The Revelation of God in Creation and His Law
The Revelation of God in Creation and His Law
Psalm 19. This is a Psalm of David in which he reflects on two revelations of God: (1) the general revelation of God in creation, and (2) the special revelation of God through His Word, specifically to Israel. Prophetically, this Psalm describes the reflection of the faithful remnant on the two-fold testimony of God.
To the chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
1 The heavens declare the glory of GOD; and the expanse sheweth the work of his hands.
2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
3 There is no speech and there are no words, yet their voice is heard.
4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their language to the extremity of the world. In them hath he set a tent for the sun,
5 And he is as a bridegroom going forth from his chamber; he rejoiceth as a strong man to run the race.
6 His going forth is from the end of the heavens, and his circuit unto the ends of it; and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
vv.1-6 The General Revelation of God in Creation. The first half of the Psalm deals with general revelation of God in creation. Specifically here we have what can be known about God from looking up into the heavens; i.e. the sky above us. In v.1, we find that “the heavens declare the glory of God”. We may ask, what glory of God is revealed? It is His creatorial glory. The “heavens” would include the planets, stars, galaxies, etc. (the “first” heaven, read more…). The “firmament” or “expanse” would be the sky between the surface of the earth and the clouds; i.e. where the birds fly. The earth has been corrupted through man’s sin, but the heavens are largely untouched, and bear a clearer testimony in some ways to the glory of God. When we look above us with honest reflection, we are amazed by the evident power and skill of the Creator. In vv.2-4, the universal direction and extent of the testimony of creation is expounded. Day after day, and night after night (v.2), across all languages (v.3), from pole to pole, to the farthest reaches of the earth, the heavens speak to man of the glory of God as Creator!
In vv.4-6, the extent of the witness of creation is compared to the reach of the sun itself, which compasses the entire globe each day in a “circuit”. Just as there is “nothing hid from the heat” of the sun, so no intelligent creature on earth is without the witness of creation. Although the witness of creation is limited as far as the revelation it brings, it is enough, says the apostle Paul, to make all men responsible to glory God as Creator; “Because what is known of God is manifest among them, for God has manifested it to them, for from the world’s creation the invisible things of him are perceived, being apprehended by the mind through the things that are made, both his eternal power and divinity, so as to render them inexcusable” (Rom. 1:19-20). However, while creation made man responsible to worship God, man proved his depraved condition by ignoring the witness of God in creation, and perverting God’s glory by turning to idolatry (read Rom. 1). Thankfully, God gave another revelation, that can enlighten the eyes of man, and which God is pleased to use to quicken the soul, through the power of His Spirit (vv.7-14)!
Can people be quickened without the written Word of God? There is some disagreement among Bible students as to the "water" of the Word (John 3:5) that is required for new birth. Clearly, the word of God is what the Spirit normally uses in the act of new birth (James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23). But is it restricted to the written Word? That would mean that all those without access to the written Word are never quickened. I think we can set this aside easily by looking at the Patriarchs, who never had the written Word, and yet many of them were certainly born again. What did they have? There was no written Word until Moses. The Patriarchs had the Word passed down orally, and they had various appearances of God in dreams, visions (Job 33:15-29), or pre-incarnate appearances (theophanies).
What about the limited, general revelation of God in creation? Psalm 19:3-4 says that God's voice in creation has gone over the whole world; "There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world." In Romans 1 we read that the creation demonstrates God's "power and divinity". In Acts 14:17 we find that creation also demonstrates the goodness of God. In Psalm 147:5 it demonstrates God’s wisdom; that He is “infinite in understanding”. Is the witness of creation something that the Spirit has used in the past to quicken someone without access to the oral or written Word? We are not told explicitly, and we should not add to the Word of God. Certainly, a strong connection is made in Psalm 19 between the witness of creation and "the Law of the Lord". However, Psalm 19 also draws a strong contrast between the two, highlighting that while the glory of God is made known universally through creation, it is by the Law of the Lord that men's eyes are enlightened. It is clear from Romans 1 that creation is enough to make the heathen responsible to believe God, but we have no examples of individuals who believed on the basis of creation alone. In fact, the point in Romans 1 is that, though creation makes even the heathen responsible, in general that witness is rejected. Perhaps we cannot know for sure this side of heaven.1 In Revelation 14:6 we get an indication that God will use creation in some way to cause men to receive the "everlasting gospel" in the Great Tribulation. Perhaps the witness of creation is instrumental in redeeming some from "every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5:9), although no doubt the gospel of the kingdom (a special revelation) will be carried to every nation.
