Now we're turning tonight, as has already been said, to this wonderful Psalm - Psalm 19. Let me just say to you, before we even read it, that I am not going to try and even plumb the depths of this Psalm. I think that's an utter impossibility to start with, indeed that's the case for any Scripture, but particularly this one. C. S. Lewis considered this to be the greatest poem in the Psalms, and one of the greatest lyrics in the world, and I think he's correct. Ironically, the easiest thing to do with this Psalm would be to give you a running commentary of it. Sometimes - and I'm not giving a lesson to preachers here tonight, I'm not one to do that - but sometimes we do that when we're preaching, we just are like a verbal commentary, and we can often miss the obvious truths that God is trying to communicate to us through His word.
So what I want us to do this evening is not miss the truths the Holy Spirit would have us learn from this Psalm. So I have taken as my title tonight: 'The God Who Wants To Be Seen And Known'. I believe that that really encapsulates the message within this Psalm. So let us read it together: "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. 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, Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. 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 law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. 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. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer".
Let us pray for just a moment: O God, You know my deep need of Your Holy Spirit. You know, indeed Lord, all our needs, for our Lord Jesus told us that Your Father in Heaven knows your need before you ask. O God, we pray that our need may be met tonight by the omnipotent power of God, the power that made the worlds, the power that gave the word, the power that brings witness within our hearts. O, may that Holy Spirit power be manifest in all our lives this evening. O God, we long for a divine encounter, we say with the other Psalmist: 'Our heart cries out for the living God'. Lord, everything is froth and bubble around us. This life, this world is so superficial, we long for the reality of God. We say: 'When shall we come and appear before the Living God?' - may it be tonight, Lord. As we look into the mirror of Your word, let us not just see ourselves, but see the God who wants to be seen and known. For Christ's sake we pray, Amen.
Now, to put it very bluntly and simply: the theme of this Psalm is 'God's revelation of Himself'. Now I think that's obvious as you read through it, and we'll tease this out as we go through our study tonight. I hope that you do know that God reveals Himself in many ways - and I would have to say that in evangelicalism, generally speaking, we limit God a great deal to the Holy Scriptures. There's no doubt about the fact that that is the primary way, the written Word and the living Word, that the Lord has revealed Himself. Nevertheless there are many other ways, and we'll not look at them tonight, but the Psalmist in Psalm 19 gives us three.
First of all he speaks of how God reveals Himself in His creative works, the universe that He has made. Then he moves from that to speak of how God has revealed Himself through His inspired word, the Holy Scriptures. Then thirdly, he tells us how God reveals Himself - and you could miss this one very easily - through His transforming witness in our lives. Now we'll look at these individually this evening, but really what we're saying is: God reveals and speaks through His creation, through inspiration, and through personal transformation in each of our lives. That is His desire. Now, my question to you before we go on any further is: have you seen and heard Him? Have you seen and heard the Living God? Sadly many people, and not just unbelieving people it has to be said, haven't had sight nor sound of Him in a very long time.
Now, one of the most - in fact, I would go as far as to say the most important thing about you is what you think about when you think about God. Now that's a massive subject, but your perception of God, it determines how you perceive God and how you relate to God. Of course, people who call themselves 'atheists', they don't believe in God at all, and so they don't desire to relate to Him, they don't have any yearning after Him. Yet there is a considerably sizeable group of people, and they do believe in God, but - as we will look at next week - they consider God to be distant. I wonder is that you this evening? They feel detached from God, or that God has detached Himself from them. They have this concept that God is like an absentee landlord - someone who owns the place, and He collects His tax...death, judgement, responsibility...but He never really shows up. Some have this conception of God as the prime source of all things. Yes, they believe that He started life, He created life, He is the Originator and the Creator - but they have this idea that He just set the wheels in motion and now He nonchalantly observes from a distance, light years away perhaps, everything that's going on.
Now, I don't know whether you're like that, but I have to say that many believers, I fear, are like that. God is there, oh they know that, and they believe that with all their hearts; but God is not real to them. God is there, but He is not real. Now, Hebrews 11 and verse 6 is a verse that many of you will know: 'Without faith it is impossible to please God: for he who comes to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him'. Now that seems to be an obvious verse: if you're going to seek after God, you have to believe that He is. Atheists don't seek after God, because they don't believe He is. But I think there is more in this verse than simply an elementary belief in the existence of God, and some translations bear it out - that this word 'is' signifies that God not just exists, but God is operative, God is active, God is instrumental in the affairs of the universe and life in general.
