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Praise to God the Creator

            In all places and at all times mankind has been fascinated with the heavens above.  Even the atheist is not dead to their majesty and beauty and experiences a sense of awe, but Psalm 19 reminds us to consider not only the heavens but also the creator of the heavens and to respond in praise to him with all our being.

            The Hebrew of Psalm 19 calls the believer’s attention to the heavens as a focal point for encountering God.  It does this by placing the subject of verse 1a at the beginning and the subject of verse 1b at the end. 

            “The heavens                            are declaring                 the glory of God

            the work of his hands                are proclaiming             the skies.”

If the order of the verse points us to the heavens to consider God, the participial form of the verbs (“are declaring” and “are proclaiming”) tell us that the skies above us are speaking to us about God without ceasing.

            What are the heavens declaring?  The glory of God.  The imagery of the sun in verses 4b-6 portrays God’s glory as his universally majestic radiance, power and beauty.  As the creator, God rules the sun.  He has set a tent for the sun in the heavens (v. 4b).  As we see the sun rising in the east each morning, we are to picture it like a bridegroom (v. 5a) who is coming forth joyfully either from under his wedding canopy (cf. Isaiah 4:5) or from his bridal chamber, having consummated his marriage (cf. Joel 2:16) and as a strong man or champion running his course (v. 5b), which extends to its setting in the west, warming all mankind (v. 6).

            Both images are filled with the glow of youth that brings life and pleasure to all who see it.  God’s glory is a radiance that fills us with joy and hope.  The bridegroom and champion are also images of strength.  God’s glory encompasses his power.  However, God’s power does not intimidate believers, but rather invigorates them, just as the warmth of the sun strengthens us to run our daily course.  The beauty of the sun rising in the morning is likened to the beauty of a bridegroom or a warrior going forth early in the day splendidly clothed.  Thus the glory of God is a beauty that draws us to him and evokes joy in his presence.  

            Because the heavens extend over the whole earth, the vision of God’s glory is universal.  As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins exclaims, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”  In every place we go the glory of God is there for us to experience and to respond to with joy and hope and vigor.

            How do the heavens declare God’s glory, and what does this mean for our response to God revealed in his creation?  First, the heavens’ declaration of God’s glory is visual and tactile not audible.  “There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard” (v. 3).[1]  We see the heavens and feel the sun’s warmth (v. 6).  We do not hear words that we must analyze.  By appealing to our senses of sight and touch, the believer is called upon to use his imaginative faculties that have an immediate impact upon us rather than discursive reasoning that draws conclusions from data or premises.  As we behold and feel God’s glory in his creation, we experience him and his power and beauty.

            Because Psalm 19 appeals to the imagination it is not meant to be a philosophical proof or even argument for God’s existence.  While the apparent order and regularity of the universe do seem to cry out for a creator, Psalm 19 is meant to stimulate our imagination so that we experience God’s glory in creation and praise him.

            The experience and praise of God through his creation also is intended to be holistic.  As part of loving God, praise involves the whole person—body, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:30).  In addition, our response is not limited to a certain time of day.  The use of the image of the sun in Psalm 19 reminds us of God’s glory in the day time.  Psalm 8, the other great psalm of the glory of God, calls upon us to consider the moon and stars (v. 3).  Thus, creation declares God’s glory at night as well as by day.  As the believer is to meditate on God’s law day and night (Psalm 1:2), he is also to contemplate God’s glory in his creation day and night.

            Psalm 19:1-6 reminds us that praise is vital to the joyous response of the Christian to God the creator and models the believer’s joyful response to God by means of contemplating his creation.  I invite you to share ways in which you experience God’s glory in his creation.  The next post will look at the rest of Psalm 19 to see how we experience God through his law.

[1] I am following the NRSV in verse 3.  The ESV and NIV translate verse 3 “There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.”

31 thoughts on “Praise to God the Creator

  1. You talk about the sun being a bridegroom, or a champion. I am confused does the sun represent an example of Gods glory, or us?

    1. Thanks, Michael, for the question. The imagery of the sun is to heighten the glory of God revealed in his creation. It speaks to the power and beauty of God revealed in his creation.

  2. I have an inquiry about verse 3. The translation you quote here reads, “There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard.” However, the translations I have always relied on are something more along the lines of the ESV, which says, “There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.” This seems to mean the opposite of what you are asserting in the sixth paragraph. So which translation is more accurate?

