Psalm 19 - NIV For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is deprived of its warmth.
7 The law of the Lordis perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lordare trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lordare right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lordare radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
9 The fear of the Lordis pure,
The decrees of the Lordare firm,
and all of them are righteous.
10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
11 By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Devotional from Bishop Ken Good
C.S. Lewis considered this psalm to be the greatest poem in the book of psalms. The great John Stott said it provides us with the clearest summary in the Old Testament of how God makes himself known to us (his revelation). With such high praise from such wise people, I thought it must be worth making an effort to get to grips with it a bit more.
The picture I imagine at the start of the psalm is of a huge panoramic view of the spectacular natural world – the vastness of the skies, the planets, the oceans and the mountains. I imagine seeing the wonder of it all it in a wide-angle yet super-detailed camera lens. Gazing at the spectacle of the natural world, I can only respond by saying, ‘Surely some great creative mind must have planned and designed all this?’ That’s what’s meant by natural revelation, God revealing himself through nature.
As the psalmist says here in the opening sentences, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’ The first way God reveals himself - and speaks - to everybody in the world - is through nature.
In verses 7-9, the camera lens then zooms right down to our level. The focus moves from ‘natural revelation’ to something much more specific and tangible, God’s written word or what’s referred to as his ‘special revelation’.
The words God has spoken through the scriptures are much more than just rules or regulations. No, they are designed to be life-changing. They make us wise by helping us discover the very best way to live – so that we can avoid going down some of the harmful cul-de-sacs which we can choose if we ignore his wisdom.
In this psalm we are reminded that his law is not merely good, it is ‘perfect, refreshing the soul.’ (v.7). His words can be trusted and will make us frail mortals ‘wise’; his truths are ‘radiant’ and give ‘joy to the heart’ (v.8).
The psalm finishes with a personal statement – which I want to be my statement, too. Because God reveals himself through nature to everybody and speaks through the scriptures to those who hear them – he wants each of us to respond to him individually, in a personal way.
The author of the psalm has made a personal decision to trust God and to trust his revelation. He has discovered that in doing so, God provides forgiveness for his hidden faults (v.12) and deliverance from his wilful sins (v.13). In his desire to be a faithful disciple, his life isn’t dominated or blighted by wrong choices.
I love the way the psalm finishes with a very positive statement of intent. The psalmist prays that his whole life, flowing from his private thoughts (meditations) and his words, will be pleasing and acceptable to God, the one who has redeemed (saved) him. I sometimes use this verse as an opening prayer at the start of a sermon.
This is a psalm with real breadth and depth. I encourage you to grapple with it.
After retiring as Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe in May 2019, Ken took on a building project in a house in Moira and he has loved being hands-on on-site for eight months. He and his wife, Mary, moved into the house in January and are loving the refreshing change of pace. Life now includes more visits to their three adult children in London, Nottingham and Wicklow.