COMMENTARY: How Can I Be Sure God Exists?(Psalm 19)
January 26, 2014
The Point: God has given us ways to know Him.
The Bible Meets Life: A great British writer of the 20th Century has said that no country or people have ever
outlived their gods. It would seem that we are moving ever so close to finding out the truth of this. In fact, in the
1960s, the cover of Time Magazine heralded: ―God is Dead.‖Many believe that all our advances mean we no
longer need a god and our scientific knowledge has disproved the reality of God. Other people see that same
scientific knowledge as pointing to the existence of an intelligent Designer.
Be all that as it may, the Bible assumes the existence of God, and it points us to those things that affirm the reality
of an intelligent, personal Creator.
The Passage: Psalm 19:1-14.
The Setting: Psalm 19 declares that the glory and majesty of God has been made clear to us in two ways. First,
God has revealed Himself in a general way through creation (vv. 1-6). All people can know about God because
His creation points to His existence and attributes. Second, God has specifically revealed Himself through the
pages of Scriptures (vv. 7-14).
1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky proclaims the work of His hands.
2 Day after day they pour out speech; night after night they communicate knowledge.
3 There is no speech; there are no words; their voice is not heard.
4 Their message has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. In the
heavens He has pitched a tent for the sun.
5 It is like a groom coming from the bridal chamber; it rejoices like an athlete running a course.
6 It rises from one end of the heavens and circles to their other end; nothing is hidden from its heat.
Key Words: Glory (v. 1)—In Psalm 19, it‘s the full spectrum of God‘s marvelous attributes displayed in His
creation and actions. As He reveals His glory, His people respond by giving Him the glory He deserves.
A young man asked his dad one more time to go to church with him. As he expected, he got the same
reply. Like so many times before, his father barked, ―No thanks. If God really exists at all, I can worship
Him on the lake. I don‘t need to go to your church.‖ The response stands as one example of replies people
give to the question of God‘s existence. David answered that question in Psalm 19. In this elegant and
persuasive psalm, David showed us how God reveals Himself to us. We do well to see ways He has given
us to know Him.
In the first section of the psalm, David declared that he could see God‘s majesty in everything around
him. He began by directing his thoughts to the heavens. As he looked into the sky, he could see the glory
of God. With that testimony, he could see an undeniable expression of God‘s unique character. He tried to
describe what he saw by comparing it to the work of a skilled and careful craftsman. God had created
everything around David with His own hands. God‘s breathtaking masterpiece of creation proclaimed the
magnitude of His tremendous power over the universe He created. At the same time, it reflected His
incredible care and precision in creating it.
Imagining that creation had been given the ability to communicate like one person could talk to
another, David went on with his description of God‘s glory in the universe. His works eloquently pour out
speech from the heavens as they proclaim God‘s glory. Like a chatterbox who cannot stop talking, God‘s
creation cannot refrain from testifying about His glory through the course of every day. And at night, the
star-filled sky takes up the speech.
We know the sky didn‘t actually speak to David with literal words. But even without literal words of
human speech, people in all the earth can see and hear the message of God‘s glory that is being
proclaimed. The message comes through clearly every time one stops long enough to study the sky above
them and the land around them. Everyone to the ends of the world could see His glory for themselves if
they would look and listen to His creation.
David turned his attention to the sun God had placed in the sky. The sky reminded him of a tent that
God had pitched in the heavens so He could place the sun inside it. Then David compared the sun to a
groom on his wedding day. Back in David‘s day, people who attended a wedding would fix their gaze on
the groom. When he emerged from the bridal chamber in all of his glory, they would rejoice at the sight of
him. According to David, the sun rising in the morning sky prompted the same kind of response from
God‘s people as they beheld it.
The sun moving across the sky also reminded David of an athlete running a race. As the awe-inspiring
runner ran the course, he could hear the crowd rejoice with earsplitting cheers as they marveled at his
impressive stride and speed. By the same token, the sun moving across the sky each day would bring
tremendous joy to the lives of God‘s people if they would take the time to allow the wonder of it to sink
into their hearts.
As we reflect on David‘s poetic expressions and his use of figurative language, we find ourselves
making the same response. David‘s thought-provoking image of the sun as an athlete compels us to stand
amazed at what God has done in creation. When we think about the steady pace of the sun as it moves
across the sky each day, we can get a hint of the glory of God. Watching the shadows around us move in
concert with the sun‘s path and feeling the heat it dispenses to everything on earth, we‘re moved to
worship Him in gratitude for the superb expressions of His glory in nature. He alone has the power to
create the universe and sustain it. For that reason, we find ourselves eager to worship and please Him.
That‘s why many scientists across the centuries have turned to the Lord. As they have studied God‘s
world, they have come to recognize His existence. What they observed made a monumental difference in
their lives. It prompted them to take their first steps toward Christ.
7 The instruction of the Lord is perfect, renewing one‘s life; the testimony of the Lord is trustworthy,
making the inexperienced wise.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, making the heart glad; the command of the Lord is radiant, making
the eyes light up.
9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are reliable and altogether
10 They are more desirable than gold—than an abundance of pure gold; and sweeter than honey, which
comes from the honeycomb.
11 In addition, Your servant is warned by them; there is great reward in keeping them.
Key Words: Precepts (v. 8)—The Hebrew word occurs 24 times in the Psalms and nowhere else in the Old
Testament. It signifies the expectations that God has given His people so they can live in freedom and joy.
