Updated: Sep 22, 2020
God’s laws give life to those who follow them.
Over the last 10-20 years the way consumers have purchased music has changed dramatically. The trend for some time was to purchase only those individual songs that appealed to the listener. In the last few years, though, music companies have been selling more records (yes, actual vinyl! Now I wish I had not gotten rid of all my flat friends). The thought is that the consumer wants to listen to the progression of the album, and not just individual tracts. The listener values the movement of the songs from beginning to end. There is a movement that is compelling.
Looking back on your life, what progression do you see in your understanding of God? How did you initially perceive God? How do you perceive God now? Do you have a regular practice that helps you examine where you’ve been and where God is leading now?
At first glance, the two sections of this psalm appear to be very different from each other. However, when read together we see a wonderful progression in the ways God is revealed. Today, we will look at the ways God is revealed in our world and what that means in our lives.
Robert D. Branson, one of the lesson writers writes: The modern understanding of our world, our solar system, and our universe rests upon our knowledge of science. If we could journey back 200 years, we seemingly would be in a different world. We would have no understanding of cells, germs, flight, nuclear power, or even the origin of the universe itself. The question arises, how did the universe begin? Science is limited by what can be proven. It can only speculate about what or who existed prior to the beginning of the universe. However, people of faith, including many scientists, believe that there must be a God, one who is Creator of all that exists.
The psalmist begins this poem (vv. 1-6) by celebrating the creative power of God, which is seen in the skies above. The laws of the universe speak clearly of the work of God’s hands. In verses 7-10, the emphasis shifts to the “law of the Lord,” His statutes, commands, and decrees, which are given to enable God’s people to live in harmony together. In the last section, verses 11-14, the psalmist describes his own relationship with God.
1. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God (Read Psalm 19:1-6)
It is fun to lie on one’s back, look up at the sky, and see the clouds take the shape of different figures, and at night, to see the stars and moon as they move across the black canvas. They speak of the power of God, the work of his hands, which is glorious.
Ancient peoples did not view the heavens as we do today. They could see the sun and the stars, but without telescopes that look further into the depths of space, they were unaware of the vastness of what we understand today as our universe. Thanks to the work of astronomers such as Galileo (who, by the way, was a devout Christian), we use our telescopes to see much further. Our solar system is part of a galaxy named the Milky Way. Our universe (at least as far as we currently know) stretches more than 93 billion light years* and contains billions of galaxies, each of which contains billions of stars and planets.
This is God’s creative work. He sustains the galaxies, with their countless suns and planets. The continued study of the universe speaks of the power and authority of God. Through study we gain knowledge about the laws of the universe that God has established, such as the laws of gravitation and electromagnetic forces. The heavens we see each day and night do not exist by happenstance, but by the work of God’s hands.
In what ways have you come to know God, or God’s character, in the manner the psalmist describes?
Why is it not surprising that creation points to the Creator?
Mesopotamia worshiped the sun as the god “Shamshu/Shamash” and Egypt the god “Re.” The psalmist says, “In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.” How would this have been received by those who thought of the sun as a deity? What message is the psalmist sending? (God is the source of all life and all things. God is the Creator and the sun is part of God’s creation. We worship the Creator and not the creation.)
What does it tell us about God that He created the sun’s warmth to encompass everything, and by extension, everyone? (The sun (or Sun) is not divine, but only the One who created the sun. God made the sun to be as it is.)
2. The Law, Statutes, Precepts, and Commands of Yahweh (Read Psalm 19:7-11)
The psalm’s topic shifts significantly in these set of verses. Moving from general revelation, the psalmist now considers the law of God and its character.
What might have caused the writer to move from a general sense of God’s revelation to a more personal connection? (The psalmist moves from God’s revelation in creation to His laws. Both vv. 1-6 and 7-14 tell us about God—-creator and lawgiver.)
The psalmist, using synonyms for the law, describes it as being perfect, refreshing, trustworthy, radiant, pure, and righteous.
In what ways are God’s laws perfect? Refreshing? Trustworthy? Right? Joyful? Radiant? Firm? Righteous? More precious than gold and sweeter than honey? Provides warning? Rewarding?
