Psalm 19:2


There is enough in this psalm for twenty discourses. But in this department of the 'Pulpit Commentary' it is not our province to dwell on specific texts, however attractive, but to indicate how by a homiletic exposition of the psalm as a whole, it may be brought home to us for everyday life in the continuous unfolding of the Scripture. At the same time, the two divisions of the psalm are so entirely distinct that they call for separate treatment, as they open up to the preacher entirely different branches of thought and instruction. There is no reason to question the Davidic authorship of the psalm, but it is so couched that from its contents there is nothing by which we can infer either its authorship or date; and it so speaks to man as man, that it is of equal value by whomsoever or whensoever it was penned. We have in its first six verses a rehearsal of the voices of God in the firmament above. And we gather from the forms of expression that the writer was accustomed to speak of natural phenomena in the language of his day. In his view the firmament of heaven spread out as a hemisphere above the earth, like a splendid and pellucid sapphire, in which the stars were supposed to be fixed, and over which the Hebrews believed there was a heavenly ocean. The Bible was not meant to teach science, but to teach God. Science has to do with the matter, order, and laws of the creation. In religion we have to do with the great Author of all. And while we find the writer far enough away from our present conceptions of what the heavens are, we find he is one to whom God had spoken as Jehovah, the great I AM - and who had been taught God's Law to man as well as God's utterances in nature. And as God's voices to us have become clearer than they were in the psalmist's time, by his revelation in Christ Jesus, so the glory of his works has become amazingly clearer through the discoveries man has made therein; and he will fall very far short of a suitable setting forth of the truths of this first half of the psalm, who does not utilize the recent discoveries of science as a pedestal on which to set, in clearer and fuller ways, Jehovah's glory! The expositor is bound to show how gloriously science helps religion, in furnishing him with new material for setting forth the greatness of God l An unfolding of the verses before us will lead us along several lines of thought, with which we propose to deal cumulatively.

I. THERE ARE NATURAL OBJECTS AND FACTS HERE SPECIFIED. The heavens. The firmament. The sun. The orderly succession of day and night. In regard to each of these, science helps religion. And grand as was the scene in olden time to the natural eye, and with all the imperfections of ancient knowledge, the grandeur is unspeakably vaster now, owing to discoveries which have since been and are still being made (The expositor of this psalm needs to read up to date in astronomical researches.)

II. AMONG THEM THERE IS INCESSANT ACTIVITY. "The heavens declare," etc. Their activity is not conscious on their part, but it is nevertheless real. Light is ever acting on the vegetable world, and helps to open the petals of the flower, to give blossom its colour, and fruit its sweetness. Thus there is a reciprocal relation established between the sunbeam and the plant. So also is there between the stars above us and the mind of man. And though they utter not a word (ver. 3, Hebrew), they are sounding forth a message to the soul of man. "Their line is gone out," etc. (ver. 4). The word "line" is one of much interest. It meant, first, any cord or string; then a string stretched out so as to emit a musical sound; then the sound emitted by the string; then a full musical chord.

"For ever singing, as they shine,
The hand that made us is Divine!'"

III. THESE ACTIVITIES ARE WONDROUSLY VARIED. The four verbs used here are all of them exceedingly expressive. The heavens are falling the glory of God, recounting it to us as in the pages of a book; the firmament is showing his handiwork, setting it before our eyes as in a picture; day unto day welleth forth speech, pouring it out as from a fountain; night unto night breatheth out knowledge, breathing it out gently so that the attentive listener may hear. "During the French Revolution, it was said to a peasant, ' I will have all your steeples pulled down, that you may no longer have any object by which you may be reminded of your old superstitions.' 'But,' replied the peasant, 'you cannot help leaving us the stars.'"