Fear (v. 9)—The response to God‘s instruction that includes obedience to Him with an attitude of reverence,
love, and humility.
The sky shows us the wonder of God‘s creation. In turn, we are prompted to affirm His power and glory.
However, the sky cannot tell us how to be made right with Him and how to live according to His ways.
Thus for good reason David turned attention to God‘s Word. Only there can we find the answers to the
questions nature can‘t answer. Scripture teaches us how to have an intimate relationship with God.
David described God‘s Word with a variety of insightful and powerful terms. First, he wrote that the
Scripture was instruction, or God‘s law, and he affirmed that it was altogether perfect. Its perfection—or
completeness—has been demonstrated in a most unique way. While others could inspire and encourage a
person to feel better or behave differently, only Scripture can revive a person spiritually. God‘s Word has
the exclusive claim on changing people way down in the depths of the soul. In other words, only with
God‘s Word can an individual experience transformation.
Along with describing Scripture as instruction, David also wrote that God‘s Word was His personal
testimony. Through the Scriptures, He has given faithful witness to what He has said and done and what
He can and will do. Therefore, God‘s people can count on it to be totally trustworthy. It offers the only
completely reliable help for making the inexperienced a wise follower of the Lord, growing in His
When the challenges of life meet our inexperience to deal with them, we don‘t need to be afraid. We
can count on the Bible as a trustworthy guide. In Scripture, God gives us wisdom to address the challenges
we face. From the day we receive Christ until the day He calls us to heaven, we can trust His Word to give
us what we need to face life.
As David continued to affirm the value of God‘s Word, he referred to Scripture as God‘s precepts and
command. With these terms, he underscored Scripture‘s exhaustive ability to address the vast number of
real-time issues God‘s people would face. It would shed helpful light on the path He would direct them to
take. Anyone who followed the precepts and commandments given in His Word would experience His joy
in his or her heart.
David also used fear of the Lord to portray God‘s Word. Describing Scripture as fear did not mean
David intended to say God‘s Word was given to terrorize people. Quite the opposite, this fear had to do
with loving respect. Accordingly, people who studied and meditated on God‘s Word would nurture a
loving respect for God and His ways. As they walked with God through His Word, they would see why
David described it as pure.
David wrote that Scripture would provide people with God‘s ordinances, His source of reliable
judgments. His ordinances give His people direction on how to live in order to please Him. They would
also reveal His character trait of righteousness. Accordingly, they would compel His people to obey Him.
Along with using helpful terms to give the complete picture of God‘s Word, he compared it to gold and
honey. People at that time placed a high value on both items. In fact, they considered both to be treasures.
By saying Scripture had more value than pure gold, David implied nothing should ever be treasured more
by God‘s people than His precious Word. Likewise, honey was considered to be a precious treasure
because of its taste. It added delicious sweetness to otherwise bland dishes prepared in David‘s day. By
comparing the Scripture to fresh honey just extracted from the honeycomb, David pointed to God‘s Word
as the most succulent source of spiritual nourishment ever to be consumed by His people. They would
never grow tired of it, and it would always satisfy them.
According to David, the priceless treasure of Scripture promised two benefits for people who integrated
it into their lives. First, it would warn them away from thoughts, words, and actions that would lead them
away from Him. The Scripture would enable them to avoid sinful behavior. Second, they would
experience the tremendous spiritual reward awaiting anyone who took God‘s Word seriously. It would
renew them spiritually as they served Him.
Of course, David had only a small portion of Scripture available to him. He might have had no more
than the first five books of the Old Testament. For us, God‘s Word includes both the Old and New
Testaments. For that reason, believers today can testify with even more certainty that the Scriptures give
us God‘s guidance as we make decisions, work through difficulties, and handle life‘s ups and downs. For
us, the Bible is more than a book. It reveals God and His plan for us that centers in Jesus Christ, His Son.
The Bible is God‘s Word to be trusted and obeyed as we live for Christ.
12 Who perceives his unintentional sins? Cleanse me from my hidden faults.
13 Moreover, keep Your servant from willful sins; do not let them rule over me. Then I will be innocent
and cleansed from blatant rebellion.
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and
Up to this point, David had given a rich description of God‘s creation and His Word. Here his words took
the shape of a prayer. He indicated that he began to worship God and to talk with Him directly. As he
prayed, he brought up his sins and his need for God to forgive him. In particular, he asked the Lord to
cleanse him from two forms of sin in his life. First, he called attention to his hidden faults. God knew
everything about him. In fact, He knew David better than David knew himself. God could see cracks in
David‘s spiritual armor he himself had not detected. The cracks would eventually cause him to commit
unintentional sins. David trusted God to forgive him when his character flaws caused him to stumble
unwittingly into sinful behavior.
Second, he asked the Lord to strengthen him so he would not give in to the temptation to engage in
intentional or willful sins. David did not want to be caught off guard by the weak spots in his life he could
not see. Neither did he want intentional acts of willful disobedience to seize control of him.
Intentional sin would open the door wide for unrestrained spiritual rebellion. Anyone gripped by it
would eventually exhibit a complete disregard for God and His Word. David wanted to be completely
innocent of offensive acts of cold-hearted transgression against the Lord. For that reason, he asked the
Lord to keep him far away from it.
David went on in his prayer to ask God to wash him spiritually so he could be absolutely free of any
form of blatant rebellion. A person who openly defied God would pay an awfully high price for it. God‘s
judgment would be certain. David wanted to live before the Lord in a way that prevented him from being
guilty of such sins.
