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Introduction: Theologians often make a distinction between General Revelation (the revelation of God through creation) and Special Revelation (the revelation of God through the Scriptures). As we will see today, this distinction is a Biblical one and is rooted in passages such as Psalm 19. As we examine the psalm, we will see 1) that God has revealed Himself through the world that He has created, 2) that God has revealed Himself through the word that He has inspired, and 3) that we are obligated to respond rightly to the revelation of God.
I. God Has Revealed Himself Through the World He Has Created
This may be seen inverse 1-6.
NKJ  Psalm 19:1 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God [אֵל,’ēl] and the firmament shows His handiwork.
We find here the same concepts that were later discussed by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans:
NKJ  Romans 1:18-21 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Thus Paul drives home the sinfulness of those who refuse to recognize God as Creator and who also refuse to thank Him. In this psalm, however, David does display a thankful heart, since he praises God for His work of creation and for the way that He has revealed himself in it. He highlights the way that “the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork.”
In this way, David demonstrates the right response that we should all have as we contemplate the creation of God. Lets look further now at how he continues to speak of God’s general revelation throughout his creation.
NKJ  Psalm 19:2 Day unto day utters [נָבַע, nāḇa‛] speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.
First, notice that general revelation is ongoing – it never stops. It goes on all day, every day – it is “day unto day.” And it goes on all night, every night – it is “night unto night.” As Joseph Addison  put it in his hymn, entitled “The Spacious Firmament on High” (1712):
What though in solemn silence all
     Move round this dark terrestrial ball;
What though no real voice or sound
     Amidst their radiant orbs be found;
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
     And utter forth a glorious voice,
For ever singing as they shine,
    “The hand that made us is divine.”
Second, notice that general revelation is abundant – it “pours forth.”
The Hebrew word translated “utters” in the New King James Version is nāḇa‛, which literally means “pour, gush forth” (TWOT 1287). It pictures the revelation of God from day to day as though it is an inexhaustible spring of water. This better translation is reflected in the NASB, which reads: “Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” John Piper put it this way:
Nature does not whisper, it shouts and it shouts continually. We were all impressed with cinerama when the curved screen gave such a life-like impression. And now you can walk into the Omnitheatre at the St. Paul Science Museum and hear all of the ooooh’s and ahhhh’s as people recline and see themselves enveloped in a domed screen, and then an hour later walk outside into a dome and a three dimensional drama ten million times bigger, more unpredictable and suspenseful, and hear not a single exclamation. (Online sermon on Psalm 19 entitled “Sky Talk”)
Yet another writer has declared:
God made the skies
     With voices clear,
And gave you eyes
     So you can hear.
Thus the world that God has created actually communicates, even if not with a literal voice, which seems to be the point of the next verse.
NKJ  Psalm 19:3-4a There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.  Their line [קַו, qāv] has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
Again I prefer the NASB here, which shows the difference among scholars as to how the verse should be translated, when it reads:
NAU Psalm 19:3-4 “There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard. [i.e. there is no literal speech] 4 [Nevertheless] Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances [Fem. Pl. Const. > מִלָּה, millāh, lit. words] to the end of the world ….”
Both the NKJV and the NASB follow the actual Hebrew text and translate word qāv as “line,” which refers to a measuring line and seems to indicate here the extent of the the revelation of the heavens. However, the LXX – the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament – reads a little differently:
LXA  Psalm 19:4 Their voice [φθόγγος, tone, sound] is gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.
This is the reading that is cited by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:18, and this is no doubt why the ESV has adopted this reading here in Psalm 19:4. Whichever reading one prefers, however, the point is still that, although the heavens (vs. 1) cannot speak actual words, they nevertheless do speak, and they do so as far as they can be found.
NKJ  Psalm 19:4b-6 In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden [סָתַר, sāṯar] from its heat.
Here David focuses his attention upon the sun, which he seems to view as one of the very greatest of all of God’s non-human creations. He pictures the darkness of night as a tabernacle into which the sun retreats every evening, only to return as a bridegroom coming out of a wedding chamber or as a strong man anxious to run a race. But these metaphors are not the main emphasis. The main point comes at the end of verse 6: “there is nothing hidden from its heat.”
In the context David is clearly asserting that wherever the sun may be seen and its heat may be felt, there too the glory of God is being declared. There is no place that is hidden from this revelation of God! As we shall see further on, this reference to nothing being hidden from the sun’s heat also forms the link David will use to bring the Psalm together. But for now let us turn our attention to our next point.
II. God Has Revealed Himself Through the Word He Has Inspired
This may be seen in verses 7-11. As we enter into the second section of the Psalm, we will see a difference in the way that David refers to our Heavenly Father. In the first part of the Psalm – when referring to the general revelation of the world He has created – David simply refers to Him as ’ēl (אֵל), but in this rest of the Psalm – referring to the special revelation of God’s word – David refers to Him seven times by the divine personal, covenant name Yahweh (יהוה), indicated in most translations by the word LORD rendered in all capital letters. In this way David seems to emphasize that it is only through the special revelation of the Scriptures that we really come to know God as our Covenant God and Savior.
NKJ  Psalm 19:7a The law of the LORD is perfect, converting [or restoring, reviving] the soul;
The word of God can bring restoration and new life.
NKJ  Psalm 19:7b The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
Having brought restoration, the word of God can make us wise so that we can live for God as we should.
NKJ  Psalm 19:8a The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
Having brought restoration and wisdom for living, the word of God brings the joy of the Lord into our lives. Charles Spurgeon picks up on the progression found in these verses when he writes:
Mark the progress; he who was converted was next made wise and is now made happy; that truth which makes the heart right then gives joy to the right heart. Free grace brings heart-joy. (Treasury of David, e-Sword)
Application: Do you regard God’s word as your source of life and joy?
