A Psalm of David.

Once more we have a psalm by Israel’s great shepherd-king.  This psalm contrasts the glory of God written in the heavens with the glory of God written in His Word.

1.  The heavens declare the glory of God;

How true this is!  Surely there is no other order in nature so striking or so perfect as the order found in the heavens.  The exactitude with which the heavenly bodies interact defies anything found on earth.  The amazing interactions of the laws of physics work together in a great concert of the heavens, showing forth the wonder and majesty of the God Who set this order in motion.  No mere chance could have produced the perfection we see there!  Thus the heavens declare God’s great reputation, and show forth the esteem in which men should hold Him.

The name “God” here is the Hebrew El, and speaks of God as Almighty.  Certainly the heavens declare His awesome power.

And the firmament shows His handiwork.

This word “firmament” means “expanse,” and has to do with the expanse of the sky.  All that we can observe in the skies both by night and by day shows us the mighty handiwork of God.

2.  Day unto day utters speech,

“The sun will rise tomorrow” is a common phrase of encouragement.  Yet think how we take this for granted, not considering the mighty power that enforces the laws of gravity and momentum and causes this event to occur day after day.  Certainly every day that passes makes a clear statement about God to all who are willing to hear it.

And night unto night reveals knowledge.

Anyone who has ever stopped to view the night sky knows the sense of wonder that comes upon us when we consider the knowledge of such things.  And anyone who has studied the movements and order of the stars, the moon, and the planets knows even more the majesty and perfection of the orderly circuit they move through moment by moment.  The mysteries of the heavens seem so staggering to us.  It seems amazing that anyone could observe the night sky and not come to at least some knowledge of the God Who created it.

3.  There is no speech nor language

All that is required is eyes to see to understand the majesty of God as displayed in the heavens.  There is no human language needed to comprehend the message spoken to us by the night sky.

Where their voice is not heard.

Yes, even in places where no word of Christ or the gospel has ever reached, the inhabitants can look up and learn of the God Who made the wonder of the heavens.

4.  Their line has gone out through all the earth,

This speaks of an allotting line whereby inheritances would be chosen in Israel.  The heavens give to everyone in all places the inheritance of the knowledge of the God Who created them.  This inheritance is one that cannot be taken away, for it is written in the sky that encircles every one of us.  What a great inheritance the knowledge of God is!  Yet how much greater is the inheritance of His Word, Which proclaims to us so much more fully the nature of the God Who created the heavens.

And their words to the end of the world.

The word for “world” here means the inhabited world, and the “end” of it is figurative for the remotest places.  The words of the heavenly bodies reach to even the remotest places where men live on earth.

In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,

A tabernacle was not merely a tent, but was considered to be the center of operations for a man’s life.  Thus this tabernacle for the sun figuratively speaks of the territory in which the sun resides and carries on its work.

5.  Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,

The “chamber” of the bridegroom is the bridal canopy under which the vows were made.  Thus David poetically describes the sunrise as a bridegroom coming out from under the bridal canopy into the glory of a new marriage and eternal partnership.  In this way the sun rises and spreads the glory of its light and heat across the earth.  This is poetically describing what we observe in the heavens every day, and is not meant to be a scientific statement as to how the heavens work.

And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.

The sun is described like a strong runner racing gleefully across the sky.  Again, this is describing what we see in the heavens every day that declares to us God’s glory.  This is not meant to be an imaginary observation from some point external to the earth whereby we determine that the earth really rotates about the sun and not the other way around.  This is describing what we observe in the heavens every day that declares to us the great order and glory of God in creation.  This is no more a scientific statement that the sun revolves around the earth than it is a scientific statement that the sun is some sort of heavenly Olympic runner!  We seem to forget the theory of relativity, and that from our frame of reference on the earth the sun does indeed move around us.  The point of Einstein’s theory was that there is no absolute frame of reference, yet those who try to discredit the Bible seem to forget this fact and insist that the Bible should speak as if written from some imaginary point in the heavens.  No, the Bible speaks from the viewpoint of men on earth, and it has always been our observation that the sun races around us, not the other way around.  Whether or not this is scientifically true, the fact remains that this is what we see in the heavens that convinces us of the existence of an Almighty God.

6.  Its rising is from one end of heaven,

Again David is describing what we observe day-by-day that should convince us of the glory of God.

And its circuit to the other end;

This is a circuit we all observe every day, and it can speak to us of God if only we will listen.

And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The heat that the sun brings to the earth is life-giving and life-sustaining.  Without it all life on earth would perish.  Thus this is the crescendo of David’s grand declaration of God’s glory in the heavens.  It is not just some far-away witness of His power.  Rather it is also a daily testimony to God’s care and provision for us.