Based on God‘s revelation of Himself in the Scripture, David responded with absolute submission. As
an act of sincere worship, he placed the words of my mouth on the altar of surrender to the Lord. Also, he
opened the meditation of my heart so God could see what was there. He invited the Lord to examine his
meditation or thoughts that would generate the words of his mouth. His highest priority was to please the
Lord with the thoughts in his mind, the emotional connection to them in his heart, and the expressions of
them with his words.
Seeking the Lord‘s favor was obviously important to David. After all, the Lord alone had been like a
rock to him, strengthening and protecting him at every turn. Equally important, the Lord was his
Redeemer who had come to him and pointed out his sin. Then the Lord forgave him and made him a new
person who could put the past behind him.
Observations about God‘s world had directed David‘s mind to reflect on His glory. However, reflection
on God‘s Word had turned David‘s heart to worship. In his worship experience, he responded to the Lord
by confessing his sins and submitting himself to Him.
What David knew well about God‘s forgiveness, we know even better because we live on this side of
Calvary. Because of what we know from both the Old and New Testaments, we rest assured that God
wants us to have a personal relationship with Him through Christ. As Christians, we live in the certainty of
His willingness to forgive our sins and cleanse us spiritually.
What David said about forgiveness came to have an even greater significance for us because of Christ‘s
death and resurrection. With Christ‘s death, He paid the price for our sins. In His resurrection, He gave us
the assurance of eternal life. As we live for Him, He lives in us. Believers know that the Holy Spirit lives
in us, guiding us and showing us our unintentional sins and directing us to confess our acts of
disobedience that break His heart (Rom. 8:11,13; John 16:7-13).
Psalm 19 invites you to consider the ways God has revealed Himself to you. Perhaps David‘s
proclamation about God‘s glory in nature has stirred you to see Him in the world He created. Or maybe
David‘s affirmation of the Scripture has moved you to devote more of your attention to His Word. If so,
now is the time for you to respond to Him as your Lord, Rock, and Redeemer.
Live It Out
God has provided us with powerful clues in nature concerning His existence. We are not to worship
nature, but we can and should appreciate and enjoy creation as a reflection of the Master Designer.
However, God desires more than a simple acknowledgement of His reality. He wants us to have a true
relationship with Him and to build our lives around Him as our Lord and Redeemer through faith in His
Son, Jesus Christ. If you truly desire to know God, you will seek to know God‘s Word.
What has God taught you through this study session? Think about taking action this week on at least
one of the following applications:
Turn off the TV and go for a walk. Look around at God‘s creation—both the big and the small.
Thank the Creator for the beauty and blessings of His creation.
Monday through Friday this week, meditate each day on a separate verse from Psalm 19:7-11
(Monday, v. 7; Tuesday; v. 8, and so on). Consider each verse before you have your daily
devotional time. Think about how God‘s words affect you and how you want them to affect you.
Is there a member of your family or someone in your neighborhood who needs to know Christ?
Ask God for a divine appointment with the person He wants to introduce to His Son through you.
Glory, verse 1, is a key biblical word in both the Old and the New Testaments. One of its meanings is
―weight‖‘ thus, the Hebrew word refers to something weighty or important. Building on that meaning of
kabod, it came to refer to God‘s character, which we praise and in which we seek to grow. Glorifying God is
seeking to make His reputation equal to His character.
Precepts—This word, used in verse 8, refers to statements of truth about God and his will for human beings.
In Psalm 19, it appears with a number of other words that have similar meanings. Together they are used
with what we often refer to as the Word of God.
Fear—A number of Hebrew words are translated fear. The word in verse 9 assumes the threat of some
danger or someone‘s perception of such a threat. The Bible emphasizes two occasions when people have
fears. The word of God stresses that we should fear God. It also emphasized that we are not to fear
anything else if we fear God.
ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:
GOD As My ROCK
By George H. Shaddix, pastor of Dunn‘s Creek Baptist Church in Echola, Alabama.
WHEN ONE THINKS OF LARGE ROCK FORMATIONS, the Rock of Gibraltar can easily come to mind.
The Rock of Gibraltar, ―at the southernmost tip of Spain . . . [is] a limestone mass which rises 1,398 ft. It is
a natural fortress guarding the strait that divides Europe from Africa.‖1 As someone today might think of the
Rock of Gibraltar as a large rock formation, the people of ancient Israel might have thought of the mountain
ridges or the rock that covered their land.
Throughout Israel, one regularly finds ―limestone of which there are many varieties, differing in color,
texture, hardness and degrees of impurity.‖2 Much of the land, especially in the northeast, is ―covered with
igneous rock.‖3 The southern part of Israel contains ―sandstone, granite mountain outcroppings, and volcanic
Two positive features become evident as we examine what the Bible, especially the Old Testament, has to
say about ―rock.‖ Those features are its permanence and the protection it offered.
The Israelites used the indigenous rock to protect bodies of persons who were alive—and those who were
not. Into the side of limestone mountains, individuals and families commonly dug tombs or multichambered burial caves. The tombs of Lazarus and Jesus serve as primary examples. The limestone
mountains also had natural caves that served as hiding places in times of battle, for example, when the
massive Philistine army attacked Saul‘s soldiers: ―When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for
the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and
in cisterns‖ (1 Sam. 13:6).5
The Bible also mentions ―rock‖ as a shelter and refuge from the sun and from inclement weather. Isaiah
32:2 says, ―Each will be like a hiding place from the wind, a shelter from the storm, like streams of water in
a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.‖ In this verse, Isaiah used the rock to describe a
safe place, such as that provided by their king.
