1. The beginning and ending of this psalm are some of the most quoted and familiar words in history. That’s appropriate because, in a sense, they are book-ends of our entire experience with God and Christ. In the beginning is God and his creation and in the end is our being found blameless and innocent through the sacrifice of Christ. That is the point of this whole meditation, isn’t it?
The first six verses remind us of the passage in Romans 1 where Paul argues that the evidence for God is overwhelming. It is not just the heavens and the firmament but the entire creation – from infinitesimal to infinite – that declare the glory of God day by day. I like that. It is not just a one time, take it or leave it revelation dependent on a flash of light but it is all of the ordinary things of God’s creation that speak to us of his glory – if only we had eyes to see and ears to hear. I have always liked what Mary Oliver said about this:
“Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.”
That is what David is doing here. He is paying attention. Being astonished and then telling about it.
But he is not just making a case for there being a God or a designer for all of what we see. It is not enough to be a Deist – someone who believes that God created the universe and then stepped away to let it run itself. That’s not sufficient. We have to turn to Romans 1 to read what God is doing through creation all the time. He is revealing himself to us with the consistent declaration and proclamation about himself. In fact, because of creation that surrounds us day by day incessantly there is no excuse for not believing in God and his demands on our lives. He is invisible but revealed. Every day he reveals more of himself to us. But, we have twisted that revelation and truth about the world out of all recognition.
Look at Romans 1:18-28
”The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles…Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”
The end result is blindness, futility and desperate wickedness. There can be no other outcome when we start down that path of suppressing the truth and making the exchange of truth for a lie. That will always be the case when we choose to worship the work of our own hands or our arrogance leads us to believe we can control the creation or that God’s role is to endorse what we believe.
It is satire but it is not unlike the man we read about in the Babylon Bee recently:
”I say God is an illusion. You insist he is real. Well OK then, Christian—I’ve got a challenge for you. A very simple request.
Show me some evidence.
Just show me some evidence. That’s all I ask.
Show me some clear, undeniable evidence that God’s opinions about everything are identical to mine. Do that and I will gladly believe in your God and commit my life to him.
If you can’t prove to me that literally none of God’s thoughts, words, or actions from eternity past until now would bother me, agitate me, or make me uncomfortable in any way, then why are we still talking? What’s the point?
You’ve got a lot of “feelings,” “traditions,” and “magic books,” but when it comes to giving me solid reasons why I can be sure God is pretty much just an all-powerful version of myself, you’ve got nothing.
Until you bring me the hard facts I’m looking for, I’m not interested. We’re just wasting air.
If you can give me some evidence which will prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is exactly what I want him to be in every way—nothing more, nothing less—and I will admit you have been right this whole time, fall on my face, and worship him.
That is my challenge to you, Christian.
2. But it is the second part of the Psalm that gives us the antidote to our lives becoming darkened and futile. What is it? It is not only the evidence of the creation but hearing the words God has spoken about himself. The next several verses are the wisdom of a man after God’s own heart.
I’ve heard that phrase about David so many times but never really looked into it. What does it mean? Does it mean that David was perfect or that he did only what God directed in his life? Obviously not, but it must have been something unusual for God to say that about him.
Look at the context:
Saul is the king but is an obvious failure. God sends Samuel on the search for the next king and he ends up in a small village where he finds David. In 1 Samuel 13:13 God says to Saul, “You have not kept the command the Lord God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”
It is not after a lifetime of serving God that David is described as a man after God’s own heart but as a young man. There is something about David as a young man when compared to Saul that makes him a man after God’s own heart.
It’s important to know the context of that phrase. When Paul uses it in Acts he is comparing David to Saul. When God uses it he is comparing David to Saul. It is not a compliment but an important comparison. What was different about David and Saul?
I think it can be reduced to this. While at the center of Saul’s heart was fear – the fear of failure, the fear of what men thought, the fear of losing his position – at the center of David’s heart was trust and confidence. This does not mean that David did not fear. Time after time in the psalms we read of David’s fears:
Psalm 86:1 – “Hear, O Lord, and answer me for I am poor and needy. Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.”
Psalm 25:2 – Do not let me be put to shame, not let my enemies triumph over me.”
Psalm 31:9 – “Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and my body with grief.”
No, it is not fearlessness that best describes David. In fact, fearless people are dangerous to themselves and others. It is a sort of emotional leprosy – the inability to feel legitimate fear.
It is confidence – not arrogance or being presumptuous. It is trust in the face of uncertainty. We often hear the phrase describing entrepreneurs as having a bias for action. Yes, it is that but along with it went a deep understanding of God’s being with him and his not simply taking the initiative on his own. While I find much that is valuable in the philosophy of Ayn Rand, I also have a fundamental disagreement with her absolute belief in the ability and responsibility of an individual to shape their own lives. For her, taking action out of trust in God would be foreign. It would be irrational. As one of her characters says, “My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose. The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.” That is not trust in God.
I read an article this week on what happens to young people when they lose hope and trust. The article describes a strange disease that affects young refugees in Sweden when their families are facing deportation. They literally lay down and go into a coma that may last for months. They have given up hope because they have lost all sense of trust. One of the doctors who treats the patients said, “People cannot be truly healthy unless they have trygghet, a word that in English translates as “security” but which has a broader meaning in Swedish: trust, a sense of belonging, freedom from danger, anxiety, and fear.”
David, in spite of natural fears displayed enormous trust in God’s purposes.
In Romans 4 Paul says this about Abraham. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed…Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead…Yet, he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what he had promised.”
“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. 24 Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. 25 As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
That is the heart of God – trust and obedience. Saul could not trust or obey. He took things into his own hands thinking it was his taking initiative. He faltered when he was unsure of what to do. He sacrificed his own son through foolish decisions.
3. It is important to read verses 7-11 not merely as a description of God’s precepts, ordinances and commands. There is more to it than that. Look at the words David uses. They are all sacramental and not just encouraging or descriptive.
The law of the Lord is perfect. That means flawless and without blemish.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy. They are without deceit.
The precepts of the Lord are righteous. They give joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant. They light up the darkness.
The fear of the Lord is pure. It is clean and without spot.
The ordinances of the Lord are sure. They are faithful and absolutely dependable.
These are the same words used to describe the sacrificial lamb for Passover in Exocus 12. “The animals you choose must be without defect.” The sacrifice must be perfect.
Long before Christ, David is describing the qualities of the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Look again at what Paul says in Acts 13. “From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised. Before the coming of Jesus, John preached repentance and baptism to all the people of Israel. As John was completing his work, he said: ‘Who do you suppose I am? I am not the one you are looking for. But there is one coming after me whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” And we know how John describes Jesus to the people: “Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
Jesus is the perfect sacrifice David describes here as the word of God. He is not an example or wise teacher but a pure, clean, unblemished, radiant, enduring and completely righteous offering for sin by whom we have peace with God. It is through our trust in him and the finished work of his sacrifice that we are pleasing to God. That is why Jesus could say, “I did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it.” He is the incarnation of what David is describing. He is the Word of God.
It is that same heart for God’s own heart that is in Jesus. God’s own heart is the will to trust in spite of the circumstances. Remember what Job said, “Though he slay me yet I will hope in him.” It is not a fleeting emotion or even a one time resolution. It is the habit of a lifetime that is shaped by the testing and experiences that come to us. Again, it is not the absence of fear but the commitment to facing the facts and against all hope believing that God has the power to do what he has promised.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.