David indicates that this song is to be sung as it is simply addressed to the choir director as a psalm. While arguments are made that a psalm is always plucked or played by definition, we learn from the New Testament that sometimes the heart is the instrument and the sound is created vocally. This is fitting since the intention of the psalm was to declare the glory of God from the level of the macrocosm to the microcosm (the grandiose heavens telling about the awesome Creator, the revelation of God proclaiming His majesty, to the created individual in praise directed toward God).
This psalm has been treasured by many and considered to be one of the finest pieces of poetry ever written. I trust that we will see its beauty as we study the lyrics together.
Let’s read the psalm and then we will begin our lesson.
For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat. The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward. Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.
The heavens declare the glory of God (vs. 1-6)
The expanse declares the work of His hands. Since God is the Maker of the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), we can learn so much information about God by simply listening to creation. The Shechinah glory is what the early Israelites experienced in the cloud (Ex. 16:10). Yet, his glory is on display even in what exists around us. The creation made by God is making a declaration about God. David is not saying that the creation is the only witness of God, but some of David’s earliest learning about the Creator and His glory came from those long days and nights under the canopy of heaven looking into the sky. The glory that David saw in Creation led him to question God about why he would care for man in light of how miniscule we are in comparison to the vastness of the heavens and the work of God’s hands (Psalm 8:3-4) Creation informs us about the Creator (Job 12:7-9; Is. 55:12).
No matter what part of the world you live in, this proclamation can be heard loud and clear, because we are all blanketed by the vastness of the heavens and the grandeur of the created earth. We all live on this earth and understand that the things that we see in creation didn’t happen by accident without causality. This is why the apostle Paul wrote that even if the only testimony that you have is the creation in order to understand the Creator, and you choose to deny Him or suppress the truth, you are without excuse (Romans 1:18-25).
By day, when the sun becomes visible and the sky lights up our side of the earth, we should be listening because David tells us that it pours forth speech, yet without words or voice. Look for the glory of God in the sun (I Cor. 15:41). Our proclamation of songs of praise should match this daily manifestation (Ps. 96:2)
Similarly, when the sun sets and the moon become visible on the stage to reflect its light, we are covered in a dome of stars and we should be able to see the revelation of knowledge or insight into understanding the character of our God. The daily sermon is there if we will look and listen.
David makes it very clear that the creation is a silent yet powerful witness to the Creator by using three phrases in verse 3:
“There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard.”
So how do the heavens and the earth proclaim the majesty or glory of God? Jospeh Addison in the beloved hymn, “The Spacious Firmament On High” wrote the following verse: “What though in solemn silence all Move round this dark terrestrial ball, What though no real voice or sound Amidst their radiant orbs be found? In reason’s ear they all rejoice And utter forth a glorious voice, Forever singing as they shine The hand that made us is Divine.” Creation then becomes inaudibly eloquent about the glory of God.
In verse 4 David explains that we have to simply look and see the splendor and beauty of what has been made to sustain us and provide for us. He says that the message is clear throughout the whole earth. The line has been stretched (speaking of a measuring line or a plummet line used to show what is straight) to every nation no matter the tribe, tongue or people dwelling there (See Zech. 1:16; Job 38:4-7). Many people ask about indigenous peoples that have never heard about God or had a Bible translated into their language and the answer is simply that they have already been told about God through what He made. The message is gone out to the ends of the world according to David (See Rom. 10:18). Another rendering of the line is like the string of an instrument that when struck is heard by all. This idea is captured by the lyrics of the hymn, “This is My Father’s World” in verse 1, “This is my Father's world, And to my listening ears All nature sings, and round me rings The music of the spheres. This is my Father's world: I rest me in the thought Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas--His hand the wonders wrought.” There are manifold witnesses in what we can comprehend by created things. Take a seed that produces after its kind. How does that work? It is no accident that when you plant an apple seed you get an apple tree that in its season buds, flowers and then produces fruit. In the fall yields a harvest. In the winter it becomes dormant. Next, spring it will start the process all over again. This is by design and not the disaster of a big bang or mere chance.
