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Worship Message - "The Heavens"

The Heavens, God’s Word, and Prayer

Psalm 19

“The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament [the skies] proclaims His handiwork.”

Those are the opening words of the passage for today, which is Psalm 19. A Psalm of David. Words that invite us to do what it seems David did as he wrote this Psalm - look above us to see what that part of nature tells us about God’s glory and His handiwork.

Concerning God’s handiwork, let’s think for a moment about the stars.

Of course, with all the lights all around us, we cannot see as many stars now as we used to be able to see. In Boy Scouts I earned a merit badge for astronomy. In the city, it would be difficult now to see enough constellations to earn the badge, but whether we can see them or not, the stars are there.

According to the Bible, it is God who created the stars and put them in place. They did not form themselves. They did not come into being through a random combination of atoms that just produced them. They did not decide where they should be. God created them. God put them where they are. Which is certainly an example of His handiwork.

Handiwork that exists now as it has since the creation.

For instance, there is one constellation I can still see in the winter months. It is Orion, known as The Hunter. It is a combination of stars found in the southern part of the sky.

You know what? That combination of stars, which can be seen even now - the stars are bright enough to be seen even with the street lights in the city - was there when I was a Boy Scout. The combination was there a thousand years before that, and two thousand years ago. The combination has been there, at the same place in the sky, since those stars were put there by God.

What does that tell us about the glory of God? As stated in verse 3, not in words. Not with an actual voice. But what does it tell us about the glory of God? What does it display about Him? It tells us of God’s steadfastness. His dependability. It tells us we can trust that He does not change.

And think of this. The stars we see in the sky are far, far away. I understand it takes many, many light years - the distance light can travel in a year - for us to see the stars we see. Isn’t that amazing? The star light we will see tonight started its journey to us a long, long time ago. What does that tell us about the glory of God? It declares His power.

And think of this. The universe is huge, as in unending. I cannot comprehend such a thought. I just take it as fact. Do you suppose the vastness of space is a way to tell us there is nowhere we can go where God is not? That is a Biblical teaching. The vastness of space tells us of His presence everywhere.

Let’s consider our own star. The sun we have to warm our planet.

A week ago, it was toward the end of several days of rainy, gloomy weather. A few of us were kind of grumbling, not because we disliked the rain, which we know is so valuable, but because we missed seeing the sun shining, which, after quite a few days, was adding kind of a gloomy mood to some of us.

Seeing the sun last Monday helped the moods of a lot of people. But consider what the sun - God’s handiwork seen in the sun - tells us about His glory.

For instance, it  helps to set the moods of the day. When the sun rises, it is a call to the business of the day. The rising sun tells us it is time to get to work and be productive. When the sun sets, there is a desire for rest. Hopefully we can, at the end of each day, think back at what was done through the day. Hopefully we can feel good about what was accomplished.

The sun - that part of God’s handiwork - announces His call to work and His call to rest.

And consider this about the sun. While many of the constellations we see remain in the same place year after year, which does tell us of God’s steadfastness, the sun moves day by day. What does that tell us about God’s glory? It tells us God shines everywhere. As verse 6 proclaims, “There is nothing hid from its heat.” It shines on everyone everywhere, from east to west.

And when the sun goes down for us, it is shining somewhere else on others, which it does until it shines on us again. As already mentioned, God is for everyone. The sun makes that abundantly clear.

And back to steadiness. The sun has followed - with the exception of one miracle in Old Testament times - the same pattern since God created it and put it in place and in motion. As the path of the sun is steady and predictable, so is God steady and predictable.

Verse 5 has an interesting thought. It is that the sun is happy to tell of God’s glory. As happy as “a bridegroom leaving his chamber.” Richly dressed and adorned, happy to be involved in the activities of the day. “And like a strong man, it runs its course with joy.” It enjoys being obedient to the law of creation. It is happy to stay in touch with God’s people.

The heavens are telling the glory of God. The firmament proclaims His handiwork. “Day to day” that happens. Verse 2. Even night “declares knowledge” of God. Which reminds us, not only of stars, but also of the importance of the moon, which reflects the light of the sun. The moon can remind us, even at night, of the importance of God.

