Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sermon: Psalm 19: 1-14 Declaring God's Glory

“You’re not even listening!!!” You’ve zoned out, you’re miles away, and those are the first words you hear. Disaster (or so I’ve heard...), as you try to think back to what might have been said; the important instructions about the washing machine or what’s needed from the shops.

I like to go people watching sometimes. You’ve a spare half hour, and so you walk along the street, or you sit on a bench or in a coffee shop, and watch the people going by. You hear snatches of conversation; you catch stories being shared, but often times there are so many voices, such a cacophony of noise, that it’s good to get some peace and quiet.

Voices. Speech. With 24 hour news, TV stations and radio stations broadcasting all through the day and the night, there is always someone speaking. At least you’ll get peace when you’re in bed, unless your spouse is a sleeptalker. Voices are all around us, but David points us to another voice with a unique message. But you don’t need your ears - rather it’s a bit like the BBC programme: ‘See Hear’. All we need to do is look up.

‘The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.’ (1) The skies above us are speaking, their voice goes out to the whole word, pouring out speech and revealing knowledge. Just look at the first four verses and see all the ‘speaking’ words. Declare, proclaim, speech, words, voice...

As David looks up, perhaps as he was watching the sheep, he hears the declaration of God’s glory. The sky, the sun, the moon and stars all proclaim that God made them. They cry out to anyone who will listen. But when was the last time you tuned in? Just think of the spectacular sunset you saw (not this evening anyway) - it was telling you about God’s glory. But not just the sunset - the way the sun ‘runs’ across the sky is a witness; it’s as if it is a bridegroom running to meet his bride; a champion running for the finish line.

The heavens are speaking; they are telling all who will listen of the power and glory of the God who made them and put them in place. Are you listening?

So we’re getting through the Psalm, you know where David is going with it, but then, it seems that he has gone off in a completely different direction. When you’re buying a secondhand car, you have to watch out for a cut and shut. That’s where you had two cars - one damaged at the front, the other at the back, so the two cars are cut up, the good bits put together and made to look like a normal car. Is that what’s happened here? There’s a psalm about the skies, another about the law, so slam them together and don’t pass any remarks?

Now if you thought that was strange enough, what about the bit that David says next? You’ve made it over the gap, and then he says ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.’ When you hear of law, what do you think of? You might have in mind pictures of courts and judges and prisons. Hardly something that gives life and reviving?

The law of the Lord, though, isn’t just law, it’s the whole of the first five books of the Bible. It’s the teaching of the Lord, the teaching about the Lord. You see, this isn’t a big leap at all - from creation’s voice to the Bible’s voice. The law of the Lord also speaks of God’s glory, as it reveals God to us, in relationship - Lord, rather than God. That’s why David can say that the perfect, sure, right, sure law revives the soul, makes the simple wise, rejoices the heart and enlightens the eyes.

Even the commandments and rules and law of the Lord is precious. It’s more to be desired than gold; and sweeter than honey. Is this what we think of the Bibles in our homes? Precious and sweet? Or something that sits on a shelf?

We don’t just read the Bible to become Bible quiz geeks. Every year at our Boys Brigade Camp there was a Bible quiz on the Sunday night. There was always great competition to see which team would win. But much more important than a Mid-Ulster battalion medal, the Bible reveals God himself. The Bible speaks, telling us of God’s glory, laying out the warnings and rewards.

On Friday night I was in Belfast at the Northern Ireland football match. The chants start off quiet, one or two voices, but before long, most of the ground are singing along. In fact, it’s a good job the match was on Friday night rather than last night. There’s something powerful when different voices join together - in a choir or as we say the responses together, or when a crowd gets behind their team. The voice of the heavens joins with the voice of the Bible to declare and proclaim the glory of God in creation and in scripture. But to these is joined a third voice. David himself, the author of the Psalm, now joins in, seeking to align himself with the way the world is.

In verse 12, he recognises that the whole universe is ablaze with the glory of God, but he is out of step. ‘Who can discern his errors?’ Faced with the glory of God in creation and in scripture, we’re confronted with our sinfulness. Some choose to put their fingers in their ears and refuse to listen. It’s the point Paul makes in Romans 1:18-20, as we suppress the plain truth about God, seen in creation, but turn away from him. It’s the tactic we all try, but it’s unsuccessful. We are without excuse.

Rather, the Bible calls us to turn, to re-align ourselves with God, to repent as we confess our sins. It’s what David says: ‘Declare me innocent from hidden faults.’ It’s when we do this that we find ourselves in tune with the universe. The heavens declare God’s glory. The law of the Lord declares God’s glory. And now we see that David desires God’s glory. Having turned from sin, his desire is to please the Lord. The last verse isn’t just a nice wee prayer before a sermon. It’s a prayer for every moment of every day, that we will live for the glory of God.

Just as the heavens speak of God’s glory, so our prayer is that the words of our mouths will also point to God’s glory. Just as the law of the Lord performs heart surgery on us, reviving the soul and rejoicing the heart, so our prayer is that the meditation of our heart will tend to the glory of God. It’s as we admit that often our words and our thoughts aren’t in tune with God’s glory that we can be mindful of the need to change. David asks, prays, in this verse, as he sums up the whole psalm, that God’s glory will be his supreme purpose. Will you make this your prayer tonight?

This sermon was preached in the Brooke Memorial Hall, Brookeborough on Sunday 8th September 2013.

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