So many voices seem to clamour for our attention these days:
- TV, radio, mobile phone.
- Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.
- Youtube, Google, Alexa.
- Educators, politicians, influencers.
- Parents, friends, colleagues
But there are three voices that must not be drowned out by all this noise. These voices are ancient, and yet timeless. They speak to us eloquently, instructively, harmoniously.
Together, they witness to the most important thing in the world: the knowledge of God.
Each of them can be heard in this, perhaps the most wonderful of all the psalms.
1. The voice of the heavens, 1-6
Imagine David the shepherd out in the fields at night. His eyes are drawn to the sky above him. Against an ink-black background he contemplates the Milky Way, glowing mysteriously; he marvels at the Pleiades, sparkling like jewels; he observes the planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, creeping their way through the constellations; he sees the moon passing repeatedly through its phases. He might spot the flash of a shooting star, or even spy a comet as it glides across the heavens. Hour after hour the night sky puts on its spectacular light show. Then, finally, day begins to break in the east; the sun rises from its slumber, and begins its own majestic journey across the sky, pouring out light and warmth to everyone and everything beneath.
David hears in all of this a wordless voice, an eloquent message.
‘The heavens declare the glory of God,’ v1a.
In a quiet corner of the crypt in St Paul’s Cathedral in London, there lies a monument dedicated to the cathedral’s designer, Sir Christopher Wren. The epitaph contains words in Latin, which, when translated, say: ‘Reader, if you seek his memorial – look around you.’
If you seek evidence the Creator, look around you. Listen to the voice of the heavens. They are singing, silently but eloquently, ‘the hand that made us is divine’.
‘The skies proclaim the work of his hands,’ v1b.
David Wilkinson (who, incidentally, is both an astrophysicist and a Christian minister) tells of an occasion when he was preparing to take the funeral service of a man he had not met before. He visited the house of the man’s widow. ‘Every wall was full of the most beautiful paintings and drawings. I asked who the artist was and the woman said, “It’s all the work of his hands.” I saw in those paintings a person of perception, imagination, creativity and joy. The paintings spoke of him.’
According to Paul, in Rom 1:20, the voice of the heavens is unmistakeable. So much so that ‘people are without excuse’ if they fail to acknowledge the Creator of the heavens and the earth.
But the voice of the heavens is also a limited voice. It does not tell the whole story. It speaks of glory, but not grace; of majesty, but not mercy; of power, but not purpose; of creation, but not compassion.
But there is a second voice for us to tune into.
2. The voice of Scripture, 7-11
David introduces Scripture using six nouns: ‘The law of the Lord’, ‘the statutes of the Lord’, ‘the precepts of the Lord’, ‘the commands of the Lord’, ‘the fear of the Lord’, ‘the ordinances of the Lord’.
When David extolls God’s ‘law’, he is not thinking narrowly of the Ten Commandments. What he has in mind is the ‘Torah’, God’s ‘instruction’. For him, this was contained in the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures – Genesis to Deuteronomy. For us, it extends to all 66 books of our completed Bibles.
David describes Scripture using six adjectives: How would you describe the Bible? Difficult? Problematic? Confusing? Flawed? For David, the Scriptures are ‘perfect’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘right’, ‘radiant’, ‘pure’, ‘sure’.
David uses six verbs to outline the practical value of the Scriptures: They ‘revive the soul’, ‘make wise the simple’, ‘give joy to the heart’, ‘give light to the eyes’, ‘endure for ever’, ‘altogether righteous’. God’s words, he concludes, are more precious than gold, sweeter than honey, v10.
What is your estimate of the Bible? What difference has it made in your life? What difference could it make, if you let it?
A young Christian was discouraged in her attempts to read and remember the Bible. She said, “It’s no use. No matter how much I read, I always forget what I have just read.” Her friend replied, “Cheer up. When you pour water over a sieve, you don’t collect much. But at least you end up with a clean sieve.”
But what is the voice of Scripture saying? What is the message is it conveying? In one word: Christ.
‘The Scriptures testify about me’ (Jn 5:39).
‘Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’ (Lk 24:27)
‘All the promises God has made are ‘Yes’ in Christ’ (2 Cor 1:20).’
David himself was part of that promise: the coming Messiah would ‘belong to the house and line of David’ (Lk 2:4). Jesus would be ‘great David’s greater Son.’
David saw the heavens as the work of God’s fingers. He recognised the Scriptures as unfolding God’s plan for humankind. But there is still one vital element – his own response.
3. The voice of personal experience, 12-14
When David spoke of the voice of the heavens, he referred to the Creator by name just once (v1), and that name was ‘El’, the most general and impersonal of all the divine names. When he spoke of the voice of Scripture he repeatedly used God’s covenant name, ‘Yahweh’ (‘the Lord’). But now, as he reflects on his own personal response, he addresses God as ‘my Rock and my Redeemer’, v14.
‘My rock’ – How beautiful it is when a husband or wife can to look back over many years of marriage and say, ‘He/she has been my rock.’ David could say that of his God.
‘My Redeemer’ – If you had fallen into slavery, it would have been the responsibility of a close relative to buy you back; – to be your kinsman-redeemer. The Bible says that we are all by nature slaves to sin. David himself is acutely aware of ‘hidden [unintended] faults’, ‘wilful sins’, ‘great transgression’. But God himself has stepped in as our kinsman-redeemer to rescue us. ‘Redeemed,’ as Peter puts in in 1 Pet 1:18ff, ‘not with perishable things such as silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ.’
All that is required on our part is to accept the gift, to make it our own. The heart and soul of the Christian faith are found in its personal pronouns. Can you say, with David, ‘My rock and my redeemer’? Or with Paul, ‘The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me’ (Gal 2:20)?
We have been attending to three voices: the voice of the heavens, of Scripture, and of personal experience.
Remember the Magi! They started by following the star, a special messenger from God in the sky to guide them. Then they learned from the Scriptures that God’s Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. Finally, they came, and they offered gifts, and they worshiped.
Wise men, and women, still seek God in the same way today.
Thankyou, Lord, for the voice of the heavens, as they pour forth their message about their wonderful Creator.
Thankyou, Lord, for the voice of the Scriptures, which are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Thankyou, Lord, that I can respond with my own voice as I experience you as my Rock and my Redeemer. I come to you. I offer up my life to you. I worship you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
[Credits: the little segment on ‘remembering the Magi’ is based on an idea by Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary on this psalm]