7.  The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;

The psalm here changes from speaking of the testimony of God written in the heavens to the testimony of God written in His Word.  These two great witnesses are compared and contrasted by being placed together like this.  This psalm is not the combining of two separate scraps of psalms, as some Bible critics proclaim.  Rather these two great messages are compared by David to help us understand both the wonder and glory of the heavens and the wonder and glory of God’s Word.

The law of the LORD is the first aspect of His Word spoken of in this psalm.  Altogether, there are six great attributes of God’s Word listed here.  All six basically are different names for the Scriptures, and tied to each is one of the great works that God does through His Word.  The first here is converting the soul.  How hopeless we would be without the Word of God to convert us and bring us from sin and death to eternal life!  Perhaps the greatest work that God’s Word can ever do for us is the act of converting us to God.  At the very least, this must be the first work it ever does for us, if ever it is to work for us at all.  Thus the LORD’s perfect law is praised for its work in converting the soul.

The word here for “convert” speaks of returning.  Just as the sun returns to its place in the heavens, so the sinner returns to His God from the darkness of sin and separation.

The word for “Lord” here is Yahweh.  In contrast to El, the all-powerful God, Yahweh is the relational God, the God Who seeks and forms a relationship with His people.  The powerful God of the universe can seem so great and yet so distant, but the God of the Bible is the God Who can come so near as to enter into a relationship with lowly sinners like you and me.

The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;

The testimony of the LORD is sure, just as the heavenly bodies are sure and dependable in their ordained courses every day and night.  Nothing can shake them from the path God has set them on, just as nothing can shake the sure testimony of the LORD.

I have met many people of lesser intelligence than what we would think of as normal.  Yet even such as these can be made wise through one great act, and that is the reading and considering of the LORD’s testimony contained in His Word.  How often have I heard even simple children proclaim profound truths that they have come to understand from God’s Word!  This is surely a great and wonderful aspect of the Bible that, like the heavens, should fill us with awe.

8.  The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;

The LORD’s statutes are indeed righteous.  The statutes that men and human governments attempt to lay down are often muddled and ill-conceived in application.  Yet the LORD’s statutes are never so.  They are always right, and our hearts can rejoice when we see just how right they are.  How glad we can be to know that God’s ways are always right!

The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;

As the sun gives light to the earth, so the LORD’s commandments enlighten our eyes to what is good and right.  How lost we would be without their light!  Indeed, we would be as lost as so many in the world around us are today.  Yet if we heed God’s commandments, we will not be like them, but will have our eyes enlightened as to what is good and right.

9.  The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;

The fear of the LORD is the reverence in which He is held by His creatures.  That reverence is not only clean, but also cleansing.  When we truly respect the LORD as we ought for Who and What He is, we will find that that reverence helps to cleanse us from all our iniquities.  Moreover, that reverence will endure forever.  We need not worry that all fear of the LORD will ever pass from the earth.  Always there will be those who reverence the LORD through the reading of His Word.

The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

The judgments of the LORD are the last great aspect of His Word praised here, and are the most expounded upon and extolled in the following verses.  Yet the truth about the LORD’s judgments and the great truth of what they are and how wonderful they can be is lost upon us because of our false idea that the word “judgment” means “punishment.”  This ranks among the greatest errors caused by misunderstanding of words in Scripture.  The LORD’s judgments are not punishments.  Rather they are similar to the judgments of a court or the judgments of law.  They are the principles, the laws, and the established precepts that God has for us in our interactions with others and with Him.

Often people come to me and ask me for my judgment on a portion of Scripture.  Anyone who has read the letters column in my newsletter knows what some of these questions have been, and the judgments that I have given in answer to them.  These are my judgments on Scripture.  Others might ask me for my judgments on other things, such as politics or the attacks on September 11th, 2001.  In reply I might give my judgment on these things.  These would be my judgments, and would be how I view them and how I think they should be responded to and acted upon.

In the same way the judgments of the LORD are His thoughts and His orderly principles in regards to such matters.  The judgments of the LORD are the ways He would have us to act and the ways He would set things in order.  This verse begins extolling these judgments by proclaiming that they are true and altogether righteous.  My judgments may or may not be true.  They are the judgments of a man, and those who hear them can take them as the judgments of a man.  At times they may be mistaken, and at times they may not even be righteous.  Never is it so with the LORD’s judgments.  They are always true, and they are always totally righteous.  How great a truth this is!

