is too small to see, but because it is too characteristic to register.’ (Kidner)
19:14 May my words and my thoughts
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my sheltering rock and my redeemer.