more precious than gold, than much pure gold… (Psalms 19:10)
When David finally took possession of the nation of Israel and was installed as king, he became a man of great wealth. When we read the Psalms he wrote, we see the things he valued most in life reflected in his writings.
David valued his relationship to his Creator above anything else on earth. Knowing God was the most important thing in David’s life. As he wrote in Psalm 19, understanding God’s revealed word was more precious and valuable to him than gold or anything else life had to offer him.
Psalm 19 shows us three truths about how God communicates with us, and how we can know him. As I have written previously, the word “know” or “knowledge” has various meanings. One can “know” facts or truths about someone without ever meeting that person, such as reading books about the person. This is a different kind of knowledge than knowing someone through a personal relationship.
The first two truths in Psalm 19 are concerning knowing about God, and the third truth is concerning having a personal relationship with God. So the first two truths are one-way communication of knowledge from God to us, and the third way is two-way communication between God and us.
Truth One: Knowing God through Observing His Creation (Science) – Psalm 19:1-6
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat. (Psalms 19:1-6)
David starts out the Psalm by writing about how God speaks through his creation, specifically the “heavens.” The “heavens” here is referring to parts of creation we can observe in the sky, specifically the stars and the sun. According to Genesis 1, the stars, sun and moon were all created on the fourth day of creation:
And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. God made two great lights–the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. God set them in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth, to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the fourth day. (Genesis 1:14-19)
We can see several purposes of the elements we can observe in the heavens from these verses: signs to mark seasons and days and years, to give light on the earth, and to separate the night from the day. David states in Psalm 19 that these signs in the heavens communicate with their own language, and that they “declare the glory of God.”
Throughout much of the history of mankind the concept of the word “science” meant to study the creation God had created and learn from it. As I have written in other articles, the English word for science used to be synonymous with the word “knowledge” before it took on its more narrow meaning in modern times. Much of early science was concerned with studying the heavens for purposes of navigation when the world still traveled around primarily in ships.
We also read in the book of Daniel in the Bible that the Babylonian culture (and later the Mede/Persian culture) had knowledge in the study of the stars, as these “wise” men, which included the Hebrews Daniel and his friends, included “astrologers.” It was this knowledge that led the Magi from Persia many years later to follow the Star of Bethlehem to find the Messiah, the Jewish King, born as a baby in Bethlehem who was named Jesus. (There is an excellent documentary made on the Star of Bethlehem by Rick Larson which is worth watching: http://bethlehemstar.net/ )
In the Book of Romans in the New Testament portion of the Bible, the apostle Paul writes that the creation of God teaches us about God’s moral character, and that the truth of God and his existence is evident to all who look at the creation. God’s creation speaks to us and there can be no doubt that God created us, and that we have a responsibility to understand who God is:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
While observing the creation teaches something about God and leads us to seek out our Creator, the second way God communicates with his creation is through his revealed written word.
Truth Two: Knowing God and What He Expects of Us through His Revealed Written Word – Psalm 19:7-11
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. (Psalms 19:7-11)
Observing the universe that God created and learning from its language teaches us some things about God. But what God’s expectations and standards are for those of us who live in this world had to be revealed to man by direct encounters with God. Throughout the history of mankind God chose certain people to communicate these standards and directives. Many of them were directed to write down these messages from God, referred to in Psalm 19 by various words such as laws, statutes, precepts, commands, and ordinances. The Bible today is the best collection of the written record of these revelations from God.
Moses was the main person who recorded the laws of God in Old Testament times. God had made a covenant with Abraham, the forefather of the Jews, which is recorded in Genesis 12:
The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1-3)
Israel was the chosen nation from which God would bless all other families on the earth. But during the days when Moses lived, the Israelites were slaves in the land of Egypt. God brought them out of Egypt miraculously, and then he revealed to Moses a system of laws and commands by which they were to live.
These commands were dictated to Moses in his own language. This revealed law from God that Moses wrote down is contained within the first five books of the Bible that Moses wrote. It is this body of writing that King David is mainly referring to in Psalm 19:7-11, which he placed greater value than anything else that existed on earth. Notice how David describes God’s written revealed word:
- It is perfect, reviving the soul.
