Do you know the President of the United States? I think it is safe to assume that most of you will answer no to that question. But I have an even bigger question to ask you today: Do you know God?
What a question! The fact is that most of us will never meet the President of the United States or any other country for that matter yet we can have a personal and ongoing relationship with God. Not just any god but the God that created it all.
It is ironic really to preach this message on the weekend we celebrate our independence as a nation. So much of our history is based on a Judeo/Christian ethic and theology yet now we find ourselves living in a country bound by political correctness, enslaved to diversity, and worshipful of tolerance.
No longer do the absolutes of the Bible seem to apply even to most of the people that attend church on a regular basis across our land yet the Bible does have some absolutes and they are based on an acceptance of the nature and Sovereignty of God. So if you agree with me that God is God and that this same God is Sovereign and is the Creator God and Ruler of everything then you will enjoy Psalm 19.
This psalm is classic for it poetic language and subject matter. This psalm would have been sung and was written for choral singing. It was a Psalm that was written to bring people to a state of worship and adoration of God. It is revealing about the nature of God but it is also reflective and causes us to move from seeing God and praising Him to submitting ourselves to His instructions for daily living. As is usual when you focus on God and His word you see yourself and cry out to God for mercy and help in living His way.
Today we will journey through this Psalm it is my prayer that you will see God in a new way, that you will renew your commitment yet again and that you will let God into every area of your life.
Celebrate the creation of God (The Revelation)
1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.
2 Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.
3 They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. 4 Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.
Have you ever desired to see God? We believe that the day will come when we will see Him but for now we have to live by faith in a God we cannot see. The psalmist declares that the skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day, night after night they make Him known.
These are profound words: They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone. . . Again we have to believe in God as the Creator of all that is. God reveals Himself through nature if you have eyes to see. Even without speech or words the heavens declare Gods words. 34 years ago I was living in Pennsylvania. We lived in the country and were surrounded by Amish and Mennonite families. In the old order world of the Amish and Mennonites there is very little personal connection to God. They connect to a set of rules and traditions handed down for several centuries but that is it for many of them. They hope that they are saved by all the rules they keep. A young teen-ager Amish boy that was a friend of mine grew up to eventually find a personal relationship with Jesus Christ but he had to leave the Amish church to do it. He tells of laying in the field on top of beautiful central Pennsylvania mountain and looking up into the sky and longing to know if God existed. Eventually he found that serving God was much more then living a simple life and driving a buggy.
You see deep inside of every human being is a need to worship something. We all worship something. Your neighbors all worship something. The most ungodly person you can think of is worshipping something with their life and life choices. It is inside of us and it is a driving force. The idea is to channel it toward and center it in God.
According to the Psalmist, God has displayed His presence for all to see day after day and night after night. Do you see Him? Have you ever encountered Him?
God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. 5 It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race.
6 The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat. Psalm 19:1-6 NLT
The language used by the psalmist is descriptive and powerful. Think for a moment about the two images he paints with his words.
Picture: . . .like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding.
Picture: . . .like a great athlete eager to run the race.
Verse six focuses on the all-encompassing nature of the sun.
I remember looking up at the sky while sitting in Croatia a few weeks ago. My thoughts were centered about the fact that the sun I was seeing would be setting for me and at the same time would be showing up on the eastern shores of the United States. There is a six hours time difference. What a marvelous system God created and it works day after day while most of us take it for granted and go through our day with our head down or buried in our work.
Like the sun, God is always over us; all of us. You cant escape Him or hide from Him although like the sun we sometimes seek to escape its warmth.
When you see God you will never be the same.
Elijah sat in the back of a cave feeling sorry for himself and depressed. There was fire, wind and an earthquake but he heard God speak in a still small voice.
Isaiah saw Him and wrote about it an Isaiah 6.
We celebrate the creation and the Creator God but the writer continues and takes us a step further.
Choose to live under the commands of God (The Response)
Our response to the revelation of God in our life and in our world is to choose to live under His commands and in His will.
7 The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.
9 Reverence for the Lord is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the Lord are true; each one is fair.
When you break these verses down you find you can easily address these statements:
When he says the instructions of the Lord he may be referring just to the Mosaic law, which to the Jew was the central part of Scripture, or this could refer to all of Scripture. It is probably the latter. The Word of God is perfect because it is directed toward the well-being of man. It gives us comfort and encouragement. The law was not given to keep us from having fun. It was given for our own good. Sometimes, we dont act like we believe that. But God loves people and what He has told us in His word is what is best for us. Satan on the other hand hates people and wants to destroy them.
Making wise the simple means that God gives us the ability to not be led astray from His word if we follow His decrees and rules.
The commandments refer to the precision and authority with which God addresses us. (Kidner) They revive and refresh us, encourage us, etc. And just like nothing is hidden from the sun in Gods natural revelation, Gods Word enlightens us and reveals evil.
This is a reverence for the word of God that allows us to submit to its authority. It is the fear of God that is healthy and endures forever. Isaiah 40:8 states, The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of God endures forever.
God is fair. We often think that life is not fair and we are right it is not fair. There is much injustice in the world, but it is a comfort to know that God is fair and will work it all out in the end.
