The Law, Statutes, Commandments, Fear, and Judgments of the LORD.
Reading: Psalm 19
In this Psalm of David we have a declaration of the power and supremacy of God (El). “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” (vs. 1) The wonders of the natural creation around us and the precise order and infinite expanse of the heavens above (including the sun, moon, and all of the heavenly constellations) give glorious evidence of God’s existence. They not only are there, held in perfect balance, to provide order to the universe and to supply man with warmth, light, and a compass for time and direction; but they remind us as to the supreme genius and power of the creator behind these truly miraculous phenomena. We recently heard in a radio report that as the scientific knowledge of man expands a growing number of scientists and academics actually are shying away from a conception of the universe that credits its existence from some random force that began with a cataclysmic explosion or “Big Bang”. Many “esteemed” scholars are beginning to understand that the more they learn the less they understand and that the infinite expanse of the universe is obviously not by accident. They have resigned themselves to the existence of a higher power or intelligent creator, even though as intelligent as they themselves may be in mathematics or astronomy their knowledge and appreciation as to the identity of this Creator is somewhat limited.
Though the beautiful and awe inspiring natural creation around us gives evidence of an intelligent designer, it does not teach us of who He is and the extent of His purpose. Bullinger suggests that the opening versus of this passage speak of the signs of the Zodiac. It is his contention that before the constellations of the heavens were incorporated into Babylonian and Greek mythology that the different constellations were set in the heavens to give lessons as to God’s purpose with the earth. It is thought that the principle of looking to the heavenly constellations for God’s lessons was a set principle before it was corrupted by the apostasy of man. This may or may not be true and there is a certain amount of plausibility that there may be a hint of fact to this but this is not our real concern. The heavens give evidence to the Divine Creator but it is through God’s revealed will as found in His words that give us concrete instruction as to His being and his ultimate purpose for the Creation. As verse 3 and 4 state, “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard, their line (or inheritance) is gone out through all the earth, and their words (or sayings and teachings) to the end of the world.”
But in considering this “voice” as mentioned, who is the “they” spoken of here? Who is this plurality in which it is said that their “words”(teachings) have gone out “to the end of the world”? The subject of the passage is the “heavens and firmament” which shows and declares God’s glory and handiwork. Can we assume that the heavens of God’s creation really speak? The answer is obviously no, so it would seem that we have something symbolic as well as prophetic being made mention of here. We know that the redeemed of God at the return of Christ will be set in the political heavens and firmament to glorify God’s name and to teach the nations of His plan and purpose. (Heb. 12:1; Eph. 2:6) As verse four states, it will be “their line that is gone out through all the earth”, and their words as manifestations of the Divine will that will teach the nations of Truth and Righteousness. The word “line” is better understood as an “inheritance”. Obviously the literal heavens and firmament will not “inherit” the earth but we know that it is a matter of promise to the spiritual seed of Abraham, symbolized by the heavens and firmament, to inherit the world to come. (Gen. 13:15; Ps. 37: 9,11,22,29,34; 115:16; Rom. 4:13; Dan. 7:27; Matt. 5:5; Rev. 5: 9,10)
In verse 4 it continues, “In them hath He set a tabernacle for the sun.” The word “tabernacle” here indicates a tent or house. We know that saints of God are elsewhere often spoken of as a spiritual house, themselves a temple of the living God. (II Cor. 6:16). Both the ecclesia now and the future redeemed are spoken of with such symbolic language. Who is this “sun…which is a bridegroom coming out of his chamber”? It would seem that we have strong inference that this is the Christ, who was spoken of by John the Baptist as the manifestation of the light of God. That the sun is a fitting symbol of Christ is well recognized by the Bible student. In Malachi 4:2 (a prophecy of the Messiah) we read, “But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” It is that light that shines upon the darkness, revealing and destroying wickedness and providing warmth and nourishment to those who seek after righteousness. He is a manifestation of the shekanah glory that filled both the Most Holy place of the tabernacle in the wilderness and Solomon’s temple with light. This “sun” is compared to a “bridegroom coming out of his chamber” with rejoicing and “there is nothing hid from the heat thereof”. Who is the great bridegroom spoken of through God’s written word but that of Jesus - the groom of the ecclesial bride? At Christ’s return there will be nothing hidden from His discerning power. The wheat will be separated from the chaff, with the chaff being cast into a consuming fire. Starting with the Household and ending up with the nations of the earth at large, the heat of God’s power and judgment, through the manifestation of His Son, will separate the good from evil – completely destroying that which is unfit to sustain the burning flame that is the Divine Judgment.
As we move on in the passage we strike the center of our consideration this morning in verses 7 through 9. Here our attention is directed to the law, testimony, statutes, commandments, fear and judgments of the LORD. Is there a change of subject here or is there a fluid exhortation being expressed by this Psalm of David? The Psalm is in fact connected in that these six closely related items are describing God’s word and is related to the fact that the “firmament and heavens” and the “sun” are manifestations of its power (if headed) in overcoming sin. As David later writes in verse 11 concerning these six aspects of God’s word – “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.” Christ and the Redeemed of the future age will manifest these powerful attributes of God’s word as an example to the nations. And more important to our present consideration they themselves will have had used God’s word during their probationary lives in overcoming the “dominion” of Sin. Christ perfectly did this in overcoming sin during his first appearance. How did He do this? By his familiarity with the law and the prophets. By a “thus saith the Lord” he was able to overcome the wilderness temptations and all other challenges during his mortal life.
