Psalm 19 - A Psalm of Torah
Psalm 19 - A Psalm of Torah
Davidic Psalm or written for David as in verse 11 “your servant” showing David as model for spirituality. It is a Psalm of Torah i.e. of Gods law and the wonder at Gods creation and everything in it.
What is it about? (Themes)
It is an exultation or a feeling of triumphant elation or jubilation and a poetic speech to the Lord God who made all heavens and humanity.
There are three major headings within this Psalm in terms of points of reference;
Creation and the heavens
Torah; The three ways David described the Torah were;
Laws / instructions
Orders & Judgements
It is also known as a Psalm of Astronomy and as one commentator writes “unerring precision of the heavenly spheres” – i.e. Gods footprint in the stars
Adam’s life before the fall was predictable as the orbit of the stars and the sun, i.e. before Eve and he sinned against God and brought judgement by eating form the tree of judgement.
This Psalm is about things we do which are hidden but are not hidden from God as he sees all.
It is also a conclusion to the silent prayer recited three times daily in Jewish worship.
Interesting aspects of this Psalm
This Psalm was designated Psalm of the day for the festival of “Shavuot” or ‘The Festival of weeks ‘which is when Jewish people celebrate the presentation of the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai.
Verses 7-10 of this Psalm were read as part of custom when the Torah was taken out of the Ark of the Covenant and consist of 40 words which correspond to the 40 days and nights of temptation, suffering and endurance i.e. Moses on mount Sinai in
Exodus 24:18 And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.
and Jesus temptation in
Matthew 4:2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.
It is also one of 3 Psalms dedicated to the Torah, which are Psalms 1, 19 and 119.
VERSE 1 - The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork
The stars stimulate man to articulate the praises of God and to thank him for. I look at the firmament and think of God in his wisdom. The “Firmament” is the same word as “expanse” and this is set as a way of complementing each other.
The Merism here is the “heavens” and “sky” as non-physical and physical. (A Merism is linguistic phenomenon in which a combination of two contrasting parts of the whole refer to the whole i.e. high and low)
One may ask, how did God set the stars and heavens up?
Genesis 1:17 And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth,
VERSE 2 - Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge;
“Uttereth” also translates as “pours out” like the bubbling of a spring.
This verse is somewhat obscure and there are a number of descriptions or explanations as to what the writer is pertaining to. Firstly, the daytime shows Gods wonder as in the sun, but the night shows other wonders and other lights i.e. the stars. Secondly the night-time produces recognition and acknowledgement of God because it is more intense in terms of visibility of the heavens.
VERSE 3 - There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard
“Their voice is not heard” is also translated as “Their sound is not heard “. The celestial bodies speak soundlessly and convey their message simply by there being of God’s creation and this verse conveys the sound of silence. The heavens themselves are proof of a living God who has created all you can see.
VERSE 4 - Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
“Their line” is referring to a measuring line as in;
Jeremiah 31:39 - And the measuring line shall yet go forth over against it upon the hill Gareb and shall compass about to Goath.
The reference here relates to the staking off a certain territory for a specific purpose i.e. like a boundary.
Paul quotes this verse and talks about to spread the words of the gospel throughout the world in;
Romans 10:18 - But I say, have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.
This second line looks like a pagan hymn to the sun god of the Egyptians but here David is saying it is God who sets the cycle of the sun and not the sun itself who was perceived as a god in itself.
“Tabernacle” can also relate to a “Tent” and has two potential implications.
As a means of protection around the sun to stop it burning earth
Tent being a permanent fixture like a house today hence a constant axis or point of reference in the sky.
VERSE 5 - Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
This verse shows the groom coming to meet all his guests at a wedding which is similar to all of mankind and creation when the sun comes out every morning.
The same word for chamber is used in;
Joel 2:16 - Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet.
VERSE 6 - His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it:
and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
The verse is describing the sun coming over the horizon and heating up the whole earth.
Hebrew word for “heat” is “hamah” is also word for Sun and sees the sun’s heat similar to as warrior’s enthusiasm whilst hunting , where nothing escapes its ferociousness like the sun in the middle of the desert when there is no shade.
VERSE 7 - The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple
The writer moves on from describing the wonders of the heavens to Gods greatness in his word the Law i.e. the Torah. It relates to a number of meanings, the primary one being the first five books of the Old Testament.
Torah also means divine instruction, guidance or a direction for living and it comes from the Hebrew verb “yrh” which means to point out or teach which renews and restores life in us i.e. it refreshes our soul and as an example the 10 Commandments were Gods guidelines for man behaviour.
