Songs of Greatness is a sermon series on the greatness of God from the Psalms. The Heavens Declare the Glory of God — How do we know what God is like? God’s glory is revealed by what he has done, from creation to new creation. Recorded on July 18, 2021, on Psalm 19, by Pastor David Parks.
For the next year, we’re focusing on The Greatness of God. After all the turmoil of the last year, it’s my conviction that many of the problems we face in the world and in the evangelical church today would be solved if we had a far bigger view of God. Way too many Christians have way too small of a vision of who God is. And for the rest of the summer, we’re in a sermon series from the Psalms in the Bible called Songs of Greatness. The Psalms are a collection of songs/poems that the people of God have used in the worship of God for 1000’s of years. And through this series, I hope to help you have a bigger, truer perspective, and a more compelling vision of God. Today, we’ll consider how the works of God declare/proclaim the glory of God. In other words, what God does clearly reveals his greatness. If you have a Bible/app, please open it to Ps 19. We’re going to unpack this psalm in three parts: 1. Creation, 2. The Bible, 3. The Gospel. So first, creation…
Psalm 19:1-6, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice[b] goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.”
Creation Declares the Glory of God. The psalmist, that is, King David, starts this first section of his song focusing on what? The works of God in creation, nature, in the physical world around us. And he says the heavens/skies declare/proclaim what? the glory of God. And what is the glory of God? The glory of God is the sum total of all the characteristics of God, what you get if you added up all of his love, justice, holiness, power, wisdom, and so on. It’s everything about who God is. The glory of God is beautiful to his people but is terrible to his enemies. David observes, as surely as we observe anytime we stop and really meditate on the created world around us, that even though the planets and stars have no voice, their message goes out into all the earth. In vv. 4-6, David poetically uses the sun as a case study: the sun is consistent, helpful, and life-giving. David imagines it enjoys the strength/task that God has given it. Many ancient peoples worshiped the sun. Ancient Israelites appreciated the sun, as we ought to today, but they were never to worship it. The sun was just one aspect of God’s creation. There was only one God, the maker of the heavens and the earth, including the sun in all of its glory/power.
And King David is right. When I consider the big things that God has made, the planets and the stars, the vastness of space in our galaxy, much less in the whole visible universe, I’m blown away. As I said last week, we are so very tiny in the scope of all of that. But I’m also blown away when I consider the small things that God has made, the atoms and particles and quarks of the quantum world. And this is one of the reasons that Christians should love science and scientific discoveries. They give us countless observations and insights into the glory of God in creation. Let me give you one example from a book called The Body, by Bill Bryson. Writing on the amazing qualities of the human brain, Bill quotes neuroscientist, David Eagleman writing, “Each neuron [in the brain] connects with thousands of other neurons giving trillions and trillions of connections — as many connections in a single cubic centimeter of brain tissue as there are stars in the Milky Way.” (chapter 4, 5:29). There is as much glory on display through the lens of a microscope as there is through the lens of a telescope. But what elements of the character of God are seen in creation? Whether we look up at the heavens or we look down into the microscopic, we see God’s power, creativity, beauty, wisdom, and transcendence. Creation Declares the Glory of God. However, when we look out into creation, we don’t see much of God’s goodness and love, we don’t see his justice or his mercy or his desire for a relationship with human beings. For that, we need another one of the works of God. Let’s continue in the second part of Psalm 19 starting in v. 7.
Psalm 19:7-11, “The law of the Lord is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb. 11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
The Bible Declares the Glory of God. v. 7. says, “The law of the Lord is perfect.” And there are at least two things to say about this. First, the law here doesn’t refer only to the laws of Scripture, such as the 10 commandments. The law, or the Torah, was the term for the first five books of the Bible. At the time of King David, the Torah was their Bible. Now, the Torah does contain laws/statutes/commands/decrees, as David writes here. God gave his people laws that covered various moral, civil, and ceremonial needs through Moses at Mount Sinai. But the Torah also contains the record of God working with and through the lives of specific people. God had a relationship with Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph, Moses, and Joshua, and so on. This is why David shifts from a general term for God, used in v1, to the specific name of God, that is Yahweh, used in v. 7. You can learn some things about God and the glory of God from his work in creation. But you don’t get to know God personally until you read the Bible. You might see the majesty or the creativity or the wisdom of God from creation, but you won’t know his name unless you open his Word. And what other aspects of God’s glory do we see in the Bible? We see that God is personal, that he desires a relationship with the human creatures made in his image. We see that God is honest and faithful, he doesn’t deceive or change his mind. We see that God is good, he provides and protects his people. We see that God is righteous and holy, perfect in all of his ways.
