Friday, August 23, 2019

Sermon: Psalm 19 Declaring God's Glory

Have you ever seen a message in the sky? One time when we were on holiday, every so often you would hear the hum of a light aeroplane. And when you looked up into the sky, the plane was flying along with a message coming along behind it. There were adverts for shops and bars and restaurants and theme parks and even banks appearing in the sky. Or maybe you’ve seen some skywriting. That’s where a plane sends out some special smoke to form words visible from the ground - Happy birthday; or Marry me; or something like that. Messages in the sky.

In our Psalm today, David tells us that there are messages in the sky, but you don’t need a plane for them. In fact, you don’t need anything else, other than your eyes. You just have to look up. And what do we see when we look up? What is the message the sky is telling us?

‘The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.’ (1)

Whenever we look up, the heavens, the skies, are giving us a message. They are declaring and proclaiming something to us. They are telling us about the glory of God. They are showing that God made them - and that he is glorious.

And that’s the case whether you look up in the daytime or in the nighttime. When was the last time that you looked up at the skies? What did you see? Were you checking if it was going to rain - or if it was going to stop raining? Was that all you saw? Or did you see what they were trying to tell you?

You see, daytime or nighttime, they are always telling us about God: ‘Day after day they pour fourth speech; night after night they display knowledge.’ (2)

And yet, we’re so used to seeing the sky and the sun and the moon and the stars that we don’t really hear what they’re saying. Paul Hawken says this: “Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would become religious overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead the stars come out every night, and we watch television.”

Their message is continuous - day after day, night after night. And their message is international: ‘There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.’ (3-4)

No matter what language someone may speak, the heavens are speaking to them. No matter where someone may live, the skies are speaking to them. And they are saying: Look at the glory of God! Look at what God has made! Look and see and know that there is a God! He made all this!

David then gives us one example of what God has made. He looks up and considers the sun. Now, maybe you were camping over the summer, and you pitched your tent in the campsite. It was somewhere to sleep at night. And so David says at the end of verse 4: ‘In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.’ (4-6)

Every morning the sun rises, it comes out of its tent (as it were), and the sun runs across the sky, from the east to the west. Those pictures of the bridegroom and the champion are pictures of glory and strength and joy. And the sun shines on everyone. Nothing is hidden from its heat.

Everyone benefits from the sun’s heat. And everyone can see the skies. But are you hearing what they’re telling you? Are you hearing the declaration of God’s glory; the proclamation that God made it all? God has revealed himself in the creation he has made. Romans 1 tells us that God’s eternal power and divine nature are on display so that people are without excuse. And yet we suppress the truth. We ignore God’s glory; or we explain it away as a process of random happenings.

Natural revelation is enough to tell us that there is a God. But God has gone further. He has also given us special revelation - he has spoken and revealed himself in his word, the Bible. And it’s there that David goes next.

In a series of six sentences, David delights in God’s word. Look at verse 7: ‘The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.’ Now, maybe when you read that you think, how does law revive the soul? But the word law refers to the teaching, the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. And in those books we find who God is - how he has revealed himself to the people of Israel. And the other words he uses - statutes, precepts, commands, fear, ordinances - they all show us what God expects of us.

And do you see how the Bible is described? It is perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure and sure (and altogether righteous). In the Bible, God’s word, we see the glory of God. We get to know God. And as we do so, we find that our souls are revived, we are made wise, we receive joy-filled hearts and light-filled eyes.

God’s word is precious - so precious, in fact, that it is worth more than gold, much fine gold; and it is sweeter than honey from the comb. Is this how we think of our Bibles? Precious and sweet? Or something that sits on a shelf, or hides in a cupboard?

We don’t just read the Bible to become Bible quiz geeks. When I used to go to BB Camp there was always a Bible quiz on the Sunday night. There was great competition to see who 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 - giving both warning and reward (v11).

The heavens tell of God’s glory. The Bible tells of God’s glory. And yet, we find ourselves out of tune, out of step with the universe. In so many ways, we fail to meet what God requires of us. As Romans also tells us, we all ‘have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’ It’s the arrow that misses the mark. David mentions errors and hidden faults and wilful sins - things we don’t mean to do, as well as things we set out to do.

What are we to do? David calls out to God for forgiveness. He asks for mercy for his past, for the things he’s done wrong. And he asks for grace for his future, to be able to change:

‘Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults.’ Sometimes we’re not even aware of what we’ve done wrong. But God will even forgive those things. And he will keep us:

‘Keep your servant also from wilful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.’

So how is this possible? How can David be so sure that God will forgive him and change him and keep him? How can we be sure of those things too? It’s because he knows who God is. In that last prayer in the last verse, he knows that the LORD is two things: ‘my Rock and my Redeemer.’ God is the rock solid one, the one you can depend on, the one you can build your life on. Why? Because he is also our Redeemer, the one who rescues us from our sin, the one who has paid the price to bring us back to him, the one who took our place by dying on the cross - taking our record of wrongs and making it his own and taking his record of righteousness and making it ours.

When the Lord is our Rock and our Redeemer we can repent, turn around, and 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 today, this week, this month?

Let’s pray it together now.

This sermon was preached in St Matthew's Church, Richhill on Sunday morning 18th August 2019.

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