Lecture 26 - Psalm 19
Course: Psalms by Dr. Bruce Waltke
Lecture 26: Psalm 19
This is the second part of the lecture on wisdom. In the last lecture I introduced the genre which basically pertains to the psalms that give us positive admonition. They provide negative aspects as well that warn us not to envy the prosperity of the wicked and evil. Then we begin to look at the Psalms from earlier lectures: Psalm 1 putting together Wisdom Psalms and Torah Psalms as they are also admonition and instruction. We looked at Psalm 1 which is a Torah psalm. And we looked at the theodicy psalm like Psalm 49 and 73. We will do Psalm 19, a Torah and instruction psalm. We saw the basic structure of this praising God in the creation in regards to general revelation and it praises God for Torah in special revelation. I think there is a relationship between the two here; it is not simply provide praise for the two kinds of revelation. Because of his knowledge in general revelation, he is therefore able to give certain moral revelation in Holy Scripture. So I don’t think it is simply two aspects of praise; I think they are quite unified in wisdom thinking. I tried to demonstrate this from Job 28:12 and Proverbs Chapter 30. We see that God knows the whole heavens and therefore it is important to keep the Fear of the Lord before us as he has created everything. So it seems to me that this is the sort of logic of the wisdom thinker.
Psalm 19 - A Psalm of David.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words, whose [heaven’s] voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat. 7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. 13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression. 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
II. Exposition and Exegesis
A. God’s Omniscience
We begin with God’s knowledge or omniscience as displayed from creation in verses 1-6. I am looking at the psalm exegetically since we have already studied the eschatological messianic approach, I am trying to look at it as well in light of the New Testament and then answer the question of what it means to us personally. We look at how this relates to Christ and the Word that brought about Creation and then the morality of it. In verses 1-4b, we have the firmament declaring God’s glory and God’s glory is his comprehensive knowledge. There are two strophes to it with a temporal universality of the firmament’s praise in verses 1-2 and then a spatial universality of firmament’s praise in verses 3-4. He focuses on the Sun in the heavens in verses 4c – 6. In that first strophe, he speaks about the temporal universality of the firmament’s praise of God’s knowledge. It says that it pours out speech from day to day and night to night reveals knowledge. So both day and night forever and always he is revealing his glory and his knowledge. In verse 4 he speaks about his universality in space. It says that their voice goes out through all the earth and their words to the end of the world. So verses 1 and 3 are verbs of declaration where we have the heavens declare the glory of God with the sky proclaiming his handiwork and then he elaborates: there is no speech, nor are there words, no sound is heard, talking about communications in the odd verses and then in the even verses, he is talking about the universality of that revelation in time and space. In the second strophe he focuses on the Sun which is comprehensive in space where it rises from the ends of the earth and its circuit sees everything on the earth. There is no end to it. And he uses two similes where he pictures the Sun as a bridegroom suggesting the freshness of the Sun and newness and beauty and joy. The second one is pictured as a strong man who is in a race; it is a long distance runner or sprinter. No one can run as fast as the Sun. These similes speak of his exuberance and his strength and universality.
We see in John 1, Christ is the Word that brought about the creation. He is the agent of the creation to whom it is accomplished. The moral is that this revelation is so glorious that you are without excuse for not responding to the creator. In regards to Joseph Addison’s paraphrase of Psalm 19:1-6, he says: ‘what though in solemn silence all, move round the dark terrestrial ball? What though nor real voice nor sound amid their radiant orbs be found? In reason’s ear they all rejoice and utter forth a glorious voice, for ever singing, as they shine, the hand that made us is divine.’
B. The Torah’s Moral Excellence
I have divided this into two parts: Torah’s essence and Torah’s reward. And his essence is his moral perfection; it is complete and flawless, it’s righteous and eternal and then in regards to its rewards. Essentially, it is wisdom’s reward which is life itself. He describes the Law of the Lord as being complete. Spurgeon comments that it is a crime to add to it and treason to alter it and felony to take from it. It is sure and totally reliable because it is based on comprehensive knowledge. It is upright and faultless; it is perfectly smooth and straight. It is pure, the Hebrew word is skowward until it shines; it’s that pure and that is why it enlightens. It is clean, there is no mixture in it, and because there are no impurities, it will endure forever. There is nothing to make it decay. The Law of the Lord is firm and steady and cannot be overturned unlike human judgments. His law is unchangeable, it is true and it is righteous and it conforms totally to God’s character and will. These are the seven moral excellences of God’s Word.