In either case, I think it is important to see that a person cannot be "saved" in the full sense of salvation through creation alone, without knowing Jesus, and the Father, and without being sealed by the Spirit. Furthermore, there is nothing good in the fallen human nature that can be improved. Quickening is absolutely required for there to be any movement in the soul toward God, and the Christian gospel must be believed for a person to have eternal life.2
7 The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of Jehovah are truth, they are righteous altogether:
10 They are more precious than gold, yea, than much fine gold; and sweeter than honey and the dropping of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is thy servant enlightened; in keeping them there is great reward.
vv.7-11 The Special Revelation of God’s Word. In contrast with creation, the “law of Jehovah” is a special revelation, not given to all mankind. It was specially given to Israel. The Word of God reveals much about God than creation does. Notice that it is God (vv.1-6) in reference to creation, but Jehovah (vv.7-14) in reference to the Law. In vv.7-9 we have the Old Testament referred to under various names. The “law of Jehovah” is perfect or complete. The “testimony of Jehovah” is sure, or trustworthy, making it a sure guide to the simple or uninstructed. The “precepts (principles) of Jehovah” are right, bringing joy to the heart of those who love righteousness. The “commandment of Jehovah” is morally pure, enlightening the eyes or granting moral discernment to those who read it. The “fear of Jehovah”, the reverence produced in His saints, is clean or holy, and unchanging. The “judgments of Jehovah”, the moral values and distinctions of scripture, are truth, and righteous altogether. These things are especially important for the faithful remnant in prophecy. As they look around and see God’s judgment falling on the wicked, including their own countrymen, they will see in it a consistency with the Word of God; i.e. that His actions are morally just. This was the verse that Abraham Lincoln quoted in his second inaugural address in which he confessed that the Civil War in the United States was the righteous judgment of God on America for her embracing one of the cruelest forms of slavery. Like Lincoln, the faithful in any age must recognize the righteousness of God in all His dealings, and this is plainly set forth in the Word, especially in the Old Testament. In v.10 we have the preciousness of the Word of God; more precious than “much fine gold”, and sweeter than “honey” dripping from the honeycomb. The gold speaks of its shear objective value, the honey speaks of its subjective value to the believer. In v.11, we have the positive benefit of the scriptures to the believers; “by them is thy servant enlightened; in keeping them there is great reward”.
12 Who understandeth his errors? Purify me from secret faults.
13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be perfect, and I shall be innocent from great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Jehovah, my rock, and my redeemer.
vv.12-14 The Response of the Faithful to God’s Revelation. In vv.12-13 we find that the law of Jehovah aids the saint in self-judgment. There is progression here: “errors”, “secret faults”, “presumptuous sins”, and “great transgression”. Errors and secret faults are sins we commit without even realizing in. The Psalmist asks to be cleansed of those things. But then, “presumptuous sins” are when we know something is wrong but we do it anyways; i.e. open disregard for God’s claims. If we do that, we are in danger of becoming enslaved to sin; “let them not have dominion over me”. The “great transgression” is the end of a path of self-will. It is to formally take sides against God. Prophetically, the remnant will pray this prayer that they might be preserved from the great transgression of apostatizing and taking the mark of the beast, which their brethren, the apostate nation, will do at the direction of Antichrist. The closing verse of the Psalm express the desire of the faithful that their words and thoughts would be acceptable to the Lord; “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Jehovah, my rock, and my redeemer.” This is a fine prayer for the saints of all ages to pray!
- Personally, I tend toward thinking that the Spirit has quickened people who never had access to the written word, but only had either the witness of creation or else dreams from God. This is based in part on Psalm 19, and also on general principles concerning the character of God. For example, Paul quoted Psa. 19 in Romans 10:18 to show God’s desire for all men to receive a testimony of Himself, showing that God's heart is no less toward the Gentiles as the Jews. Would God give His testimony to every nation, and then not use it for the blessing of at least some? We have also the statement of Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10:35), showing that God is no respecter of persons.
- It is good to see the hand of God in creation, but this will never save the soul; God's power unto salvation is not in the message of creation, but in the word of the Gospel. Many vainly imagine that the recognition of God in His creation, in the beauties of nature, in the glories of the heavens, and in other works of His hands, is sufficient to secure a passport to heaven; but unless they believe in the Gospel of God concerning His Son, they can never have the blessing of God. - William C. Reid. Divine Power in Romans 1. An Outline of Sound Words Magazine.