Now the writer burst forth with yet some more vivid and descriptive language:
10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. 11 They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them. Psalm 19:7-11 NLT
The Psalmist uses to very different and very graphic illustrations to make the point here. Remember he is referring to the law of the Lord, or the commands of God. It is understandable that one should respect the law of God and obey the law of God. It is understood that we should assent to them in our hearts but it is hard to find the context of desirable and sweeter.
Picture: More desirable than gold, even the finest!
Picture: Sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.
As to finding obedience to the law of the Lord sweet and desirable, C.S. Lewis writes, If this is difficult at any time, it is doubly so when obedience (to either) is opposed to some strong, and perhaps in itself innocent desire. He goes on to use the illustration of someone married to a person that they have deemed incompatible but to be obedient to the word of God they stay in their current relationship and do not commit adultery. They may feel trapped but they are obedient. Lewis questions how this could possibly bring a sense of desirable and sweet.
A scholar to whom he posed this question said that the writer was referring to the satisfaction men and women felt in knowing they had obeyed the Law. In other words it is the satisfaction of a good and clean conscience.
11 They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them.
Obeying the Word brings great reward; there is peace and pleasure in obedience.
No guilty conscience. When your conscience is bothering you, there is no place to hide and you are miserable. But if you have done right, then you can be at peace no matter what the circumstances.
I read recently of a martyr who was about to be burned at the stake. The sheriff who was to execute him expressed sorrow that he should persevere in his opinions, and compel him to set fire to the pile. The martyr answered, "Do not trouble yourself, for I am not troubling myself. Come and lay your hand upon my heart, and see if it does not beat quietly." His request was complied with, and he was found to be quite calm. "Now," said he, "lay your hand on your own heart and see if you are not more troubled than I am; and instead of pitying me, pity yourself."
I am also reminded of Stephen when he was being stoned. He knew he was right. He knew he was obeying God, and he was able to face death quietly.
Spurgeon says, "It is the most healthful exercise to your spirit." Obeying the law means you love God and love people. The law is not designed just to be a list of rules. That is what many make it out to be. That is what the Pharisees turned it into, and that is why Jesus told parables about Good Samaritans, unforgiving servants, etc. When you love God and love people you have healthy relationships.
John 7:17 says that we can't know the teaching of God if we aren't committed to doing his will. Christ challenged the Pharisees for not obeying the law and then condemning His teaching. Learning the Word is not an academic exercise. It is a matter of the heart.
Jesus mentions rewards nine times in the Sermon on the Mount. The parables of the talents and minas show that there will be rewards in heaven for faithful service. Paul talks about eternal rewards in 1Co 3 and Col 3.
Summary: The Word keeps us and we keep the Word. Our Response then is to choose to live under the command of God.
Conform to the control of God (The Request)
12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart? Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Dont let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. Psalm 19:12-13 NLT
I want to focus on one section of these verses. The writer makes a serious and sobering request:
Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don't let them control me.
I would like to use another word for deliberate here. It is used in the King James Version and I think it speaks even more clearly to the spirit of the prayer and request. The word is presumptuous. We should never be guilty of presuming on the grace of God.
I'm just going to get drunk on Friday night at home where nobody can see me... The problem is: God will see. You will feel guilty. Its the person that says, I am going to just look at porn in the privacy of my home and nobody will be harmed but God says when you look at someone with lust you have committed adultery in your heart and that you are guilty of adultery.
This is the attitude that I am above the laws of God. They don't apply to me. I don't care what the Bible says. Nothing bad will happen to me. We may not say it out loud, but our actions say it loudly.
In the law there was provision for sins committed in ignorance, but not for willful sins. There was no sacrifice available. One could repent - like David did in Ps. 51 and plead for Gods mercy, but you couldn't commit a sin on purpose, then go down and offer a sacrifice and have a clean slate. Therefore, David wanted God to restrain him from committing such sins.
It is interesting that this is exactly what the Catholic Church was doing in Martin Luthers day. They were selling indulgences (forgiveness papers) so that a person could go sin (on purpose) and then cash in his coupon and be forgiven. That was largely what started the Protestant reformation.
18 But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19 They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. 20 For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn't worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. Romans 1:18-22 NLT
I just wonder as we take a moment to reflect today if God is not talking really loudly to some of us. I wonder if we were really honest if we would admit that there is some unfinished business deep in our hearts.
In Colossians 3 we read these words:
1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at Gods right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.
5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Dont be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don't lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. Colossians 3:1-10 NLT
Is that the desire of your heart today? Do you want to know God more then you ever have known Him before. I wonder if there are not some people in this room that would be honest enough to admit that there are some things in your life that have crept in and now you feel trapped and unable to move forward spiritually. You are stuck in a place that feels horrible and you long to be able to pray without guilt. You long to be in a daily relationship with God that is healthy and vibrant.
We are going to sing a song that includes the words you have on the cards you received today when you came in. This song is a prayer. You can pray it where you stand but if you feel that you need to do a little more than just privately sing this to God I want you to feel free to come forward and kneel here today.
A Commitment (The Result)
May the words of my mouth
and the meditations of my heart
be pleasing to You,
O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19:14 NLT