Psalm 19 considers the glory of God in creation, and moves to reflect on the character and use of “the law of the LORD”. A comparison is made between the law and the sun, which lends a degree of unity to the psalm. C. S. Lewis suggested that in verse 7, the Psalmist starts talking about something else, “which hardly seems to him like something else because it is so like the all-piercing, all-detecting sunshine.” Like the Sun, the law is able to uncover hidden faults, and nothing can hide from it. As the Psalmist meditates on the excellencies of the law, he feels that his sins have been laid open before God’s word, and asks for forgiveness and help.
The opening verses (1-6) of Psalm 19 present the heavenly bodies and their movement as a universal witness to the glory of God that is understood by people of every language. “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words; Their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their utterances to the end of the world. In them He has placed a tent for the sun, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course. Its rising is from one end of the heavens, And its circuit to the other end of them; And there is nothing hidden from its heat” (Psalm 19:1-6).
The heavens so declare the glory of God, and proclaim his wisdom, power, and goodness, that all ungodly men are left without excuse. They speak themselves to be works of God’s hands; for they must have a Creator who is eternal, infinitely wise, powerful, and good. The counter-changing of day and night is a great proof of the power of God, and calls us to observe, that, as in the kingdom of nature, so in that of providence, He forms the light, and creates the darkness (cf. Isa 45:7), and sets the one against the other. The sun in the firmament is an emblem of the Sun of righteousness, the Bridegroom of the church, and the Light of the world, diffusing Divine light and salvation by His gospel to the nations of the earth. He delights to bless His church, which He has espoused to Himself; and His course will be unwearied as that of the sun, till the whole earth is filled with His light and salvation. Let us pray for the time when He shall enlighten, cheer, and make fruitful every nation on earth, with the blessed salvation. They have no speech or language, so some read it, and yet their voice is heard. Verse 4 is quoted in the great missionary passage of Romans 10 as saying “their voice has gone out to all the earth” (Rom 10:18) and as proving that all men have had access to the evidence of God’s power and love through the works of nature. All people may hear these heavenly bodies (i.e. sun, moon and stars) speak in their own tongue the wonderful works of God. Let us give God the glory of all the comfort and benefit we have by the lights of heaven, still looking above and beyond them to the Sun of righteousness.
In verses 7–11 the law of the LORD, that is the Torah, is presented as another source of revelation about God’s character and expectations. “The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7-11).
The Holy Scripture is of much greater benefit to us than day or night, than the air we breathe, or the light of the sun. To recover man out of his fallen state, there is need of the word of God. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8), but “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17). Therefore James the apostle exhorts us to “receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). We can only know the One who is the Living Word through His revelation in the written Word, “the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15). That is why we, like the psalmist, must read, believe and love the Holy Scriptures. The word translated law, may be rendered doctrine, and be understood as meaning all that teaches us true religion. The whole is perfect; its tendency is to convert or turn the soul from sin and the world, to God and holiness. It shows our sinfulness and misery in departing from God, and the necessity of our return to him. This testimony is sure, to be fully depended on: the ignorant and unlearned believing what God says, become wise unto salvation. It is a sure direction in the way of duty. It is a sure fountain of living comforts, and a sure foundation of lasting hopes. The statues of the Lord are right, just as they should be; and, because they are right, they rejoice the heart. The commandments of the Lord are pure, holy, just, and good. By them we discover our need of a Saviour; and then learn how to adorn his gospel. They are the means which the Holy Spirit uses in enlightening the eyes; they bring us to a sight and sense of our sin and misery, and direct us in the way of duty. The fear of the Lord, that is, true religion and godliness prescribed in the word, reigning in the heart, and practised in the life, is clean, it will cleanse our way; and it endures forever. The ceremonial law is long since done away, but the law concerning the fear of God is ever the same. The judgments of the Lord, his precepts, are true; they are righteous, and they are so altogether; there is no unrighteousness in any of them. Gold is only for the body, and the concerns of time; but grace is for the soul, and the concerns of eternity. The word of God, received by faith, is more precious than gold; it is sweet to the soul, sweeter than honey. The pleasure of sense soon surfeit, yet never satisfy; but those of religion are substantial and satisfying; there is no danger of excess. God’s word warns the wicked not to go on in his wicked way, and warns the righteous not to turn from his good way. There is a reward, not only after keeping, but in keeping God’s commandments. Religion makes our comforts sweet, and our crosses easy, life truly valuable, and death itself truly desirable.
In verses 12–14 the author spends time thinking about God’s demands, he realizes that his own actions and thoughts fall short of this law that he loves and prays for forgiveness and help. “Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; Then I will be blameless, And I shall be acquitted of great transgression. 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 19:12-14).
David not only desired to be pardoned and cleansed from the sins he had discovered and confessed, but from those he had forgotten or overlooked. All discoveries of sin made to us by the law, should drive us to the throne of grace, there to pray. His dependence was the same with that of every Christian who says, surely in the Lord Jesus have I righteousness and strength. No prayer can be acceptable before God which is not offered in the strength of our Redeemer or Divine Kinsman, through Him who took our nature upon him, that he might redeem us unto God, and restore the long-lost inheritance. May our hearts be much affected with the excellence of the word of God; and much affected with the evil of sin, and the danger we are in of it, and the danger we are in by it. Above all we should let verse 14 shape all that we are and do. “The best have their failing, and an honest Christian may be weak. Nevertheless, the goodness and sincerity of their hearts will entitle them to pray the petition of this verse (14). No hypocrite or cunning deceiver can ever use this prayer” (Thomas Sherlock).
Let us praise God with the song “Your Words Are Spirit And Life”: