A sermon on Psalm 19 by Rev Richard Keith at the Combined Church Service on Sunday 31 January 2021
This may have happened to you. But I’m sitting in the lounge room trying to watch the TV, when I hear a loud muffled voice shouting from another room in the house. Is it a cry for help? Possibly. Is it a family member trying to find out what’s on the television? Unlikely.
I could sit there and just keep yelling, “What?” every now and then, but the loving thing to do would be to get up off my lazy backside and find out what’s wrong. Because it’s not until I’m in the same room that I can hear the message more quietly but much more clearly that it makes any sense. Even if it isn’t a message I want to hear, it’s one I need to hear.
In the same way, Psalm 19 is about two messages. Verses 1 to 6 tell us about a message that is loud but unclear, like someone shouting from another room. Verses 7 to 11 tell us about a message that is quieter and clearer, like someone speaking to you face to face. And verses 12 to 14 remind us that they are messages that we may not want to hear, but we need to hear them.
The message in verses 1 to 6 comes from the sky. No it’s not from ET phoning home. It’s not a sky writer flying his plane in the clouds. The message comes from the sun and the moon and the stars. Although they cannot speak in human languages, they have a message for us. As verse 1 says,
The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of his hands.
There is no glory like going out on a moonless night and seeing the Milky Way sweep from one horizon to another. Unless it is the glory of the full moon that can shine so bright that it can seem like daytime on a cloudy day. Or unless it is the glory of the sun upon which all life on Earth depends. But all of them pale before the glory of God. Because they declare his glory. They proclaim the work of his hands. Their loud and simple message is, God made us. And God made you. Their beauty and movement and order speak of a wise and powerful creator. And that message resounds wherever the sun shines. Wherever people live, whatever language they speak, the heavens preach their sermon.
It’s a loud message. But it isn’t a clear one, is it? I mean, that message isn’t always heard, is it? Or if it heard, it isn’t always understood. In many places, in many cultures, they see the glory of the sun, and they bow down to it. They see the order of the movement of the stars and give the stars all the credit for what happens in their life, instead of giving that credit to the God who made the stars. The heavens have a message to tell and it is loud, but it is unclear. Muffled. Like someone shouting from another room, it’s message can be misunderstood.
Verses 7 to 11 tell of the message of the Scriptures. Quieter, but clearer. Written not in the pattern of the stars but in human language. In the Scriptures we learn of God’s will, his commands, his laws, his statutes, his precepts, his promises. They are perfect and trustworthy and right and pure. And so they make a powerful impact on our lives. They change us in a way that the stars for all their beauty can’t. They revive our soul. They make us wise, not just clever. They give us joy. They shine a light that is not just bright enough for us to see, but they shine a light by which we can see the truth around us.
The Scriptures are more precious than gold and gold is quite precious, you have to admit. I mean, gold is not just pretty, because if you’ve got gold, you can buy whatever you want and whatever you need. And yet the truth of the Scriptures is even more valuable. And it’s sweeter than honey. Honey is sweet, believe me. Given the choice between Brussels Sprouts and honey, you would pick honey every time. But the truth of the Scriptures is even sweeter, because in them we learn of the God who made the stars and made us too. A God of wisdom and power, and truth and love. A God who made us for himself so that if we do not have him, nothing we have is worth having, and nothing we can experience can give us lasting joy. The sun, moon and stars all dance in harmony with their creator’s will. But by the Scriptures our lives can be changed in knowing Jesus and in receiving his Spirit so that our wills and choices and decisions and attitudes are all in harmony with the will of our creator.
It is this quiet, clear truth that unlocks the secret of the universe that it is my privilege to share with the people of our town. The heavens proclaim his glory to them. The message of the stars to them is that God made them. But from the Bible I can give that message to them in words that they can understand. If you have seen this light and if you live by this light, then think seriously about joining me in this ministry of love to the people of our town. Don’t be so quick to label them as believers or unbelievers, as lost or found. Think of them all as children of God who need to see their Father’s light just as much as you do.
Lastly, verses 12 to 14 remind us that the message of the scriptures isn’t just for other people. First and foremost it is a message for us. Who can discern his errors? I can’t. I’m too busy picking up on other people’s faults. But I make mistakes too. Well, some. Maybe a couple. Alright, maybe one a decade. Because nobody’s perfect, although I come close. Because we put other people’s problems under the microscope, but we look at our own shortcomings through the wrong end of a telescope.
But by the light of God’s word I can see the darkness within. My petty resentments and jealousies. My casually cruel manners and behaviours. God’s truth brings my faults into its light so that I face the simple choice of keeping them and losing him or keeping him and losing them. And through his Word God breaks the chains that enslave me to my habits and compulsions that want to rule me and to keep me from fulfilling God’s will for my life. It may not be a message I want to hear. But it is one that we all need to hear.
It’s a good reminder that before I should want to go around trying to fix what’s wrong with the world today I should go to God’s Word to fix what’s wrong with me today. Let us pray. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen