Reflections on Psalm 19 —
I marvel at people who are naturally eloquent speakers, whose words roll off their tongue like butter, wonderful speeches, persuasive arguments. I’m not very good at speaking off the top of my head. Ask me to present something to a large group and I’ll spend an hour in preparation for every minute I’ll be up there. I just can’t think very well when I’m addressing people’s faces. Get me alone in a room with a mirror, and I can wax eloquent with the best of them.
I’m not very good at communicating with my kids either. When they were young, they believed every word I said. But somewhere along the line, they learned that there is more knowledge in the world than what’s in dad’s head. I started sounding old-fashioned, repeating the same lines like a broken record. Inside my mind, I have rational, well-thought ideas and advice. But somewhere between there and my mouth, my words get clogged, jumbled, and askew. They don’t come out the way I intended–rashly, tainted with sarcasm, overly dramatic. Sometimes, I swear my kids think I’m an idiot. The less effectively I communicate what I’m thinking, the more frustrated I get, and good intention quickly unravels into babbling. The Apostle James says to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” I do just the opposite.
God, on the other hand, has no problem communicating. In Psalm 19, we see that He’s getting His words out clearly and effectively on a regular basis…every day, in fact. And within each day, He is pouring forth speech all day long.
Spoken Through Creation
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is the written record of God’s words, recorded by select people who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, who wrote in their own language, dialect, and style. In rare moments in history, God has spoken directly to people in familiar language. But there is also the non-written, non-audible record, the telling words spoken by the universe, declarations of God’s creative power. The sun, moon, and stars reveal the creative and scientific mind of God. God speaks in the perfectly timed rotations, the repeatable and predictable characteristics of gravity, the tried and true orbital paths, the infinite expanse of space. God’s voice is loud and clear.
Nature and the universe speak of God in an unspoken, universal language. If you an infinite being, how would you describe yourself to finite minds? God does so through His creation. When we gaze at a clear sky, when we behold the great peaks of the Colorado Rockies, when we take in the grandeur of an ocean, we are amazed. That’s the kind of effect God is looking for, the only kind that’s appropriate. As the psalmist says in Psalm 36, God’s capacity to love and His faithfulness to His people is as high as the heavens are above our heads. As the mountain is immeasurably heavy, so overwhelmingly certain is His righteousness. As the ocean is unfathomably deep and wide, so sure are we that His decrees will come to pass. No written nor audible word could express His immensity as well.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. 4 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, 5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; it rejoices as a strong man to run his course. 6 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.
Through creation, God speaks in words that cannot be heard, but are as clear as day. His words reach every living soul, no exceptions. As the sun makes it circuitous route around the earth and its light gives warmth to every soul it touches, so God’s word reaches every living soul. The bushman in the remotest jungle has as much opportunity to hear from God as the civilized businessman in New York. I think the bushman has the advantage. His world is silent and still, giving his soul time to observe, consider, listen. The words of God are not heard by those who are too distracted to hear them. They are missed by those who deny someone is speaking at all, having convinced themselves that God doesn’t exist.
Perfect and Inspiring
As for the written form of communication, God has no trouble there either. His written communication is really good. In fact, it’s perfect, and inspiring.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart. The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. 11 Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
When he penned these words, David did not have the gospels. They were not written yet. He did not have the poetic wisdom of his future son, Solomon, nor the letters of Paul. He had only the ancient laws and histories–Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy–the books we hardly read today. Yet even these words of God, many of which were simply rules of standard conduct, held special place in David’s heart. They were familiar to him, they comforted and empowered him. He called God’s laws “perfect”, “certain”, “right”, and “pure”. They are laws that demonstrate His compassionate heart. For example, they elevate the needs of the poor and oppressed, commanding the wealthy landowners to apportion some of their harvest for the destitute. So kind and righteous are God’s laws, it was said that other nations would marvel at the wisdom and goodness of God and consider the people who lived by them blessed (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).
Today, we have the word of God in full, the complete canon, with all the wisdom of Jesus Christ, the insight of Solomon, the theology of the prophets, and the interpretations of Paul, James, John, and other writers. If we consider God’s written words and honor them, they will help us. His words explain things, like why bad things happen to good people. They warn us, teaching us immutable laws of sin, such as you reap what you sow. They encourage us, reminding us that we are the apple of His eye. They prescribe best practices for relating to one another. They bring joy to the searching soul. They are trustworthy, “as silver refined in a furnace, refined seven times” (Psalm 12:6). God says He watches over His words to perform them (Jeremiah 1:12). He never makes promises He doesn’t intend to keep.
10 They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
It is not just poetic license. This author really loves to consume God’s words more than the sweetest foods, and he prizes it more than the great wealth. That is learned condition. It doesn’t happen overnight.
Most mornings, I look forward to reading God’s word. More than coffee, they have a way of sweetening my morning no matter how foul a mood I find myself in. There is great reward for the one who keeps God’s word. When God promises stuff like that, we should pay attention. A mentor from my college days taught me to not only read God’s word, but analyze it, study it, memorize it. Thirty years later, I reap the benefits. My kids may look at me and say, “where is your great reward?” I still have to work to pay the bills. I still live in a old house requiring regular maintenance. I drive a 15-year-old Suburban with more rust than the Titanic. Where is my reward? My reward is peace of soul. That is a valuable asset I hope to pass on to them someday. Perhaps my encouragement to read God’s word will outlive me and help them find peace of soul long after I’m gone.
It’s October in an important election year. Unlike the self-serving attacks we hear in political ads every day, unlike the political propaganda and feel-good stories broadcast by the major networks under the pretense of “news”, unlike the flippant chatter, we hear around the water coolers at work, God’s words are sincere and trustworthy.
I know I’m a contributor to the clatter, and I want to change. I’m an expert at flattery, using words to get my desired result. I write proposals, so I tilt and color words to present ugly truth in a positive light. If you were to count the mindless words I let fly every day, it would fill a notebook. So many of my words fall meaninglessly on the floor. So I pray that God’s Spirit would fill me, consuming my mouth, mind, and soul. I pray He would fill me with boldness to speak in the appropriate times, “apples of gold in settings of silver”, as it were (Proverbs 25:11).
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
May the words that I speak fall graciously on the ears of those who receive them. May they be acceptable to you, O God.