Now, the reason why God seems distant at times is simply because we are not looking for Him. If you are not looking for God, you will not find God; but if you are looking for Him, you will find Him - and mark this word - everywhere! If you're looking for Him, you will find Him everywhere! As Francis Schaeffer put it: 'You will find Him to be the God who is, and is not silent' - because He is the God who wants to be seen because He wants to be known. But this is what you must understand: He will only be found and only be known by seekers. This is the reason why most people do not seek God, and why most people who don't seek Him feel that He hides from them. You hear people say: 'Och, there's no evidence of God at all!', and of course they never see evidence of Him because they don't want Him. Because they don't want Him, they don't seek Him; and because they don't seek Him, they don't see Him; and because they don't see Him, they don't know Him. That is why God is hidden from them. Maybe you're one of those people tonight, and Paul the apostle bears this out in 2 Corinthians, he says: 'If our gospel', if our message, 'be hid, it is hid to them that are lost' - there it is!
But, though God is hidden from them by their unbelief, the Bible says He is obvious to those who look for Him. Are you looking for Him? Jeremiah 29 verse 13 says: 'Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart' - 'You will find me'! The other day my little three-year-old boy was playing hide and seek - I don't know who he was playing with, mind you, I was trying to study! But he had his head stuck in the corner, and the rest of his body was protruding from the corner, and anyone would have thought that he wanted to be found. God wants to be found, God wants to be known, that's why He wants to be found. Now I'm asking you this evening: do you know God? This is not essentially an evangelistic service, and therefore I'm not just addressing people who are not born again, who do not know Christ as their personal Saviour, I'm addressing everyone here tonight: do you know God? Not about Him, do you know Him? Few people really know Him - why? Because few people seek Him!
Now, can I remind you - if reminder is needed - that we believe in the gospel of eternal life, and praise God for it. We believe in the forgiveness of sins, we believe that we can know peace with God, by faith we can be justified. We believe that we can have the new birth, being born of the Spirit of God, and we believe that a home in heaven is assured to us when we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. But that is not how the Lord Jesus Christ defined eternal life in John 17 verse 3, He says: 'This is eternal life, that you might know God' - that's basically what He said - 'that you might know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom he has sent'. The Lord Jesus Himself defines eternal life in terms of knowing God. How well do you know Him?
Now, let me ask you two questions, and this will help us I think. The first question I want to ask you is: do you look for God? Do you look for God? The second question is: when you look for God, if you do, what are you looking for? What are you expecting to see? Now, I think if I was to ask that question of most Christians, they would answer that they look for God in the miraculous. You don't have to be Pentecostal or Charismatic to answer like that. I have to say that I believe we should, by faith, look for God in the miraculous. However, if that is the only way we look for God, we will not see Him and know Him all the time, because none of us - however spiritual - live on a daily diet of miracles. So, if we're only looking for God in miracles, we will only see Him when a miracle comes along. Also, there are examples in the Bible of those who exhibited divine power, and yet they failed God even in the use of their miraculous power. We could give you examples of this: Moses, as he struck the rock; Samson. If you study those examples, and several others, closely, you will see that they failed God even in the exercise of their miraculous power simply because their knowing God had broken down, their communion with God, they no longer saw Him as they should have.
Now, this is staggering, imagine this for a moment: that we might actually miss God not only by looking for miracles, but by looking at miracles! God is a miraculous God, but if the miraculous is the only way we expect to see God at work it will actually sap our faith, because most of the time we don't see miracles. Now, I hope you're staying with me, and I want us to really analyse the problem here that we have even as believers. This is our problem, now stay with me: we divide the natural from the supernatural. The natural are the things we can explain, the supernatural are the things that we cannot explain - and this is the way our culture has educated us. For instance, I'll give you an example: if you look at a tree, we have been taught as far back as we can remember to look at that tree and think of it growing by natural laws, but we fail to see that God is at work! God is at work everywhere, and when you look at an average tree, God is pulling and shaping the leaves, He is springing the blades of grass - and yet in everyday practice we have this mindset and perception that God set the grass growing and then He moved away. God planted the seed of the tree, and He gave life, and then He moved off to do something else, perhaps to go and do something more important.
