Psalm 19

Hit a busy stretch with a leadership retreat. Stayed in the Psalms, but stopped blogging. I am going to try to post a blog each day this week, but will take another break when I go on vacation at the end of the month. I know all three of you who read these really need to know this information...

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 ends of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul...

Psalm 19:1-7

I have loved Psalm 19 for as long as I can remember loving anything in the Bible. It reminds me of that night way back when in the gravel pits when I looked up at the stars and just knew there was something more - something big and beautiful and powerful - and I was very, very small in comparison. The stars spoke to me that night, before I was even a follower of Jesus, and they didn't utter an audible word.

What I noticed as I sat in the Psalm this time, though, was that this wasn't two Psalms, but one. The first half is devoted to the stars and, more directly, the sun. The second half is devoted to a celebration of God's law - its beauty, perfection, and value. I didn't do it on purpose, but I think I always read this Psalm as if it were a collection of two poems instead of a single, unified thought.

This time I saw - David sees the law functioning like the sun. It is glorious in its light and universal in its warmth. It reveals God in his holy perfection and gives us clarity on things we may feel but not know without revelation. It calls us, in its perfection, to the God of perfection.

This is an aspect of the law I don't sit in much. The law commands but doesn't empower. It was given to show us our sin and even increase our sin (Romans 3:19-20, 5:20) to make us crave grace. As a result, I often think of the law as a mean and wrinkled old teacher with a ruler, eager to smack someone's knuckles.

But the law is beautiful in its expression of God's character and holiness. It is good and holy and just and right. The problem isn't with the law of God, but with my heart. An ugly face hates the mirror, but the problem isn't with the mirror.

It is hard, even with that realization, for me to say things like, "The rules of the Lord are true... more to be desired are they than gold." I don't like rules. They are sterile, cold, and all about performance (and always highlight where I don't quite measure up). The law is pretty clear: keep me and live or break me and die. There is no grading on a curve.

So, a second thought. For David, the rules of God were never considered apart from relationship with God. They were part of the covenant that bound him to One True God, and where he fell short, God provided a sacrificial system (which of course pointed him to faith instead of performance and to a savior instead of perfection).

When Jesus was born as a Jew under the law, he was bound under all the conditions and expectations of the law. The big difference to every other Jewish person, though, was that he kept the law - in both letter and spirit. He was the first man ever who could claim the blessing of the law instead of ending up under its curse. When he died, he died under the curse of the law to deliver those who were bound to its curse because they couldn't obey it (Galatians 3:10-13).

So, when I think of the law, I can see it as beautiful, because I see him. He is the perfect expression of God's holiness and the unconditional invitation into its blessing for a sinner like me. He speaks to me both of God's astounding holiness and God's astounding grace. And when I see him as he is, nothing is hidden from the warming brightness of his love.

Prayer:

Lord, you are a God of holiness, absolutely perfect in your nature and completely set apart from sin. That is a terrifying reality when approached outside of our Savior. Thank you that you are both holy and gracious - that you loved me enough to put the blood of your dear son over the door posts of my wretched life so that judgement might pass over me (and land on him in my place). You are glorious and I celebrate your perfection without fear because I don't measure up. Undo me both with the glory of your greatness and the weightiness of your love.

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