The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
yet their voice 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 forth 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 hid from its heat.
God made the skies
With voices clear,
And gave you eyes
So you can hear.
My goal this morning and this evening is to connect you with the ministry of God through the sky and through the Scripture. Perhaps you can remember the content of Psalm 19 that way: verses 1–6 describe the ministry of God through the sky; and verses 7–11 describe the ministry of God through the Scriptures.
An Often Neglected Ministry of God to Us
As I've tried to sense God's leading for this morning's and this evening's messages, I believe what he wants me to do is put you in touch with one of his ministries to you that is often neglected, especially by urban, fast-paced, productive, efficient, rational, scientific people like you and me. And yet this neglected ministry of the Lord is one that God means for you to be helped by every day. There is not a day that goes by, nor is there a place in the world, where God does not extend this ministry for the healing and hope and happiness and humility of those who will receive it. I'm speaking of the ministry of the Lord through what he has created, through the world of nature, especially what we see when we look up into the skies during the day and during the night.
So let's go to Psalm 19:1–6 and let God tell us the content of his ministry to us through the skies—what he is saying and showing to us. And then tonight we will ask: How does God, through the skies, minister healing, and hope, and happiness, and humility in our lives? And if there is time tonight, we will go on to look at God's ministry to us in the Scripture as it is described in verses 7 and 8. And we will see how the two ministries are connected—through the skies and through the Scriptures. [No manuscript is available of this evening message.]
What We See When We Look Up
Psalm 19:1, "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament declares his handiwork." The focus of these six verses is on what we see when we look up—the heavens, the skies, the firmament (an old word for the arched dome of blue sky that seems to sit on the circle of the earth). Of course God made more than what we see when we look up. And David doesn't mean to say that the skies speak of God but the earth doesn't or that the ocean or the lakes and trees and birds and animals and flowers and mountains don't. Everything that God has made speaks. And therefore everything that God has made ministers—for those who will listen. But here the focus is on the heavens, the skies, what we see when we look up. That's the first observation.
The second thing to see is that these skies "tell"—they "proclaim." Verse 2: they "pour forth speech" (it's a word for a gushing or spewing out); they make known knowledge. Fix this truth in your minds: God speaks through what he has made, and means for you to hear what he has to say. And since he never speaks in vain, he means for what he has to say to minister to you—to meet some need that you have.
First, then, the focus is on what we see when we look up, the skies. Second, the sky gushes forth with speech. God is talking to the world all day and all night, every day and every night, everywhere in the world. Now, third, the message of God through the skies reaches the mind and the heart without the medium of ordinary words or speech. This is hard to explain. David struggles to say it. Notice the paradox between verses 2 and 3. Verse 2: "Day to day pours forth speech . . . " Verse 3: "There is no speech . . . " (It's the same Hebrew word for "speech" in both places.)
In other words, God means for there to be communication from his mind and heart to our mind and heart, but the medium of communication—the thing that carries the reality from his heart to my heart—is not written words; it's not spoken words. Instead it's light and color and contrast and shape and proportion and design and motion and magnitude, etc. So verse 3 says, "There is no speech, nor are there words; their voice is not heard." Yet, verse 4 goes back and says the same thing as verse 2 again, "Yet their line [or sound or voice] goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." Wordless words, speechless speech, voiceless voice. The point is clear: God is pouring forth communication to us through the sky; he is telling and proclaiming and speaking and writing lines and declaring knowledge to everyone who will stop and listen.
A Message About God
And the fourth thing to see is that the message of the sky is about God. The ministry of the sky is a ministry of communication about God. Day and night everywhere in the world God is speaking to all people about himself. Not about nature—we are not New Age pantheists. God is not nature. Nature is not God. "In the beginning God CREATED the heavens and the earth." They were not until he said they should be. What God is speaking about in the sky is beyond the sky, namely, himself. Verse 1: "The heavens are telling the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims the works of his hand."
Sensing Two Things Immediately
It might be helpful to compare this wordless communication to what happens when we see a painting. Two things come home to our minds immediately when someone shows us a painting. What I mean by immediately is that these two things come home to our minds without the medium of words. In fact there doesn't even seem to be any extended sequence of thought or logic. Instead these two things are intuitive and immediate. They happen almost simultaneously.
- The first is that we sense immediately that this is a painting. It is not alive. It is not a real flower or a real person or a real landscape. It's a portrait. It's a painting. It is the work of a human hand. We don't have to think about it, or reason it out. There is a kind of speech, as the psalm says, but there are no words. We just see it and know it: someone made this.
- The second thing we sense immediately is some assessment of the painting: it is beautiful or ugly or lewd or frightening or just blah. We might think about this later and change our mind. But there is an immediate communication to our hearts without words or extended reasonings: this is glorious or not.