Next David says that a tent for the sun has been made and it was placed exactly where God wanted it to dwell (Gen. 1:14-18). This is critical because we have all been made aware through scientific findings that should the sun be only a bit further away from the earth, we would all freeze to death and life would be unmanageable here. We have also understood that should the sun be any closer and we would be burned up. God knew what he was doing in placing this star in our solar system in perfect proximity to earth.
David refers to the sun as a bridegroom coming out of its bedchamber each day. First note the splendor of a bridegroom on a wedding day. The suns appearance is stunning and breathtaking in as it breaks open the door of night and reveals itself. We call this the rising of the sun, which in fact is the earth rotating to reveal its light for another period during the day. This more appropriately describes the entire course of the sun in a given year through the whole of heaven. It appears as if to step out of a tent or canopy that had veiled it. Yet, in poetry David suggests that the sun runs its course like a strong man rising in the east and setting in the west. When it sets on us it is rising on another side of the globe. David describes this pattern as the rising from one end of the heavens on a circuit to the other end of the earth. The sun is glad to do just as the Creator intended for it to do and each new day is a reminder that God is still in control and our Maker has blessed us with life. He upholds all things by the word of His power and is our sustainer. There is nothing hidden from the heat of the sun. When you feel the warmth of the sun on your back or against your face, it is a reminder that what the Creator did in Genesis 1 is giving us the greater light, is still serving its purpose from of old. God is still here and He is still in control and sovereign over all things to bless the inhabitants of the earth. This is a loud witness to every soul of man that we are loved and that God wants what is very good for us. Yet this is not the only evidence given to man of the glory of God and His care for created man.
The Law of the Lord declares the glory of God (vs. 7-10)
The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul (vs. 7a). When we meditate on God’s word both day and night, it has a restoring affect for the souls of men (Psalm 1:2). All of God’s statutes are true and perfect (complete, without fault). When the soul is in any way out of sorts with what God prefers, His word can restore or bring it back to its purest form. God as a Shepherd restores our souls (Psalm 23:3; Prov. 2:10).
This reference to law is not specifically referencing the Law of Moses but all sacred revelation of God’s will (Isaiah 2:3; II Tim. 3:16-17).
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple (vs. 7b). Not only is the word of the LORD true but it comes with divine assurance. The words of God stand and cannot be refuted. From them we gain wisdom for conducting our lives (Psalm 93:5; 111:7).
"Simple" is often used in a negative light to suggest someone that is foolish. Here “simple” refers to one that is open and humble to receive (Psalm 119:130; Prov. 1:4; II Tim. 3:15). We are warned not to leave the simplicity in Christ as Christians (II Cor. 11:3). Remain open to the word of God and be willing to be pliable to allow God to transform our lives by the renewing of our mind through His instruction (Romans 12:1-2; Matt. 11:25). We have to become fools to become wise is a constant teaching of the word of God. This means that we recognize that God is the source of wisdom.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart (vs. 8a). Precepts are obligations set forth by God but they are not treated as stern commands but rather what God desires for man. All of them are right (Ps. 33:4) in that they are faithful and just (Ps. 111:7). God knows what is best and when we follow Him it brings joy.
God is showing us what is good for us in this life so that we may blissfully enter life eternal (Psalm 103:18). This insight causes joy in our heart not only by the knowledge gained but by the obedient application of the knowledge. The will of God delights the heart (Jer. 15:16).
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes (vs. 8b). These commandments refer not only to the Ten Commandments but any directive set forth by God for His people. His word is pure and without defect. The revelation of God will never mislead or misdirect our steps.
The word is a light or lamp unto our feet in the way (Ps. 119:105). Commands of God are designed for our benefit. The word of God opens our eyes to see the light in a dark world.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever (vs. 9a). This fear is not so much a quality in man that is clean but another reference to the word or law of God which causes one to show respect to the LORD God. This is evident from passages throughout the Bible (Deuteronomy 4:10; 17:19; Prov. 15:33).
The fear of the Lord being clean has reference to the purity of the word of God (Psalm 12:6). The word of God is without falsehood, error, or impurity. It is holy because of the holy God who revealed it. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and we are sanctified by obeying the truth of the word of God showing our reverence for Him (John 17:17).
