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God’s Living Word

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The nineteenth psalm, written by King David, starts with such statements as “The heavens are telling,” “their expanse is declaring,” and “Day to day pours forth speech.” It closes with an appeal for the acceptability of “the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart.”

We could write the Word over this entire psalm as a theme, as it is referring to the words, commands, and precepts of God and our response to them. The speech of God is life, no matter if spoken or silent, and His commands give us life and direction.

King David desired to follow God with all his heart. He failed spectacularly on several occasions, but then he found his way back again. He consistently tried to focus on God’s line of thought, as he does in this psalm.

The heavens tell

In verses 1-6, David focuses on the heavens. Not surprisingly, these verses are used often in our discussion with those naturalists who do not believe in the act of creation. We point to the beauty and design of nature to emphasize God as the author, contrary to their declaration that this is simply a significant work in nature, an unexplained ordering of the details. David says the details are explained in God: “The heavens are telling the glory of God.”

This declaration of God’s glory is continuous — “day to day” and “night to night.” God’s evidence in the created world testifies to His glory, His greatness, and His concern for His creation.

Such testimony never stops if we are wise enough to see it. Many times on my hikes through the woods and fields, I thank God that I have eyes to see creation as God’s handiwork. It is liberating to sense His closeness in the things He has made. I feel sad for those who only see it mechanically.

David spends the large part of three verses in this psalm’s opening to refer to the sun. He says the heavens are a tent, or tabernacle, from which the sun begins its march each day and concludes at night. This is not intended to be a scientific study of the sun’s movements, any more than saying the sun is a literal bridegroom. The “circuit” of the sun’s movements is from the perspective of the psalmist; it comes up, crosses the heavens, and goes down. David is simply extolling the power he sees.

This poetic language shows just one example of the display of God’s power. The mighty sun, which no one can stop, marches at the commands of its Sovereign from morning to night.

I live in Texas. The last few summers have been a clear witness to the fact that we cannot hide from the sun’s heat. Just so, the evidence that God continues to speak to us through His creation tells us of His majesty. These wonderful displays of His power and His sovereign care give us hope for order in a world that is too often awry.

The law tells

The latter part of Psalm 19 can be broken into two parts. The first is verses 7-10, where the psalmist speaks of the effectiveness of God’s law. The second is in verses 11 through the end of the psalm, where David appeals to God for the law to have an impact on him, personally.

First, David extols the excellence of God’s law. I am reminded of Psalm 119, where each verse has something to say about the wonder of God’s law and its impact on the faithful follower. (Curiously, the numbers of these psalms are close where the theme is so similar.) In the same manner, we are told here in Psalm 19 that the law is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true.

If this were a modern writer, we might wonder if he had spent too much time with his thesaurus! But more than simply employing repetition of the same idea or a nuanced interpretation of the same word, David carefully chooses each word to reveal his love for the law. A quick consultation of the Hebrew words he uses shows us the law is perfect, or complete; it is sure, or reliable; it is right, or straight; it is pure, or free of blemishes; it is clean, or ethically spotless; and it is true, or trustworthy.

These qualities cause changes in the one who believes. David follows each word he mentions with benefits of the law, like restoration, wisdom, joy, enlightenment (vv. 7, 8), or superlative characteristics, like endurance and righteousness (v. 9). The law is to be trusted, and it leads to a deepening relationship with God.

Are we alert when we read such psalms and observe how our love for God’s commands might have reached low ebb? His words are life. They lead to the best riches we can find on this earth, but we sometimes consider them dry. Dryness would contrast with David’s description in verse 10. He says that God’s words, extensions of His presence, are finer than the purest gold and sweeter than the best confection on earth. We simply cannot find anything more valuable or helpful than what God has told us in His revelation.

The Word moves

Second, having extolled the law itself, David expresses his desire to be moved by its power. He writes that the law equally protects us from mistakes and rewards us when we follow (v. 11). This would make the law a living thing, representative of God’s character. How else would it warn and give life? During our private Bible study, worship, or church instruction, we participate in the regenerative power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, we cannot know ourselves without the searchlight of the Word of God. David says, “Who can discern his errors?” (v. 12). Left to ourselves, we tend to either exaggerate our wickedness or accentuate our righteousness. The Word of God alone can accurately shine light on our condition. It can remedy our tendency to sin presumptuously, but it can also atone for the many sins we have not yet acknowledged weighing us down (vv. 12, 13).

We could say, “I want to get washed!” Our attention to God’s testimonies can free us. His words offer hope because they offer Him. When we allow His instruction to penetrate our souls, to transform us, we become righteous in His light.

David concludes this psalm with the well-known words “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer” (v. 14). His entire life is intricately woven into God’s will. We cannot escape the fact that life is found in God: He has revealed Himself as all-powerful. He has shown Himself to be gracious toward us, and He has made it clear that our abundance is found when we embrace His words.

David Downey
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Dr. David Downey is a freelance writer who has published work in Creation Illustrated, Seek, Precepts for Living, Light and Life, War Cry, and The Lookout. He has also published curriculum in QuickSource (Explore the Bible Series) and has published a book, His Burden is Light: Cultivating Personal Holiness, on Amazon. Dr. Downey lives in Burleson, TX.