And there is this. The moon has a huge impact on the earth. I am thinking, for instance, of the tides. What a reminder the moon is that even when we cannot see what is happening, God is still affecting us, again in steady, far-reaching ways.

The heavens. The firmament. How important they are in showing God’s handiwork. How important they are in telling the glory of God. And again, they do so, not with words or with voices, but by shining and by following God’s plan.

As often as we see the sun, as often as we see the moon, as often as we see stars, let’s remember God and be amazed at what He created. Let’s be reminded of His glory.  May we feel closer to God because of the handiwork He allows us to see.

That is the challenge in the first six verses of Psalm 19. But you know what? It is not just nature that God gives us to remind us of Him. There is also His written word. For David, some of the Old Testament. For us, both the Old Testament and the New Testament, described a number of ways in verses 7 through 9. His word that offers wonderful benefits for those who will read and learn and know and obey what He teaches.

Let’s look at each description of God’s word and each of the benefits.

“The law of the LORD [the word of God] is perfect.”

Perfect. Free from flaw, which means there is nothing wrong with any of His laws. And hey, His law might require us to go against our human nature. It might cause us to get away from what is comfortable for us to do naturally. But the law of the LORD is perfect. All His word is for our good.

If we follow His word, it will revive our souls. It will give fresh life to us so we can grow in our faith. Even in the face of persecution and affliction, following the law of the LORD can and will make us perfect in our following of Him.

“The testimony of the LORD [signs that tell of Him, including the heavens that tell His glory and the firmament that proclaims His handiwork] is sure.”We can rely on Him. We can be confident in His creative power and in His steadfastness and in the fact He affects all people everywhere.

The testimony of the LORD is sure. It is dependable. If we will follow His testimony, the reward  is that we will be made wise.

The wording is that the testimony of the LORD will make “wise the simple.” The word “simple” sounds a little bit like an insult, but you know, we are all simple, compared to God. We are not all-present. We are not all-knowing. We are not all-powerful.

Of course, following the testimony of the LORD will not make us any of those things. Those are attributes of God. But by knowing and obeying the word of God, we can be made wiser and wiser so, as our spiritual journey continues, we can get closer and closer to God.

“The precepts of the LORD [His proclamations and His teachings of what we are to do, like pray, study, worship, and serve] are right.” They will set us right with God.

The result of obeying the LORD’s precepts? Rejoicing. Rejoicing in our hearts.

I remember a wedding I officiated a number of years ago. At the Friday evening rehearsal, the flower girl, maybe 3 or 4 years old, was cute, but what a terror she was as she ran and screamed and did her best to disrupt what we were trying to do.

By the way, it was not a church family wedding. In such cases, I wonder how to react, wondering if I say something, the parents will get mad and the situation will get even worse. So no, I did not do anything to correct the flower girl.

But as I watched and tried to proceed through the rehearsal the best I could, it seemed as if the girl, as she misbehaved, kept looking around, waiting for someone to tell her what to do and how to act. I tried to do that concerning her flower girl role, but in general, she did not know what she was supposed to do. It almost seemed she was so frustrated, she acted out.

It was a little better during the wedding itself, but such frustration can happen in life, too. Except we have the precepts of the LORD. We have His teachings, each one telling us how to live. If we will know them and obey them, we do not have to act out. We can rejoice that we know what to do. Our hearts can be glad and rejoice.

“The commandment of the LORD [based on what is recorded in Deuteronomy 6:5 - ‘Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, and might’] is pure.” It is clear and clean. Undefiled.

Know and obey the commandment of the LORD. The reward? “Enlightening the eyes.” Enlightenment that will allow us to see sins we are guilty of so we can repent of them. Enlightenment that will open our eyes to the proper way of living.

I read this. If a wanderer is lost and tired and hungry, giving him or her a little bit of food and a little bit of drink will bring light back into his or her eyes.

Away from God, we are all just wanderers. Knowing and obeying the commandment of the LORD is the spiritual food and drink we need. Our eyes can be enlightened when we receive the word of God.

“The fear of the LORD [fear in this context means being in awe of God, so much so you are willing to be obedient to His law, His precepts, His commandment] is clean. It is uncontaminated with worldly things.

