Psalm 19: The Heavens Declare

sunset in the Shenandoah Mountains

The Bible is not a science textbook, and yet everything it says about science is 100% true. It is not a history book, but it accurately records history. It is not a literature book, but parts of it read like a novel and entire sections were written in poetry. The Bible is one book with sixty-six parts. It has one Author, God, but He used many men over many centuries to record His message to us.

God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through His Word. Yet even before the Word was complete, it was possible to know that there is a God. How?

Two Revelations

There are two ways in which God has been revealed to man: through nature and through Scripture. Natural revelation (revelation through nature) is also referred to as general revelation. Nature shows us that there is a God, and that He is imminently powerful. Scripture, on the other hand, reveals God much more clearly, by means of special revelation.

Psalm 19 addresses both forms of revelation. Verses 1-6 tell of general revelation in nature; verses 7-11 speak of special revelation in God’s Word; and verses 12-14 deal with our response to the revelation of God. Over the next several weeks, we are going to study each part of this psalm, but today’s focus is on the general revelation of God in nature.

Psalm 19:1-6

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
and the firmament showeth His handiwork.
2 Day unto day uttereth speech,
and night unto night showeth knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
4 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,
5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
6 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 Heavens Declare

Let’s look at verses 1-6 in detail. (Note: I wrote it out above in the KJV because I love the lyrical nature of that translation, but as I break this section down verse by verse, I will modernize the archaic spellings.)

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork.

The technique of stating the same thing in two different ways is common in Hebrew poetry, and that is exactly what we have here. The words heavens and firmament both refer to the same thing, which could be either the visible arch in which the clouds move or the higher heavens where the celestial bodies move.

Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge.

Even in a single day there is sufficient evidence for the power and majesty of God. But when you watch the orderliness with which the day follows night, and night follows day, over and over again, day after day, night after night. Sunrise and sunset are predictable to the very minute. In all this, it is impossible to miss the order that originates from God.

Day unto day utters speech. Literally, “pours out,” or “makes to well up like a fountain,” undoubtedly in reference to the light of the sun. When I take a road trip, I like to start out in the wee hours of the morning, usually between 2 and 4 a.m., depending on the length of the trip. It’s dark out, but traffic is light, and I know the sunrise is coming. As time passes, at first I notice that the blackness of the sky starts to turn into purple. Then a deep orange-red appears low in the east. If I look to the west, the sky is still as dark as night, though the eastern sky continues to brighten. Before long a bright yellow sun pops its head over the horizon, and suddenly the entire sky changes from midnight to “celestial” blue. If there are clouds, they capture the sun’s glory with a dusting of reds, oranges, and yellows all over them. All this to me utters the glory of God. He was there all the time. Perhaps an obstacle [the earth] was in the way, preventing me from being able to see Him, but He was there.

Night unto night shows knowledge. Literally “breathes out,” perhaps in reference to the cool evening breeze. There is nothing so relaxing as sitting outside on a summer evening, feeling the gentle breeze that blows the day’s heat away, and looking up at the stars that cannot be counted.

The knowledge of which day and night speak is the knowledge of God. It could also be translated “cunning.” God is infinitely wise and all-knowing. I am an artist, and I have surrounded myself with fellow artists, so I’ve seen a great deal of products of people’s creativity and imagination. But nothing we can make compares to all that God created. One of my favorite things to do is to get down close to the flowers that many people call weeds and study the intricacy with which they were put together. On grass-cutting day, they will be mown over. To some people they are worthless, a nuisance, a bother, an eye-sore. But to me they are beautiful. They are not weeds, but wild flowers. They, along with their exotic counterparts, were created by Jehovah. He put just as much effort into creating the dandelion as the orchid. And He put just as much effort into creating me as He did Solomon. We are all equal in God’s sight. We are all precious. And we are all loved. “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (Psalm 139:6).

There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.

The sun, moon, and stars are seen by everyone everywhere. All nations, tribes, and people experience the passing of time, the changing of day to night and night to day. They all feel the warmth of the sun; they all see the phases of the moon.

Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

The word line literally means “cord,” and refers to a string on a musical instrument, hence sound. By extension, the words are lyrics. Truly the hills are alive with the sound of music! Consider the following verses that talk about the earth singing praises to God….

