“Living Clay” Psalm 19:7-14
In our first article we observed that It was obvious to David, that God had made the world. He knew it – because of what he saw in creation, and he knew it because of what he read in God’s word.
Psalm 19 spends equal time talking about these two ways that God speaks and through which we may come to know Him
- Verses 1-6 are all about what we can know about God from his creation – the book of God’s world
- Vs 7-11 turn attention to the book of God’s inspired word whose primary goal is our redemption.
From a human point of view, God’s creation and his word serve the purposes of revelation, both ‘natural’ and ‘special’. From God’s point of view creation and redemption are intertwined leading us to suggest that perhaps verses 7-11 are not actually a change in subject. There are aspects of redemption that God built into his initial creation and God is now at work bringing about a new creation through his redemptive work.
Thus in Vs 1-6 we marvel at the power and wisdom of God as displayed in creation. And in verses 7-11, stand in awe of the grace of God as He shapes us once again into his image… through his word.
These two kinds of creation are accomplished using the same agency of his divine word. God spoke the physical world into existence. Then He has spoken again to command faith and obedience (vs 7-11). We will return to this theme later in this article.
Coming back for just a moment to the first six verses, we might observe that we ourselves are also a part of the book of God’s world. The temporal creation reflects the power and wisdom of God passively and not by choice. It is the product of God’s will, an expression of His wisdom and a reflection of His power. Human beings are included in this and in an important sense cannot refuse. Even the most adamant atheist who applies his mind, gathers his facts and sharpens his arguments puts the work of God on display. He must use his god-likeness to deny the existence of his maker and in so doing is often magnificent and pursuasive. He is at the top of creation and often at the top of his form. And though God has made the wisdom of this world foolish – even unbelievers bear the stamp of the God whom they deny…for there are no random arguments to prove that God does not exist.
Now of course God wants more than passive glory or forced confession of the sort that will be occur on the day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the Lordship of Jesus, but no one is exempt from it in this life or in the next.
There is another context that forms a framework for verses 7-11. It is something that we are calling the regal nature of Man. We are made In the image of God with qualities and capacities much like His own. Not surprisingly…there are many scriptures that declare the high position that we enjoy and which express wonder that God has seen fit to confer it upon us.
In John 10, the Jewish leaders took exception when Jesus claimed to be ‘the son of God’. They understood that Jesus claimed to be divine and wanted to stone him. In his defence, Jesus pointed out that they held too low a view of themselves which led to their disbelief. To explain what he meant, Jesus quoted from Psalm 82:6 (In Jo 10:35), a passage where God himself addressed an assembly of human leaders, as gods. God, “called them gods”. These were the sons of Adam to whom Luke refers in his genealogy as the son of God. They were related to God in a profound way that they had missed.
The apostle John is the perhaps the one who emphasizes this the most. We tend to see the fact that we are made in the image of God from our own perspective or from the point of view of the great privilege, and rightly so. We are utterly unique in our god-likeness, within the temporal creation. But where we dwell on the great privilege, God is also intent upon the great possibility
Let me suggest that from God’s point of view, our god-likeness was ontologically necessary for his purposes in creation and for God to carry out his plan for our salvation. God created us for a relationship with himself as his image bearers. He did this knowing that we would one day need to be saved and planned to do just that, before he made us. (See Eph 1). Creating us in his image was necessary for each of God’s purposes.
Consider the difference between things that are possible and impossible…even for God. There is something that is important for us to understand about the attributes of God and what we will say today about one of these applies to them all.
When we say that God is all powerful, we should not think that God can do anything at all. Instead, what we do mean that all of the power that exists is his. We mean that God can accomplish any and everything that can be done. He can do everything that is subject to accomplishment.
But there are some things that are beyond doing, since they simply cannot be done at all. God cannot set aside or overcome a logical contradiction. He cannot both exist and not exist at one and the same time. He cannot create a stone so big that he cannot lift it. By definition, an irresistible force and an immovable object cannot coexist. The existence of one precludes the other.
But more importantly and in our case, God cannot give us true freedom of choice and then guarantee or so arrange things that we always freely choose the right thing. Freedom of choice and guaranteed obedience cannot coexist. Nor can logical contradiction be resolved or set aside by the application of more power.
In Gethsemane we learn, that it was not possible, for the God with whom all things are possible (Mark 14:35-36) for God to save the world from sin and also save his Son from the cross. The impossible – in this instance – forgiveness of all sins without the one and only adequate sacrifice – was something that God could not do.
Sometimes we hear of software engineers who have written unbreakable code yet left themselves a ‘back door’ so that they can get in without a password. When God created humans as a race, he created an entry point for the insertion of his Son as a descendant of Adam and for the redemption of all others born of Adam. Thus, the combination of making us in his image and making us a race, these two together provided the means for the incarnation and thus the possibility for our redemption.
The incarnation of Jesus helps us to understand the full implications of what it means to be “made in the image of God”. It means that there was no ontological barrier or spiritual distance between God and man to prevent God from becoming a man. When God created the first human pair, his assessment was; “it is very good”. This remains true of each person who is born into the world.
