God’s Revelation: A Creation Psalm

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

Reflections on the Psalms, Part 3

Psalm 19 harmonizes two themes the Psalter begins with and one that almost concludes the book. Psalm 1 is an emphasis upon two walks of life—the godly life and the ungodly life—with the life of the righteous person regulated by the Word of God. Psalm 148 invokes praise of the Lord from all creation. The two themes are found elsewhere in the Psalter (cf. Ps 119 in comparison to Ps 1, and Ps 104 in relation to Ps 148), yet are typically independent of each other.

Psalm 19 reveals that God’s foremost pursuit in all He does is the magnification of His glory; and since this is true, to live for God’s glory should be the ambition of every believer. Very simply, God’s glory may be distinguished in a twofold manner: His intrinsic glory and His ascribed glory. His intrinsic glory is the totality of His divine attributes, such as His grace, holiness, love, and sovereignty for instance. God makes His intrinsic glory known through His natural and special revelation. As the Lord reveals His glory, humanity is to praise Him, which is ascribed glory (i.e. the worship He is due). The foremost pursuit of humanity is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

The theological term “revelation” refers both to God’s self-disclosure with regard to His nature and purpose for humanity, and the corpus of truth He has made known. The term is derived from the Greek word apokalupsis, which means “a disclosure” or “revelation,” and may pertain to the act whereby God reveals truth through creation (Ps 19; Rom 1:18-21), dreams (Dan 2:20-30), miracles (John 20:30-31), oral communication (Exod 3:1-9; Acts 22:17-21), and the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14, 18). Revelation may also pertain to the content of the truth revealed; that is, the words contained in the Bible. The two mediums of God’s revelation include: general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is received through creation and conscience (Ps 19; Rom 1—3; Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-34); it is the world in which humanity is immersed and also certain sensibilities within humanity. Special revelation is the very Word of God (the 39 books of the Old Testament and 27 books of the New Testament).

Many psalms eulogize the character of God as it is revealed in nature. Psalm 19 is considered a creation psalm, because its opening verses concern the revelation of God in nature; it also celebrates God’s special revelation in Scripture. C. S. Lewis considered Psalm 19 to be “one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”1 The psalm has a threefold division: (1) proclaiming God’s glory in His world (vv. 1-6); (2) proclaiming God’s glory in His Word (vv. 7-11); and, a personal prayer for acceptance and forgiveness (vv. 12-14). The relation between God’s (natural) revelation in creation and His (special) revelation in His Word is so close that there are multiple times those ideas intersect among the various divisions of the psalm.

In this hymn of praise, David observed the handiwork of God in creation, that in the words of Romans 1:20 makes known “his invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature.” Humanity may also know of God’s purpose to bless through His revealed Word. The two dynamics of God’s revelation led David to pray that God would cleanse his life so he would be acceptable to the Lord. Psalm 19 is an apologetic response to the polytheistic ancient Near East, because many pagans worshipped sun gods as the arbitrators of justice. Psalm 19 reveals that the God of Israel is the Creator of the heavens, including the sun, and His judgments alone are true and righteous.

Revelation from Nature (Ps 19:1-6)
Psalm 19 begins with a summary statement: “The heavens are telling of the glory of God.” Romans 1:20 says, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.” The heavens tell the power and wisdom of God, in addition to something of His plan and purposes. From the beginning, creation has been God’s witness to the Lord’s creature: humanity.

God has revealed Himself to all people through His creation; the universe declares “the work of His hands.” The self-disclosing revelation of God to humanity is relentless: “Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (v. 2). The regularity of the seasons, and thus the agricultural calendar (Gen 8:22), is determined by the cycle of day and night. Their disclosure may be soundless, yet it is “speech” that is distinct and recognizable. Knowledge that God has made known concerns the general revelation of His character (cf. Prov 8:22-31; Rom 1:20).

Creation may not speak audible words, yet its “voice” reaches every part of the planet and is accessible wherever “speech” and words” are verbalized (Ps 19:3). All humanity is without excuse before God, because His self-revelation is made known through creation. “Their line has gone out through all the earth,” which means the entire planet is replete with the handiwork of God. The sun is an illustration (v. 4). The heavens and the skies are compared to “a tent” in which God has placed the sun as a torch to light their vast expanse.