This Was Made; This Was Created
Now that seems to be what David means when he describes the skies as speaking without speech about the work of God's hand and about the glory of God's person. God means for these two things to hit home to our hearts without any words or any extended reasonings: First, he shows us the sky, the sun and moon and stars and clouds and sunrises and sunsets and immediately—with no words—we know this was made; this was created; this was designed. And all the evolutionary speculation about the origin of the universe cannot shake loose that profound, immediate, plain perception of the mind and the heart: this is the work of a designer, a painter, a creator. As Joseph Addison wrote in his hymn,
[They] utter forth a glorious voice,
For ever singing as they shine,
"The hand that made us is divine."
(The Spacious Firmament on High)
The Glory of God
And the second thing that we sense immediately when we look at the heavens is glory. There were mornings during our study leave when I would stop in the woods on my way from the cottage to the little trailer where I worked, and the air would be lucid and cool, and the morning sun would be spangled in the ripples of the lake down the hill through the pine trees, and the leaves of the sweet-gum and the oak and the maple and the hickory trees would be all ablaze with gold and green, and up through the branches I would see the sky bright and clear and blue. And all I could do was look up and feel, "Glory, glory, glory!" And I knew, immediately, without words and without any extended reasonings: this is the way God is. These are but the outskirts of his ways and the beams of his beauty.
The glory of God is not a reality that can be transferred merely by words. There is an immediacy in this discovery—a spiritual perception happens, a holy taste is born, a God-given revelation hits home. And no flood of words, no amount of reasonings, no mere arguments could ever impart what the heart sees when it sees the glory of God. It can come through the skies or it can come through the Scriptures (see also 2 Corinthians 4:4–6) or it can come through the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit (John 2:11; Matthew 5:16). But it is always more than the fruit of the Spirit, more than the Scriptures, more than the skies. These are the portrait not the Reality. These are the handiwork, not the Artist.
One more observation—We have seen first that the focus here is on the skies. Second we have seen that the skies pour forth speech every day, every night, everywhere in the world. Third, we have seen that this communication is without words. It is more immediate; it comes home to the mind and heart with direct force and certainty. And fourth we have seen that the message of the skies is the glory of God. God is beautiful in his perfections, God is awesome in his power, God is beyond comprehension in his wisdom and knowledge.
The Glory of God Is a Happy Thing
But the fifth point is that the glory of God is a happy thing. Is this not the point of verses 5 and 6? David looks up into the sky on a beautiful clear-blue early morning from Mount Zion and hears speech pouring forth about the glory of God. And then he fixes his heart's attention on one theme in that symphony of glory and watches the sun rise out of the east over the Jordan valley.
And the Spirit of God comes upon David to help him communicate what the glory of God is really like and he says in verse 5, "It comes forth like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and like a strong man runs his course with joy. It's rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them; and there is nothing hid from its heat."
Like a Bridegroom Leaving His Chamber
Do you see what God wants you to see here—and when you leave this service today? He wants you to see and to feel that when the sun pours forth speech about the glory of God, the message is that the glory of God is an overwhelmingly happy thing. Why else would he say it's like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber? The point here is not merely that the bridegroom is decked out in the finest clothes and surrounded by his noble groomsmen. The point is that this is the happiest day of his life. This is the fulfillment of dreams. This is the beginning of a whole new kind of joy. That's what the glory of God is like. That's the message when the sun rises in lavish red and gold and lavender in the eastern sky. God's glory is a happy thing—like the happiness of a bridegroom on his wedding day.
Like a Strong Man Running His Race with joy
This is even more explicit in the other picture David uses at the end of verse 5. When the sun rises and pours forth speech about the glory of God it is like a strong man that runs his race with joy. How can we not think of Eric Liddell in that great scene from Chariots of Fire, as he takes that last turn in the race for the glory of God and his arms drive like living pistons and his head goes back in that utterly unorthodox position and every muscle fiber in his body does just what it was made to do and the smile breaks out across his face and everything in Eric Liddell cries Glory! Glory! Glory!
That's what the glory of God is like—it's like the happiest day of your life; it's like every muscle and every tendon and every ligament and every organ and all your mind and your emotions working just the way they were created to work on the day of triumph. The glory of God is the happiest reality in the world.
Humility, Hope, Healing, and Happiness
That is the content of the ministry of God through the sky. I mentioned at the beginning that through the sky God ministers humility and hope and healing and happiness. I believe that there is healing here and immense blessings that many of us are neglecting.
This morning the closing issue is whether you have ever seen the glory of God in the sky or in the Scripture or in the face of Jesus dying for sinners and rising again—or anywhere. Some have not. For others it's been a long time. I want to pray for us that God would open the eyes of our hearts, so that when you leave this morning and look up, you will see like you have never seen before.