The law is perfect, reviving the soul. The soul or life of the person is refreshed. The statutes are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts, or law, are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands are radiant, which gives light to the eyes. God’s laws should be revered rather than feared, lauded rather than dreaded. The worshiper does not cringe in fear of the Lord. While there is trust in Yahweh’s love and mercy, there is also respect for His demands for righteous living. The law is intended to be seen as a patient guide, a wise “mentor,” leading us through the precarious pathways of life in God-honoring ways. These descriptions of the law support this idea of the law as a way of life that leads to joy and peace.
Psalm 19:11 declares that there is great reward in keeping God’s law, and this declaration is echoed in Deuteronomy 10:12-13, in which the Lord asks us to fear Him, walk in obedience to Him, love and serve Him, and observe the Lord’s commands, all for our “own good.”
Deuteronomy 10:12-13 (NLT) 12 “And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? He requires only that you fear the Lord your God, and live in a way that pleases him, and love him and serve him with all your heart and soul. 13 And you must always obey the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good.”
Gold was the most precious metal available. To compare the law of God with gold would indicate that the law of God was more precious than the most precious metal used by the ancients.
To compare the Torah to honey is to describe the joy one has in fulfilling the will of God. Both the gold and the honey point to the spiritual and moral value of the law. God’s law warned of the consequences people would face if they turned away from it. Those who understood their value for living a life pleasing to God would find great reward in doing so.
3. The Servant Seeks Forgiveness and Innocence (Read Psalm 19:12-14)
The psalm began with an outward focus by paying attention to God’s work in all of creation. In the last few verses there is a desire from the psalmist to bring the outer and inner worlds together, that there would be no incongruity between his inner and outer life.
In light of verse 12, what is the danger of humanity determining their own errors? (God’s law told the people how to live. God’s Word tells us who God is and how we are to live in obedience to Him through the power of the Holy Spirit.)
In what ways does God help us in avoiding willful sin and/or its power over us?
In light of verses 1-13, how would you interpret the words of the psalmist in verse 14? (The psalmist closes with a prayer that all of us need to pray periodically. May God help us to control our mouths so as not to speak evil. James warns us against having an untamed tongue that praises God and curses human beings (James 3:3-12). One cannot be a servant of God and do both.
Taking time to not only read portions of the Bible, but to meditate on what we read is important. We want to shape our lives to be blameless, pleasing in the sight of God. The LORD is the Rock on which we can stand in difficult times, and the Redeemer who liberates us from the bondage of sin.)
4. Connect to My Life and the World
God and God alone has the right to give us laws/boundaries/guidelines/commands on how to live in right relationship with Him and others.
In light of this, how should we view God’s laws?
How do God’s laws express His love for us?
The psalmist thought it important to be careful about his speech and thought, that it might be pleasing to God.
Why is it important for the “meditation of our hearts” to be pleasing to God? In what ways does the “meditation of our hearts” effect the way we live our lives outwardly?
How might our speech be different if we considered that people are looking at us and making deductions about God from how we speak?
How can the psalmist’s prayer be a guide for us?
As we close our time together, pray the prayer below. I would encourage you to make it a practice to pray this daily each morning (and maybe post it on a note above your computer!).
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
*What is a “light year?” Light travels at the speed of 186,282 miles a second. Multiply that figure by 60 to get the distance it travels in a minute: 11,176,920 miles. Then multiply it by 60 again for an hour: 670,615,200 miles. Multiply that figure by 24 for the distance in a day: 16,094,764,800 miles. Multiply that figure by 365 for a year: 5,874,589,152,000 miles. That is the distance of a “light year.” To find the size of the universe, multiply a light year by 93 billion (93,000,000,000). This universe that continues to expand is the work of our God who created and sustains it.
Resource: David L. Thompson, Psalms 1-72 in the New Beacon Bible Commentary series (Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2015), 122-27.
How does it make you feel to know that GOD created this vast universe and yet knows each one of us on a personal level? It humbles me beyond no end.