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In this nineteenth Psalm the spirit of God celebrates two things, draws our attention to two testimonies. First, in verses 1 Timothy 6:0 we have the testimony to the majesty and power of God in creation. Then from verses 7 to 11 we have the testimony of the Word of God setting forth the divine purpose and counsels, making known the mind of God in respect to man. In verses 12 to 14 we have that exercise of soul which should result from a thoughtful consideration of these two testimonies.
There is no conflict whatever between the testimony of nature and the testimony of the Word of God. Men have often tried to put nature and the Bible in opposition the one to the other; have insisted that the Bible is not scientific and that science is not biblical. But the fact scientific and the truth biblical never contradict one another. The theories scientific, these scientific hypotheses that have never been proven, are often opposed to the revelation that God has given in His Word and true science is often opposed to certain interpretations which men have given to parts of the Bible. But real science is never opposed to a right understanding or a correct interpretation of the Bible because science is simply an orderly presentation of the facts of the natural universe, whereas the Bible is an orderly presentation of the mind of God in connection with redemption.
In the fourth and fifth chapters of the book of The Revelation you have a very wonderful contrast or comparison. In chapter 4, verse 3, you look into heaven and there you see One on the throne whose features are not plainly discerned. He dwells in such brilliant light that John himself could not distinguish His features. He says, “He that sat [on the throne] was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone.” That is interesting because the jasper and the sardine were two of the stones that were on the breastplate of the high priest of old. They were the first and last stones mentioned. There were twelve stones on the breastplate arranged in four rows of three each, and on those twelve stones were graven the names of the tribes of Israel, and every one of those names has a definite meaning. The striking thing is that on the jasper stone was engraven the name “Reuben” and Reuben means, “Behold a son.” On the sardius was engraven the name “Benjamin” and Benjamin means “Son of my right hand.” John says, as it were, I could not see Him plainly, the glory was too brilliant. I could not discern His features, but I could see that He was like a jasper and a sardius stone. And then the four and twenty elders are seen falling down on their faces before Him that sat upon the throne, and they worshiped Him, we are told, that made heaven and earth and the sea and all the things which are therein. They worshiped the Son of God as the Creator of the material universe.
When you come to chapter five things become plainer, and John who has become accustomed to that brilliant glory now says, “I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne…a Lamb as it had been slain” (verse 6), or as Weymouth’s beautiful translation puts it, “I saw a Lamb that looked as though it had once been offered in sacrifice.” There were the marks of death still upon the Lamb, and John says that “the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb” and they worshiped the Lamb and cried, “Thou art worthy…for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God a kingdom of priests” (verses 9, 10, 12). In chapter 4 you have the Lamb worshiped as Creator, and in chapter 5 He is worshiped as Redeemer. The poet has well said,
“’Twas great to call a world from naught,
‘Twas greater to redeem.”
When we study the book of creation, when we look up into the heaven and look abroad over the earth, we find everywhere the evidences of divine power and might and wisdom. I cannot understand intelligent people questioning the reality or personality of God when they look out over this wonderful creation. If there were no mind behind this universe the suns and the starry systems would have long since crashed together and the universe would have gone to pieces; but the One who created the universe is “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). How strikingly the Psalmist stresses the being of God and the folly of questioning that reality, when He says, “He that planted the ear, shall He not hear? He that formed the eye, shall He not see?” (Psalms 94:9). Can you imagine any one with the ability to construct a human body, to bring a human body into existence and give it life, to construct an ear and make it possible for that ear to receive the sounds of the outside world, and yet that being know nothing about hearing himself? Can you imagine any one with wisdom enough to create an eye, that wonderful window of the soul, and yet not able to see himself? The very fact that we have such marvelous faculties is the proof that there must be a personal God behind this universe.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.” What is meant by “the heavens”? Not simply the sky but all those myriads upon myriads of orbs of light, stars, suns, moons, solar systems, one after another reaching out into infinity. There are no limits of space. That is one thing that it is absolutely impossible to think of; try as hard as you may and you cannot think of limited space. At once your mind says, I wonder what is on the other side. That limitless space is crowded with universes, many of them millions of times larger than ours. And all of these, the starry heavens, declare the glory of God-
“Forever singing as they shine
The hand that made us is divine.’”
