Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

10 Rules for how and when to leave a church

It seems like every year I have a conversation with a friend who is dissatisfied with his or her church and is ready to chuck it and leave for something better down the street. So, in a nutshell, here is my advice.

10 Rules for Leaving a Church

1. Do not leave without first examining your heart to find out why you want to leave. Many will say they are leaving their church for doctrinal issues, lack of leadership, a lack of genuine community, or other issues - when really the reason they are leaving because their pride has been wounded in some way. Maybe they aren't getting the recognition they think they deserve. Maybe they think their gifts are undervalued. Maybe they see someone else getting attention and public applause and they feel threatened or jealous. Too many people leave their churches under the guise of some spiritual reason, when really it is a vindictive act stemming from wounded pride.

2. Do not leave without first having the hard conversations. Some people lea…

When Good Theology Blocks Us From God

I made a point in a recent sermon that sometimes we block ourselves from growing in our faith with good theology. I think some people thought it was a strange point and I’d like to explain why I think it is a point worth making.

First, to make it clear, theology is not the problem. Having a sound theology is a good thing - it helps clarify our thinking about ourselves and about God. It gives us a framework for understanding who God is, what he has done, and how we take hold of his covenant promises. It gives us a scope of God’s awesome control and nature and our dignity and depravity. All good things. Sound theology is (to quote Paul) “holy and righteous and good,” but sometimes how we use it isn’t.

Culturally, we have a very low tolerance for sorrow and negative feelings. We are like the character Joy in the movie Inside Out. We want to draw a little circle around our sad feelings and say, “This is your place, you stay in there. Don’t touch anything.” And the circle we draw is a comm…

We are Losing by Trying to Win

Most people have heard of Jonathan Swift's classic novel, Gulliver's Travels. In it, Gulliver travels from one strange place to another, encountering tiny people, giant people, talking horses, and all kinds of adventures. Most people today think of it as a children's storybook because the scene where he is tied down on a beach by little people who feel threatened by him has made its way into almost every children's cartoon.

But Gulliver's Travels is far from a children's storybook. It is an insightful and often cutting look at human nature. Swift was a careful observer of human behavior and lampooned it mercilessly. Swift was an Irish writer and clergyman and said that he wrote this novel to "vex the world, not divert it."

I think we could use some of that vexing - and could do with some learning from it.

In Gulliver's last adventure, he runs across creatures called "Yahoos." They are nasty creatures who horde shiny rocks and hurl their…