What are these aspects of God’s word that if used correctly will ensure our presence in the prophetic heavens and firmament? How may we hope to be the eternal tabernacle or house that is to be the manifestation of God’s glory? First of all we are told, “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul”. The Hebrew word for “law” is from the Hebrew word torah, which literally means a “precept or statute”. It is made up of the instructions of God, that if followed, insure that we will do the things that are pleasing to Him and that will provide us with eternal benefit. In Psalm 1:1,2 we read, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and His law doth he meditate day and night.” It was this familiarity with the law that Jesus, at the age of 12, was able to reason with doctors of the law in the temple. It was his familiarity with the “law” that kept Him out of the “way of the sinners and of the scornful”. Christ summarized the true ramifications of the law when He was asked what the greatest commandment of the “law” was. He stated, “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all they heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” If the “law” is observed as Jesus advises then any feelings of selfishness into our own importance and value is left behind and as was stated by David, its result will be to “convert” or change the soul.
We are next told in Psalm 19 that “The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” The word “testimony” is from the Hebrew adooth and signifies “a witness”. The word “sure” in this line might be better understood as “faithful or enduring”. God’s word, His testimony, His witness is a solid foundation, it does not change. There are no gray areas or doubt in what God has planned and what He expects from us. It is absolute and specific though there are trends within and without the Brotherhood that unfortunately claim something to the contrary. In Psalm 119 we read, “Thou through Thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies.” The witness of God’s word shows the wisdom and shifting logic of man’s reasoning to be complete folly. The wisdom of man is considered to be “foolishness” in God’s eyes. It is imperative for one seeking after righteousness to understand that man’s thinking goes nowhere and that we are dependent upon God to really understand what true wisdom is. Unfortunately God’s wisdom finds little respect among the academics and “thinkers” of our day. Man’s thinking and God’s wisdom are incompatible with each other. In I Corinthians 1:26 we read, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.” And in chapter two verse five it continues, “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” [Also Proverbs 3:7, 13-18] It is the “witness” of God’s word that brings to us wisdom, not our own ability or the thinking of man.
Next in Psalm 19 we read, “The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” The word “commandment” is from the Hebrew mitivah and literally means “a command” - a law, something that we are told to do. We are told that it is “enlightening” or in other words gives light to the eyes. Just as the natural sun gives light to the earth, and the spiritual Sun gives life-giving light to mankind - such is the result of God’s commands. Back in Psalm 119 we read of the memory verse that states, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Unlike the men of the world, and of some in the Household, who are “ever learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the Truth”, the word of God and His commands, if properly approached and applied, provide a life saving light to guide and direct us on the “straight and narrow way that leads to eternal life”. Christ embraced this life, manifesting it in His own walk and as an example to those who would follow him. As Christ stated, “if ye love me, keep my commandments”. These commandments were not just His but were the commands of the Father who sent Him.
Continuing on in Psalm 19 it states, “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever.” The word “fear” is from the Hebrew yirah and indicates a reverence, but not merely respect but an exceeding or dreadful reverence. A reverence that recognizes that the creator of the “heavens and firmament” holds our very existence in His hands. Not many men have this kind of fear, and out of the many that profess such a fear they nullify it by holding to beliefs and practices that make the word of God of none effect. Proverbs 1:7 advises us that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” In Psalm 111: 10 we read, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, a good understanding have all they that do His commandments”. And this thought continues into the next chapter where it states in 112:1, “Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in His commandments. His seed shall be mighty in the earth: The generation of the upright shall be blessed.” We do not think we are stretching things when we say that we can see Abraham and Christ alluded to here. It is the seed of Abraham (spiritual seed) that will be blessed eternally through Christ. Both Abraham and his greater descendant, being the ones who delighted in God’s commands, are promised a spiritual seed who will be “mighty in the earth”.
Finally we read back in Psalm 19 “the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” The word “judgments” is from the Hebrew word mishpat and indicates “a verdict”. Bullinger suggests that it means “judicial requirements.” In any case, whether it be what we are required to do or the final judgment or verdict at Christ’s return as to what we have done, whether it be good or bad, God’s ways in practice and their final outcome are true and righteous. They rise above man’s thinking and provide a justice that is impossible for men to conceive if left to their own device. Will not the LORD God do righteously? Man’s justice as seen through his requirements and verdicts bring nothing more then pain, confusion, and misery in the grand scheme of things. Though man thinks himself noble and views God’s ways as harsh, the ends of man’s ways are confusion while God’s ways bring about everlasting peace, order, and righteousness. It is not for us to question God and His motives but to accept His requirements as true and far above our sense of wisdom. He knows what is best and directs all things to their ultimate good. It should be comforting to realize that our destiny relies on the merciful and consistent judgments of Yahweh rather then upon the inconsistent and whimsical rulings of men.
These six things, the law, the testimony, the statutes, the commandments, the fear, and the judgments of God are our guidepost to future joy and peace as part of the multitudinous Firmament and Heavens of God’s handiwork. As our Elder Brother, who embodied these principles, will be the eternal Sun of the future Heavens it is our hope to make up the constellations and atmosphere of the future Age. If we follow these things now in our daily lives, as Christ has done before us, continues to do, and will fully do in the future- we also will be allowed to embody and manifest these attributes along with the everlasting Sun of Righteousness. And as is promised to the spiritual seed of Abraham, our “line” or inheritance will extend throughout the earth.
And as David declared, may this also be in our thoughts - “let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength, and my redeemer”.