Psalm 19: Rejoicing in God’s Light
Rejoicing in God’s Light
God reveals his glory in his works of creation and redemption.
King David, the author of Psalm 19, did not argue for the existence of God. He knew the God of his salvation, and rejoiced in God’s revealed glory. Our Western culture forsook the way of faith for Enlightenment rationalism, but it could not hold to the path of modernity. It slid away to a post-modern view that abandoned received truth for tolerated opinions. Yet God’s revelation continues to press his claim. Michael Behe, the author of Darwin’s Black Box, has argued that Darwin would never have written The Origin of the Species if he had known about microbiology. Evolutionary theory had traced the supposed development of separate organs in animal life. When continuous development could not be supported from the geological record, genetic accidents were assumed to be the starting points of species. The microscope, however, opened Darwin’s black box. It showed in living color the structure of organic life. Bodily organs function through systems, interdependent systems, designed to support the life of the whole organism of which they are a part. The interdependence of these systems of cellular life show the nonsense of supposing that separate organs evolved by chance through genetic accidents. All living cells are already structured in systems. The design of those systems is paramount. Behe’s illustration of a mousetrap is classic. No part of the mousetrap will catch mice. Only the whole mousetrap system is of any value at all.
Behe describes the functioning of some of these systems. He makes apparent their interdependence. He also shows the difficulty of explaining how chance could have originated these systems. Very few advocates of Darwinism have attempted such an explanation. Such evidences of design point to a Designer.
Psalm 19 does not demonstrate, but celebrates God’s revelation as Creator and Redeemer. The first part of the Psalm celebrates his work as Creator, the second, his
word as Redeemer. Yet there is one source and one message of the Psalm. David sings one theme: the light of God’s revelation. God’s Word goes forth in the word that is declared by the heavens as well as the Word written in Scripture.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” By day and by night the speech of creation pours forth. Night brings the message of the starry host not heard by day. David uses the same Old Testament words that proclaim God’s name and his attributes to present his speaking in nature. Creation declares, proclaims, pours out speech. Yet the language of the skies and fields is not that of audible words. Verse four says dramatically, “No speech, and no words.” The voice of creation is heard, not by our ears but by our minds as those made in God’s image. .
J. Addison’s hymn celebrates the point:
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.”
David pictures the sun racing as an athlete from the eastern horizon to the West. Nothing is hidden from the heat of the sun. So, too, no one can escape the power of the Creator who formed the sun. The sun is not a god to be worshiped, but a creation, showing the sweeping order of day and night. How different is the sense of time for technological civilizations, fractured by second hands and digital displays!
The poetry of the Psalm brings to mind the creation account in Genesis. God divides light from darkness, the sky from the seas, and the seas from the land. Each division is explained and supported: the light by the light-bearers; the divided waters by the swarming life of the seas and the skies, and the land by the animals of the earth. The divine counsel then leads to the making of mankind in the image of God.
Into the structure he formed of time and space, God’s word of creation flung the universes. David knows that God pronounced his creation good, and that mankind, made in his image, is the crown of his work. In Psalm 8, David marvels at the glory of God that rises above the majesty of creation. He then links the immensity of the heavens with the childish speech of a toddler. Frail little ones speak the name of the Almighty, and inherit the dominion he has given them over all the works of God’s hands.
Augustine, the church father who had taught rhetoric, captured the force of paradox to contrast the helplessness of Jesus at Mary’s breast with his power as the God-man, who formed Mary and all creation.
How does creation show the glory of God? His majestic power and wisdom are part of that glory. So, too, is his goodness. The Creator surveys his creation and pronounces it good. The glory of God’s power, wisdom, and goodness Moses describes in Psalm 90 as his beauty. We may know beauty, as we know truth or goodness, because we are made in the image of God.
In the beauty of nature, we see the glory of the Creator. Ric Ergenbright captures that beauty in books of stunning photography and devotional reverence. The heavens declare the glory of God in the beauty of creation.
What is the glory that the heavens declare? In the midst of a barren desert, Moses prayed for the blessing of the beauty of the Lord. The tabernacle was the symbol of his dwelling in the midst of his people. It was therefore a place of beauty. We speak often of the truth and wisdom of God, and of his goodness, but less often of his beauty. Yet aesthetics also reflects the glory of God. Richness is always present in beauty. Beauty involves allusiveness – the dimension of richness. Implicit in the beauty of a statement or of a picture there is the suggestion of further depth. In poetry an extra dimension might be the meter, or assonance in sound (rhyme) or related thoughts, suggested if not directly asserted.
The aspects of God’s beauty revealed in creation include the beauty of majesty, of design, and of goodness. David reflects on the beauty of majesty when he speaks of the heavens. We have more cause to marvel at the majesty of a cumulus cloud when we soar above the thirty-thousand foot altitude of our jet plane. The majestic cloud of God rested above the tabernacle. “Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary” (Ps. 96:6). “The sun shall be no more your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give you light; but the LORD shall be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory” (Isa. 60:19).