John White puts it very well when he says: 'The God of the Bible runs everything. He created nature and super-nature, which are actually all of a piece with no division between them. Nothing in nature works by itself. God 'works' it. He intervenes unceasingly. Every musical note we hear, every sunrise and sunset we see, every birth we rejoice in, every exploding supernova we marvel at - all are expressions of His power'. Now, let me ask you again: where are you looking for God? What I'm basically saying is: we as Christians, believers, should be seeing God everywhere. If you are looking for Him, you will see Him everywhere. Beware of only looking for Him in the miraculous, do look for Him in that - but we must practise the perception of seeing God in everything, and that is faith-strengthening.
Now, that is exactly what the Psalmist did. He was looking for God, but where did he look for Him? The first place he saw God revealing Himself was in His works of creation, then in His words of inspiration, and then in the witness of transformation. Let's take them one at a time, first of all: His works of creation. Verse 1: 'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork'. Now the Psalmist - and we could miss this very easily - he paused. In the humdrum and busy conveyor belt of whatever it was in this particular century - which wasn't a patch on what is going on in our world today - he paused. You see, you need to take time to see God. You need to make space to see God. You need to get into nature to see God. Really what the Psalmist was engaged in here, whether he was the youthful young shepherd boy of Judaea, or whether he was the more mature King out in exile in the wilds, he was taking leisure time - and it may have been forced leisure time - to gaze on God.
Do you take time to allow God to reveal Himself? Do you know what the Bible says? If we do this, even in nature: 'You shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands'. God will witness to you of Himself even in His creation. The handiwork of the Creator can speak to us and teach us, if we will listen! Psalm 8:3: 'When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained' - but the Psalmist considered them! 'When I consider' - do you consider the works of God's creation and how He reveals Himself in them?
Martin Buber, the Jewish philosopher, tells a story of the Rabbi who went to the pond every day at dawn to learn the song with which frogs praise God. Now, I don't know if you're an early riser, but if you've heard the dawn chorus you know exactly what I'm talking about - particularly at this time of year. It's as if all of creation, the birds at least, erupt into a doxology of praise. But we need to pay attention, we need to make space to hear the voice of God in nature. Recently I promised myself I would take up astronomy for beginners, that was a mistake! You say: 'Why did you think of doing something like that?', well, it was purely in order to be more awed by the mighty works of God. Now, I haven't done anything about it except look at a few telescope pictures on the Internet - and do you know why? Do you know why? I'm too busy! Too busy! That is the curse of our age: noise, hurry and crowds. Psychiatrist Carl Jung once remarked, 'Hurry is not of the devil, it is the devil!' - and he's right, I believe. You see, the devil wants to deafen us to God's voice - and do you know how he does it? By the din of life. He wants us to get so busy, so worked up, so frenzied, even in the work of God, that we can't hear the still small voice of God anymore. Creation is God's wordless book He wants us to read.
Now, here's the amateur coming out in me, I'm going to show you a couple of slides - only six - and it's just to give you an idea, and I know very little about any of them, but I'll tell you this much: as you look at them, you will be awed by the creation of God. The first, I hope you can see it clearly, is just a cluster of stars somewhere in this universe. The second is called the Omega Nebula, and a nebula is simply a dust cloud filled with various gases - but isn't it spectacular? That one is called the Crab Nebula, that one is the Ring Nebula - look at the colours of it. This is very interesting, it's called the Eagle Nebula, and they've nicknamed it 'The Pillars of Creation', interesting. The sixth, and you may have seen this in the press recently, I think the Hubble Space Telescope discovered this, this is the Helix Nebula, and they have nicknamed this 'The Eye of God'. Now most of these guys are probably atheists, but it betrays within them this inner urge for something outer than themselves, and they find it in space. It brings a majestic, worshipful spirit over them, and they have nowhere to direct it, only to the creation. But the Psalmist tells us that we should know better, because all of this creation points to the wonderful God! His works of creation reveal Himself.
William MacDonald said: 'If we travelled at the speed of light', that is, by the way, 186,000 miles per second, or roughly 6 trillion miles per year, now think of this. If you travelled at that speed, roughly 6 trillion miles per year, 'it would take us 10 billion years to reach the farthest point we can see with a telescope' - 10 billion years at the speed of light. Now scientists are beginning, and astronomers, to admit that space may have no bounds. Now, does a certain amount of awe not come over you? It ought to! Yet David, the Psalmist, had none of the modern scientific data that we have today - yet when he pondered the heavens, the skies, as a young shepherd, or an exiled King we don't know, he was overwhelmed - and this is the point of the Psalm - he was overwhelmed by the glory of God. That's it! He saw that God was revealing Himself through the works of His creation, that's what it's all about.