C. Torah’s Reward is Life
It renews vitality and restores life to the sad and the discouraged. God will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. It is like what Obed did for Naomi; he will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. It is the testimony of the Lord making wise the simply; that is to say that wisdom gives life and social skills. So it gives us the skill of living eternal life. Here, the Hebrew word is the same as it is in Proverbs: Peti, but in Proverbs it is negative and is part of the fool and the basic meaning of the word is to be open. The fool is open to everything and committed to nothing. But in Psalms, the meaning is very different; the simple is open to God’s instruction; he is open to learn and grow. This is a word of the sage but it is used in very different ways. It rejoices the heart and this assumes a ‘right’ heart. This affects your objective reality: if your heart is right you see things differently as to shape and color and imagination and these delights in moral order. If your heart is not right, you will hate it. It is like the smile on Mona Lisa’s face, everybody has their own opinion of it as to why she is smiling like she did. One lady said that it was like the smile of her little daughter who pees in the bathtub. So she saw the same smile on the face of her daughter. This mother brought a totally different kind of imagination to the picture. It enlightens the eye because it is clean and radiant as the commands light up the eyes. It is better than gold, like a house verses a home, food verse fellowship and jewelry versus love. In Proverbs we talked about gold being able to put food on the table but it can’t give fellowship around the table. Wisdom will give you a home as well as a house; it will give food on the table as well as fellowship around the table. It will give a woman luxuries as well as love she really wants. He is sweeter than honey from the honey comb which is to a healthy taste whereas we saw that the rebels in Psalm 2 thought of as bondage. By them your servant is warned to avoid sin and keeping the law has great reward.
D. Two Petitions
This now leads to two prayers: the first was for hidden sins representing the first petition in verse 12 and the second prayer was to be kept from insolent men in verse 13. Since these sins are hidden, you cannot confess them. The righteousness of the Law made him aware of sin and in these prayers, he expresses his humility; acknowledges his moral weakness. If we know a specific sin then we have the responsibility to name it and to renounce it, but we are so depraved, we sin against God in thought, word and deed for what we have done and left undone. We are in constant need of forgiveness. David is praying and this prayer is answered that God forgives our hidden sins because it becomes part of Canon and therefore it is God’s response to David sense it was put into the Canon of Scripture that we can all pray it and be assured God forgives our hidden sins as well as our confessed known sins. The second request is that God would hold David back from the rule of insolent men for none is free from the danger of apostasy. It takes the grace of God to persevere in the faith, this is in verse 13. It is also appropriate to add that without help from God, none of us are a match for Satan. Behind the apostate is Satan and demonic forces and we are no match for it. We are in constant need of God’s help. His reason is that he will be blameless to keep integrity and insolent of the great transgression. What is this great transgression? I think the word pesa mean rebellion against God’s rule which means breaking faith with God. Whoever commits pesa does not merely rebel or protest against Yahweh but breaks with him. What he is asking is not to allow him to break his relationship with God. Keep him from apostasy.
His conclusion is, ‘may these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.’ This is the protocol of the royal court that he is asking for the favor of acceptance before the king, that God will accept his prayer. His words are in praise of the heavens and for the Christian, it would be the praise for Christ the Creator. For the Torah, it is expressed in the New Covenant and Christ being the sinless Lamb of God. This is not legalism; he is not striving on his own to keep the law; he is totally dependent upon God. He is asking God to be his rock and his redeemer; a rock of salvation and protection. He recognizes that he can’t do what God says on his own but he needs God’s help. I believe that his words found favor in the sight of God because they were accepted into the Canon and God was pleased with his prayer. So in summary, we can’t handle it; keep us from temptation because we know our weaknesses. I think this is a very humble prayer. This is a prayer; I can’t do it and so you (God) have to keep me.
Transcribed by BT Ambassador Phil Smith