For the Love of God, Volume 2/August 15

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By D.A. Carson About Devotional Life
Chapter 227 of the book For the Love of God, Volume 2


1 Samuel 5—6; Romans 5; Jeremiah 43; Psalm 19

PSALM 19 IS ONE OF THE precious gems of the Psalter. It has three sections. The first delights in the wordless disclosure of God in the universe (19:1-6); the second exults in the clarity, perfection, and wealth of God’s written revelation (19:7- 11); after a transitional verse (19:11), the third section portrays the appropriate response of the believer, a response full of self-examination and godly resolve.

If ancient Israel was sometimes inclined to worship the created order—sun, moon, stars—our generation is more inclined to marshal arguments that make them the product of impersonal forces and nothing more. Both stances are abominations. Owing to our culture’s prevalent philosophical commitment to naturalism, the powerful evidence of intelligent design is marginalized until we can no longer see the obvious: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (19:1). The paradox of wordless utterance is delightful, as is the vision of irrepressible speech: “Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 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” (19:2-4).

But it is in connection with his written self-disclosure that the covenant name of God, Yahweh (“the LORD” in many of our English Bibles), appears seven times (19:7-11). The six predications (19:7-9) overlap somewhat, but together they project a vision of written revelation that anticipates the even fuller exposition of Psalm 119. One of the striking things about these six affirmations is that several of them are not merely abstract. The text not only says something about the words of God, but about their function in the lives of those who absorb them and follow them. For instance: “The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy” (19:7): that is so, but the psalmist does not leave things there. Precisely because the LORD’s statutes are trustworthy, they serve to make wise the simple. Again: “The precepts of the LORD are right” (19:8)—a point strengthened in the next verse: “The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous” (19:9). But that is precisely why they give joy to the heart (19:8): we are dealing with the Lord’s righteous precepts and ordinances, so they are never corrupt or manipulative.

What these two spheres of revelation demand is more than awe in the face of transcendent power, and more than personal delight in the personal, talking God—but both. Indeed, the appropriate response is repentance and faith, and zealous prayer that God himself would purify us within and make our words and meditations pleasing in his sight (19:12-14).

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