NKJ  Psalm 19:8b The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
David now extols the word of God as that which brings enlightenment, the ability to see all that he has been describing. Charles Spurgeon is again helpful here when he writes:
It is well again to observe the gradation; the convert became a disciple and next a rejoicing soul, he now obtains a discerning eye, and as a spiritual man discerneth all things, though he himself is discerned of no man. (Treasury of David, e-Sword)
Application: Do you look to God’s word as your source of wisdom and discernment?
NKJ  Psalm 19:9a The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
David is still describing the word of God, but is now doing so by way of the cleansing effect it has upon him. It produces in him the fear of the LORD that is “clean” or pure before the LORD. His word is that which brings about a fear of Him, and it lasts forever, so it will always be able to bring us back to the very place we need to be before the LORD – humbled before him and receptive to all the wisdom and joy He has to offer. You see, David knows that he has laid hold of that which is eternal and lasting! I am reminded here of the words of our Lord Jesus who said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35).
Application: The question for each one of us is, Do I react to the word of my Lord the way that David did? Do I stand in awe of His word and see in it the enduring means by which I may be renewed.
NKJ  Psalm 19:9b The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
There is no part of God’s word that is lacking in truth and righteousness. It is true in all its parts. As the Apostle Paul later wrote:
NKJ  2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,  17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Application: The word of God is the only all-sufficient guide that we have for truth and righteousness.
NKJ  Psalm 19:10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
As he reflects upon the word of God, David is led to see that he has found a treasure far above any earthly treasure!
Application: Have we really seen God’s word as we should unless and until we are equally convinced of its unsurpassed value? Have we really appreciated His word if it has not continually led us to fear the Lord and to seek Him above all else?
NKJ  Psalm 19:11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.
Application: All too often professing Christian’s seem to be annoyed when they are warned about their sins from God’s word, but this only means that they have forgotten how important it is that we turn from sin and that there is great reward to be found in obedience to His word. As John Bunyan once said: “This Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.”
And this leads us to our third and final major heading.
III. We Are Obligated to Respond Rightly to the Revelation of God
This may be seen in verses 12-14.
NKJ  Psalm 19:12 Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret [סָתַר, sāṯar] faults.
There are a couple of things to notice in this verse:
First, the rhetorical question, “Who can understand his errors?” highlights the fact that none of us can completely know all of his own sins, thus some of these sins will be a “secret” to us.Martin Luther reacted quite strongly to the way the Romans Catholic Church failed to appreciate the teaching of this verse when he wrote:
As regards confession, the procedure was this: Every one had [was enjoined] to enumerate all his sins (which is an impossible thing). This was a great torment. From such as he had forgotten he would be absolved on the condition that, if they would occur to him, he must still confess them. In this way he could never know whether he had made a sufficiently pure confession, or when confessing would ever have an end. Yet he was pointed to his own works, and comforted thus: The more fully one confesses, and the more he humiliates himself and debases himself before the priest, the sooner and better he renders satisfaction for his sins; for such humility certainly would earn grace before God.
Here, too, there was no faith nor Christ, and the virtue of the absolution was not declared to him, but upon his enumeration of sins and his self-abasement depended his consolation. What torture, rascality, and idolatry such confession has produced is more than can be related. (Smalcald Articles, III. Of Repentance: Of the False Repentance of the Papists)
David would have none of this! He knew that he could never fully understand his own faults, but he also knew that he could still ask God to forgive them. He was confident of this, and he would have us be confident in this as well!
Second, it in worth noticing that in referring here to “secret faults,” David repeats the Hebrew word sāṯar, which he had already used in verse 6 to assert that “nothing is hidden from [the sun’s] heat.” So, David is indicating that, although we may not be aware of all of our sins, they are nevertheless known by God, before whom nothing is hidden. The God who made the sun to bring light to the darkness so that nothing may escape its heat surely is a God who sees everything!
David is thus motivated to such prayer by both the warnings and the blessings of which he has already spoken in verse 11. He wants nothing to hinder his happiness with the Lord and the enjoyment of the life to be found in obedience to Him.
NKJ  Psalm 19:13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.
Having spoken of “errors” (vs. 12), which appear to refer to unintentional sin – which includes sin we may not even be aware of – David now refers to willful sins, and asks for God’s protection from slavery to such great transgression. But how does he know about such presumptuous sin? The answer of the Psalm is that he has discovered it in the word of God. So, as he is made aware of His sin through God’s word, David is sure to ask God to help him overcome it, because he also knows from Scripture that God is the only one who can keep us from sin!
NKJ  Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
David now focuses his attention specifically upon sins of speech and of the heart. He understands clearly that the ultimate problem is the heart, and He knows that only God can bring the change of heart that is needed.
So we see that the word of God has not only shown David his sin problem, but that it has also given him the answer to it, namely the power and grace of God. He does not assume, then, that he is capable of mastering such sin on his own. Instead, he recognizes that God alone can give him victory and that He will do it through His word.
Conclusion: I would like to end today by emphasizing that we cannot understand God’s revelation as we should, let alone respond to it as we should, aside from His work of grace in our hearts. As Paul wrote in his first epistle to the Corinthians, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14).
This is why we must always seek the Lord’s enabling grace to help us hear Him speak to us in his word, as the Psalmist who wrote Psalm 119 also shows when he prays: “Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. Incline my heart to Your testimonies….” (vss. 33-36a). Amen!

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