The Psalms are a rich source of imagery taken from nature. They are also a common source of inspiration for Christian worship. The musical and poetic value of the Psalms may sometimes lead us to miss their theological richness. In Psalm 19 the Psalmist explores how God’s glory is revealed through both Creation and the gift of The Law to Israel.
God’s Glory in Creation and the Law
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night declares knowledge. 3 There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard; 4 yet their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun, 5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy, and like a strong man runs its course with joy. 6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and nothing is hid from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the Lord are sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is clear, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 But who can detect their errors? Clear me from hidden faults. 13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent; do not let them have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer
We thank you for the glory of your creation – a mystery that surpasses our knowledge.
We thank you for the earth and water, sun and wind, creatures and peoples – cultures – nations:
Guide us as we gather to confess that we have violated the gift of life given to us.
Strengthen us as we seek to affirm that the earth and all therein is yours.
Enable us as we seek to recall your covenant and make it our own.
(Source: World Council of Churches. Reproduced by ECEN for Creation Time 2003)
Questions for Reflection
- How do you think the heavens tell the glory of God if they cannot use words?
- What in your life is telling of the glory of God?
- The Psalmist says God’s law and ordinances are perfect – how do you think humanity’s law could be closer to God’s, particularly to protect the environment?
- Are there any images in Psalm 19 which capture your imagination?
Some further reading
Hans-Joachim Kraus (1992) Theology of the Psalms
Waltke, Houston and Moore (2014), The Psalms as Christian Lament
Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme (1992) The Universe Story
Haydn, The Heavens are telling the Glory of God – a musical setting of this Psalm