    1. This is a good question, and, frankly, scholars disagree. The Hebrew translated in verse 3 is as I quote it. The ESV adds “whose,” which does give a different sense. The problem with the translation I follow is the issue of how to translate v. 4. It is quite abrupt for the psalmist to go on and write “Their voice goes out …. It seems as if verse 4 is in contrast to verse 3. Therefore, most who adopt the translation I am following add a “yet,” which is not in the Hebrew. The ESV translation thus has the psalmist stating that the voice of creation goes everywhere and is heard The translation that I follow means that the revelation that is universal is not in audible words.

  3. I really love this, Dr. Isley. I just love seeing God’s glory in Creation because it is so unmistakable. There were some interesting things that you pointed out, such as in verse 1, the two subjects are at either end of the statements, pointing the attention to God. I would not have noticed that. Also I found the fact that both night and day are mentioned interesting. It’s a nice reminder that we can see God’s glory at all times.

  4. I agree with Elisabeth in saying that i found it interesting about night being mentioned. When i think of God’s glory in creation I usually picture the heavens at night or what i can see during the day. I don’f often think about the fact that this means his glory is ALWAYS visible. I usually seem to overlook this when in fact this is actually something rather significant to remember.

  5. I too am quite fascinated with the heavens, they are a very interesting and beautiful mystery. I do not think about the Creator enought though. I never thought of it but I will now try to remind myself everytime I see the beauty of the sky, especially the sun rising, that it is the glory of the Lord revealing itself to me once again.

  6. You say that believers are not intimidated by Gods power but should we be intimidated? I feel like we should knowing that God can just wipe us off of the earth anytime. I don’t know why he would wipe us out but I don’t know I just feel like we need to have sn understanding that he can do this.

    1. Well, we certainly should be aware of God’s power and the folly of challenging him, but I think that the message of Psalm 19 is for us to revel in God’s creation revelation, just as the sun runs its course with joy.

  7. Psalm 19:1-6 is actually quite powerful. We are given these discriptions of the wonderous Earth around us that God the father has made for us. We ought to cherrish this great gift. Are there certain ways we can appreciate nature more, or understand God further through time outside in His creation?

    1. Yes, it is powerful, Nick. For someone like me, I have to make an extra effort to get outside and look upon God’s creation. My wife often calls my attention to beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Also, her gardening displays the beauty of God’s creation on a less cosmic but still significant scale.

  8. I love the first verse of this chapter. I quote it almost every time I really stop to look at a star filled sky. I see God’s glory in creation everywhere and I am glad to here your views on this beautiful chapter. I have heard of stories of missionaries going to secluded islands and bringing the Gospel there and the “shaman” telling them that he had seen the same story in the stars and told the tribe already. Truly the heavens declare the glory of God!

  9. To be honest this really struck me. I have really lost my fascination with creation, and that is something I really miss. I want to be able to do nothing outside all day long again. But I guess I am growing up.

  10. This was a very interesting post. When it talks about God’s power as not intimidating but invigorating, how would this tie in with Psalm 2 when it says we should fear God with trembling?

    1. Good question, Brian. I think the answer is that the audience in Psalm 2 are the rulers of the earth who rebel against God, whereas Psalm 19 is the believer’s joyful song of praise to God the Creator. This will become even more evident in the second part of the Psalm 19 where the psalmist declares his love for God’s law.

  11. So, first of all I just want to say that I love how you analyze the structure of the text. It’s always awesome to see how much effort the author really put into his work. That’s just cool. I agree with you when you said that God’s glory is a radiance that fills with joy and hope. I think it’s also important to realize that that statement is true rain or shine.

  12. When it talks about the heavens declaring the glory of God, is it referring to the angels and heaven where God is, or the stars and constellations?

  13. I enjoyed the quote that you gave “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” To me this seems to imply that as Christians we should use the wonderful creation that God has allowed us to marvel at as a type of inspiration to glorify and praise Him. Is this a correct assumption?

  14. Thank you for this post. My favorite use of imagery is when it is talking about the sun as a bridegroom. I was confused about when it says that the fear of the Lord is clean. Could you expand on that for me?

    1. Yes, the imagery of the sun is beautiful, one of my favorites. The fear of the Lord is understood here as the faithful living of one’s life in service to the Lord. Such a way is clean or pure. It brings health and pleases the Lord.

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