Again, the beauty of design shows the wisdom of the creator, not only in the heavens above but also in the microcosm of ordered cell systems that support life. Design in the fabrics and figures of the house of the Lord, and in the clothing of the priests, revealed the order of the Lord’s design. So did Jesus set the lilies of the field above the glory of King Solomon’s robes. The garments of Aaron were made “for glory and for beauty” (Ex. 28:2). A term for ordered design is used in Psalm 90:16:“May your deeds be shown to your servants, your splendor to their children”(NIV). “Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness; tremble before him all the earth” (Ps. 96:9).
Finally, the beauty of delight. This is the delight of fellowship with the Lord. “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple” (Ps. 27:4).
The majesty of God’s beauty, like the glory-cloud, shows us that God is great – especially in power. The design of his holiness shows his wisdom – his plan. The delight of his beauty shows his goodness. He is the God of grace.
All the riches of Christ are poured out in the beauty of his grace. “In that day the branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious…” (Isa. 4:2). His glory shone in the cloud over the tabernacle and became a canopy over his people. In the coming day promised by Isaiah, the full light of that glory would rise, not in a cloud but in the risen Savior. That glory shines to the amazement of kings, in the redeeming suffering of God’s Servant (Isa. 52:14). There is no beauty that we should desire him (Isa. 53:2). He poured out his soul to death and was numbered with transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors. With his stripes we are healed.
In his agony shines the beauty of the Savior’s love. No artist through the ages can capture what the eye of the humblest believer sees. On the cross Jesus became the fairest of ten thousand to us. He could cry, “It is finished!” and give up his life to his Father. The beauty of his dying love is the beauty that he makes ours. The beautiful years for us are not Utopian dreams, but years to walk in the beauty of Jesus. He makes his beauty yours – not just in the rapture of devotion, but in his blessing that sends you into the world. He sends you there to declare his beauty and to show it. His Spirit shows Christ’s beauty in your service to lost sinners. Our culture worships physical beauty as we find it in the idols of screen and stage. All beauty is given by the Creator. His own beauty shows the ugliness of idols that we make to substitute for him. Let the Lord’s beauty show the ugliness of the idol, the emptiness of landscaped wealth, or the worship of Mammon or the slavery of the high life. Find his beauty in the lives of humble believers, your fellow servants of the beautiful Lord. True beauty exposes evil and reveals his redeeming love.
Repetition, the key to literary structure, binds together the message of the psalm. The first stanza (verses 1-6) repeatedly affirms the silent speech of God’s creation. The second stanza (verses 7-11) marshals nouns to describe the written Word of God. It is torah, the revealed law of God; ’eduth, the decrees of God; pequddah, precept; mitzvah, instruction; yir’ah, fear; mishpat, judgment.
Psalm 8 also sees the glory of God set in the heavens above and the earth beneath. The majesty of the firmament above shows the power of the Creator. Yet that power also appears in children and in nursing infants. Their infant laughter displays the joy of the Lord who made them in his likeness. The message of the Bible is the message of God’s infinite mercy, his royal grace. Laughter wells up from joy in the absurdity of God’s grace. The wages of sin is death; the gift of God is eternal life. The promise of God that Sarah at ninety would bear a son to Abraham at one hundred caused him to fall down laughing. Yet Abraham wanted the Lord to agree to Ishmael’s being the heir of his blessing, in sire of God’s promise.
When the Lord himself took human nature in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and was born of her, he gathered the little ones to himself, and said, “Of such is the kingdom of heaven.” The power and glory of the Creator gave to little children their heritage, not that of sinless angels, but of new creatures in the image of Christ. The exulting joy of these Psalms flows from the Lord who came to save, and to open heaven to his little ones. brought nearer than the holy angels.
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- ~ William Edgar Remembers Dr. Clowney
"Ed’s teaching was mind-boggling. No one had ever explained so many issues using what I now know to be biblical theology, the progressive unfolding of redemptive history, culminating is Jesus Christ, the “yea and amen of the promises of God.” A whole group of us from Harvard did come to Westminster, and we never regretted it for a minute. There we discovered that exegesis was controlled by biblical theology, which in turn yielded the good fruits of systematics. We sat under the likes of Paul Woolley, John Murray, E. J. Young. But Edmund Clowney remained a central inspiration. It was he, more than any of the others, who opened the Bible to us. Ironically, in those days, many of the courses on the Pentateuch or the Psalms or Galatians were little more than painstaking refutations of the German critics. We were no doubt still in the era of Westminster’s origins in controversy, called to “demolish strongholds.” But many of us came from outside the Christian faith and did not worry particularly about these guys with funny names like Gunkel or Mowinckle. We needed basic Bible knowledge, and we got it from Ed Clowney’s courses in, of all things, Practical Theology. Whether homiletics, worship, missions, or the church, his sermon-like lectures took us through one era after another, climaxing in Jesus Christ. As he got more and more excited about the structure of revelation, Ed spoke contagiously about the impossibility of God’s extravagant promises. How would he do it? What about Abraham rising up in the morning to sacrifice the only son of the pledge? For a people in exile, how will the very bells on the horses have the Lord’s name inscribed on them, and the cooking pots in the Lord’s house be like the sacred bowls before the altar? The answer: “Remnant and renewal! Remnant and"
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