Another confirmation that this is a reference to the word of God is that this fear (instruction afforded by God leading to reverence) endures forever. We find passages that reference all things passing away but the word of the LORD abiding forever (I Pet. 1:24-25; Is. 40:6-8). Heaven and earth will pass away, but the word of the Lord will always remain.
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether (vs. 9b). Again the judgments have reference to the word of the LORD in that God is proclaiming through revelation the standard of measure by which we will be judged (Deut. 4:8). Here these ordinances are called true or truth (Psalm 119:7, 138).
Since all of God’s word is true, we also see that the sum total of the judgments based on this truth are also righteous. The word of God also produces righteousness in the hearts of those who obey Him by faith (Romans 1:16-17)
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold (vs. 10a). Take the most precious gem or metal and it pales in comparison to the value of the word of God. We need to desire God’s word on a deeper level that all the riches of this world. Even a refined metal that is in its purest and finest form is no match to the word of God (Ps. 119:72, 127; Proverbs 8:19).
They are sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb (vs. 10b). Consuming God’s word is not foreign to the Bible to express the need to feast upon truth (Psalm 119:103). Here David says that the word is sweeter than honey even when it drips directly from the comb. The word of God is satisfying to the soul its deep hunger for righteousness. The word of God is sweetest when it is served directly from His mouth (Jeremiah 15:16).
The people of God declare the glory of God (vs. 11-14)
By the word of the Lord, we are warned to live for Him and have our great reward (vs. 11). Another word for "warned" here is instructed or illuminated. I would also suggest that a good word here is admonition. We are motivated and given insight by the word of God into what is to come.
For the righteous, it is revealed that there is great reward in store (I Tim. 4:8; 6:6). For the wicked there is nothing but a fearful expectation of judgment. God’s servant is encouraged to live uprightly as the alternative is to die in sin and suffer the wrath of the LORD (Ex. 15:26; 18:20).
We ask God to reveal the errors of our ways and keep us from hidden faults (vs. 12). David realizes that although God’s law is a blessing and is extremely important to keep, he acknowledges that the Law only revealed his sin (Rom. 7:7). He had errors and it is challenging for us to know what these sins are apart from God’s revealed word.
David asks God to cleanse Him from secret faults. This no doubt has reference to the word of God and its ability to lead us back to the right path when we have taken a misstep. A clean and pure word is the only thing fitting for a redirect back into a clean way of life. David was openly dealing with obvious errors in his life, but the ones that concerned him were the unknown transgressions that he was unaware of. Sinning willfully and sinning unintentionally are two different wrongs, but they are both sinful in God’s eyes and David knew it well (John 8:34).
We ask God to keep us from presumptuous sin and its reign in our life (vs. 13). This will allow us to be blameless before God. Here David asks God to keep him humble and not allow him to sin in arrogance. The word literally means to “boil up” (See Num. 15:30-31). We cannot claim ignorance as an excuse. God’s word is revealed and His will is made known to all men (See Ex. 21:14; Deut. 17:12-13).
This will ensure that we will be forgiven of our many transgressions. Forgiveness is necessary otherwise we are given over to our sins. We become slaves of sin unless we refuse to make it our master and turn to the Lord (Rom. 6:14; John 8:32, 36).
We ask God to let our spoken words and our heart’s meditation to be acceptable to Him (vs. 14). The words of David were lifted up to God like a sacrifice (Psalm 141:2). David loved God’s word and received them fully and David wanted God to accept his prayer (Is. 63:8-9). If we fill our speech with prayer and praise, we leave no room for sinning with our mouth. When we meditate on God’s word it fill us up and is reflected in the way we think, act, and speak. David knew that sometimes prayers were not heard by God and sacrifices were unacceptable (Jer. 6:20).
God is our Rock (strength). God is our Redeemer (salvation). This has been the theme of both Psalm 18 and Psalm 19. David relied wholly upon God for both victories in battles here, but more importantly in spiritual triumph which leads to life with God in heaven.
I hope you found this message encouraging. We will be taking a break from the Psalms of Life series as we enter 2024. In the future, if the Lord wills it, we will return to the study again. For now, the plan is to begin a study of the gospel of Luke in January 2024.
If you have spiritual needs, please let me know how I can assist you. Thank you for your support of the podcast in 2023. It was a great year!