Lectionary Calendar
Monday, July 22nd, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 19

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-6


Now that Christ has been exalted in Psalm 18, we see the multiple glories of Christ in the following six psalms. In Psalm 18, God reveals Himself in the life of David. In Psalm 19, God reveals Himself in two other ways. In this psalm, two books open to us: the book of creation (Psalms 19:2-Judges :) and the book of the law (Psalms 19:8-2 Kings :).

The law here is not the way of justification when obedient to it, but the law as teaching – torah means education. The law here is synonymous with the Word of God.

In the book of creation we read once about God, which is God the Creator (Psalms 19:1; cf. Genesis 1:1-Obadiah :; Genesis 2:1-Leviticus :). In the book of the law we read seven times about the LORD, that is the God of the covenant Who speaks to man and wants to have a relationship with him (cf. Genesis 2:4-Lamentations :).

In both books God reveals Himself and man can come to know Him. They are two different ways in which God reveals Himself. In the created heavens we follow the path of the sun; in the inspired Word we follow the path of the Son, who is called “the sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2). We can speak of a revelation in ‘work’ and a revelation in ‘the Word’. In both revelations we see the revelation of the Son. It is about Him in particular in the two following psalms.

The ‘work-revelation’ of God happens through the Son. Scripture is clear about the fact that the Son is the Creator (John 1:1-Leviticus :; Colossians 1:12-Nehemiah :; Hebrews 1:1-Exodus :). Creation reflects the glory of the Son of God, that is, “His eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). The ‘Word-revelation’ also happens through the Son. He is the Word Who was in the beginning, Who was with God and Who was God. That “Word became flesh” (John 1:1; John 1:14). The Son Himself is therefore also the perfect revelation of God, for in Him all the fullness of God dwells (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9). He is God “revealed in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16) and can therefore say: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

It is also good to make a distinction between on the one hand the creation and on the other hand the Word and the Son. This distinction is important because we live in a creation on which through sin is a curse (Romans 8:19-Song of Solomon :). Creation demonstrates the honor, power, and divinity of the Creator (Romans 1:20), but it is not a complete revelation of God. The Word and the Son are, however, a perfect revelation of God. Neither of them is in any way connected to sin. Through both, through the Word and through the Son, we come to know the different features of God, such as His love and grace and His holiness and righteousness.

Prophetically, this is about the period when the church has been caught up and the time for the message of the gospel of God’s grace has passed. Nevertheless, even then God still gives a double testimony through
1. the everlasting gospel – in it is announced that God is the Creator (Revelation 14:6-Judges :) and
2. the gospel of the kingdom – which is the teaching of God from the Old Testament.

The psalmist looks at the revelation of God in the world of nature. This revelation is denied to God by people who have made up the theory of evolution as a substitute for creation and the source origin of life. This fabrication is completely ignored by the psalmist in his song of praise. He knows and acknowledges God as the Creator (Hebrews 11:3).

The revelation of God in creation is characterized by beauty. This is reflected in the language of Psalm 19. It is one of the most beautiful poems ever written, the beauty of which is especially evident in its original language, Hebrew.

The Message of Creation

For “for the choir director” (Psalms 19:1) see at Psalm 4:1.

For “a Psalm of David” see at Psalm 3:1.

The first part of the song, which is about God’s revelation in creation, has two topics: the heavens (Psalms 19:1-Numbers :) and the sun (Psalms 19:4-Joshua :). The sun is the most important celestial body. The second part of the song is about the Word and the Son. The Son is the Object of God’s good pleasure, the core and content of the Word.

The psalmist treats the subject of creation not as a technical discourse, but as the revelation of God’s power and majesty. It brings us into the presence of the great God and leads us to praise and worship.