Highlighting rock‘s permanence, Job at one point exclaimed, ―Oh that my words were written! Oh that they
were . . . engraved in the rock forever!‖ (Job 19:23-24). Job was about to make a great statement of faith
and wanted it to endure. What was his statement? ―For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he
will stand upon the earth‖ (v. 25). What a proclamation of faith! Job wanted this statement engraved in rock
because he knew that rock endures over time.
Old Testament Examples
Literal Uses—The most commonly used Hebrew word for ―rock‖ in the Old Testament is tsur, which can
refer to a ―rock; rocky wall; cliff; rocky hill; mountain; rocky surface; [or] boulder.‖6 God instructed Moses
to strike the rock, to tsur, so He could provide water for the Israelites (Ex. 17:6). Later in the exodus story,
Moses asked to see God‘s glory. The Lord replied: ―Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on
the rock [tsur ], and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock [tsur ], and I will cover you
with my hand until I have passed by‖ (33:21-22).
Figurative Uses—Other Old Testament texts use ―rock‖ or ―stone‖ when referring to God. The Old
Testament writers seemed to reflect the thought that, ―As a large rock is strong and provides a hiding place,
so God is strong and protects us from our enemies.‖7 In Genesis 49:24, as Jacob blessed Joseph, he
described God as ―the Stone of Israel.‖ Moses said Israel had scorned God, ―the Rock of his [meaning
Israel‘s] salvation‖ (Deut. 32:15). Second Samuel 22:32-33 describes God as ―a rock‖ and as ―my strong
refuge.‖ David described God as ―the rock that is higher than I‖ and went on to say the Lord was his
―refuge, a strong tower against the enemy‖ (Ps. 61:2-3). One unique use of ―rock‖ compares the
inadequacies of people‘s idols with the supremacy of God: ―But their ‗rock‘ is not like our Rock‖ (Deut.
In Psalm 19, David declared the greatness of Israel‘s God. He began by describing how the heavens and the
sky declare day after day the Lord‘s glory and His handiwork: ―Their message has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world‖ (Ps. 19:4, HCSB).
Next, concerning the Lord‘s instruction, precepts, and ordinances, David said, ―They are more precious than
gold . . . they are sweeter than honey . . . . By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great
reward‖ (vv. 10-11, NIV). David then concluded with a prayer, ―Let the words of my mouth and the
meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock [tsur ] and my redeemer‖ (v. 14).
Was David thinking of how rocks could serve as a fortress or a refuge, could offer protection, or was he
thinking of their permanence? We do not know. Maybe David was simply yet profoundly affirming that
God is that one solid, firm, eternal Rock in the life of a person of faith. When all the rocks and majestic
mountains of this world are reduced to dust, God will stand eternal and strong!
In The New Testament
The Lord as rock imagery continues in the New Testament, which describes Jesus as the stone the builders
rejected. The texts that make this statement, though, go on to say this rejected stone has become the
cornerstone (Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:7). The cornerstone of these verses is
not a memorial stone like those placed in the wall of many buildings. This cornerstone is the stone that
holds all the other stones in a building together.
Paul took the image of Jesus as the cornerstone further, explaining His relationship with the church.
―Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God‘s people and also
members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus Himself as
the chief cornerstone‖ (Eph. 2:19-20, NIV). The apostle‘s words would have created a compelling image for
these early believers. Explains one biblical scholar, ―Paul presented Christ as the ‗chief cornerstone‘ . . . that
completes and unifies the wall, without which it would be weak and ineffectual, and who makes both parts
of the wall (Jew and Gentile) one.‖8
The tragedy is that people through all ages stumble over the Rock. Isaiah 8:13-14 says, ―But the Lord of
hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a
sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the
inhabitants of Jerusalem.‖
While people should certainly honor and trust God, too often they ignore or even stumble over Him (see
Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8). What a tragedy! In Him, His followers find strength, help, safety, protection,
provision, and so much more.
The Glory of GOD
By D. Larry Gregg, Sr., pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Rutherfordton, North Carolina and instructor of
biblical studies, philosophy, and world religions at Isothermal Community College, Spindale, NC.
While we often speak of “giving” God glory, the biblical writers would have understood that, as a part of
God‟s creation we can, at best, only “acknowledge” His glory.
THE BIBLICAL CONCEPT of glory, like those of love or epiphany, has become so heavily freighted with
modern secular interpretation that it, like them, is in danger of losing any authentic meaning for the Christian
believer. Sadly, for many, love has been reduced to erotic attraction or sloppy sentimentalism, and epiphany
means no more than, ―Wow! I just thought of something I have never thought of before.‖ In today‘s society
where glorifying and practically worshiping celebrities and stars seems to be the highest goals for many, the
concept of genuine glory has become nothing more than a by-product of self-promoting exhibitionism. To
project such an anemic understanding backwards upon the Old and New Testaments is to miss completely
what the Bible means when it speaks of the ―glory of God.‖
When referring to glory, various ancient Greek sources, including the New Testament, use the word doxa to
mean brightness, splendor, radiance, magnificence, or honor.1 Etymologically it is closely related to the word
dokeo, meaning ―to be‖ or ―to appear.‖2 Doxa is the word the translators of the Greek Septuagint used to
render the Hebrew word kabod, which literally means weight, presence, of self-maninfestation.3 This use of
the Greek doxa to translate the Hebrew kabod is particularly significant concept of the ―glory of God.‖
A number of significant theological observations deserve attention at this point. First, the ―glory of God‖ is
an essential attribute of the divine nature, not a quality conferred upon God by His creation. While we often
speak of ―giving‖ God glory, the biblical writers would have understood that, as a part of God‘s creation we
can, at best, only ―acknowledge‖ His glory. The psalmist asserted the truth that ―the heavens declare the
glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork‖ (Ps.19:1).4 The heavenly hosts of Luke 2:14
celebrated the ―glory‖ that God had already revealed to the astonished shepherds of Bethlehem (Luke 2:9).
