Every Sunday I approach this pulpit with one goal in mind. My goal, each and every Sunday, is to declare the glory of God. But there is one problem with this--John Piper is right when he says, "The glory of God is not a reality that can be transferred merely by words."
My words each Sunday do not do justice to the glory of God. No matter how well researched my sermon is, no matter how clever my explanations of God may be, no mere arguments could ever impart what the heart sees when it sees the glory of God.
Psalm 19 is, perhaps, best known for what it says about God's Word (verses 7-11), but again we remember, "The glory of God is not a reality that can be transferred merely by words." David knows this, and so before he speaks about God's Word, he begins by talking about God's works, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge"(v.1, 2).
During the French revolution, Jean Bon Andre said to a minister, "I will pull down all of your churches, your steeples, your places of worship that you may no longer have any object to remind you of your religious superstitions." "But," replied the minister, "You cannot pull down the sun, the moon, and the stars; these all declare the glory of God. If every house of prayer be destroyed, if every preacher be forced to keep silent . . . the heavens above will forever declare His glory-the birds will sing His praise and the wind and waves will say, 'Our God reigns!'"
Any person who would demand evidence for the existence of God must have their eyes closed. The atheist must not be listening because "the heavens are telling of the glory of God", "their expanse is declaring the work of His hands", it "pours forth speech" and it "reveals knowledge" on a daily basis.
Now, as you come to verse 3, you can be forgiven if you are a bit confused. Verse 3 literally reads, "There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard." In the first 2 verses of Psalm 19, David talks about the perpetual speech of creation only to say the opposite, that "there is no speech", in verse 3.
John Calvin helps us here by reminding us that in the Hebrew language it is a common thing "for the relatives to be omitted". That is, words like 'which', 'in which', 'where', etc. are often assumed, but not included. Calvin would therefore have us translate verse 3 by saying, "There is no language, there is no speech, [where] their voice is not heard"(the NIV gets this right). The point here is that the differing human languages does not limit the preaching of the heavens. David's point in verse 3 is that the language of creation can be heard and understood in every quarter of the world. Verse 4, as you can see, supports this translation when it says that the "utterances (of creation)" go out "to the ends of the world".
Isaiah points to this testimony in chapter 40, verse 26, of his book, "Lift up your eyes on high and behold who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name".
Scientists tell us that there are about one hundred billion galaxies in the universe. And in each galaxy there are approximately one hundred billion stars. That's a hundred billion times a hundred billion!(Bridges, The Joy Of Fearing God, 56). Yet the Bible says that God calls each star by name.
If you have ever visited northern Ontario, on a clear, summer, night and looked up, you know what I am talking about. If you have ever stood next to Niagara Falls, or stood next to the Grand Canyon, you know what I am talking about. All of creation is telling of the glory of God.
The heavens may declare the glory of God but, because of our sinfulness, we need more. The sun, moon, and stars may point to God's glory, majesty, and power, but this glory does not have a moral element. Nature does not tell us whether our Creator is good. We need the Bible if we are to learn that God is good, merciful, and just.
God is not sufficiently revealed to us until we have His Word. To observe God from nature alone, as many scientists do, is to read only part of His resume. NASA scientist, Robert Jastrow, learned this and wrote about it in his book, God and the Astronomers. The book concludes by saying, "For the scientist who has lived by faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
What we learn from God's written Word is that the righteous character of the Scriptures is the reflection of a righteous God. Commenting on the character of Scripture, David writes, "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes."(v.7, 8).
These 2 verses alone contain enough theology for an entire sermon, but allow we to briefly unpack them for you. In verses 7 and 8 we learn, in a parallel structure, about the characteristics of God's Word, and the benefits of keeping God's Word.
The first characteristic is that "The law of the Lord is perfect". The Hebrew word translated "perfect" also means "complete". That is to say that the Bible is an all-sufficient revelation. Everything we need is contained in the Bible.
The second characteristic is that "the testimony of the Lord is sure". The meaning of the word "sure" in this case is "trustworthy". What you read in God's Word is trustworthy. It will never lead you astray.
The third characteristic is that "The precepts of the Lord are right". By the word, "right", David does not mean correct as opposed to wrong--that idea is seen in the word "sure". When David confesses that "The precepts of the Lord are right" he means that they are morally righteous.
And the final characteristic of God's Word is that it is "pure". The idea here is longevity and durability. Corrupt things decay, but that which is pure endures forever. This is why Jesus could say, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall never pass away"(Mt. 24:35).
Now think about those characteristics for a minute. What parts of God's creation could be described as "perfect", "trustworthy", "righteous", and "pure"? Not too many, if any at all.
It is important that we realize that creation is only part of God's resume. God's creation is the resume for His power and glory, but God's Word is the resume for His holiness and His mercy. God's creation is to be enjoyed, yes, but have a look at verse 10, " (the ordinances of God) are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb."
Do you see what David has done is this Psalm? David has spent 6 verses telling us how great creation is, but now he wants us to know there is something more desirable, something sweeter, and that is the Word of God.
What are the implications of this? If you are tempted to read the stock page, or the sports page, before you read the Bible in the morning, remind yourself that this is not shrewd behavior. It's like the child who chooses the penny over the dime because it's bigger. There is a difference however: the benefits of the Word of God over the benefits of gold are far greater than 10 to one.
The value of the Word of God, David tells us, is that it "restores the soul"(v.7), it "makes (us) wise"(v.7), it causes our "heart" to "rejoice"(v.8), and it "enlightens (our) eyes"(v.8).
David goes on to tell us in verse 11 that, "by (God's Word) your servant is warned". More simply put--God's Word keeps us from sin. Or, as John Bunyan once put it, "This Book will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from this Book".
David also tells us in verse 11 that "in keeping (the ordinances of God) there is great reward". Augustine once said that "sin is its own punishment". Here, I think David is telling us that the reverse is true, "obedience to God's Word is its own reward".
Now I enjoy the sports section as much as anyone, but it does not have the power to revive my soul. The sports page does not have the power to make me wise. The stock page does not keep me from sin. Reading the newspaper is not its own reward.
The Bible is no ordinary book. The Bible completes God's resume. To look at creation alone, is to only to get part of the picture. When David tells us that God's Word is more desirable than gold, he means to tell us that nothing is more desirable than God's Word.
If this is true--if the Bible is indeed supremely valuable--why don't we read it more often? If this is true, why aren't the Bible study groups overflowing with people?
I wish I knew the answer to these questions. Perhaps it really is like when a child prefers a penny over a dime because its bigger. Perhaps it is something else. Perhaps we prefer enjoying God in creation because the moon does not command us to be holy. Perhaps we prefer enjoying God in nature because the stars will not command us to follow. Yet, God's resume is completed in His Word and His Word commands us to follow.
Creation may call us to admire God, but the Bible calls us to obey Him. And if we put those two things together--admiration and obedience--we get worship. God's resume is before you and the only suitable response is to live a life of worship. And, according to David, worship is its own reward (v.11).
Worship gives God the glory and brings us the joy and this is precisely what we are here for. Amen.