It's interesting, as you read the Old Testament you will find that the Old Testament is never merely interested in the beauties of nature. Psalm 8 tells us that: 'You have set your glory above the heavens'. Scripture is interested in the glory of God - now, if there's TV in heaven, and I strongly suspect there's not, but that's another sermon - but David Attenborough's wonderful wildlife documentaries are not showing there, because no glory is given to God. Glory is given to 'natural selection' and Darwinism, whereas creation declares the glory of the Creator. Simply, the Bible says, and it's true, by looking up to the heavens man can know there is a God, and man can perceive His eternal power. Paul said that in Romans: 'The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they', those who see them, 'are without excuse'. Our Psalm says, and it's wonderful, verse 3, this is in every language, creation speaks in every tongue and every dialect, and it says the same thing: God is great!
Are you seeing God? David's point is: if creation is so great, how much greater is the Creator? Isaac Watts put it like this:
'Nature with open volume stands
To spread her Maker's praise abroad'.
But then he moves on, doesn't he? Not just God revealing Himself in the works of creation, but God revealing Himself in the works of inspiration. What the Psalmist does is, he moves from what we call general revelation, how God generally reveals Himself in creation and the universe, to special revelation - that is, how God reveals Himself to us as individuals. Can I say this, this is the point of the Psalmist: we need God's special revelation. What I mean is: the revelation of nature is not enough. The fact is that this creation has been affected by the fall of mankind and sin, and Romans says is subject to futility and bondage, we need more of a revelation of God because all creation reveals is God's power, and there is much more to God than His power. It is very interesting to note in this Psalm that when the Psalmist is speaking about God's creation he uses the name 'Elohim' for God, which is the name of great power. But when he speaks seven times here of God's word, he uses the covenant name of God, 'Jehovah', that is the God who personally has revealed Himself to His ancient people Israel. So what he is doing is, he's telling us that if we really want to get to know God, creation is not enough, we need the special revelation of God's word - and that's the Bible.
The great difference between the revelation of creation and the revelation of inspiration is that the Bible goes beyond creation to show us the moral nature of God. Not just that He's powerful enough to speak a word and the worlds are, but that He is a God who in character is holy - and we touched on this this morning - He cannot abide iniquity, it is against His nature, that is, sin and transgression and all wrong. He is a God who is holy, He is a God who is just, He can't just dispatch sin and not pay penalties for it. But He's also a God of love, and He's a God of grace - now, if you are to know God more than simply by His creative power, you've got to understand His nature and His character, and that is revealed in the Bible, the Old and the New Testament. God has given us this book that we might know Him as He is.
I don't know whether you've studied the word of God, but you need to - especially if you're not converted. Here's the reason why, now listen carefully: it is this revelation of God in His word that effects change in man. You read the Psalm, read it, it's only when we reach the bit about 'the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul', that we see that it is this revelation in God's word that effects a change in man. It's wonderful to be awestruck at creation, but it's debatable whether that creation can really make the change that the word of God does. After all, if you remember Psalm 33 and verse 6, he says it's by the word of the Lord that the heavens were made anyway, the hosts were made by the breath of His mouth. So it is the word of God that created everything, and it is the word of God that can change everything in your life personally! The Living Word was the Lord Jesus, John 1 verse 14 says that He tabernacled among us, the Living Word of God, Jesus Christ, who created the worlds. The instrument of God's creation was the Lord Jesus, before He came in human flesh. He came to this world in a tent of humanity, and He dwelt with us, and John says we beheld His glory - and I'll tell you, the glory was greater than any of the pictures you've seen tonight on the screen. Full of grace and truth!
He has given us His written, inspired word, and Peter says that we are born again by the word of God, which lives and abides forever. It is this revelation of God in His word that effects a change in our lives. Now, here's the great question: conversion and new birth is only the beginning, and we evangelicals at times have been very guilty of emphasising the new birth to the exception of the fact that it is only the beginning. What God wants us to do is to bathe in the light of His revelation, not just in creation, but in His word, to the point where we are changed from glory to glory. The question we must ask ourselves is: how much do you expose yourself to the revelation of God in His inspiration, His word? The same applies: it will take time, it will take space, it will take effort. When was the last time you spent leisure time with God?