The word “testimony” referred to as living proof i.e. in the context of the contents of the ark in the House of Levi. One of the contents was the rod which budded and was a sign to whom the priesthood should belong to.
Numbers 17:10 - And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not.
In this context, it was a clear representation of Gods choice which could always be referenced in the event of somebody disputing Aaron’s right to the priesthood.
As Christians we must ask, what is living proof in your life of the Lord Jesus? The answer is Fruits of the spirit as in;
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23. Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
VERSE 8 - The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
“Statutes” can also relate to “orders”, “precepts” or “regulations”
“Pure” is also translated as “clean”
There is reference as Torah as light as in “enlightening the eyes” as in showing ones understanding, like the sun gives light and shows us what is there (lamp in dark room)
Proverbs 6:23 - For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
Gods instruction gives light in our lives and a sense of direction within our lives like a lighthouse showing where the ship should go i.e. a clear path to safety.
VERSE 9 - The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
David speaks here of “fear” which is reverence and in awe of God almighty.
It is describing the effects Gods precepts produce on us and that God has provided a code about how human conduct should be. The last line translated in other versions as “Yahweh’s decisions are faithful”
VERSE 10 - More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb
An opposite is described here i.e. “desired” is ‘nehemad’ in Hebrew here is also used to describe the fruit of the forbidden tree that Adam and Eve wrongly saw and ate of it, instead of God’s instruction telling them not to eat of it.
Within this verse, Gods law is more precious than any gold or nourishing than honey as gold was one of the most desirable commodities at that time. Here God’s wisdom and words are seen as objects of desire and a source of sweetness as in;
Proverbs 16:24 Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
Within this verse there is a process of progressive refinement i.e. gold, fine gold, honey and honeycomb. What is key is that they are more desired i.e. heavenly treasures rather than earthly ones.
VERSE 11 - Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
David sees his relationship as that of a servant to God suggesting a close relationship or this could be seen as somebody talking about David.
The word “warned” is used as in the sense of the watchmen that used to guard Jerusalem, watching in expectation of danger
VERSE 12 - Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
In this verse the word errors are used. David now moves to talking about sin and its power and “errors “translates as “unwitting sins” i.e. those sins which he hasn’t recognised but accepting that he may have committed them “unwittingly” or “unknowingly” or otherwise.
With reference to the word “secret” there are 3 trains of thought here;
Also translates as “unperceived” i.e. you don’t consciously know about them
When people are planning acts of deception but not done it
Seeking help from other deities as in the sun god reference before
The Psalmist is asking God not to acquit him from sin but to remove the inclination to sin
VERSE 13 - Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
The term “Keep back” is David petitioning God that his enemies will not lead him astray and the word “Presumptuous” also translates as “intentional” or “wilful disobedience” and is also referred to as “Of arrogant men” or “Proud sins” depending on the version used….
Psalm 119:51 - The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.
What David is asking for forgiveness here and wants to stay upright.
The word “Dominion” also translates as “rule over” – as in
Genesis 4:7 - If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.
VERSE 14 - Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
The word “acceptable” was a term commonly used for sacrifices, in Gods sight
Leviticus 22:20 - But whatsoever hath a blemish, that shall ye not offer: for it shall not be acceptable for you
The ultimate blemish free sacrifice was Jess Christ who dies on the cross for our sins.
The word “redeemer” relates to the verb “ga’al” or “restorer” and is used within family setting to indicate we are part of Gods family.
The law is key here, as in Gods laws, if you think about if Eve and Adam had followed Gods laws, there would have been a different outcome for us today.
God gives us laws and Torah to protect us because he loves us and not to bind us like the Jewish people believe where they are blinded to the reason for the law and do not see its spiritual implications
2 Corinthians 3:6 - He has even made us competent to be workers serving a New Covenant, the essence of which is not a written text but the Spirit. For the written text brings death, but the Spirit gives life.
Even when we disobey or deviate from these laws i.e., we sin God is our restorer as in verse 14 and only wants what is best for us and all we do is confess our sins and ask forgiveness.
A good question to ask is why we have laws, and we have areas in life in order to protect us such as speed limits on the roads. If we don’t follow laws, then we are punished and with God that’s eternal separation from him. Gods laws specifically his word show us his glory is revealed.
One of the purposes of this Psalm is to show us Gods glory and our God is real, he is here now, he is all around and I thank him.