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Thoughts on God’s Sovereignty: Psalm 19

Article II of the Belgic Confession of Faith, a creed of many Reformed Churches, tells us that God is revealed unto us in two ways: by the creation and by the Word of God. These two means are important to us as Christians because they show us that since God is sovereign over all creation, we must obey Him in the way that He has commanded us in His word, namely, the law of God. Psalm 19 speaks of these two subjects before it concludes with a prayer.

To understand what David is saying in this Psalm we must first look at what he teaches us about creation in the first six verses. He begins by telling us first that the creation was formed by God in such a way that its perfect order reveals to us that God is sovereign. This order can be seen in verse 2 where it states this about the heavens: “Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” The “speech” and “knowledge” that David is talking about is the instruction that we receive just by viewing the constant perfect order of the world in the succession of days. What a wonder that the sun rises and sets every day at a precise time! This would be impossible if God was not behind it all!

We must also notice that although this instruction is described again as “speech” in verse 3, it is not verbal. This is an important distinction because the creation secondly reveals God to all nations, tongues, and tribes. The “speech” of God’s creation should be understood by all men. The creation does not only reveal God to certain civilized nations, but it reveals God to all people that have lived on the earth since the beginning of time. Have you ever thought of this when you viewed the stars at night? Each one of the distant stars that you have seen has been rotating in such perfect order for thousands of years that we know exactly at what time a certain star will be at a certain point. Just think of an example from the past. The reliability of the stars is so great that travelers of old were even able to chart their courses by them! What a testimony to God’s governing hand! How can anyone doubt that God has control of the universe! This is exactly why men who have not heard the Word of God cannot excuse themselves from the judgment of God. (Romans 1:20).

Thirdly, we must understand that God has made in the creation a “…tabernacle for the sun” (verse 4b). This shows to us that God has placed the sun for us as the most magnificent display of His almighty power. It is from the sun that the world derives all of its strength and life. Imagine what would happen if God would allow the sun to burn up entirely! Everything on the earth including man would die! Imagine if the sun would not come up at the exact time that it is supposed to! Then, all the earth would be hurled into panic and chaos. These thoughts should motivate us to trust and thank God not only for upholding and strengthening us, but also for governing His creation in perfect order.

Although we should thank God for His sovereignty in upholding us, we should also especially show our thanks to God for His sovereignty in appointing us to everlasting glory in His Son, Jesus Christ. Our thanks is given to God chiefly through prayer and also by living according to His law. This can be seen by looking at the Heidelberg Catechism, Questions and Answers 86 and 116.1

                    Psalm 19 also speaks of the law and of prayer in verses 7 through 14. It is interesting that David speaks of the law after he speaks about the creation. He does this to instruct us about how God makes Himself known to us more fully, namely the Word of God as revealed to us in the law of God. It is well worth our time to consider what David has to say about the law of God.

First, we must note that the law of God, or the ten commandments, is the complete and full command of God about how we are to serve Him. This is brought out when the Psalmist describes the law as “perfect” in verse 7. This is the reason why we as Christians must follow all of the law of God, and this is the reason why we may not add to the law.

Secondly, we can see at the end of verse 7 that the law “…is sure, making wise the simple.” In other words, the law is true and clear. The law is not some ambiguous moral code that man has dreamed up, but it is the work of God for Whom it is impossible to lie! (Hebrews 6:10). What a great comfort to Christians! The law is written in such perfect order by God, that no man has any excuse. This is a terrible thought for the ungodly, but for the Christian it is a glorious thought because the law states clearly how to serve God.

In the third place, the law “endureth forever.” It is “more to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (verse 10). The gold and the honey are mentioned here because they are prime examples of earthly things that give man delight, but this delight is only temporal, it passes away in a moment. This idea is brought out vividly in Isaiah 40:8 where we read: “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever.”

Fourthly, the law of God shows to us our sin and our inability by ourselves to follow the law. This idea is brought out in verse 8 where we read that the law “enlightens the eyes and in verse 11 where it states that we are “warned” by the law. Although we may think that we are good Christians, the law is always there pointing us to our sin. But, by God’s grace through the working of the Holy Spirit we put away our sin, and seek to follow His commandments where there is great reward (verse 11). Note that this does not mean that our works merit salvation, for we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 1:8, 9).2

                    Although the law is written clearly for us to read, we still don’t know all of our sin. David shows this by his confession in verse 12 through rhetorically asking if man can understand his own “errors.” The answer is obviously no, because we read next that David asks God to “cleanse” him from “secret faults,” or sins David does not know.

It is important to see that David is teaching us how to pray in verse 12 as well as verses 13 and 14. He does this by showing us the proper procedure for prayer. First, we must humble ourselves and confess our sins before God. Secondly, we must ask for forgiveness. Finally, we must ask Him to keep us away from temptation. We all ought to remember this when we pray to our God.

David continues his prayer in verse 13 by asking God to keep him away from presumptuous or willful sins. Then, in verse 14 we read, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.” Is this also our prayer to God? Do we ask God to keep us away from godless rock music when we know that Ephesians 5:19 says that we should be “speaking to (ourselves) in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in (our) heart to God”? Do we ask God to give us the strength to flee from the temptation to attend the movies where it is impossible to meditate on the things of God?

We as Christians must be fervent in prayer to God so that we may not fall into these sins. We must also be students of the Scriptures and the law so that we may be more able to see God’s sovereignty in the creation around us. Then we must bring thanksgiving unto God Who created us and revealed Himself unto us in the creation and by His Word. To God be the glory, our Strength and our Redeemer!

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1The Heidelberg Catechism is also a creed of the Protestant Reformed Churches that is used to teach the Reformed faith. It is divided into Questions and Answers as opposed to Articles.

2For further study on this point I would like to suggest that you read a third creed of the Protestant Reformed Churches, The Canons of Dordrecht, especially the 3rd and 4th Head, Sec. A, Art. 5. Please note that the Canons are divided firstly by “Heads” or chapters, with the 3rd and 4th being combined. Each Head has two sections: the first telling the true doctrine and the second rejecting heretical teachings. Finally each section is divided by articles.