The testimony of God in creation is specially that of heaven. The earth has lost much of its original beauty due to man’s sin, rendering God’s work less clearly visible. Certainly, from and through creation God’s “eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen” (Romans 1:20). As a result, man can come to know Him, that is, in His existence (Acts 14:15-Esther :; Acts 17:24-Obadiah :). Creation is like a window through which man can perceive the Being and action of God in time.

We can say that God’s majesty in creation is most evident through the heavens as His work of creation. David lived as a shepherd under the open sky, day and night. The heavens are not visibly tarnished by man’s sin, as is the case with the earth, which no longer gives its full yield and has lost much of its original brilliance (Genesis 3:17-Psalms :; Genesis 4:12). In addition, God’s glory through heaven as a storyteller goes throughout the earth and is not limited to Israel. As a result, the nations also hear God’s voice. We hear more about that in Psalms 19:4.

Through “the heavens” and “their expanse” (Psalms 19:1) we get an impression of the unlimitedness of God, Who is truly unlimited, while the heavens and the expanse are not. We therefore also get an impression of the source of light, and therefore of life. We also get an impression of the order and regularity that marks God, and therefore of the signs that mark time: by the sun of the year, by the moon of the month, and by the day-and-night rhythm of earth’s rotation.

The heavens and the expanse are the area where God has given place to the sun, the moon, and the stars (Genesis 1:14-Psalms :). When we look at the sky, at whatever time of day or night, these lights in the sky tell God’s glory, they show His glory. They are on the expanse of heaven, making that expanse declare “the work of His hands”. His fingers placed them there (Psalms 8:3). They are, as it were, His signature on His workmanship. The temporal forms of the verbs “telling“ and “declaring“ indicate that they are doing this continuously, unceasingly.

That this proclamation is present “day to day” and “night to night” confirms that it always goes on, without interruption (Psalms 19:2). There is, however, variety. The cycle of day and night contributes to the regularity of the seasons and therefore to the regularity of the agricultural calendar (Genesis 8:22). Because of the rapid change of days, there is abundant speaking. It is a day by day speaking of God. Each new day adds a new speaking of God to the previous speaking through the previous day.

People in the past have idolized the sun. Today they explain the Creator away by the teaching of evolution. Without paying the slightest attention to the foolish theory of evolution, the psalmist in Psalm 19 lets creation declare God’s glory as Creator. The supposedly scientifically proven theory of evolution is silenced by this speaking of God. The person who watches carefully sees that knowledge is revealed. Certainly this includes knowledge concerning God, but especially knowledge of His wisdom which He reveals in His creation (Proverbs 8:22-Obadiah :).

As already noted, the testimony of God in creation and particularly through the heavens and the expanse is a general testimony that extends throughout the world. It should not surprise us, therefore, that Paul quotes this verse in connection with the preaching of the Word of God (Romans 10:18). In doing so, he proves that God had a preaching ministry for the Gentiles in the Old Testament as well, so that they might come to know about God and to believe in Him. It also shows that the testimony of God that emanates from creation is not limited to Israel, but can be observed all over the world.

Psalms 19:4-Joshua : are about the sun, while David speaks of the moon and stars in Psalm 8, where he is also impressed by creation (Psalms 8:4). The sun is vital to life on earth. The sun is metaphorically represented as a person. The Lord Jesus is called “the Sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2). The sun is a special reference to Christ. Therefore, the creation is fundamentally about the glory of Christ, the Son of God.

God has placed “in them”, that is, at “the end of the world”, “a tent for the sun” (Psalms 19:4). The tent symbolically represents the night residence of the sun. From it the sun rises. Each day that the sun rises, its appearance gives witness to the presence of Christ. Untouchable to anything on earth, He goes through the day proclaiming that He exists. It takes faith to see that.

In a brilliant way, David portrays the rising of the sun as it appears from its “tent. He compares the sun to “a bridegroom coming out of his chamber” and to “a strong man” who rises joyfully “to run his course” (Psalms 19:5). The “bridegroom” rises from his room to go to his bride, which is a great joy for him. He is sung to by the guests. The “strong man” is cheerful. Vigorous and confident, he sets out to run his race.

