Psalm 19 is a Psalm that illustrates the glory of God’s Creation and the perfection of His Law. Both describe the perfection of God- manifested jointly in His physical law and spiritual law. The juxtaposition of the two cannot be appreciated enough. The first part of this Psalm pictures God’s Creation and the witness it has manifested to the world.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Ps. 19:1).
The word “firmament” is not the best translation in this verse. It would be better read as “expanse.” The expanse of the heavens was awesomely revealed by the work of the astronomer Edwin Hubble, noted for his discoveries of galaxies that existed beyond the Milky Way. What for generations had been thought to be stars were in reality vast galaxies-galaxies that demonstrated an expanding universe that man could hardly imagine. Hubble realized that the Milky Way was just one of millions of galaxies that exist in a larger setting. Indeed the word “expanse” captures the awesomeness of the true meaning of Psalm 19:1.
In the next verses we are given a witness to this magnificent Creation. “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (Ps. 19:2-3).
These references refer to what can be seen by the naked eye, a human capability that is highly limited by comparison to what the expanse of the universe really means. Yet, even this witness to God’s creation should have been enough to convince men of God’s greatness and power, but it didn’t.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. ( Rom. 1:18-20)
By contrast David, who wrote this Psalm, viewed the heavens and understood the greatness of God compared to man who has limited power only.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! (Ps. 8:3-9)
Psalm 19 continues: “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” (v. 4). The word “line” needs an explanation. While generally referring to a measuring line-a cord used in construction work-it refers here to the architectural plan of the heavens. In the figurative sense, it can refer to a standard of justice or to prophetic/legal speech that indicates God’s judgments and sovereign distribution of power. Thus, we have a decree from the heavens that proclaims the glory of God and man’s obligation to worship Him. Their words to the end of the world (the uttermost parts of the earth) are the lessons they convey. In the heavens God placed the sun as though in a tabernacle, that is, a tent for its dwelling place.
In this context what did the Apostle Paul say about Christ’s power as the Creator? “For by him [Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Col. 1:16). “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).
Describing the sun, Psalm 19:5-6 states: “Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. 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.” The allusion here is to the bright, joyful, and cheerful entry of the rising sun, as that of a bridegroom arising in the morning. The sun’s work begins for the day and manifests the alacrity and resourcefulness of a competitive runner. This figurative race of the sun is seen over the entire circuit of the heavens, sweeping the entire space of the expanse. What a magnificent and metaphoric description of the work of the sun in supplying the sunlight for the sustenance of all living things on the earth. Thus, the sun and soil provide the needs of all flesh.
Now David begins a description of the most vital knowledge man needs in order to fulfill his purpose on earth-the knowledge of and appreciation for the Law of God. This law is the most perfect law in existence, and it will never be replaced! “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (Ps. 19:7).
No man-made law can convert or restore the soul; it is impossible for any man-made law to bring about a total change of heart or develop perfection for those who follow it. The Law of God is the perfect expression of God’s will in contrast to the imperfect rules of morality subject to human reason. The testimony (the Decalogue) is sure, that is, absolutely fixed in contrast to the constantly shifting character of human reasoning about both moral and divine truth. A knowledge and application of this law gives wisdom to even the foolish.
We are told elsewhere: “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple” (Ps. 119:130). “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever” (Ps. 111:10).
Psalm 19 continues: “The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:8). “Right” and “pure” are the key words here, and both bring about results. One causes the heart to rejoice, the other gives enlightenment. Rejoicing of the heart results from an appreciation that one is following the path of pure spiritual enlightenment, and not the erroneous workings of the human heart. This path of pure enlightenment is completely free from any admixture of error. The Scriptures tell us, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Ps. 119:105). This lamp and light are the result of comprehending the perfection of God’s Law.
“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether” (Ps. 19:9). Fear, or reverence for God is clean (pure) because it promotes godliness and instills a proper regard for His name and worship. There is nothing in this law that advances the corruption of morals or the defilement of character. The first four of the Ten Commandments illustrate what this worship and reverence entail. In addition, God’s Commandments stand for all eternity as “enduring for ever” emphasizes. God’s judgments (verdict, sentence, or formal decrees) are truth [margin] because they represent the reality of God’s nature and conform wholly to His Law. God’s judgments are righteous because all of God’s Commandments are righteousness (Ps. 119:172). Such perfection is worthy of absolute confidence in God.
“More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward” (Ps. 19:10 -11).
This italicized section above is one of the most profound Scriptures in the Bible. Not only does it demonstrate that God’s Commandments are far more valuable than gold, the man with understanding desires this knowledge more than the riches of this earth. We see here the worth of revealed truth. Gold is an article of esteemed value among men, but to the God-oriented mind, the revealed truth of God’s Commandments is esteemed a treasure far more valuable than gold. Jesus emphasized this: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Obedience to the Law of God is the way to eternal life. Jesus said: “. . . If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17 ).
Honey, highly prized for its sweetness, is used extensively around the world. But the knowledge and application of the Law of God affords more pleasure than the finest luxury that honey can provide. The Law of God surpasses the excellence of even honeycomb, and its great value in adhering to it prevents much of the sorrow and despair so often felt by those who ignore or are ignorant of it. Peace of mind and happiness are bound to be a reward here and now. So the physical rewards in this life are innumerable, but most important of all is the gift of eternal life.
The psalmist asks: “Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression” (Ps. 19:12 -13). Secret faults are those of which one is not aware. Men are sold on the idea of their own goodness because they have no sense of the requirements the Law of God demands. Full of pride and arrogance, they believe everything they do is acceptable. They fail to see this presumptuousness. David recognized this human flaw. Jeremiah wrote of it when he said: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). Often people do things without understanding why, or from motives they may not even recognize. Men need help and understanding from God to avoid these transgressions, and to be free from the oppression of human nature.
Paul described it: For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life” (Rom. 6:20 -22).
We are made free from sin by the blood of Jesus Christ, followed by the receipt of the Holy Spirit into the heart and mind of the believer. Psalm 19:12-13 anticipated this reality as it came to be manifested in the New Testament under the terms of the New Covenant. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Heb. 8:10 ).
As Psalm 19:13 illustrates, David knew with God’s help he could be upright and innocent from much transgression. Jesus described the helplessness of human nature when He told His disciples: “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). The same Spirit of God that worked with David now resides in the converted Christians of today and gives them the help to live a godly life.
In closing this Psalm, David wrote: “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer” (Ps. 19:14 ). His request was such that he hoped for God’s approval, such that it would give satisfaction and pleasure to the One who created not only a perfect universe, but perfect law. The purpose of all God-oriented men and women should be to please God, though this may prove to be offensive to unconverted friends and acquaintances. Strength and redemption come from God alone. This Psalm shows the value of appreciating God because of His perfect Creation and perfect Law.