Once again I am amazed at the complexity of the psalms. I never understood how complex ancient Hebrew poetry was until I started studying it in detail. Before we dive into the actual content of Psalm 19 lets take a quick look at a few of the structural elements.
Structure: Numerically Perfect
- 7 uses of YHWH with the middle usage in verse 8
- 14 (7 + 7) verses
- 7 cosmic elements mentioned in verses 1-4
- 14 (7 + 7) characteristics of the law mentioned in verses 7-10
- 7th Element = “sun”; 7th Characteristic = “radiant”
The psalmist is telling us that God's creation is perfect and complete with the law being twice as glorious as the physical creation.
The psalm divides into four sections.
The Universe Proclaims the Glory of God
God's creation is a natural revelation constantly declaring the wonders of God. No one can escape the message from God so that, as Romans 1:20 says, we are all without excuse. Everyone should recognize the glory of God.
This section includes seven elements of God's creation:
- The heavens (1a)
- The sky (1b)
- Day (2a)
- Night (2b)
- Earth (4a)
- End of the World (4a)
- Sun (4b) - this begins Cantos II
The Glory of the Sun
This section begins marvels at the glory of the sun which, by extension, reflects the glory of its Creator.
This poetic picture of the sun – grand as a bridegroom, powerful as a strong man, joyful as a runner – symbolizes the message of God reaching the whole earth. Notice the parallel themes of verse 3-4, talking about God's voice in natural revelation, and verse 6, the sun's heat. Both go throughout the whole earth, to the very end, and no one can escape them.
The Glory of the Law
Now we switch over to God's special revelation: His law. Here we find 14 characteristics of God's law – two sets of 7 pairs:
|1.||Perfect||Reviving the soul|
|2.||Sure/Trustworthy||Making wise the simple|
|3.||Right||Giving joy to the heart|
|4.||Radiant||Giving light to the eyes|
|7.||Better than Gold||Better than Honey|
Notice that at the very middle is the word “radiant” bringing us back to the glory of God and the glory of His sun.
This section concludes by reminding us that we are both warned and rewarded by the law.
This is the only section that is addressed to God. It is a beautiful prayer of commitment to the God of creation and the law. The psalmist shows us how we should respond to God's glorious natural and special revelation. This last section is such a great prayer that I can think of no better way to end then simply quoting from the psalm.
Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.