The writer of Jude acknowledged the eternally self-evident ―glory and majesty, dominion and power‖ of
God (Jude 25).
The biblical testimony is clear. The role of creation, including that of humankind, is one of bearing witness
to the magnitude of God‘s glory; but creation itself contributes nothing that adds to or enhances the God‘s
glory. God‘s kabod, His doxa, is the essence of the Divine Being. Swiss theologian Emil Brunner accurately
reflected the mindset of the biblical writers when he said, ―The Holy Name and the Glory of God are
Second, anything we know about God‘s glory is mediated through the grace of divine self-disclosure; we
experience the glory of God as God chooses to reveal Himself to us.
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In Exodus 33, God spoke to Moses, ―Thou hast found grace in my sight, and I know thee by name‖ (Ex.
33:17). Moses responded by asking, ―I beseech thee, shew me by glory‖ (v. 18). God replied, ―I will make
all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious
to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy‖ (v. 19). The operative words
in this instance of God‘s willingness to disclose His majestic presence, even though veiled, are ―grace‖ and
―will.‖ Such an assertion reminds Christians that we experience the glory of God‘s presence in submissive
surrender to divine grace and not as a product of human achievement.
Furthermore, Exodus 33 emphasized the veiled nature of the divine self-disclosure. Moses‘ finite humanity
was too frail for the fullness of God‘s presence. Moses experienced God‘s self-revelation and His
hiddenness at the same time. This side of eternity, these two must be inseparable. In revealing His glory,
God must accommodate Himself to human finitude. John Calvin referred to Him as the God who lisps,6 that
is, He talks baby talk to us, for the fullness of His glory is more than we can apprehend and remain alive (v.
Third, while the concept of God‘s glory speaks to us of divine grace and self-disclosure, it also speaks of the
radical otherness of God. To encounter the glory of God is to be overcome with awe, dread, and fear. In the
glory of the divine presence, Isaiah was driven to confess, ―Woe is me! for I am undone‖ (Isa. 6:5).
Confronted by divine demand upon his personhood, Jeremiah stammered in dread, ―Ah, Lord God, behold, I
cannot speak‖ (Jer. 1:6). Finding themselves suddenly in the presence of God‘s glory, the first words the
shepherds heard from the angelic messenger were ―fear not‖ (Luke 2:10).
In an environment characterized by informality in dress, language, and deportment, the radical otherness of
God‘s glory challenges our excessively casual familiarity with God. Kabod reminds us of the weightiness,
doxa of the majestic splendor, of One who is Creative Lord, Gracious Savior, and Comforting Presence.
Indeed, the God of the Bible is not our buddy. To borrow the imagery of C. S. Lewis, He is not a tame
Two more insights are worth exploring as we consider the biblical concept of the ―glory of God.‖ The first
is negative in its forces. First Samuel 4:1-22 relates the account of the ancient Israelites‘ attempt to win their
war against the Philistines by using the ark of the covenant as a magic talisman of God‘s presence in the
midst of their army. Following a disastrous defeat in which Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, were
killed, and the ark of the covenant was taken as a prize of victory by the Philistines, one of the survivors
brought the news back to Eli. The shock was too much for the elderly priest, who fell backwards off his
chair and died. At the same time, his daughter-in-law gave birth to a male child whom she named Ichabod, a
derivative of the word kabod. In its form in 1 Samuel 4:21 Ichabod means, ―the glory of God has departed.‖
The ultimate revelation of God‘s glory came in the Incarnation. As the Gospel of John declares, ―And the
Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the
Father,) full of grace and truth.‖ (1:14). In the giving of the Holy Spirit, God‘s presence no longer just
dwells among His people, but within His people (Rom. 8:9).
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But the divine presence is not an entitlement; God‘s presence is both a gift and a responsibility. Ichabod is
an eternal reminder that the ―glory of God‖ is not a human possession to be used and manipulated. While
Christians need never fear that God will completely withdraw His presence from them, in the face of human
pridefulness and sin, the reflection of the glory of God can still be dimmed and even hidden.
The second is positive. Any glorification of God that His people do is rooted in the acknowledgment of and
submission to divine majesty. For Christian worship, to truly glorify God, worshipers must remember that
worship is infinitely more about God than it is those who worship. In Revelation 4, the redeemed of God
cast the symbols of their own glorious accomplishments before the throne of the One ―that liveth forever and
ever‖ (4:10), and confess ―Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast
created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created‖ (4:11).
A beloved teacher often said, ―If you want to know what God is like, look at how God has revealed the
Divine Self in Jesus. If you want to know what God wants you to be like, look at how God has disclosed
humanity in Jesus.‖ This was Paul‘s subject in the great ―Christ Hymn‖ of Philippians 2. The most splendid
expression of God‘s glory is seen in the Lord‘s humble submission to servitude and death on behalf of sinful
humankind. In the fullness of divine splendor, God‘s kabod, God‘s doxa, is seen in Jesus Christ, His Son.
