Wednesday, December 31, 2014

It All Points to Him

Psalm 19 is divided into three main sections, each describing an aspect of the divine law being proclaimed.  The psalm can be outlined this way:

Law of Creation (1-6) The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
    and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
    whose voice is not heard.
Their measuring line goes out through all the earth,
    and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
    which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
    and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
    and its circuit to the end of them,
    and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
Law of Moses (7-11) The law of the Lᴏʀᴅ is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lᴏʀᴅ is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lᴏʀᴅ are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lᴏʀᴅ is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lᴏʀᴅ is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lᴏʀᴅ are true,
    and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
    even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
    and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
    in keeping them there is great reward.
Law of Grace (12-14) 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 Lᴏʀᴅ, my rock and my redeemer.

David gives a three-step description of how he knows who and what God is and what that means for the life of faith.  Theodoret of Cyrus comments on this psalm:
Blessed David in this psalm teaches men the harmony between these [divine laws]: firstly, the one the creator preaches in creation; then the one given through Moses, instilling a greater knowledge of the creator to those willing to attend; after that, the law of grace, perfectly purifying souls and freeing them from the present destruction.
Commentary on the Psalms, 19.1

These sections build from one to another.  As we take in the functioning of creation in its precision and recognizes there is someone or something keeping order.  From there, God’s law revealed through Moses and the prophets supplies details of that someone: there is a Creator, and He wants us to know of Him.  Though the revelation is marvelous to mankind, even this is not sufficient for David.  Beyond all that the Scriptures had within them—those things in which we could delight—still there was an understanding that more must be coming.  The Law is good, but David recognized his own shortcomings.  There was a universal need yet to be met, one which the psalmist longed to have applied to himself and, by extension, all who love the Lord.  We who love the Law know that it only reminds us that we are sinners.  We desire a permanent atoning sacrifice and a firm declaration of God that the guilt and condemnation is removed.

You may be thinking, “That sounds like an outline of Romans,” and you would be correct. Paul uses similar logic:

Law of Creation For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.  (Rom 1:19-20)
Law of Moses Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  (Rom 3:19-20)
Law of Grace There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.  (Rom 8:1-2)

All that God has made and revealed declares who and what He is and where we stand in relation to Him.  A sufficient guilt-bearer and intermediary were required to reconcile God and man, and only Jesus, incarnate God, could provide a full satisfaction.  There is nothing more than to believe on that saving work and heap adoration on the source of salvation, as Paul put it:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
    For who has known the mind of the Lord,
        or who has been his counselor?
    Or who has given a gift to him
        that he might be repaid?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen.  (Rom 11:33-36)

I end with Theodoret’s closing comments on Psalm 19:
[David is saying,] “I long to enjoy … presenting my soul to you completely free from blame.  On receipt of pardon from you for my past failings, may I offer to you everlasting hymn singing, giving my unwavering attention to your sayings.”… By way of supplying a finale to the psalm, he called him Lord insofar as he is maker and creator, and redeemer insofar as he frees us by the regeneration of holy baptism* from our former perdition, redeems us from enslavement to the demons, and bestows on us incorruptibility and immortality.  The psalm includes both former and latter subjects: it instructs us firstly on creation and providence; in the middle on the Law; and finally on grace.  Now, the New Testament provides these goods.
Commentary on the Psalms, 19.13-14

* Theodoret was a firm adherent of baptism as a means of grace.

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