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Thursday, September 28th, 2023
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 19

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verse 1

This verse is a summary statement. The "heavens" refers to what appears in the sky above us. The "firmament" or "sky" is the canopy that seems to cover the earth from our vantage point as we look up. It is a synonym for "heavens" (synonymous parallelism). The glory of God in this context points to the splendor of the Creator. As we look up, we see the amazing handiwork of God.

Verses 1-6

1. Revelation from nature 19:1-6

Verses 1-14

Psalms 19

David observed in this wisdom hymn that under the influence of the sun, the heavens make God’s handiwork in creation known to humanity. Likewise, people learn of God’s plan to bless humankind under the influence of God’s Law. In view of this dual revelation, in nature and in Scripture, David prayed that God would cleanse his life so he would be acceptable to God.

In the polytheistic ancient Near East, this psalm was a strong polemic against the pagan sun gods whom their worshippers credited with executing justice. The psalmist claimed that Israel’s God was the Creator of the heavens, including the sun, and He established justice on the earth.

Verses 2-4

Every day and every night, this revelation of the power and greatness of the Creator communicates, since human beings observe it daily. The presence of the heavenly host is a non-verbal testimony to God’s existence that reaches every part of the planet. Everyone, regardless of his or her language, can understand it (cf. Romans 1:18-20). [Note: See Harry Torcszyner, "The Riddle in the Bible," Hebrew Union College Annual 1 (1924):141-49.] This is "the paradox of wordless speech." [Note: Kidner, p. 98. ] It is also an oxymoron.

Verses 4-6

God has placed the sun in the heavens. He, not it, is supreme. The figures of the bridegroom and the runner picture the glory and power of this centerpiece of God’s creation. Since it is so glorious, its Creator must be even more glorious. The pagans used the same figures of speech to describe the sun, which they worshipped as sovereign. [Note: Ross, pp. 807-8.]

The name of God used in Psalms 19:1-6 is El, a title that describes the power of God. El is "the strong one." In Psalms 19:7-9; Psalms 19:14 the psalmist wrote that El is Yahweh, the name of God that stresses His covenant relationship to Israel. Thus he claimed that the Creator is Israel’s God, not some pagan nature deity.

Verse 7

The revealed Word of God has the same dominant influence over humankind as the sun does over nature. Whereas the sun restores natural life, God’s law restores the life of the human soul. The sun dispels physical darkness, but the Word of God removes the darkness of ignorance from our understanding. It is flawless and reliable.

Verses 7-11

2. Revelation from Scripture 19:7-11

Verse 8

Furthermore, it brings joy and wisdom to people because it is correct and enlightening. The terms "testimony" (Psalms 19:7; "statutes, NIV), "precepts," "commandment" ("commands," NIV), and "judgments" (Psalms 19:9; "ordinances," NIV) all refer to various parts of the God’s law. [Note: See VanGemeren, pp. 184-87, for explanations of the various words that describe God’s Word that appear primarily in Psalms 19, 119, but also elsewhere in other psalms.]

Verse 9

The special revelation of God in Scripture is also free from any mixture of truth and error; it is consistent with reality. Consequently it is enduring and completely righteous. The word "fear" refers to the whole of divine law. Knowledge of God’s law puts the fear (reverential trust) of God in people’s hearts (cf. Deuteronomy 4:10 AV).

Verses 10-11

David regarded the words of God as more valuable than gold, the most expensive substance in his day, and more pleasing and satisfying than honey, the sweetest substance. God’s words warned him of error and danger, and they brought him rewards of many kinds as he followed them.

". . . the mark of a true Bible student is a burning heart, not a big head (Luke 24:32; 1 Corinthians 8:1)." [Note: Wiersbe, The . . . Wisdom . . ., p. 128.]

Verses 12-13

David’s rhetorical question expresses the impossibility of knowing if or when we violate God’s will without the light that His Word provides. It can bring to light faults hidden otherwise and can warn us of what displeases God so we can confess and avoid these offenses. David asked God to use His Word to bring these sins to his attention so they would not dominate him. This would result in his being blameless in God’s sight and free from the huge mass of sin that would be his without the revelation of Scripture.

Verses 12-14

3. Prayer for cleansing 19:12-14

Verse 14

In closing this psalm, David prayed that his words and thoughts would please God. In view of the context, this takes place as we allow the Word of God to affect our lives. David viewed his words and thoughts as sacrifices to God (cf. Hebrews 13:15). This is the implication of "acceptable" or "pleasing." As he closed this psalm he evidently regarded God not as his judge but as the foundation of his life and the One who had purchased him for a special purpose.

"The Word in the hand is fine; the Word in the head is better; but the Word in the heart is what transforms us and matures us in Christ (Psalms 119:11; Co. 3:161-7)." [Note: Ibid.]

God has revealed Himself in nature and in Scripture. This revelation should move us to bow in humble adoration and willing obedience before our Creator. [Note: See Swindoll, pp. 56-66; and Allen, And I . . ., pp. 129-49.] Psalms 1, 19, , 119 all deal significantly with the Word of God.

"I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world." [Note: Lewis, p. 63.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 19". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-19.html. 2012.
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