Descriptions of the WORD
By Van McClain, associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Mid-America Baptist Theological
Seminary, Northeast campus, Schenectady, New York.
PSALM 19:7-9 IS A BEAUTIFUL PASSAGE. The verses contain synthetic parallelism (lines of poetry
similar in construction).1 There are six couplets, a couplet being two lines of poetry within the three verses.
In each couple, there is a description of the revealed truth of God, such as ―the law of the Lord is perfect,‖
and an effect of that revealed truth, such as ―reviving the soul.‖
David began, ―The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul‖ (v. 7a, NIV). The word for ―law‖ is torah.
It is derived from a word that means ―to throw, to shoot, to cast.‖2 In the Book of Proverbs, torah refers to
the teaching of the wise. ―The law of the Lord‖ then would be the instruction of Yahweh, specifically what
was given to Moses in the Pentateuch. The New Testament writers often referred to the Pentateuch as the
law (Matt. 5:17), and the Jewish classification of Scripture referred to the Pentateuch as the Torah. The
Torah also represented the covenant. God‘s desire for Israel was that they might obey their covenant and be
blessed. Thus, the law was precious because it showed the way to blessing.
Psalm 19:7 marks the beginning of a new subject in the psalm, namely the law of the Lord. In verses 1-6
David wrote about God‘s glory as revealed in creation, and then he turned to God‘s special revelation, His
Word. David referred to the covenant name, Yahweh (Lord), in this portion rather than the general name for
God used earlier.
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The Hebrew word for ―perfect‖ can mean ―sound, complete, having integrity, entirely in accord with truth
and fact.‖3 Its basic meaning is ―complete.‖ God‘s Word is perfect, without any type of error. God‘s ways
are also perfect (Deut. 32:4; 2 Sam. 22:31).
God‘s perfect law is used to revive or convert the soul. The word for convert means ―return, repent.‖4 It is a
significant word in the Old Testament, just as the word ―repent‖ is extremely significant in the New
Testament. The word translated ―reviving‖ is a participle, and the object of the ―reviving‖ is the ―soul.‖ In
other words, God‘s Word brings revival. God purposed that His law would bring us into relationship with
Psalm 19:7 continued, ―The statues of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple‖ (NIV). The word
―statutes‖ means ―testimony.‖ Testimony sometimes refers to the Ten Commandments (Ex. 31:18). The Ten
Commandments were a testimony to the covenant between Israel and God. Testimony is parallel with law,
so testimony refers to the entire law of God.
The testimony is trustworthy or sure. The Hebrew word for ―sure‖ is „aman, from which we get the English
―amen.‖ It is used in the passive stem and means ―confirmed, verified, established.‖5 God‘s Word is
completely trustworthy. The same word is used in Isaiah 22:23-25 to describe a firmly secured peg that is
driven in and cannot be removed, only broken.
This certain testimony causes the simple to become wise (the word for ―making wise‖ is in the Hiphil,
Hebrew‘s causative stem). ―Simple‖ in English means someone who is foolish. However, in Hebrew it
means ―without guile, open.‖6 Those who are willing to open their hearts and minds to God will find that He
is willing to give godly wisdom. As the writer of Psalm 119:98 said, ―Your commands make me wiser than
my enemies, for they are ever with me‖ (NIV).
Psalm 19:8a says ―The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart‖ (NIV). This word for
―precepts‖ is only used in Psalms. The root of the word probably meant ―to attend to with care.‖7 The word
is often used to refer to a superior‘s positive actions toward those who are subordinate. God has graciously
given us His commandments.
God‘s precepts are ―right, correct.‖ God gives ―right‖ judgments (Neh. 9:13), and He is also ―right‖ (Deut.
32:4). The righteous precepts of God can cause the heart of the believer to rejoice. There is a spontaneous
jubilance that comes to the believer as he studies the Word of God. The godly Israelite is commanded to ―be
glad in the Lord‖ (Ps. 32:11).
Psalm 19:8 continues, ―The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes‖ (NIV). The word for
―command‖ comes from a verb meaning ―to command, to charge.‖8 The laws of the Pentateuch were
commanded by God; there is no other explanation for their origin. Imagine for a moment that you are living
in Israel about 3500 years ago and that you want to invent a new religion. Everyone else worships many
gods, but you demand the worship of only one God. You also demand that anyone following your God
renounce other gods. Adherents of other religions are to be killed.
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Finally, you make impossible moral demands on the lives of people who follow your God. Would anyone
possibly be attracted to such a religion? The worship of the one true God did not arise through some
evolutionary development in religion. These were the commands of Yahweh given be divine revelation.
The commands of the Lord are radiant or pure. ―Pure‖ is often translated as ―clean.‖9 The Lord‘s pure
commands cause the believer‘s eyes to be enlightened. Numbers 6:25 is the priestly benediction, ―The Lord
make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee‖ (KJV). The word for ―shine‖ is the same as the
word ―light‖ in Psalm 19:8. For God to shine His face upon us is for Him to look upon us with favor.
David said, ―The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever‖ (v. 9a, NIV). When used in reference to the
Lord, fear means ―respect, reverence, piety.‖10 David was not saying God should be dreaded, but He should
be revered with awe. Reverence is an essential aspect of worship.11 A key word for the New Testament is
faith; similarly, a key word for the Old Testament is fear.