- It is trustworthy, making wise the simple.
- It is right, giving joy to the heart.
- It is radiant, giving light to the eyes.
- It is pure, enduring forever.
- It is sure, and altogether righteous.
- It is more precious than gold.
- It is sweeter than honey.
- It warns/protects us.
- There is great reward in keeping it.
Living and ruling the nation of Israel by this system of laws that God had revealed to Moses allowed David and the nation of Israel to prosper. A partial fulfillment of the Abraham covenant was fulfilled, particularly during the rule of his son King Solomon, where Israel had rest from all their enemies, and all nations of the world came to Jerusalem to worship God and learn the wisdom of King Solomon which was based on the written revealed word of God:
The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. (1 Kings 10:24)
Solomon wrote much of the “wisdom” literature contained in the Old Testament portion of the Bible, particularly the Proverbs.
The Old Testament Law is still valuable to us today in understanding God’s expectations and standards. It is still the basis of most legal systems around the world today. In the New Testament the apostle Paul wrote:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
“Scripture” is another word used to refer to God’s revealed word in written format, and we use it today to refer also to the New Testament writings of the Bible. But when Paul wrote this, he was referring mainly to the Old Testament writings because not all of the New Testament writings had been recorded or collected yet. The laws of God are seen as “useful” not only for rulers and legal systems of nations, but for the “man (or woman) of God” who wants to be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Throughout history rulers and religious leaders have sought to keep the Bible from being translated into the common language of the masses, so that they could be kept “in the dark” and easily controlled. Many of these “dark ages” passed away after key reformers took on the task of translating the scriptures into the language of the common people in the face of terrible persecution, such as John Wycliffe (English) and Martin Luther (German). Their efforts transformed societies because of the great knowledge of the scriptures that was made available to the masses. In more modern times, the atheistic communist regimes have sought to keep the scriptures from being available to the masses of people during the “Cold War” period.
Truth Three: Knowing God on a Personal Basis – Psalm 19:12-14
Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalms 19:12-14)
While the written revealed word of God communicates standards and principles that God desires everyone to live and abide by, he wants us to move beyond knowing about him, and come into a personal relationship with him.
David not only knew about God through looking at the creation and studying the revealed written word of God, he had a personal relationship with God, where God communicated with him on a personal level, guiding him and directing him according to the path that God had planned for his life.
In Psalm 139, for example, David writes:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)
There were things about his life, “hidden faults” as he writes in Psalm 19, that only God knew, and that could only be learned through a personal relationship with God.
What makes this kind of relationship possible is “the act of forgiveness”. While studying the laws of God teaches us what God expects of his creation, it also teaches us that we fall short of meeting those expectations, and that we are incapable of living by those expectations perfectly. Once we understand this, we understand our need to be forgiven by our Creator in order to come into a personal relationship with him.
Fortunately for us, God has provided a way for forgiveness that does not compromise his own character of holiness, purity and righteousness. Since God is both the law-giver and the law-ruler, he cannot pervert justice by allowing guilty people to go unpunished. That would violate his own character and the very moral fibers of the universe.
In Old Testament times, a blood sacrifice was commanded to atone for sins. The writer of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament explains that the act of an animal sacrifice in and of itself did not atone for the person’s sins, but that it was their faith in God. Faith in God that he would atone for their sins was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, referred to as the “lamb of God” whose sacrificial death on the cross atoned for the sins of the world.
Forgiveness of sins is now available to anyone without the need for animal blood sacrifices. A desire to turn away from one’s sins (failure to keep the standards of the law) and find forgiveness, trusting in God’s provision in satisfying his demand for justice through the death of Jesus Christ, results in a person being born again spiritually and coming into a personal relationship with him. Do you know your Creator? Or do you only know about him? For more on the born again experience read here.
Once our sins are forgiven and we have a spiritual relationship with God, we can communicate with him on a personal level, receiving wisdom and guidance from him that is specific to our life, and the plan he has for us! This is where REAL health begins…
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7-8)
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5)