Sing unto the LORD, all the earth; show forth from day to day His salvation.

1 Chronicles 16:23

Then shall the trees of the wood sing out at the presence of the LORD, because He comes to judge the earth.

1 Chronicles 16:33

The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.

Psalm 65:13

Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD has comforted His people, and will have mercy upon His afflicted.

Isaiah 49:13

In them has He set a tabernacle for the sun…

That is, in the heavens God made a dwelling-place for the sun. Compare this to Habakkuk 3:11 “The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of Your arrows they went, and at the shining of Your glittering spear.”

Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber…

Here the scene changes, and we have a new word picture. Imagine a groom rising early in the morning on his wedding day and going out of the house. He is ecstatic, joyful, exuberant—and his joy spills over onto all those with whom he comes into contact—family, friends, and strangers alike. This is just like the sun—warm, happy, jubilant, and shining on everyone everywhere, without prejudice.

…and rejoices as a strong man to run a race.

Here is yet another word picture, one of a strong man who has set out to run a race—with the expectation of winning. I’m not talking about a 100-meter dash either, but a marathon. The runners have taken their marks, the signal has sounded, and the race has begun. Just to watch this man run is inspiring, as his strength ripples through his legs each time a foot touches the ground. His chest protrudes, making room for the lungs to work. Sweat glistens on his muscular arms as they methodically move back and forth by his sides, helping him press onward toward the goal. His face glistens too, but a smile appears there, for though the race is hard, it is his joy and rejoicing to be in it. Glory exudes as he puts his strength to the test. The sun is pictured here as doing the same, and all this points to the glory of God, showing us His strength and majesty.

His going forth is from the end of the heaven…

The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, spanning the entire sky over the course of the day.

…and his circuit unto the ends of it…

The word circuit refers to the cycle of the seasons rather than the apparent movement of the sun through the sky to denote a day. The phrase unto the ends of it is plural to suggest completeness, that there is nothing left out. There are four seasons, and no more. When the sun has cycled through all four seasons, it repeats the cycle.

…and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.

The rays of the sun penetrate everywhere; nothing escapes their heat. Sunlight is not a mere spectacle for show and splendor. All life depends upon it—for warmth, for growth, for nourishment, and for joy. This is not unlike God. We depend on Him for everything. “For in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).

The Shortfall of General Revelation

David recognized how glorious God is, and the role creation plays in demonstrating God’s glory to man. After all, as a shepherd he spent a lot of time outdoors. He had an intimate knowledge of the heavens, the trees, the animals—especially sheep, and other aspects of nature, so David was certainly qualified to write about the general revelation of God through nature.

Yet he did not stop with general revelation, for David knew that it is not enough to have a general knowledge of God. Nature can teach us that there is a God, but it cannot teach us how to come to Him. General revelation can only condemn us.

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 has shown it to 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.

Romans 1:18-20

Natural revelation can show us God—and our need for God—but it cannot bring us to Him. For that, we must have the Word of God, His special revelation. Only the Word of God, the gospel of Christ, has the power to save us.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes: to the Jew first, and also to the Greek [everyone who is not a Jew]. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Romans 1:16-17

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all who call upon Him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of them who preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Romans 10:12-17

Why We Need the Word

This is why the Word of God is crucial. It is the only way to come to God.

We recently finished a series of studies on the I AM statements of Jesus. Let’s review them briefly….

If the Word of God is the only way to come to God, and Jesus is the only way to come to God, how to these two things mesh? Because Jesus is the Word of God. That’s right. Consider John the Baptist’s testimony:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lights every man who comes into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-14

Also, the writer of Hebrews tells us the Word of God is alive. Notice that in the very next sentence he uses the personal pronoun “he” to refer back to the Word of God, not “it.” He is clearly referring to our Lord Jesus Christ as the embodiment of the Word of God. And in verse 14, the author mentions Jesus by name.

For the word of God is quick [alive], and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest who is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

Hebrews 4:12-14

Conclusion

The heavens declare the glory of God to all who have ears to hear, but Jesus Christ brought God’s glory down to earth for those who have eyes to see. The heavens told us there is a God, but Jesus told us how to come to Him. Not only that, but He made the way possible—He is the way.

If you have not yet come to God, I invite you to come today—come now.


Photo taken along Skyline Drive in Shenandoah, Virginia, 2014

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