From the beginning, God designed a way for himself to become a man without having to give up the person that he had always been. There was no contradiction between what it means to be truly human and yet fully God. There was no necessary barrier on the side of holiness and goodness nor deficiency on the side of volition or choice. One result is that we can never appeal to our human nature as an excuse for sin. We can never explain away our sin by saying “I am only human”. There is no ‘only’, since God himself has become one of us and this is precisely what John 1:14 affirms when he said: “The word became flesh”.
This theme of creation and redemption, or creation and new creation…is repeated at the end of the Bible in Revelation chapters 4 and 5.
In chapter 4, God is worshipped as the creator. When God spoke the world into existence out of nothing, there was there was no thing and no one to obstruct or oppose. In this first creation, only his will and power were at work.
Revelation 5 glorifies Jesus Christ (God) as our redeemer and magnifies his work as something arguably more difficult than creation itself. In salvation, the will of God, the will of Man (all sinners) and the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places, each play a role. Redemption requires God to work with ‘living clay’, which in the majority of cases is non-compliant.
It is then to the redemptive aspect of God’s word, to the re-creative power of God’s word that the psalmist turns in verses 7-11, for while God’s work in creation is praiseworthy, his work in salvation is that much more so.
The fact that God works through his word, makes it that much more awesome. It cannot be accomplished by the application of more power, but through the meeting of minds and the conviction of human hearts. It is the meeting place between the will of the almighty and our freedom of choice. This 2nd half of Psalm 19 is the stuff of Revelation 5 and a prelude to what Jesus came to finish.
Not only has God spoken to us in the book of the world, but he has also done so through the Book of God’s word. Consider what David says about God’s word and it’s potential to form us once again into the image of God.
Verse 7 “The Law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul”.
God’s law not only defines what sin is…but it also provides for a way back to God – after we sin. God’s law restores our souls, giving them back to us, having made them anew.
“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple”.
God’s law is that which testifies to who God is. It is a window into the inner person of God and an invitation to be like him. God’s law is not a collection of arbitrary ‘rules’ that might well have been something else. They are what they are because of the holiness of God in his inner being. As such, all of God’s statutes and ordinances stand up in court and testify on His behalf. Which is why they are able to cause even the simple…to become wise. The person with the Bible is wiser than every PHD without it, and taken to heart…they make us over into the person that God created us to be
Verse 8 – “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart”
Our hearts are first made glad to discover that we are not alone in the universe. To know that the God who is there has also not been silent. And when we read about who God is and what he wants us to be, these sound right and good. Even the particulars of God’s law have individual significance. They remind us that God is God and that we must obey. And they resonate with all that God has put inside of us to recognize right from wrong.
“The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes”.
God’s word puts a sharp line around right and wrong, good and evil. It opens our eyes to the person that God is and to the people that God wants us to be, and it does that within a worldview that is both adequate and coherent.
Verse 9 “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever”.
As a synonym for the ‘word of God’, the fear of the Lord stands for that which is produces in godly people. Solomon wrote elsewhere that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”. Prov. 9:10 . It reminds us of our place as the creature before the creator. It disposes us to trust God and obey in a way that does not end at death. Our respect for God and dependence upon him persist into eternity.
“The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether”
There is never a contradiction between His judgments and God himself. Not only that, they never contradict each other. That which God deems righteous, is so, because God himself is the standard. It is for that very reason that his judgments (vs.10) are “…more desirable than gold, yes, than much pure gold; Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb”.
What God will say on the Day of Judgment can be known in advance and persists into eternity.
His judgments then are of supreme valuable in eternity, which makes them that much more so right now because:
(vs 11) “Moreover, by them your servant is warned; In keeping them there is great reward”. Those who heed, are warned and blessed in this life and rewarded in the one to come.
(Vs 12) Which is why the psalmist prays: Who can discern his errors?
It is not within Man to direct his own steps. It is so very important then that God has revealed to us…the standard by which we will one day be judged. God wants us to know his will and do it before we are judged by it.
So the psalmist asks God to…Acquit me of hidden faults. 13 Also keep Your servant back from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me; (for) Then I will be innocent, And I will be blameless of great wrongdoing”.
Both of these are essential. The forgiveness of God along with protection from the evil one.
Then and only then shall I will be blameless of great wrongdoing. David was not saying that there are big and little sins. He is not classifying them to justify some or excuse others. Great wrongdoing is a life away from the presence of God. It is life that no longer believes in God or honours him as God. To borrow from the apostle John…it is “walking in darkness’. Those who are walking in darkness are those who are guilty of ‘great wrongdoing”. So the psalmist wants God to keep him from falling away. But not satisfied with simply not falling, he wants to ‘walk in the light. Here is what that looks like to David:
Verse 14 “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, Be acceptable in Your sight, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer”
David longed for a heart that was pleasing to God and for words as righteous as God himself, for when this is so, God is able and more than willing to be – our rock and our redeemer