IV. WITH ALL THIS VARIETY OF EXPRESSION, THEY TELL OF A CREATING POWER. "The glory of God;" "The firmament showeth his handiwork." When this is said, there are two points involved - one implied, the other expressed. It is implied that man has the faculty of understanding these varied forms of expression. Surely a perceived object implies a perceiving subject, and a message addressed implies the existence of those by whom it can be understood. The question of the origin of things will, must, come up; quite irrespectively of method, there will be the question of cause. The old design argument is valid as ever, though it may need to be thrown into a different form. That which it requires mind to understand, must a fortiori require the equivalent of mind to bring into being. From nature's framework, power, wisdom, benevolent adaptation, order, etc., are manifest. Even the objection raised from the existence of wasted seeds, abortive organs, rudimentary and undeveloped possibilities, comes to nought when it is remembered that no atom of matter is wasted, but, if unused at one moment, is worked up again in other collocations. The advance of the most cultured thought at the present time is remarkable. The old atheism is now out of date; and so, intellectually, is even the old agnosticism. It is behind the times. The latest developments of Darwinism honour God. But while on the ground of knowledge and culture, intellect must admit the existence of "a Power above us," it is only the lowly, devout, and loyal spirit that will see God in all things, and enjoy all things in God.

V. GOD'S MESSAGE FROM THE HEAVENS IS RESPONDED TO IN HOLY SONG. Whoso forgets the title of the psalm will miss much of its beauty and glory. It is meant for the choirmaster. It is to be set to music, and uttered in song. Poetry, music, song, are the audible response of man to the inaudible voices of the day and of the night. Through the stars, God speaks to man without words; with his voice man speaks to God. Thus the universe is one grand antiphony. God's music delighting man; man's music adoring God. The heavens speak to us of God; we respond to the God of heaven. Note: Although we do not wish here to anticipate unduly the teaching of the second half of this psalm, yet we may be permitted to remark that, glorious as the music of the heavens is to those who have ears to hear, yet there is another message from the eternal throne, which alone tells us the thoughts God has towards us, and which, when understood and received, does touch our hearts and move our tongues to louder, sweeter, tenderer song than ever nature's glory could inspire. - C.









Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
I. THE ALMIGHTY POWER OF THE CREATOR AND PRESERVER OF THE UNIVERSE. The very act of creation, or the producing of any being out of nothing, gives us the most enlarged idea of Omnipotence. The Almighty not only at first created, but continually upholds, the work of His hands. His mighty energy is continually displayed in the preservation of all the creatures He hath made.

II. THE GOODNESS OF GOD. Attend particularly to man, the noblest work of God. Every faculty of our nature and every circumstance of our condition afford abundant evidence of the goodness of God. Through the faculty of reason we are blessed with moral perception: we know what is right and what is wrong. The exercise of our mental powers is accompanied with pleasure. In the scheme of redeeming grace unfolded in the Gospel we have the most illustrious display of the Divine benignity which men or angels have ever witnessed. And if we consider ourselves as creatures in a state of trial we find ourselves furnished with all the direction, assistance, and encouragement that such a state requires.

III. THE WISDOM OF GOD. Wisdom, whenever it is employed, must have happiness for its object; and when that is promoted by fit means, wisdom shows itself to the utmost advantage. Every object that contributes to our happiness is admirably contrived for that end; and every evidence of Divine goodness brings with it a concomitant proof of Divine wisdom, The body and the mind want the rest of night, and partake of this refreshment, The faculties of the soul cannot long bear intense application. Attend now to the religious and moral instructions which this subject suggests.

1. Let every revolution of day and night raise our thoughts to God. Let us attend to the daily revolution, not with the coldness of a philosophic inquirer, but with the ardent piety of devout worshippers of the God of nature and grace. But it is in the scheme of redemption, unfolded in the Gospel, that we behold the Divine perfections shining with the most resplendent lustre. The light of the sun of righteousness throws new beauty upon the creation of God.

2. Consider the experience we have had of the power, goodness, wisdom, and mercy of God in the by-past of our life. It were endless to enumerate the instances of the Divine goodness and mercy in which we have shared.

3. Every revolving year, every revolving day, tells us that the period of our probation is hastening to an end. Then watch against a worldly temper and disposition of mind. Watch against building our hopes on general truths and promises, without any evidence of our interest in them.