As we saw back in Ps 1, “Blessed is the one…whose delight is in the law of Yahweh, and who meditates on his law day and night.” In this second section, over and over David emphasizes the goodness of the word of God. Why? From the word of God, comes spiritual renewal, wisdom and insight, inner joy and peace, and understanding in the way of righteousness that leads to eternal life. So how valuable is the word of God? It’s more valuable than anything. It’s better than anything. Why? Because the blessing of God ultimately is God himself, of knowing him and being known by him. Of having a relationship with him as his child. False teachers who claim that the blessings of God come primarily in the form of material health or wealth are offering a blessing of loose change compared to the bank vault of blessing of knowing God himself. In faithfulness/obedience to the word of God, and I think specifically the commandments of God, David says, the servant of God is warned and will find a great reward. Wait, warned? Warned about what? Well here we discover a problem, and it’s a big problem. You see, the Bible contains both law and history. And in the record of the Scriptures, we see generation after generation of the ancient people of Israel try and fail to obey the law. Try and fail to follow the way of God, the way of truth and righteousness. The warning found in the Bible is what happens when the creatures of God disobey and disregard and rebel against their Creator. This is a path that leads only to destruction and death. Just as the glory of God is beautiful to the people of God and terrible to the enemies of God, so the law is lovely/wise/just to the law-keeper, but a terrible burden to the law-breaker. The Bible declares the glory of God, but can anyone with a knowledge of their own sin stand before him and appreciate his glory?? I think this is why David ends this psalm by turning from the works of God and the word of God to his own moral condition, his own desperate need, before this God of glory. Look at v. 12.
Psalm 19:12-14, “But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
The Gospel Declares the Glory of God. I think the longer and deeper you consider/meditate on the glory of God, the more awareness you have of your own failures and flaws. The Apostle Paul wrote that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Or, as so many people are so ready to admit today, nobody’s perfect! And the bible is clear, there aren’t good people and bad people in the world (good people being us, and bad people being them out there). There are only imperfect people and Jesus. The corruption of sin runs so deep, it’s hard for us to even see the depth of its impact on our own desires and motives, and patterns of thinking. David says, “who can discern their own errors. Forgive my hidden faults.” You see, we can usually pick out the big things that we say/do that are wrong. But those things are usually only the tip of the iceberg. Or to use another metaphor, they are only the fruit that comes from a root that runs deep into our hearts. David prays that God would keep his servant from willful sins, that they wouldn’t rule over him. This is the fruit that we see above ground. And sometimes, because of the habits, we have developed or because of our experience/circumstances in life or because of the dysfunction of our family when we were growing up, our sin does rule over us. It feels like a chain that we were given that we can’t break, even if we wanted to. David prays for protection and maybe deliverance for these willful sins. But also that God would forgive his hidden faults, the things that we can’t, for whatever reason, see/understand in our lives, the roots.
Psalm 19 ends with an honest and truly beautiful desire: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.” David sees the glory of God in creation. He sees the glory of God in the Bible. And he wants to be in a right relationship with God, despite his own sin and struggles and the ways that he has fallen short of the glory of God. How will this happen? Is this even possible for him? In the end, David knows that he will not be blameless on his own. In the end, David knows that he needs God to be his redeemer. And this is where the gospel or the good news of Jesus comes in. David didn’t know exactly how God would redeem him. He just trusted God in faith to be his redeemer. He knew enough of God’s character/glory to know that God would want to be a redeemer and that God was powerful/wise enough to figure out a solution. But we know. We know what God would do when the time was right. As Paul wrote in Galatians 4, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” How would God redeem his imperfect people? By sending his Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Rock and our Redeemer.
In Jesus, we see God’s glory in creation. We see Jesus come into the world as a human being, as part of his creation. We see Jesus having power and authority over creation, calming the storm with just a word, healing the sick, and raising the dead. We see in the resurrection of Jesus, the start of God redeeming and renewing all of creation. So our future in Christ is one of a new heaven and a new earth. The new creation will declare all the more the glory of God. In Jesus, we see God’s glory in the Bible. Jesus was the word of God made flesh. He was the fullness of God and the exact representation of his being. The Bible reveals what God was like, especially in his dealings with various people, but nowhere do we see more clearly what God is like than when we look to Jesus. This is why he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well.” And finally, in Jesus, we see God’s glory in the gospel. The gospel is the good news of who God is, of what he has done in the past, what he is doing today, and what he has promised for our future in Christ. It’s all about Jesus. And in it, the gospel reveals to us both the way of righteousness, the judgment of God against sin, and the redemption God has provided for us. Creation declares the glory of God, but not the goodness of God. The Bible, and especially the OT, declares the glory of God, but not the redemption of God. But the gospel declares the fullness of the glory of God in creation and in salvation. Oh God, would you help us to see your glory all around us. And would you give us the light of the knowledge of your glory displayed in the face of Christ. Let us pray.