In Psalms 19:6, David describes the path that the sun is fast walking. The path begins “at one end of the heavens”. There “is its rising”. It continues “its circuit”, its fast walk along the expanse, until it reaches “the other end” and goes back behind the horizon into the tent God has set up for it. During its circuit, it shines everywhere with the glow of its sunbeams, with which it also warms the earth.

Just as nothing is hidden from its glow, so also no one is hidden from the testimony of the eternal gospel that speaks from creation (cf. Revelation 14:6-Judges :). Everyone can know that God exists and realize that he will have to answer to Him (cf. Colossians 1:23).

The circuit of the sun is not described in scientific, but in poetic language. This is also how man speaks of it in his everyday language. We know that the sun stands still and the earth revolves around it, but for our perception the earth stands still and the sun revolves. Thus David describes here the rising and setting of the sun and its circuit along the sky.

Verses 7-11

The Message of the Law

After the voice of nature comes the voice of Scripture. The second testimony that God gives of Himself is the law (torah), His Word which means instruction. In this too we see all the more and all the clearer the glory of Christ. He is the Word of God that was with God (John 1:1). “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14), which is Christ when He comes to earth. Then we hear Him speak and He makes God known.

In connection with the law, David speaks of God as “the LORD”, while in connection with creation he speaks of Him as God (Psalms 19:1). As the LORD (Yahweh), He is in connection with man in faithfulness to His covenant; as God (Elohim), He is in connection with all of His creation. The name Elohim speaks of God’s power as Creator. We also see this in Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. Genesis 1 speaks of God; in Genesis 2, where man has his place in creation and God is at work with him, it is always Yahweh God.

The law was given to one people, Israel. God has made Himself known to His people as the LORD, the God of the covenant especially with that people, with the intention that this people shall be a blessing to all nations. As mentioned above, the name LORD is used as soon as the relationship of God with man is involved. This means that we see the law here in connection with the conscience of every person, Jew or Gentile. The Gentiles are not under the law. Yet the work of the law is written in their conscience. We have in Romans 1 God’s testimony in creation (Romans 1:19-Proverbs :) and in Romans 2 the work of the law in the conscience (Romans 2:14-Ezra :). That is the same order as here in Psalm 19.

Creation does show that there is a Creator, but it does not explain how it originated, nor the reason for its existence. The law, or Scripture, does what the sky, the expanse, and the sun cannot do. Scripture explains the origin of all things and also why they were made.

David describes the law by several names that are synonyms. These synonyms reappear in the song of praise about God’s Word in Psalm 119, but we also find them scattered throughout the book of Psalms. These synonyms show that the law reveals more of God than what creation reveals of God.

David does not speak technically and detachedly about the Word. He cannot do that. He speaks of it in a song of praise. In six statements he explains the Word and discusses its effect on man (Psalms 19:7-1 Samuel :). He speaks of
1. “the law”,
2. “the testimony”,
3. “the precepts”,
4. “the commandment”,
5. “the fear of the LORD” and
6. “the judgments”
To this he links various features, which apply to the complete Word of God and to God Himself from Whom the law comes and about Whom it is all about in the law.

He first speaks of “the law of the LORD” as the totality of directions, instructions and teachings that the LORD has given to Israel in various ways, especially through Moses (Psalms 19:7). The purpose of this instruction is that the instruction (torah) of the Word is adopted, in the heart (Psalms 37:31).

“The law” is the totality of the written revelation of God in the Old Testament. He says of it that it is “perfect”, that is, it lacks nothing and is flawless, free from all error. The law in this capacity “restores the soul”. This has the meaning of invigorating (Psalms 23:3), giving new life force. It means that people are brought to the right path by it.

