A Sermon on the 19th Psalm
Psalm 19 is well-known for the sheer beauty of its Hebrew poetry. C. S. Lewis once said of Psalm 19: “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” One commentator argues that the beauty of this particular Psalm puts the Psalmist’s artistic skills on a par with such great creative geniuses as Goethe, Haydn, and Beethoven. While this particular Psalm is indeed beautiful poetry, the 19th Psalm’s literary beauty does not (or at least should) not obscure the fact that this particular Psalm is packed with important biblical-theological themes. The 19th Psalm speaks directly to the two ways in which God reveals himself–through the created order in which he shows forth his glory, and in his law, through which he demonstrates his divine perfections.
The self-revelation of God–the two ways in which God reveals himself to all his creatures–is such an important topic that article two of the Belgic Confession (the confession of faith of the Reformed churches) deals with these two ways (or two books) immediately following a discussion of the nature of God in article one. The Confession speaks of these two books of revelation–the natural order and Holy Scripture–as follows:
We know God by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: his eternal power and his divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convict men and to leave them without excuse. Second, he makes himself known to us more openly by his holy and divine Word, as much as we need in this life, for his glory and for the salvation of his own.
In addition to quoting from Paul (Romans 1:20), the chief biblical proof-text underlying article two of the Belgic Confession is Psalm 19:1-4. In fact, in our New Testament lesson (Romans 1:18-25), Paul repeatedly alludes to the 19th Psalm as Paul makes his case that there is no such thing as a true atheist–although there are many who call themselves atheists, from a biblical point of view these are people who sinfully suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Despite the fact that God’s self-revelation gets through to them–Paul is clear that it does, and the Psalmist also makes this point–people do not want to accept those things which God reveals. If they acknowledge God, then they owe him faith and repentance, which is the last thing such people wish to do. The reason why people inevitably reject the two books of revelation is because, as Jesus says, “people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil” (John 3:19).
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