The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

Here is a section of my study notes from my sermon on Psalm 19, 2 Reasons for Worship. I pray they are helpful.


“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 end of the them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”

The Heavens Declare the Glory of God

The psalm opens with one of my favorite statements throughout the entire Bible. The heavens preach the glory of God and proclaim His handiwork. There is much to consider within those words, so let us first define our terminologies. The ancient Hebrew concept of heaven consisted of three tiers, or a three-leveled heaven. The first tier of heaven is, what we would call in English, the sky. We now call the second level of heaven the cosmos, or outer space. Finally, the third heaven is what we might think of conceptually as being Heaven, the spiritual plane in which God dwells. Thus, the psalmist is not merely speaking of the spiritual realm that we would call Heaven; rather, he is much more referring to the physically viewable heavens above us.

Next, we must understand what is meant by the word “glory.” Glory, as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it, is “public praise, honor, and fame” or something that brings “praise or fame to someone or something.” Thus, giving glory to God is about giving to Him honor, praise, and distinction that we believe is owed to Him or is worthy of Him. Our worship of God brings glory to Him because we are acknowledging that He is entirely worthy of our adoration and devotion. It makes sense then how a person might glorify God through worship, but how do the heavens declare and proclaim the glory of God?

Consider stars. They emit light, in part, because they are centers for thermonuclear fusion, and they only remain spherical because of gravitational confinement.

The previous sentence is a fancy way of saying that stars (including our sun) are constantly exploding outward with the unimaginable bursting of thousands upon thousands of nuclear blasts and are held together only by the sheer strength of gravity. That is, by far, the craziest game of tug-o-war ever!

Each star must then be nothing less than a miracle, but then let us think upon the number of stars in the universe. Obviously, this is scientists providing their best guesses, as no one is able to truly count the number of stars. Nevertheless, it is thought that most galaxies contain anywhere from 100 to 400 billion stars and that there are certainly more than 100 billion galaxies in the universe. This would leave us with anywhere from 10 to 200 sextillion stars in the universe. Just for effect, here is what 200 sextillion looks like written numerically: 200,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. In his very awesome YouTube video[1], Fraser Cain estimates that there are anywhere from 2.5 to 10 sextillion grains of sand in the entire world. This makes it very likely that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on the earth. Furthermore, he points out at the end of the video that there are still more atoms in a single grain of sand than stars in the universe.

This is not even to consider the amazing things upon the earth or the beautiful terrors within the sky. For instance, there is a special type of shrimp called the pistol shrimp. It has one greatly enlarged claw that makes the whole creature look lopsided. However, the giant claw has a very specific function. When the shrimp is hungry, it will open its claw and wait for a fish to swim in front of it. The claw will then snap shut with such force and speed that it creates a loud bubble of sound that stuns or even kills the fish. In fact, the snap of its claw actually causes an effect known as sonoluminescence, which is when sounds emit a short burst of light.[2]

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”[3] The apostle makes the same point there as David: God’s creation proclaims His glory, “namely, His eternal power and divine nature.” We are meant, as creatures, to look upon the glories of God’s creation and understand that God must be infinitely more glorious than it because He created everything.

We first ponder the vastness of the universe, and then how much more immeasurable is our God. We marvel at the miracle that is our sun and every star, but also at the power of the God that spoke each of them into existence. We struggle against the complexities of quantum physics, only to take joy in understanding that nothing is too small for God’s care and guidance. Creation screams the enormity, supremacy, grandeur, meticulousness, and excellence of God’s glory.

Are you listening?

The Voice Always Heard

Verses 2 through the majority of 4 here describe the declaration and proclamation that the heavens are making. In each of the three verses, David makes the same point but in a slightly different manner. This triple repetition is important to note. In Hebrew, the Old Testament writers did not have many of the literary devices at their disposal that we have presently. For example, they had no italics, underlining, or bolding of words for added emphasis. Of course, this did not stop them from emphasizing particular points. One of the more common forms of adding emphasis was repetition. Throughout Old Testament poetry, one will notice that many things are said then repeated in another way. This was all to accentuate the point stated. If regular repetition was common, triple repetition was like italicizing and underlining the same words. A repetition of three highlights even further the importance was what is being said.

What then is the point that David is making here? He is stating the same case that Paul made in Romans 1:18-20. The metaphorical voice of the heavens declaring the glory of God “goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” As creatures that dwell within, and are ourselves, God’s creation, we cannot run from creation’s proclamation of God’s handiwork. In fact, David states in verse 3 that not hearing the voice of creation is an impossibility. The best we can do is to ignore the sky’s preaching, but we are too steeped in God’s designs to claim ignorance. In fact, David claims that day and night are pouring out knowledge of our God’s greatness.