How steady is our fear to be? It is to endure “forever.” The need to respect the LORD will never change.

“The ordinances of the LORD [all His laws, including the Ten Commandments that summarize how we are to treat God and others] are true.”

The result of knowing and obeying them? “Righteousness,” meaning being right with God and with others.

The law, the testimony, the precepts, the commandment, the fear, the ordinances of the LORD - the word of God - are perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true. That is how critical they are.

In fact - verse 10 - they are to be desired more than gold.

Wow. Gold [“much fine gold” as it is worded] is very valuable. A few days ago, gold was $1296.40 per ounce.

It is of course nice to be financially comfortable. But listen. The word of God is more valuable than that. One reason is that the price of gold can drop. Another reason is that any gold you have can be stolen. But the word of God is sure. No one can take it away. You can always depend on it. That is what makes it so valuable.

Still verse 10. The word of God is “sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” Honey represents the sweetest of treats, but of course, the sensation of the sweetness will fade. Not so the word of God. It will stay pure and clean and fresh forever. That is something else that make it so very valuable.

The challenge is in verse 11. Be “warned” by the word of God. Be warned about what is right to do, about what to avoid, about how to be prepared for good times and difficult times alike. Be warned to get on the right way of life if that is needed. Be warned to stay on the right way of living if you are already on it.

Why? Because, in keeping God’s word, there is “great reward.” As listed earlier, the reward of revival of our souls, of wisdom, of rejoicing, of enlightenment, of endurance, of righteousness.

The heavens and the firmament tell of God’s glory and proclaim His handiwork. The word of God teaches how we are to live and offers rewards for knowing and obeying the word of God. As we see His nature and learn His word, we should be reminded just how great God is.

But there is something that can interfere with such a good relationship with God. That something is sin, which David addresses in the last three verses of Psalm 19.

Verse 12. David acknowledges that sometimes we do not know ourselves as well as we should. He asks, “But who can discern his errors?” He adds the prayer, “Clear me from hidden faults.” Hidden means we may not know all we do wrong. But God does. Hence the prayer.

Verse 13. “Keep me also from presumptuous sins.” That refers to anything we do that we know is wrong, but we do it anyway just because we want to. It refers to our human nature disregarding God’s nature. Keep me from such sins, David prayed. “Let them not have dominion over me.”

He added that is the only way he could be “blameless and innocent of great transgression.”

And verse 14. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart [let both what I say and the things I think] be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD.” That was David’s prayer. A prayer he was confident would be answered, evident in his description of God, who he called “my rock and my redeemer.” God was his strength and his salvation.

*       *       *       *       *

There are three teachings in Psalm 19. Look to the heavens - the sun, the moon, the stars, which are part of God’s handiwork - and see the glory of God.

Look to the Bible and learn God’s word, knowing that obeying Him will provide great rewards.

Pray to be forgiven for hidden sins and presumptuous sins, relying on God for pure words and pure thoughts.

Those are the teachings of today’s passage. Let’s know them and obey them.

The closing song is Rock of My Salvation, which is the thought of the last verse of Psalm 19.

You are the Rock of my salvation,

You are the strength of my life.

You are my hope and my inspiration,

Lord, unto You will I cry.

I believe in You, believe in You,

for Your faithful love to me.

You have been my help in time of need.

Lord, unto You will I cleave.

You are the Rock of my salvation,

You are the strength of my life.

You are my hope and my inspiration,

Lord, unto You will I cry.

I believe in You, believe in You,

for Your faithful love to me.

You have been my help in time of need.

Lord, unto You will I cleave.

You are the Rock of my salvation,

You are the strength of my life.

Lord, thank You for what we see above us. What wonderful announcements of Your creative power, Your vastness, Your steadiness, Your willingness to reach everyone everywhere.

Thank You for Your word. Word that tells us exactly how You want us to live, not only because living in Your way will honor You, but also because living properly is best for us, Help us to know and obey Your word.

Thank You for the reminder to pray for ourselves so we can be forgiven for both hidden sins and presumptuous sins. Help us to want forgiveness so we can be blameless and innocent.

Lord, You want to be our rock and our redeemer. Help us to accept You as both those things. Thank You. Amen.

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