Moreover, the sun is like “a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,” like a champion rejoicing to run his course (v. 5). Every morning, the sun is like a bridegroom emerging from his room with enthusiasm, ready for his wedding, or perhaps emerging from the marriage chamber with enthusiasm to fulfill the responsibilities God has given. The sun rejoices in its strength to run its course. From humanity’s perspective, the sun rises “from one end of the heavens” and makes “its circuit” with radiance and vitality as it warms the earth. Words are not necessary for the sun to reveal God’s attributes, power, and nature, because its effects cause nothing to be hidden “from its heat” (v. 6).

Creation reveals the glory of God’s nature (vv. 1-6). Although this revelation is accurate, it is incomplete by necessity. Creation proclaims a daily sermon of God’s glory, and this perpetual message is heard throughout the entire earth. Romans 1:18-20 explains the theological significance of the natural revelation. God’s “eternal power and divine nature” are evident in creation; they are readily “seen” and “understood,” so that all humanity is “without excuse.” For any to plead ignorance of God’s existence is as foolish as it is unacceptable (cf. Ps 14:1). The sovereignty of God that is manifested in the heavens is like the sun racing through the same.

Revelation in the Word (Ps 19:7-11)
God has also revealed Himself in Scripture (vv. 7-11). Religion and science (creation) are not mutually exclusive. While general revelation and special revelation “differ from one another … there is no contradiction between the two because the same self-consistent God is the author of both.”2 God is the Author of the world and the Word, and He does not contradict Himself.

Special revelation is more readily apparent than the natural revelation. Creation is “telling,” “declaring,” pouring forth, and revealing the revelation of God’s attributes, power, and deity (vv. 1-2). Yet the revelation of God’s Word is superior, because it was given by the covenant-keeping God, whose name is Yahweh (“LORD” in vv. 7-9, 14), whereas creation reveals the power of God (El in vv. 1-6). Special revelation is superlative also because it is comprehensive. The benefits of natural revelation are witnessed daily (“day,” “night,” “heat”), yet the benefits of God’s Word are far more inclusive.

God’s Word is described in six statements (vv. 7-9), with each composed of three parts. The first provides a synonym for God’s Word (viz. law, testimony, precepts, commandment, fear, judgments). The second part gives an attributive quality (viz. perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true), and the third reveals the effect of God’s Word (viz. restores the soul, makes the simple wise, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, endures forever, is altogether righteous). Certainly, with such descriptions of Scripture, it should be regarded as “more desirable than gold” and “sweeter also than honey” (v. 10). God’s Word is infinitely more desirable and valuable than anything the world has to offer. Scripture is able to fully satisfy a person’s spiritual hunger, and is thus the means for spectacular development and joy. God’s Word provides a warning against whatever threatens a person’s spiritual well-being. There is truly “great reward” in Scripture (v. 11).

Responding to God’s Revelation (Ps 19:12-14)
God has revealed Himself to humanity, and Psalm 19 concludes with a response to that self-disclosure. “Who can discern his errors?” is a rhetorical question, for it implies an obvious answer (v. 12a). While it may not be possible to discern one’s errors, the person who reads, studies, and meditates upon God’s Word is certain to have such faults made known.

The psalmist made a negative request: “acquit me of hidden faults,” and “also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins” (vv. 12-13). He wanted divine assistance to guard himself from both intentional and unintentional sin, for the purpose of not being dominated by them. Positively, the psalmist requested that the words of his mouth and the thoughts of his heart would be acceptable in the Lord’s sight (v. 14). God has revealed Himself in creation and in Scripture. His revelation should compel all people to humble themselves in praise and submission to the Creator. From God, and through Him and to Him are all things, and to the Lord God alone belongs glory forever.

1 C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (1958; reprint, San Diego: Harcourt, 1986) 63.
2 Ron J. Bigalke Jr., “The Preeminence of Biblical Creationism,” in The Genesis Factor, ed. idem (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2008) 97.

Midnight Call - 10/2019

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