At first, I read verse 2 as being a direct continuation of verse 1, meaning that day to day and night to night the heavens were declaring the glory of God. However, that is not how the verse reads; it reads that day to day and night to night pours out speech and reveals knowledge. Day and night happening at all declares to us the greatness of God. We understand this even more today than David did then. We know that the earth is at the exact point in our solar system where life is sustainable. If our planet’s orbit were to shift toward the sun, we collapse under the unbearable heat. If it drifted away from the sun, the earth would perish under a sheet of ice. Each day is miracle and a testament to the supremacy of Him who “upholds the universe by the word of his power.”[4]

The Illuminating Sun

Finally, David ends this first stanza by turning toward the sun. The poet-king apparently views the sun as the crowning achievement of the heavens, since he describes the heavens as its tent. He provides wondrously poetic imagery of the sun’s rising being like a groom coming down the aisle on his wedding day. There is here a picture of rapturous joy and triumph to the sun’s rotation. Perhaps, we can glean from the David’s writings a challenge for us to revisit our appreciation for the daily and the ordinary. Because the sun has given us light throughout our days (both as individuals and as humanity in general), we can take its beauty for granted.

Furthermore, just as the sun provides heat to all the earth, so to does its proclamation of God’s glory cover the whole earth. No one is entirely hidden from the effects of the sun, and likewise, no one can outrun creation’s declaration of God. Once more, it is from this idea that Paul draws his thought in Romans 1. The apostle essentially declares that there is no such thing as an atheist. We see this thought when Paul claims that God’s invisible attributes “have been clearly perceived”. This leaves all men without excuse. On the day of judgment, no one will have the plea of ignorance, as God has clearly made “His eternal power and divine nature” known to all men. In case we try to argue that God did not give humanity a sufficient about of time to listen to creation, note that Paul says God’s glory is perceived “ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” Or to say it another way, there has never been a moment or circumstance in which a person was not able to perceive something about the character of God from His creation. It “is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.”

This also fulfills Paul’s words in Romans 10. We might look at Romans 10:13-17 and wonder how God can condemn people without them ever hearing the gospel preached. However, this psalm and Paul’s words in Romans 1 show that nature preaches the glory of God. The LORD has woven into the fabric of existence itself a begging for us to look beyond creation and its beauty toward the God of all beauty.

Nevertheless, for all the glory that God reveals in nature, they still give only a partial revelation of God. Creation only reveals enough concerning God to condemn us before Him; we need further revelation for salvation. That special revelation comes in the form of God’s Word, which is David’s next topic in verses 7-11 of this psalm.

[1] Cain, Fraser. Are There More Stars Or Grains of Sand?

http://www.universetoday.com/106725/are-there-more-grains-of-sand-than-stars/

[2] Read all about the pistol shrimp on Wikipedia.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpheidae

[3] Romans 1:18-20

[4] Hebrews 1:3

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Biblical Worship

2 Reasons for Worship (Psalm 19)

Psalms Study Guide (Week 2)

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

OPENING THOUGHT

Last week, we initiated our study of worship with Psalm 1. We saw there that worship is a lifestyle and that true worship must come, not only from what we do but also from who we are. We read about two ways of life: the righteous and the wicked (meaning, those who follow God and those who do not). The righteous are known for their delight in the law of the LORD and for being like deeply rooted trees. The wicked, on the other hand, are like chaff that is blown away with the wind and destined for destruction.

We now turn to a psalm of David, which could be described as celebrating God’s communication with us. At its essence, the psalm looks at two reasons for why we ought to worship God, followed by a prayer to God. The first part discusses the heavens above and how they reveal to us the glory of God. The second section celebrates the law of the LORD and all of its benefits. Finally, the poem concludes with David’s prayer to the LORD.

Both the world (God’s creation) and the law (God’s Word) reveal to us the character of the LORD. By these two forms of revelation, we are therefore able to know God more fully, which makes them prime reasons for worshiping God. Of course, the more we understand of God’s nature, the more we begin to understand of our nature. This is why David’s concluding prayer is so focused upon his sin. After pondering the holiness and glorious might of God, David pleads with the LORD to keep him from committing sins that God despises. Fortunately, in Christ, we are blameless before God, and we can continue to let the words of our mouth and the meditations of our heart be acceptable to Him.

Read verses 1-6 and discuss the following.

  1. By saying that the heavens declare the glory of God, David is speaking about what is called God’s natural revelation (what nature reveals to us about God). What attributes of God can we observe from creation? Is natural revelation sufficient for understanding the basics of the gospel?
  2. David claims that the voice of the heavens, which proclaim God’s glory, go throughout the earth so that everyone hears. Similarly, Paul writes in Romans 1:18-20 that God’s attributes have been clearly known to everyone because of God’s creation. Given these two passages, is anyone able to truly be an atheist?

Read verses 7-11 and discuss the following.

  1. In this section, David turns from the natural revelation of God to the special revelation found in the Scriptures, which he takes great delight in. What are some reasons for why David calls the law of the LORD more desirable than gold and sweeter than honey?

Read verses 12-14 and discuss the following.

  1. This section seems to be slightly out of place with the previous verses. How might David’s prayer for the LORD to keep him from sin relate to the first eleven verses of the psalm?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Having discussed how nature and the Bible both reveal God to us, take a few moments to observe the beauty of God’s creation and meditate on the Word. Prayerfully rejoice in God, who gave us both of them.
  • Consider David’s final prayer, for the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart to be acceptable to God. Make this your prayer as well, asking God for grace to live and speak in ways that are pleasing to Him.