We haven't time to look at it, but the Psalmist speaks of six titles of God's word: the law, testimony, statutes, commandments, fear, judgements. He speaks of nine qualities: it is perfect; it is sure, that means trustworthy; it is right, morally upright; it is pure, free from contamination; it is enduring forever, changeless; it is true and righteous, precious and desirable, it's even sweet! He goes on to say that there are four results from being exposed to the revelation of God's word: it has, verse 7, a reviving influence - and how we need this today in our church, to be revived! It makes wise the simple, verse 7 says, that means the gullible. If you don't want to be spiritually gullible, get into God's word. Verse 8 says it gives joy - do you need to rejoice? So many Christians are devoid of joy today! It enlightens the eyes, like sweetness that brings vision, it brings values to our lives.
That very effectively leads on to the third way in this Psalm that God reveals Himself. Not just in His works of creation, His words of inspiration, but the witness of transformation - and this is what the Psalmist is leading up to in verses 10 to 14. Listen, let me put it very colloquially for you tonight: the Bible was never meant to be an end in itself. Do I need to repeat that? The Bible was never meant to be an end in itself, it was meant to reveal the God who wants to be seen and desires to be known. So many of us dear evangelical folk get caught up with the book, and not with the God. The hymn writer put it well:
'Beyond the sacred page
I seek Thee, Lord'.
The Bible finds its end in God, and that's why this Psalm ends with: '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 revelation of God in creation and in inspiration is meant to make a transformation in our lives, as we see God as Redeemer. The word used there is the Hebrew word 'Go'el', and I spoke to you about this when I did the book of Ruth with you some time ago. In the book of Ruth you have Boaz, who is the kinsman redeemer of Ruth. To be a kinsman redeemer you had to be eligible to redeem, that simply meant you had to be a relative of the woman who had been deceased of her husband, you had to be related to the husband - and Boaz was eligible. You not only had to be eligible, you had to be able. I mean you could have been related, and not have the money to buy all the land and all the herd. Boaz was not only eligible, he was able - but that was not enough even in itself. You had to be willing! A man mightn't have wanted to take on another wife and another family and another farm.
Boaz is a picture of our Heavenly Go'el, our Redeemer, the One who was eligible - how was He eligible? Because He became related to us in human flesh, Romans says He took upon himself the likeness of sinful flesh - but can I tell you tonight: that was not enough. He not only had to be made flesh, He had to be made sin, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him! His hand is not short that it cannot redeem, He is able and He is willing - do you know why? Because God wants to be seen and known, that He might fulfil this role to us of a near-kinsman Redeemer. In other words, He wants to be our next-of-kin, to take all our needs as His own.
Now, let me say something to you tonight: out of all the wonders of creation, and the depths and wealth of God's word, there can be nothing more precious than the inward witness of the Spirit through the word of this wonderful truth of redemption. God wants to take us on as His own.
'All your anxieties, all your care,
Bring to the mercy seat leave it there;
There's not a burden He cannot bear,
There's not a Friend like Jesus'.
Now the creation is silent, but we ought not to be silent when we think of a greater wonder, the greater wonder of redemption. Our Lord turned that thought on its head when He said: 'I tell you, if these should hold their peace, the stones', the creation would cry out in praise!
The Anglican Church in their lectionary assigns this Psalm 19 to be read on Christmas Day - that's right - when the Sun of Righteousness, as Malachi described the Lord Jesus Christ, came into the world, and when the Living Word was laid in a manger. Warren Wiersbe, the Bible writer, wonders whether this is because - now think about this, Matthew chapter 2 tells us that the wise men, the Magi, they started their journey doing what? Following a star. Then we read that after this special messenger was sent to direct them, what did they do? They consulted God's word, and they found that the King was to be born in Bethlehem. So they went to Bethlehem, but that's not where it ended - they found the Babe, and they worshipped Him. They worshipped Him.
God reveals Himself in creation, in the Scriptures, but He wants to be revealed in your heart. Do you know Him? How well do you know Him? Oh, how He wants to be seen and known!
Let us pray: Praise Him, Sun and Moon: praise Him, all you stars of light. Praise Him, you heavens of heavens, and you waters that be above the heavens. Let everything that has breath, and without breath, praise the Living God, praise Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Lord, may this very moment in the heart of every person gathered here, may You be revealing Yourself in the face of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Scrabo Hall, Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "The God Who Wants To Be Seen And Known" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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