Next, the law, or Word, is called “the testimony of the LORD”. That speaks of speaking of God as a witness does in a trial. It is about earnestly testifying to the truth. If my heart goes out to the Word of God as His testimony, I will thereby be preserved from wrong motives, for example, for profit (Psalms 119:36). I will then have no more need of that.

The feature “sure” is associated with this. That the law is sure is shown by the fact that it “making wise the simple”. “The simple” is the young, inexperienced man, someone without life experience. What he needs to live his life to the glory of God is wisdom. This is given to him in “the testimony of the LORD” with penetrating solemnity. To benefit from it he will have to read in it.

The law consists of “the precepts of the LORD” (Psalms 19:8). The word “precepts” occurs exclusively in Psalms (twenty-four times). God gives His commands that they may be “greatly observed” (Psalms 119:4). It is not hard to observe them, for these commands rejoice the heart, David says here in Psalms 19:8, they give joy.

The word “precepts” is in the plural because it refers to imperative instructions for the many areas of life. In all decisions and actions we must be guided by them. It has to do with our responsibility to obey all God’s precepts. If we do so, we know that we are on God’s path, which means we live in fellowship with Him, which gives joy to the heart.

By “the commandment of the LORD” we can think of something God has explicitly commanded us to do. Here His authority has the emphasis. The Hebrew word mitsvat means the Divine rules and spiritual laws in all areas of life. In Psalm 18 it is translated “statutes” (Psalms 18:22). It is the totality of God’s will in our lives. These commandments give light to our eyes, making us see things as God sees them.

Always what He commands is “pure”. It is always without any ulterior motive. He means what He says. Pure also means that it purifies and therefore enlightens the eyes. When we do what He commands, it “enlightens” our “eyes”. We will gain insight into the way we are to go.

David also calls the law “the fear of the LORD” (Psalms 19:9). This is not about anxiety, but about reverence, awe. That fear “is clean”, pure (Psalms 12:6), without ulterior motive and therefore genuine. It is not a hypocritical awe, or awe only on a particular occasion. Nothing changes in that awe either, the awe always remains the same, it is “enduring forever”. The awe, the reverence for God and what He has said, will always remain because He never changes (James 1:17).

Finally, David says of the law that it is “the judgments of the LORD” which “are true”. These are judicial pronouncements that He makes on each person and his entire doings. His judgments are commandments with the force of a judicial pronouncement. The believer who loves Him will keep His commandments quickly and with love (Psalms 119:60).

God’s commandments “are true”, without any mendacity or error. They are “true”, and therefore “righteous”. They are in perfect accord with the thoughts of God. All the judgments form a unity, “they are righteous altogether”. They are fair, each one getting what is due to him.

The effect of the judgments makes them “more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold” (Psalms 19:10). The law gives a wealth that far exceeds the value of gold (Psalms 119:127). The law also gives a pleasure that is “sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb”. Honey from the comb is honey that drips naturally from the comb. It is the purest and freshest honey. Gold is the most desirable precious metal of ancient times, and honey the sweetest of all the foods known at that time. Here we are talking about the superlative, about purified gold and fresh honey. The law rises far above both.

After David has thus sung the value of the law in various words, he speaks to the LORD about His law (Psalms 19:11). He testifies to the effect of the Word in his own life by allowing himself to be instructed by the Word. He tells the LORD what the law means to him.

It is significant that he, who is king, in speaking to the LORD calls himself “Your servant”. This he also does in Psalms 19:14. It is an honorary title for him, one that Isaiah also uses in his book for the Son of David: the Servant of the LORD. The fact that David calls himself thus indicates the state of mind necessary to see the full benefit of the law and to have the desire to live by it.

A servant is aware of his place before his lord. He must obey. From this awareness of submission, the law is full of warnings for him not to deviate from it. At the same time, there is in him the awareness that “in keeping them there is great reward”. There is no forced obedience, but obedience out of love and with joy.