The first chapter of Genesis says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Strange the stupid things that men will say. Only recently I ran up against the same old foolish statement that the first chapter of Genesis cannot be reliable because it tells of vegetation growing on the earth on the third day while the sun was not created until the fourth day, and you cannot have vegetation without sunlight; therefore it is absurd to think of trees growing before the sun was created. I grant that it is absurd, but the absurdity exists in the mind of the skeptic, not in the Word of God. The Word of God tells us that the sun was created before the days began. “In the beginning God created the heavens”-that takes in the sun-“and the earth”-these two terms take in all the orbs that roll through space. But when you come to the fourth day we read that the Lord God made the sun “to give light upon the earth.” It does not say that He created the sun then, but up to that time the rays of the sun had not been focused upon the earth as they are now. There is no contradiction: the contradiction is only in the mind of the unbeliever. God, in the beginning, “created the heaven and the earth” and “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Have you noticed how the different orbs of the heavens are used as pictures of our Lord Jesus Christ and His redemptive work? For instance, He is called the “Sun of righteousness.” He is called the “bright and morning star,” and on the other hand, those who follow Him and do His bidding are to shine “as the stars for ever and ever.” The moon is used as a picture of the people of God and the wonderful thing about the moon is that it has no light in itself, all its light is reflected glory. We, the people of God, have nothing in ourselves, we are darkness in ourselves but when brought to know the Sun of righteousness, we reflect His light. God uses these orbs of the heavens as pictures of His redemptive work.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork.” What does he mean by the firmament? This involves another objection that I often run across, even in books, and it amazes me to think how foolish some men, wise in other respects, can be. Some of the great authorities perpetuate this same stupid thing, that the Hebrew people believed, and their Bible taught that just above the earth was a solid firmament and the sun, moon, and stars were set in that solid firmament. They say that now we know, of course, that this is not true and so we must discard the book of Genesis. What stupidity, what a blatant display of ignorance! When you turn to the first chapter of Genesis we read that the Lord God made the fowl to “fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven” (verse 20). In a kind of crystal dome? No; the firmament is the atmosphere surrounding the earth. If the proportion of oxygen and nitrogen were changed, the whole universe would blow up. God has suspended this atmosphere around the earth and in the right proportions, so much oxygen and so much nitrogen, and therefore we are able to breathe, to exist, and if there were any marked change we would all die. And so “The firmament sheweth His handiwork.” The firmament says, there is a God, there is a mind behind the universe. The chemist goes into his laboratory and takes so much oxygen and so much nitrogen, mixes them together and produces certain gases. I read of a professor of chemistry in San Jose, California, who some years ago, was giving some work in the laboratory and the students were mixing certain compounds, but they got things a little bit out of proportion and off it went and the whole side of the high school blew out. We would have that all the time if we did not have a God of absolute wisdom controlling the universe.
“Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” In the daytime as we see the sun passing through the heavens, who can help but see that there must be a mind behind this universe that guides that sun and controls its movements? And when night comes and you look into the starry heaven, how can you help believing that there is a God who created all these things? And this is God’s testimony to the heathen, who do not have any other witness, save that of conscience, to men who do not have the Bible.
“There is no speech nor language; Their voice is not heard” Notice how that should read. It says here in the A.V. “There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard,” but the word “where” is in italics. What he is really saying is, if you want to hear the voice of God, if you want evidences of the reality of God, look up into the sky in the daytime and see the clouds, the sun, and the storms gathering, listen to the voice of the thunder, and then when night comes look upon the stars, those varied constellations, think how marvelously everything moves with exact mathematical precision. You will hear the voice of God, and yet there is no speech, their voice is not heard. But you cannot help, if you are thoughtful, but realize that there must be a divine mind behind the universe. And this testimony goes to all men everywhere.
“Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath He set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.” And is not this, after all, a picture of our Lord Jesus Christ? He is the Sun of Righteousness who by and by is to be revealed as the Bridegroom of His own, when He comes forth in power and glory to bless the whole universe, when that Sun of Righteousness arises “with healing in his wings” (Malachi 4:2). “His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” This is the testimony then of nature, and every man is responsible to heed that testimony. No honest man can look up into the heaven without the realization that there must be a God and without the realization that that God is a God of order, a God of righteousness. And what is righteousness? It is simply orderliness, and this universe is run in an orderly way, and therefore the testimony of the heavens is enough to convict a man of the need of repentance, of getting right with the God of the universe. But God has added more to that, He has given us His Word, and from verses 7 to 11 we have the testimony of the law.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” You will notice that the testimony of the law is given in a series of three couplets, three verses, and in each of these, two things are cited in order that we may consider them. Verse 7, “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” By this term “law” is not meant, of course, just the Ten Commandments. We think of them as the law of God, but by the law is meant the whole revelation of God’s mind and will in His Word. In that sense the entire Word is the law of God, and this law is perfect. That is in accord with the New Testament revelation. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-55.3.17). God has given a perfect revelation in His Word, and what is the effect if heeded? “Converting the soul,” turning the soul to God. The Word of God, if received in the heart, if believed, turns the soul to God. Then note the second half of this couplet, “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” The word “testimony” again covers the whole Book. Do you want the wisdom that really counts? Study your Bible. How is it that men of the world who are wise as to other things are so ignorant as to spiritual things? It is because they ignore the testimony of the Word. “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” If you study your Bible in dependence upon the Holy Spirit you will find that it will give you an illumination, a knowledge, a wisdom that all the writings of men can never give you.