(James Ross, D. D.)

It sounds rather curious, does it not, to hear about one day speaking to another? Though you have listened ever so hard, yet you have not been able to hear a day speaking. That is true; and David, who wrote this Psalm, knew that also, for he says in the very next verse, "No speech, no language, their voice is not heard" — and yet, "day unto day uttereth speech"! How can theft be? Because there are more ways of speaking than one. There is the way the deaf and dumb speak — on their fingers. Their voice is not heard, yet they speak. Then a book speaks. The moment it is open, and you see the words, you understand what they mean — they speak to you. There is a tribe of savage people tar away, and what do you think is the name they give to a book? They call it "the whisperer." But it does not whisper; it has no voice nor sound, and yet it speaks. Now, how do you come to understand what people say — when they speak on their fingers? or how do you ever come to know what a book says? Isn't it by first learning how to understand? And you carry the way to understand inside yourself. So is it that we understand thousands of things round about us, and that tells us of God, The way, then, to understand what the days speak is to get much of God's spirit into our hearts. The days say —

I. THERE'S NOTHING NEW! Today is just like yesterday. Yesterday came up beautiful, became brighter, had clouds and sunshine, and then faded away. So it will be with today. Yesterday carried away on its white wings the spirits of thousands of men and women, and wee, wee children too; and the night came, and covered their bodies, and they were seen no more. So it will be today. There's nothing new. But as you listen again you hear the days say —

II. EVERYTHING IS NEW! There is nothing new about the day, but everything is new about you. The temptations you will have today won't be the same that you had yesterday; the night has come like a black wall between you and yesterday, and today you get a fair start again; and today you may do better than yesterday, or today you may do worse, but you can't blame yesterday. It is gone; this is a new day, but, take care! you will be tempted today in another way. So, you can t afford to forget Jesus: a new day means a new way, and only Jesus can guide you rightly upon it. But this also the days say —

III. TIME TELLS OF ETERNITY! As the days pass away, we pass away with them — passing away, out into eternity. When you are in a train or a tramcar you notice that all the people do not go to the journey's end. Some go only a little way, others go farther, new ones come in; perhaps you yourself get out before the whole journey is done. Anyway, they are very few who go all the way. It is just the same with our lives. Some only go a short distance through the days — God calls them away when they are young. Some go a little farther, others a little farther still; but they are very few indeed who come to be very old. Shouldn't every day, then, make us think of what is to be the end of all?

(J. Reid Howett.)

Night unto night sheweth knowledge.
God divided the sovereignty of time between day and night.

I. NIGHT TEACHES THE INDIVIDUALITY OF OUR BEING. For more than the day, it shows us what it is to be alone with ourselves and God. It drives all the faculties and sensibilities of the soul inward upon itself. The hours of darkness are fearful to those who are afraid to be with themselves and God. Jesus used to retire to desert places, that He might, during the night time be alone with the Father. I have myself spent the hours of night alone upon high mountains. A solemn experience.

II. THE RETIREMENT OF THE SOUL, IN WHICH GOD'S PRESENCE IS MOST FELT, NEED NOT TAKE US AWAY FROM THE CROWDED PATHS OF LIFE. Where we see most of man, there we can see most of God. A spiritually minded man once said that he felt God's presence with him in walking the crowded and noisy streets of New York as really as he did in the sanctuary or in the solemn hour of devotion.

III. THE NIGHT OF THE NATURAL WORLD IS THE SYMBOL OF THE DEEPER NIGHT OF SORROW AND DISAPPOINTMENT THAT SETTLES DOWN UPON THE SOUL. God surrounds us with both, that we may feel for His hand in the darkness, and find ourselves safe with His protection. We learn from the night of affliction and trouble many lessons which we could never master in the light of broad day. In the awful night hour of death we need not find ourselves alone. He has been all the way through the valley of the shadow of death, and He will not leave us to grope in vain for His hand.

(D. Marsh, D. D.)

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