Its reward is not in the future, at the end of the path, but is enjoyed now. The great reward lies in listening to and acting on the law, which is listening to and acting on the Word of God. That brings the joy of fellowship with the Giver of the Word. For us, keeping the commandments and the words of the Lord Jesus gives an even richer reward (John 14:21; John 14:23).

Verses 12-14

Prayer for a Holy Life

The psalmist has been reflecting on God’s greatness in creation and in His Word. This leads him to statements about himself in his relationship to God and God’s revelation. In Psalm 8, where he also looks at the heaven and is impressed by it, the result is that he sees how insignificant man is (Psalms 8:4). Here, in Psalm 19, the greatness of God in creation and in Scripture leads to the recognition of man’s sinfulness. An encounter with the LORD brought Job to self-knowledge (Job 42:5-Joshua :). An encounter with the Lord Jesus brought Peter to self-knowledge (Luke 5:4-Ruth :).

This effect is what the instruction of God’s Word has on David as well as on us. Just as there is nothing on earth hidden from the glow of the sun (Psalms 19:6), so there is no one hidden from the Word of God, which brings everything to light. To Him, “all things are open and laid bare” (Hebrews 4:12-1 Chronicles :). Here it is not about fear of punishment, but about being afraid to have to miss the joyful fellowship with God because of the presence of sin. He does not want anything to come between him and God (cf. Psalms 139:23-Jeremiah :).

David realizes through the instruction of the Word of God that God knows him down to the very bottom of his heart. Therefore, he adds some important aspects that have to do with his own relationship with God. He speaks of hidden sins, confession, cleansing and being acquitted of great transgression (Psalms 19:12-1 Chronicles :).

He looks at sin from two points of view. First, he is aware that he is not able to name all his sins. He doesn't recognize them enough for that (Psalms 19:12). Who will dare to claim that he has not committed unconscious sins when he, like David, has been impressed by the majesty of God in creation and by His omniscience through His Word that examines hearts? Those who are aware of this will not speak highly of their sinlessness, as taught in the extreme sanctification doctrine.

It is important to be aware of nothing, but that does not mean we are justified by it (1 Corinthians 4:4). The awareness of God’s majesty and omniscience will keep us humble. At the same time, there will be the desire to be cleansed from hidden sins. This is what David is asking for. For unintentional sins, the law offers reconciliation and forgiveness (Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 4:13; Numbers 15:22-Obadiah :).

Second, David sees the terribleness of presumption, the sin of pride (Psalms 19:13). He longs to be kept back from it. Pride is the primal sin. Pride means wanting to be like God. David abhors the thought of committing that sin. It shows self-knowledge that he realizes he is capable of it and prays for the LORD to keep him back from it, so that it will not rule over him.

If he is kept from that sin, he will be blameless, sincere, and “acquitted of great transgression”. Pride is not just any sin, it is a terrible sin, it is a willful sin. His prayer to be acquitted of it or to remain free from it means that he is not guilty of committing that sin.

David finishes the psalm with the desire that the words that come out of his mouth and the meditations that he has in his heart will be acceptable or pleasing to the LORD (Psalms 19:14). He is not concerned only with his outward words or only with his inward piety, but with both aspects of his person. To make this true, he addresses God as his rock, his solid foundation and as his Redeemer, Who in His grace has redeemed him from his sins. The rock refers to Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4) Who had to be beaten so that the water of life can flow freely to all who thirst.

David returns here to his starting point in Psalm 18, where he spoke of the rock (Psalms 18:2). He loves the LORD (Psalms 18:1) and longs to be acceptable or pleasing to Him (Psalms 19:14).

The Hebrew word for “Redeemer” here is go’el. This is an indication that God had to become Man, for go’el is a family member, that is, a man. God the Creator (Psalms 19:1-Joshua :) had to become God the Redeemer (Psalms 19:7-2 Chronicles :). How the latter took place is explained in Psalm 32.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 19". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-19.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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