Psalm 19:9b continued, ―The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous‖ (NIV). The word for
―ordinances‖ has the basic meaning of Justice.‖12 God‘s justice, all His decisions, all His decrees, all His
laws—all is true. The word for ―sure‖ is the word for ―truth.‖ It is also translated as ―firmness,
faithfulness.‖13 Truth is represented as something identical with God‘s justice.
Within these few verses, we can find the essence of true religion, a love and reverence for God based upon a
love of His Word
By Fred Wood, pastor, Eudora Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee.
ALTHOUGH THE WORD “FEAR” occurs in the King James Old Testament 316 times, a definitive
statement of its meaning is difficult. Various writers use words from at least fifteen different verb roots to
express this emotion. One Hebrew word (yare), however, stands out as the most used term.
What is the difference? In Proverbs 1:7, the writer said, ―The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction.‖ The Hebrew verb root yare (yeer-AH), on which the
noun ―fear‖ is based, includes a distinctive idea not present in any other of the verb roots, except as a derived
meaning in one of them (charadh). All of the others contain the idea, either as primary or secondary
meanings, of such feelings as terror, fright, anxiety, uneasiness, pain, dismay, trembling, agitation, and
Although one cannot eliminate all of these concepts entirely from yare, a clearly unique idea is present in
this verb – fear – because of reverence or honor. The verb, both in Hebrew and in a similar Arabic root,
relates to piety before God and religious restraint. Such fear indeed causes astonishment and awe,
suggesting such words as stupendous, wonderful, great, and in the intensive stem of the verb, terror. Both
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the verb yare and the noun formed on it are the most often used words in the Old Testament for fear, and also
are used more frequently than others in a religious context, applied to God‘s standards and demands for his
In many ways, the ―fear of the Lord‖ constitutes the entire motto for the Book of Proverbs. In Hebrew
philosophy, the thought was fundamental and, in this of wisdom literature, it fittingly stands at the outset of
a treatise whose object is to declare the great principles and practices of Hebrew religious values and
Students of Arabic religion point out that a similar practice is found in that worldview. A Jewish saying, ―A
man with wisdom but without the fear of heaven is like a man with the key of an inner court but unable to
enter because he has not the key of the outer court.‖1
Another use of the word (Job 4:6) throws additional light on its meaning. Eliphaz asked the patriarch, ―Is
not this thy fear, thy confidence, thy hope, and the uprightness of thy ways?‖ Modern translators render the
verse various ways, all instructive: ―Let your religion reassure you; your blameless life, let that encourage
you!‖;2 ―You worshiped God, and your life was blameless, and so you should have confidence and hope‖;3
―Is your religion no comfort to you? Does your blameless life give you no hope?‖;4 These versions equate
fear of God with one‘s religion. One much venerated rabbi wisely comments, ―Now thine end vindicates thy
beginning, for thine awe with which thou didst revere God is thy confidence.‖5
To fear God is to reverence him, knowing that even though he is slow to anger and, therefore, longsuffering,
he also is one who executes judgment and at any moment may go into action to vindicate his holiness. The
teaching concerning the fearful God and fear of God is not a chance notion but an essential part of Old
Testament theology. True, the concept of a terrible God and its kindred ideas undergo a clear and radical
change as progressive revelation develops in the Old Testament.
When God did awesome things that brought fear and terror to the world, he did them for the sake of his
people and his redemptive program. Ludwig Kohler insists that the Superior One demands from his people
a constant attitude: ―Fear of God is obedience. It is no longer the confident expectation that God of his great
superiority could do fearful deeds; rather it is the constant recognition of his greatness in complying with his
will.‖6 Alexander Maclaren agrees but insists that fear is not dread, but reverence of God expressed in
submission to his will. He contends further that fear of God is reverential awe in which no slavish dread
mingles, and which is perfectly consistent with aspiration, trust, and love. Kohler concludes, ―It is to be
noted nevertheless that though the second type of fear of God takes precedence over the first it does not
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The World and The Word (Psalm 19)
by Henry Morris, Ph.D.
The 19th psalm is one of the most magnificent writings in the Bible and indeed in all literature. As in all the
psalms, the structure is poetic as it extols the majesty of creation in its first six verses, followed by the far
greater glory of the Scriptures in the final eight. It displays remarkable scientific insight as well as profound
"The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). The
"firmament" (Hebrew, reqia, meaning "expanse") was indicated as the space between the primeval "waters
above the firmament" and those below (Genesis 1:7), so it seems to have essentially the same meaning as
our modern scientific concept of "space."
Then, verse 2 tells us that the marvels displayed by God in "space" are also being shown through "time."
"Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge." These remarkable verses are
speaking of the space-time universe in which are shown forth all the multitudinous workings of God and all
the beautiful and intricate designs in His creations.
In fact, they are all "declaring the glory of God." We know from the New Testament that, in the deepest
sense, this can only mean the Lord Jesus Christ who is the very "brightness of His glory" (Hebrews 1:3), for
we ultimately have "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Corinthians
4:6). In one way or another, the gospel is being "preached [in every creation] which is under heaven"
That is, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, "the invisible things of Him from the creation of the
world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made," so that those who will not see and
hear the witness of God in creation are "without excuse" (Romans 1:20). The heavens declare the glory of
God, but sadly, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).
