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Psalms Series One

The Glory of God

Psalm 8, 19

The Glory of God

The Stature of Man

The Union of Both

C. S. Lewis, in his Reflections on the Psalms, refers to the 19th Psalm as "the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world." Indeed, as we shall see, it contains in it a device that a modern poet would clearly understand -- which may obscure meaning for us. In this lesson, we will examine the 19th Psalm along with a parallel Psalm, the 8th. They begin in thunder: the glory of God.

{19:1} For the director of music. A psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. {2} Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. {3} There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. {4} Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, {5} which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. {6} It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. ‑‑ Psalms 19:1‑6 (NIV)

 

{8:1} For the director of music. According to gittith.

A psalm of David. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. {2} From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger. ‑‑ Psalms 8:1‑2 (NIV)

 

 

Glory in Nature

"Glory is to God what style is to an artist." I'm one of those poor souls whose education was completed in a time and place when music was still considered essential to the upbringing. When I turn on the car radio, it's often to classical music. Quite often - at least for the familiar composers - I can tell you the composer without hearing the announcement. No one could mistake Berlioz for Bach! There is a sense of that style in this:

I remember seeing a forest of giant redwoods for the first time. There were some small children nearby, giggling and chattering and pushing each other around. Nobody had to tell them to quiet down as we entered. They quieted down all by themselves. Everybody did. You couldn't hear a sound of any kind, It was like coming into a vast, empty room.

Two or three hundred feet high the redwoods stood. You had to crane your neck back as far as it would go to see the leaves at the top. They made their own twilight out of the bright California day. There was a stillness and stateliness about them that seemed to become part of you as you stood there stunned by the sight of them. They had been growing there for going on two thousand years. With infinite care they were growing even now. You could feel them doing it. They made you realize that all your life you had been mistaken. Oaks and ashes, maples and chestnuts and elms you had seen for as long as you could remember, but never until this moment had you so much as dreamed what a Tree really was.

Have you been there? A starry night? A howling wind over the desert? Whatever it is, the heart wells up with the feeling that God is surely here. "Glory is what God looks like when for the time being all you have to look at him with is a pair of eyes." [All quotes this section from Frederick Buechner]

Glory in Paradox

"The power of paradox opens our eyes, and blinds those who say they can see." (Michael Card). In Psalm 8, David brings to our mind a common concept - that God prefers to use the simple, the weak, the powerless so that His glory may be shown. The argument is easy: if an eloquent man preaches a great sermon, it's no surprise. But if the simpleton does it?

{18} For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. {19} For it is written: "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate." {20} Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? {21} For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. ‑‑ 1 Corinthians 1:18‑21 (NIV)

In the 19th Psalm. David says the Law makes "wise the simple." David understands the principle quite well. When Samuel came to anoint the new king of Israel (I Samuel 16), David's father Jesse thought so little of him that he left David in the field with the sheep while the other brothers were paraded before Samuel. God sees the inside, and found in the Psalmist "a man after his own heart."

THE STATURE OF MAN

"You have made him"

Note the phrasing in the eighth Psalm. We are not self made; we are God made. We are not good of our own accord, but rather through God. Thomas a Kempis put it this way:

'Lord, what is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you visit him.' What has man done to deserve your grace? Lord, I have no cause to complain if you abandon me; and if Your will is contrary to my desires, I have no right to plead against it. But this I may rightly think and say, 'Lord, I am nothing and I can do nothing. I have no good of myself, but am imperfect in every respect, and always tend to nothing. Unless You guide my soul and grant me strength, I become weak and completely helpless.'

Yet see how God treats us! David puts it in these ways:

{3} When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, {4} what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? {5} You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. {6} You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: {7} all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, {8} the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. ‑‑ Psalms 8:3‑8 (NIV)

{7} The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. {8} The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. {9} The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. {10} They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. {11} By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. ‑‑ Psalms 19:7‑11 (NIV)

David draws us two pictures of Man.

Man as Created

The original intention of our creator was that we should be in His image. David expresses in three ways:

"a little lower than the heavenly beings (angels, KJV)" - as one speaker once put it, if we met a Christian after the return of the Lord - and saw him in the resurrected state - we would be flat on our faces in worship. "You are gods" says Asaph in Psalm 82:6.

"crowned... with glory and honor" - the very image of God.

"ruler over the works of your hands" - this last passage is explicitly quoted and applied to Christ in the New Testament (Hebrews 2:5-9, I Corinthians 15:27). As joint heirs of the kingdom, it applies to us now as it did to David then.

Man in the Lord

As Psalm 19 makes clear, such blessing is reserved for the righteous. The man living in the Law - in the New Covenant, in grace - receives these four blessings:

"reviving the soul" - do you know what "soul weary" is? If you do, then you know the refreshment that the Word of God alone can bring.

"making wise the simple" - wisdom is not for the high IQ alone - it is for everyone, by the grace of God. John Bunyan was

'A Tinker out of Bedford,

A vagrant oft in quod

A private under Fairfax

A minister of God

Two hundred years and thirty

Ere Armageddon came

His single hand portrayed it

And Bunyan was his name!'

(Rudyard Kipling) ["quod" = jail] John Bunyan was a vagrant tinker, often in jail - and wrote Paradise Lost. His education? The Scriptures alone.

"joy to the heart" - the original quote is lost to my memory, (but bet on Max Lucado) but "A Christian is never afraid, always joyful - and constantly in trouble."

"light to the eyes" - is there anything like the Bible to make sense of our senseless world?

Compare this to the existentialism and nihilism (its child) of our time. Would you base your life on "a foundation of unyielding despair"? (Bergson) - or the light of the Lord?

TRANSITION TO PURITY

I mentioned that there is a modern literary device in Psalm 19. It's in verses 6-7:

{6} It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. {7} The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. ‑‑ Psalms 19:6‑7 (NIV)

Do you see the sudden transition? The modern poet uses this too. It's as if David said, "I left out the connection between these two verses - because it's so obvious." The connection is obvious; as the heat of the day (in Palestine - where it gets really hot) sears every bit of the desert, heating everything, nothing hiding from it - so the Law of the Lord searches out every corner of the soul. (See Psalm 7:9, for example). And what should the servant of the Lord do about it?

{12} Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. {13} Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. ‑‑ Psalms 19:12‑13 (NIV)

The danger of the Law comes with the Pharisees. "Willful sins" - the sins of the spirit, the many forms of pride - are the great danger of the righteous man. If you are immune to the temptation of the world and the flesh, Satan will bring up the greatest of temptations: pride. Verse 13 should be engraved on a Bible teacher's heart.

The last verses of each Psalm provide us with the fitting comparison of God and Man:

God

Man

{9} O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! ‑‑ Psalms 8:9 (NIV)

 

 

{14} May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. ‑‑ Psalms 19:14 (NIV)

 

May our words and thoughts be pleasing to the majestic Lord of creation.

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