Introduction Besides the moving experiences I’ve journeyed through relating to significant transitions in my family, for instance getting married, the birth of my daughter, and the loss of grandparents, one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had occurred in nature. My junior year of high school, I joined 25 schoolmates for a grueling trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain at a staggering 19,340 feet. We hiked three days to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro. The final ascent is through complete and utter darkness, that dark reality made more grueling by the altitude and the brutal, almost vertical mile of switchbacks we ventured through in that final night of hiking. But as we approached the rim of that magnificent dormant volcano, a mesmerizingly beautiful moment transpired. Out of our exhaustion, and rising from the African plains far beneath where we stood, came the most stunning sunrise. I’ll never forget the glorious reality of that moment. As we traveled through the sun-drenched snow to the actual summit of the mountain, which was further along the crater rim, we completed our journey to the top of Africa with a fitting rendition of The Doxology. As we sang, tears streamed down my face, that moment forever sealed into my memory as the beauty of creation sung out its praise to God all around us.
Body Psalm 19 opens with a similar testimony of how creation cries out in worship to God. It then moves into a section on Torah, followed by a focus on the servant writing these words to God. All three of these sections are wonderfully interwoven to give us a magnificent picture of how creation, Torah, and humanity join together. In the opening verses on creation, the sun is of central importance. The sun central to Ancient Near-Eastern culture. It was worshipped as a god by many religious groups. Here in Psalm 19 however, the author points to the fact that the sun is part of the created order testifying to the sovereignty of the creator through ‘telling the glory of God’. But instead of using words, the sun tells the glory of God solely through pointing to a marvelous creator through its very existence and what it does through that existence. The breadth of the sun’s reach knows no bounds. It travels throughout the earth, penetrating into the darkest of places either directly or indirectly through its pervasive energy.
Just like the power of the sun is all-encompassing in the world that humanity can comprehend, so God’s Torah or instruction is also all encompassing. Like the sun does for creation, Torah gives life to humanity and sustains us. Through these words in Psalm 19, we see that God’s Torah is built into the fabric of the universe. Humanity needs Torah just like creation needs the sun. The Psalmist goes on to say that Torah gives wisdom, joy, and enlightenment. Further it gives a purity that doesn’t fade with ritual cleanliness but is lasting. This is what true righteousness is all about. It doesn’t come through human wealth as we see in verse 10, because God’s instruction makes accessible to humanity the speech and knowledge of the cosmos. The personal name for God, which is Yahweh is used repeatedly in verses 6-9, whereas it doesn’t occur in the opening 6 verses. What makes life possible is connection to God, and this connection comes through the Word of God. Creation tells of God’s glory, but it is when God speaks to people in a personal relationship, that those people can live in harmony with God and all of creation.
God’s instruction is not static, but instead is a dynamic relationship of being connected to God through Torah. Unlike the sun, God is the true source of life who will bring about lasting, eternal sustenance. In the closing verses of Psalm 19 we see that this journey of holiness and righteousness will be one where our sins or errors and hidden faults must be brought before God in a petition for forgiveness. As this happens, blamelessness, innocence, and forgiveness will transpire.
Blamelessness in this case is not sinless-ness, but utter dependence upon God where God is the rock. In human relationship terms, when someone calls another their rock, it’s because reliability has been forged through hours upon hours of investment and relationship. This dependence upon God is what makes one’s words acceptable before God. Through God’s grace, the Psalmist’s words, and thus ours are in harmony with the words of creation in the opening words of Psalm 19. It is here that God also redeems humanity. Redemption comes from the Hebrew root word which described the process of family members buying back or redeeming family who had fallen into slavery. The root word for redeemer is sometimes also translated as next of kin. Those words are a powerful reminder for us that the God who set the sun on its course is the same God the psalmist has personally experienced as an intimate family member who brought them out of slavery to sin.
Conclusion Beyond how beautiful the lyrical quality of this Psalm is, the theological truths it points to are even more astounding. This God is a God of love who we experience in an intimate familial relationship who forgives us when we have gone astray. This God of love is also the driving force of all of creation! The connection of creation, Torah, and humanity must never be downplayed. Creation is not secondary in this Psalm. God’s instruction toward humanity works toward the fulfillment of creation. The love that urged God to create humanity is the same love manifested in the story of humanity throughout history, it’s the same love Christians profess in the incarnation of Christ and his life, death, and resurrection. Love is the driving reality of the universe. That day on Mt. Kilimanjaro 14.5 years ago, I experienced a powerful testimony of that love, lived out through creation’s beauty. This week, may you guide your people to venture outside to see for themselves how creation is worshipping God.
Hillsong United has given us a fitting rendition of this Psalm in their song 100 Billion X. Here are the opening two verses:
God of creation There at the start Before the beginning of time With no point of reference You spoke to the dark And fleshed out the wonder of light
And as You speak A hundred billion galaxies are born In the vapor of Your breath the planets form If the stars were made to worship so will I I can see Your heart in everything You’ve made Every burning starA signal fire of grace If creation sings Your praises so will I