This testimony of the created world has "no speech nor language" (note that "where" in verse 3 is not in the
original Hebrew of this verse). Nevertheless, "their line gone out through all the earth, and their words to
the end of the world" (v.4). This verse is quoted in the great missionary passage of Romans 10 as saying
"their sound went into all the earth" (Romans 10:18) and as proving that all men have had access to the
evidence of God's power and love. Jesus Christ is "the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into
the world" (John 1:9).
The problem is that "men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil," so would not
come to the light (John 3:19,20). The "line" of Psalm 19:4 is a reference to the measuring line of the
surveyor, indicating that God's measurement of human response to His revealed glory in creation somehow
conditions any further revelation He might give to men and women.
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In the structures and processes of "nature," there is abundant witness to His "eternal power and Godhead,"
leaving men and women "without excuse" when they have "changed the glory of the incorruptible God into
an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things" (Romans
1:20,23), attempting to replace the God of creation with an atheistic or pantheistic evolutionary pseudocreation. God's measuring line thus finds them far "short of the glory of God."
The most magnificent of God's structures is the sun, which provides the energy for maintaining practically
all earth's natural processes. "In them [that is, in space and time] hath He set a tabernacle for the sun, which
is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race" (Psalm 19:4,5).
At first, the metaphors of bridegroom and runner seem strange figures to apply to the glorious light of the
sun, which — physically speaking — is nothing less than the "light of the world," sustaining its very life.
But that actually makes it a beautiful type of the world's Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ. He indeed is the
heavenly Bridegroom, coming forth to choose and claim His Bride, the Church, and the heavenly Runner,
encouraging us who are in His Church to "run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto
Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross"
"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" (Psalm 19:6). This verse is often derided by skeptics as teaching that the sun goes
around the earth, instead of the earth rotating on its axis.
But the writer was more scientific then his critics. There is no fixed point of zero motion in the universe, so
far as astronomers know. The sun indeed is moving in a gigantic orbit in the Milky Way galaxy, and the
galaxy itself is moving among the other galaxies. So the circuit of the sun is, indeed, from one end of the
heavens to the other.
However, the psalmist was really using the scientifically correct terminology of "relative motion." No one
knows scientifically where a fixed point of zero motion may be, so all motion must be referenced to some
assumed fixed point. For practically all measurements by surveyors, navigators, and astronomers, the most
useful (therefore, the most scientific) zero point is the earth's surface at the location of the observer. That is
exactly what the psalmist has assumed.
And note the significance of the statement that "there is nothing hid from the heat thereof." This refers
mainly to the sun's effect on the earth, and scientists now know that the heat energy transmitted to the earth
by solar radiation empowers all activity on earth, either directly (e.g., winds, rains) or indirectly (plant life
through photosynthesis, and therefore also animal and human life). Through "fossil fuels" derived from
buried organisms, it even drives our machinery. It is significant that the science, which deals with all these
energy transfers, is called thermodynamics (meaning "heat power") and its two basic laws are the bestproved and most universally applicable laws of science.
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These two laws testify plainly to the existence and power of God. The Second Law (the law of decreasing
available energy, as the universe heads downward toward an eventual "heat death," with the sun and stars all
burned out) tells us that there must have been a primeval creation, or else the universe would already be
"dead"! The First Law (law of energy conservation) tells us that no energy is now being created, so the
universe could not have created itself. The only scientific conclusion is that "in the beginning God created
the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).
When this verse speaks of the sun's "going forth," however, it is not referring only to its transit across the
sky, but to the "outgoing" of its radiant heat energy. It is the same Hebrew word as in Deuteronomy 8:3
which reminds us that man cannot live by bread alone, but "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth
of the LORD."
It is also used in the remarkable prophecy of the coming birth of Christ in Bethlehem, where we are told that
His "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2).
Here also, the sun is a beautiful type of Christ, picturing both the Living Word and the Written Word of God.
He is the eternally begotten Son of God, everlastingly proceeding from the Father and declaring Him (John
1:18), while the Holy Scriptures "forever settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89), can continually sustain our
spiritual lives, just as the sun does our physical lives.
As marvelous as God's witness in the creation may be, it can never bring lost men to salvation. The sun may
sustain their lives, but it can never save their souls.
Testimony of the Word of God
But God's Word can! "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul" (Psalm 19:7). We are saved by
grace through faith, but "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
Therefore the apostle exhorts us to "receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your
souls" (James 1:21). We can only know the One who is the Living Word through His revelation in the
written Word, "the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in
Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 3:15).
That is why we, like the psalmist, must read, believe and love the Holy Scriptures. The psalmist (David)
only had a relatively small portion of the Scriptures available in his day, yet he could say: "More to be
desired are they than gold . . . sweeter also than honey . . . in keeping of them there is great reward" (vv.
Note David's further convictions. "The testimony of the LORD is sure. . . . The statutes of the LORD are right
. . . the commandment of the LORD is pure . . . the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous
altogether" (vv.7,8,9). And Paul echoes with similar conviction: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of
God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy
3:16). Combining the witness of David and Paul, we are assured that "the law of the LORD is perfect . . . that
the man of God may be perfect" (Psalm 19:7; II Timothy 3:17).
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The psalm ends with a prayer, asking God for cleansing through the Word. "Cleanse thou me from secret
faults" (or sins of ignorance — v.12). "Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins" (or willful acts
of disobedience — v.13). Otherwise, long-continued deliberate rejection of God's Word may become "the
great transgression" (v.13) from which there is no deliverance.
Then he prays, and so should we: "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable
in thy sight, O LORD my strength, and my redeemer" (v.14).
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