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Psalm 19: A different kind of security

Psalm series

Psalm 19: A different kind of security
Posted on September 25, 2020  - By Dr. David Brooks

When we are in trouble, we become people of prayer. We need rescue from adversaries and threatening situations. In such circumstances, deliverance brings great relief and joy. This is the theme that Psalms 11 to 18 deal with. 

In Psalm 19, the psalmist turns to two other sources of joy and protection. But first, let’s look at the progress that leads to the psalm.

The Psalms consists of five books: Psalms 1 to 41, 42 to 72, 73 to 89, 90 to 106, and 107 to 150. Each was the songbook of a worshiping congregation in Israel. The psalms were not written with the others in mind, so the connections between them are not tightly connected. But the organisers of the books place them in a sequence with contextual connections.

  • In Psalm 11, David confidently trusted God when confronted by social disintegration.
  • Then, in Psalm 12, he called on the Lord to deliver him from untrustworthy people who made society hazardous. 
  • In Psalm 13, it seemed God allowed such adversaries to trouble him for a long time. 
  • In Psalm 14, he pointed out that they were ungodly people acting hatefully, but he admitted that God did not find anyone pure (he returns to this in Psalm 19 too). Nevertheless, God would deliver those he designated as righteous (cf. Genesis 15:6) — and David desired this. 
  • In Psalm 15, he acknowledged that as a person lives in harmony with God’s character, he or she would have fellowship with the Lord and would not be shaken to the core by these troubles. 
  • In Psalm 16, David, though in trouble, would not abandon trust in the Lord, despite the fact that others did. He enjoyed his fellowship with Yahweh and recognised God was blessing him, so he could rest in peace — even should he die. 
  • In Psalm 17, he was still in trouble, but was confident God heard his prayer and would bless him with His presence, fellowship, and, at some point, deliverance. 
  • In Psalm 18, David praised the Lord for the great deliverances He had performed for him in many difficulties. 

David enjoyed his fellowship with Yahweh and recognised… he could rest in peace — even should he die

Now, in Psalm 19, David praises the Lord for constant blessings available in addition to deliverance from adversaries.

God’s greatness in creation

In verses 1-6, David praised God for His glory revealed by the sky. 

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
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,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
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.

“Glory” in v. 1 is often “praise”. The parallel term “handiwork”, however, favours glory as impressiveness, greatness (Psalm 8:5; 21:5) and exaltation (Psalm 104:31; 106:20). God’s created works impressed David with how great God is.

The sky proclaims God’s greatness for, without its light, we would not be able to see the many amazing things God created or conclude how great He is. Each day reveals this and, at night, we learn more about how impressive God must be. For, were it not for night, we would be largely ignorant of the stars, moon, and nocturnal animals.

The sky proclaims God’s greatness for, without its light, we would not be able to see the many amazing things God created

The sky reveals God’s glory without using any words (v. 3; some translators alter the verse to “there is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard” and it is true that v. 4b mentions “words”). Though wordless, the message of the sky is available to all with sight. The “measuring line” of v. 4 is an implied comparison to a line to measure a landowner’s plot. The domain over which the sky rules is obviously the whole earth, and it illuminates to everyone God’s greatness (cf. Romans 1:18-20).

The light from the sky during the day is clearly the sun, so in vv. 4b-6, he focuses on the sun. The sun acts like an enthusiastic, energetic young man, as it gladly reveals God’s impressiveness far and wide with no exceptions. In Psalm 18, God’s deliverance was pictured by a stormy sky. In Psalm 19, the sky constantly reveals His greatness, even when deliverance is not the subject.

God’s greatness in Scripture

The sky points to God’s greatness, but the Lord has done something that points to us also, and protects us from trouble and in trouble. 

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving 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;
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.

The “law” is literally the “torah,” which means instruction, not simply a code of laws — though laws instruct as well. Many scholars understand this as the Word of God, not merely the legal sections of the Pentateuch. David said God’s Word revives the soul. That is, it renews one’s sense of hope, purpose, and joy in life (cf. Ruth 4:15 for the same expression in Hebrew).

God’s Word revives the soul. It renews one’s sense of hope, purpose, and joy in life

The “testimony” (v. 7) is another reference to God’s Word (cf. Exodus 25:21; 31:18), which gives a person wisdom regarding right and wrong and, thus, the best way to deal with a situation. The precepts and commandment of the Lord (v. 8) bring joy (“rejoicing the heart” and “enlightening the eyes”). We derive pleasure in doing what is right (the wicked excepted, Proverbs 21:10).

In this context, “the fear of the Lord” (v. 9) refers to the Scripture. Perhaps this term is used since reverence for the Lord underlies obedience to and trust in His Word. His Word will last eternally and is clean from any imperfection or corruption. (It is true that some parts of God’s Word are hard to understand in our cultures many centuries after they were written, but our lack of comprehension does not indicate flaws in the Scripture.)

The features of God’s Word in vv. 7-9 give a person hope, wisdom, joy, and endurance, despite the troubles lamented in the psalm. God gave His Word so that we could experience these. This makes Scripture valuable and pleasurable (v. 10).

God’s deliverance from sin

The psalmist directs his last verses to God. 

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 presumptuous sins;
    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,
    Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

Besides giving instruction on what we should do, God’s Word warns (v. 11) what we should not do. We need warning of external enemies, but we have an internal enemy too. Because we all are naturally sinners (cf. Psalm 14:2-3), we disobey God without planning it. We make mistakes that are sins — not all mistakes are sins, but some are. These are the errors and hidden faults of v. 12. The verse is not describing deliberate sins a person hides; those are a subject for v. 13.

David desired to be blameless (v. 13b). The Hebrew word for blameless refers to integrity, the integration of thought, word, and action. God calls for integrity if a person is to have fellowship with Him (cf. Genesis 17:1, “to walk before”). Psalm 15 has addressed this at greater length. To be blameless, a person cannot be overcome or dominated by presumptuous sins, that is, sins that are openly contrary to the will of God as revealed in the Scripture (vv. 7-9). A person with integrity will not be drawn into open rebellion with God (“transgression”, pesha‘, denotes rebellion).

A person with integrity will not be drawn into open rebellion with God

The acceptable words and meditation of v. 14 could refer to the integrity of v. 13, David’s prayer of vv. 11-13, or his praise in vv. 1-10 and his prayer. The relation to v. 13 is near and obvious, the relation to vv. 11-13 is likely, but the dependence upon vv. 1-13 is reasonably accepted by scholars.

As in Psalm 18:2, David calls the Lord his rock, meaning his refuge, his protector. Despite the conflict and trouble of the preceding psalms, by recognising God’s impressiveness as Creator (vv. 1-6) and His guidance in His Word (vv. 7-10), David sensed the Lord’s protection and deliverance.

We need God to rescue us from trouble. But we also gain security by acknowledging His magnificence in creation and His guidance in His Word.

Dr. David Brooks

About Dr. David Brooks

David Brooks is a senior professor of Hebrew & Old Testament at Criswell College, Dallas, where he lives with his wife and four children. Having been raised with an emphasis on international missions, he often accepts international teaching assignments while also teaching adjunctively at Dallas Theological Seminary.



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