July 1, 2020
Daybreak: Psalms 19:1 through 21:13
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” (Psalm 19:1)
Some years ago, my brother-in-law inherited a box of family heirlooms, and among the items was an impressive painting signed by his great-grandfather, Charles Heberer. The painting sparked his interest and he began doing research. He learned that Heberer had been a well-known artist in Paris and the United States beginning in the 1890s. His work had appeared in art exhibits and newspapers, and he had been commissioned to paint murals and portraits of government officials.
Excited about this discovery, my brother-in-law set out to locate as many of his great-grandfather’s paintings as he could. He devoted several pages of his family website to this pursuit, and began communicating with art galleries, auction houses, historians, and distant relatives. Through this, he received many leads and photographs of paintings.
Several of the photos that came in were of paintings that were unsigned, so my brother-in-law needed another way to determine if these were really the work of Charles Heberer. He soon learned that an artist can be identified by his technique. Heberer painted landscapes in the impressionist style, using short brush strokes and bright colors. His works were often bathed in softly diffused light. By looking for these techniques, my brother-in-law has been able to identify many of his great-grandfather’s paintings.
Just as a person can look at a painting, examine the technique, and know who the artist is, we can look at creation, examine the handiwork, and know who the Creator is. Who else but the Divine Creator could give every snowflake a different pattern? Who else could pass white sunlight through raindrops to form a colorful rainbow? Who else but the all-powerful God could hold the earth on its axis and in its orbit around the sun to create the seasons? Who else is capable of keeping the oceans from overreaching their bounds?
Recently, I visited my brother-in-law’s website and found this statement posted under a new photo, “Here is a newly found painting. It is unsigned, but it is clearly Charles’ work!” While others debate the origin of our magnificent world, I look at the oranges and reds of a sunset and think, It is unsigned, but it is clearly God’s creation. Without doubt, the psalmist was right when he proclaimed, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork”!
Psalm 19, like many other of David’s psalms, is ascribed to the chief Musician. Many commentators suggest that this is one of the most magnificent of the psalms, both for its poetic elegance and its theological depth. Its theme is that there can be no excuse for those who do not believe in God’s existence, for God has revealed Himself to mankind through His creation and through His Word.
The first portion of the psalm, verses 1-6, uses the example of the heavens (universe) and the firmament (sky) to illustrate that creation serves as a witness to God’s existence. The parallel construction of the words “day unto day” and “night unto night” implies a continuum; the evidences of God are always present. The phrase “Their line is gone out through all the earth” (verse 4), refers to a measuring line marking boundaries, indicating that knowledge of God has spread throughout the world.
Verses 7-14 turn from the glory of God apparent in nature, to the glory of God revealed in His Word. The “law of the Lord” refers to more than just the direct commandments of God; it represents the revealed will of God throughout Scripture. Five synonyms for the Word of God are given in these verses: the “law of the Lord,” the “testimony,” the “statutes,” the “commandment,” and the “judgments.” The psalmist made seven statements about the Word of God: it is perfect, it is sure, it is right, it is pure, it is clean, it is true and righteous, and it is of infinite value. David may also have been emphasizing the completeness of God’s Word by using seven descriptions; the number seven has been used throughout the Bible to represent completeness.
The chapter ends with a prayer. In verses 12 and 13, David asked God to cleanse him from “secret faults” (possibly referring to inbred sin) and “presumptuous sins” (deliberate violations of God’s law). He concluded with a plea that his words and the meditations of his heart would be “acceptable” to God, in much the same way as a right sacrifice under the Levitical law would have been acceptable (see Leviticus 1:3-4).
Psalm 20 is considered to be a royal psalm, as it concerns the king as a representative of the people. Composed as a prayer offered prior to battle, this psalm is often grouped with Psalm 21, which is a prayer of thanksgiving for victory. Sung in combination, these two psalms may have formed an antiphonal or responsive war anthem; they are both classified as liturgical psalms because they were associated with worship.
With the exception of verse 6, all of the verses in Psalm 20 were written from the perspective of a group (“we”) praying for a single person (“thee”). Therefore, most of the psalm would have been sung as a chorus by the congregation on behalf of the king. Verse 6 is the only verse that was written in the first person singular (“I”). It would have been sung by the king as a solo in response to the congregation.
The “banners” in verse 5 refer to raising the victory flag. The congregation stated that their flag would be raised in God’s name rather than the name of their king or their country. The inference is that those who rely on earthly might will fail, but those who depend upon the Lord will ultimately triumph.
Psalm 21 is a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for victory after battle, attributing the destruction of the enemy to the abundance of God’s help. Some of the answered prayers referred to in its verses correspond to the prayer requests in the previous psalm. For example, Psalm 20:4 requests, “Grant thee according to thine own heart…” The response given in Psalm 21:2 is, “Thou has given him his heart’s desire…” Also, the structure is very similar to that of Psalm 20, with two main stanzas and a concluding prayer.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- According to Psalm 20:5, in whose name did the congregation say they would set up their banners?
- Psalm 21:2 states, “Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips.” Does God always give us our heart’s desire? Why or why not?
- In what ways has God revealed Himself to you?
We do not need to look far to find evidence of God. Let’s take time to observe the witness of God’s creative work all around us.