10.  More to be desired are they than gold,

No one would ever make a statement like this if the LORD’s judgments were punishments.  I cannot imagine saying, “I’d rather be punished by the LORD than have money!”  Certainly this would be a foolish statement.  But to have the LORD’s judgments on matters…to know what He thinks about things and how He would judge and determine that we should act in various situations…this knowledge is indeed worth more than gold.  What price could one pay for such knowledge?

Yea, than much fine gold;

David again emphasizes the great worth of the LORD’s judgments.  Those who know His Word and know something of what those judgments are can certainly agree with him.  We who can buy a Bible from a corner bookstore for a few dollars need to realize what a great value we are getting for our money.  For if these words were truly valued at their worth, the world itself could not pay the price!

Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

The sweetness of honey cannot compare to the sweetness of knowing that one is acting and living according to God’s judgments.  The peace of a quiet conscience and the joy of a God-centered life are sweetnesses to which the sweetest candy cannot compare.

11.  Moreover by them Your servant is warned,

In God’s judgments the servant of the LORD is enlightened just as the earth is enlightened by the sun.  How glad we can be that the LORD’s judgments warn us of the ills and pitfalls of sin!  Avoiding these through the warnings of the Word is indeed a great blessing.

And in keeping them there is great reward.

There is great reward not only in the present life, wherein we are spared so much turmoil and heartache by keeping the LORD’s judgments, but also in the life to come, when all those who served the LORD faithfully will be rewarded.

12.  Who can understand his errors?

Those who dare to claim to have attained sinlessness in this life only demonstrate that they have no understanding of their own errors.  Benjamin Franklin once wrote how he determined once that from then on he would always choose to do right and never wrong, and that he would do so for the rest of his life.  He thought it would be a simple matter to, whenever any choice presented itself, choose to do what he knew was right and thus to live a perfect life.  He soon found, however, that the more he did this in certain areas of his life and concentrated on downing certain vices that he had, the more he found his conscience aware of other areas of his life that were wanting, so that he soon found the task, as simple as it seemed in theory, to be impossible.  In the same way we find that often we are not even aware of the errors that we do commit, and often we do not even understand them.  And indeed, who but God can truly understand every error we make?

Errors here are wanderings, and describe our wandering about from the path we should follow as the planets appear to wander about in the sky in contrast to all the stars and galaxies.

Cleanse me from secret faults.

Secret faults are those that we are not even aware of.  Unnumbered multitudes of people, puffed up with their own conceit, imagine themselves to be wonderful people even as they are in the midst of their own thoughtlessness and selfishness.  No doubt all of us can think of an example of someone like this.  To these people, their own faults are secret.  All we can do in the case of faults such as these is ask the LORD for cleansing.  Indeed, He can take away the sins of which we are not even aware.

13.  Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;

Not only do we need cleansing from unknown sins, but we also need to be kept from sins of which we are very much aware and yet commit anyway.  How often do we consciously err, knowing that what we do is not right in the sight of God!  We need the LORD to help us and keep us back from such things, even as David prayed that He would do for him.

“Keeping back” here is in comparison to the way God holds the heavenly bodies to their prescribed courses, keeping them back from ever swerving from the path He has set out for them.

Let them not have dominion over me.

The dominion of sin is indeed a heavy burden to bear.  We all likewise could and should pray this prayer.

Then I shall be blameless,

In other words, blameless from committing these presumptuous sins.  Of course, none of us will ever be totally blameless short of the resurrection.

And I shall be innocent of great transgression.

To knowingly sin against God is indeed a great transgression, and for the LORD to keep us back from acting like this is a great blessing.

14.  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart

David finishes off this great psalm with a prayer.  Let all God’s servants pray the same!

The words that we speak are indeed a great concern.  Too often we seem to speak words that would have been better unsaid, and often we come to regret such words.  Indeed it would be good if the LORD would grant the prayer that our words might be acceptable in His sight!

David is also concerned with the meditation of his heart.  Too often the things we dwell and meditate on are not things that our God might find acceptable.  Again this would be a great thing if this prayer would be answered in our lives.

Be acceptable in Your sight,

Amen!  Let us pray this prayer as well.

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

The word here for “strength” is the Hebrew word “rock.”  Once more David looks at the LORD as his Rock, his sure foundation in times of trouble.

David addresses his prayer to the LORD, and praises Him for His attributes, both as David’s strength and David’s redeemer.  And He is ours as well!  Praise the LORD that we too have a living Redeemer Who is able to answer our prayers and aid us in our daily lives.

To the Chief Musician.

This is another psalm dedicated to this man to be used for public worship.  It is not a loose joining of two unrelated fragments, but a majestic psalm of praise, comparing the glory of the LORD in the heavens above to His glory in His Word.  We can indeed be thankful that the LORD saw fit to include this great psalm in His Word.