I have told elsewhere how, years ago when a young Salvation Army officer, I had come home for a brief furlough to southern California, where my folk had an olive ranch. I found an Irish preacher there, a poor man dying of tuberculosis, and he was too far gone for a change of climate to help him. He had asked to be allowed to live in a little tent away from the house and among the olive trees. There he had his bed and table and a chair, and when able to sit up, he sat there pondering over the Word of God and writing a few letters. When I came home my mother said, “I want you to go out there and see James Fraser.” I went, and he greeted me very kindly and said, “Well, young man, you are trying to win souls,” and he went on to give me a word of encouragement and then said, “Sit down and let me tell you a few things my Father has been saying to me.
Oh, the things he began to give me from the Word of God as I sat there for perhaps two hours. And then I said, “You must not talk any more, you will be exhausted.”
He said, “Take these things and pass them on to others.
I said, “But how can I learn these things for myself”? Can you tell me of some books I can read that will explain all these things?”
“My dear young man,” he said, “I learned these things on my knees on the mud floor of a little thatched cottage in the north of Ireland with my open Bible on the chair before me. The One who wrote the Bible came day by day and explained them to me, and you can learn more in a few weeks on your knees, with God, over His Word than you can in all the schools in a lifetime.”
I was amazed and I have thanked God all my life since for that little Irishman, James Fraser. All through the years I have cherished the lesson he taught me. If you want the wisdom that cometh from above, if you want knowledge that is real, study your Bible for yourself, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit of God. Do not just depend upon what others can give you. I am afraid there are many Christians who hardly ever open their Bibles except when they come to meeting. If we could only learn to spend time over the Book we would find the wisdom of God unfolded there.
Notice the second couplet in verse 8, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” This term “statutes” means, of course, the paths that God lays out for you, the instruction as to how you ought to walk. People are sometimes afraid of God’s statutes, but when you walk in them, instead of finding disappointment, your heart is filled with gladness. “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” How different is God’s working from man’s imaginings. “God’s simple unencumbered plan,” so plain, so clear, enlightening the eyes! I have known men who were altogether unlettered and yet through the study of this Book, because they had learned in the school of God and His Word, they were wiser far than many who have had lots of degrees attached to the end of their names.
Then consider the last couplet in verse 9, “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever.” It is not fear in the sense of being afraid of God but fear in the sense of standing in awe of His infinite holiness. As you read the Word and are brought consciously into His presence, that sense of awe comes over your soul and you say, I do not want to grieve a God like that; I want to walk in obedience to Him, and the result is the cleansing of your life. The things that you contract from the world around are cleansed out of your life. The other half of this couplet, “The judgments of the Lord [and it is not judgment in the sense of condemnatory judgment, but it is the deci- sions of the Lord] are true and righteous altogether.” Do not ever believe anything else. Satan will try to make you think that the decisions of the Lord are often hard and cruel and will run contrary to your own best interests, but “The judgments [decisions] of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” You begin to revel in this Word and you will say to yourself, I have never found anything so precious to my soul as this. Jeremiah said, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart” (Jeremiah 15:16). You remember what Job said, “I have esteemed the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). And here David adds his testimony and says, Thy truth is “more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.”
“Moreover by them is thy servant warned.” Study the Word of God not only for your own delight and upbuilding but also in order that you may be guarded from things contrary to the mind of God. John Bunyan wrote in the front of his Bible, “This Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.” If you are pondering over the Word of God day by day it will keep you from sin. If you are careless and cold of heart and out of fellowship with God, sin will keep you from the Book. “Moreover by them is Thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.” Keeping His Word unto the end.
From verses 12 to 14 we have the exercise of soul that is produced by pondering over the Word of God. The Psalm- ist asks, “Who can understand his errors?” I would have no way of testing myself if it were not for the Word. “Cleanse Thou me from secret faults.” There are things in my life, every one of us can say, that nobody else knows anything about. God alone knows. Now, Lord, apply Thy Word and cleanse me from these hidden things, from secret faults. And he adds, “Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins.” What are presumptuous sins? He is distinguishing here presumptuous sins from sins of ignorance. Under the law there were no sacrifices for presumptuous sins-“The man that will do presumptuously,…shall die” (Deuteronomy 17:12). The sacrifices were for sins of ignorance. “Keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins.” That is, wilful sins, direct violations of the revealed will of God. “Let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression”-of violating the revealed will of God. Now comes the closing prayer, and how aptly it fits the lips of every servant of Christ, yea, of every believer, but of every one in particular who seeks in any way to publicly serve God. “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” And if the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable to the Lord they must be in accordance with the Word. It is as one ministers the Word that he is acceptable to God.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Psalms 19". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent