Our young people today long for authenticity. If you are around them much you hear them voice, they want things to be real. When I pastored in Williamsburg, we began a time-release program for high school students and it was named, “Get Real.” It was a time for real life people to share how they lived out a real commitment to Christ in the real world.
I would categorize the Psalms as real. They are written by real people in real-life situations and the writers do not mince words-they tell it like it is. Another word I would use to describe the Psalms is raw or uncut. No one went back over the Psalms and said “Oh, this is not appropriate for conversation with God” or “This is not suitable for the Bible.” It’s in there. First passed by oral tradition and now in our printed text. It is God’s Word.
We are going to look at five different Psalms over the next five weeks. These Psalms are representative of the three major categories that Walter Brueggemann has identified in his study of the Psalms. These categories are Orientation, Disorientation, and New Orientation. These categories are pretty much what they sound like. In brief, Orientation is when one is oriented, stable, sure of one’s faith. Disorientation is when our equilibrium is off; things don’t go the way we think they should go. And a New Orientation follows times of Disorientation. We again become sure of things.
There are different types of Orientation Psalms: Songs of Creation, Songs of Torah (Torah is the first five books of the OT), Wisdom Psalms, Songs of Retribution, and Occasions of Well-being. We will look at one Psalm of Orientation and I chose Psalm 19, because it is a combination: verses 1-6 are a Song of Creation and verses 7-11 (or 14) are a Song of Torah.
Being an Orientation Psalm, throughout this Psalm there is an expression of confidence; faith issues are settled. God is reliable and trustworthy. The community has decided to trust this God. As in the sermon title, everything is well-ordered. There is no threat, no trouble, no surprises. Everything is as God intended.
This is first demonstrated in creation. Think of Genesis 1, when God created the world: he created and it was good; the next day, he created and it was good. After creation, everything was just as God intended. Everything was perfect and in harmony. The psalmist sees creation as still perfect. Creation is so wondrous that even though it cannot speak, it’s mere existence and beauty proclaims the glory of its Creator. And the psalmist sees reliability demonstrated in nature, specifically in the sun. Everyday the sun bursts forth, as if it was hidden in a tent overnight. The sun comes forth in the morning and it runs its course, from one end of the heavens, it makes its circuit to the other.
This is a certainty. We can be sure that each day the sun will appear. Each morning it will become daylight. Each evening it will become night and that means it will become dark; the sun will disappear for a number of hours, but only to return when it is the next day. Day in and day out, we can be sure that this will happen.
The next thing that brings certainty is Torah, God’s Word. Six different words are used for God’s Word in this Psalm: law, statutes, precepts, commands, fear, and ordinances. And in every sense God’s Word is good. Six different adjectives describe God’s Word: perfect, trustworthy, right, radiant, pure, sure. And each has a role in our lives:
Reviving the soul (life)
Making wise the simple
Giving joy to the heart
Giving light to the eyes
The last, ‘altogether righteous’ sums up all the rest. And the psalmist adds weight by likening its worth and desirability to fine gold and sweet honey – treasures for which humans strive. None is more precious than Torah, God’s Word.
Macro to micro
Two of the first theological terms I learned in seminary were General revelation and Special revelation. Creation is general revelation. It is the glory of God revealed in the universe. But Torah, the Word of God, draws close. It is special revelation. Even the word for God is different in the Hebrew: verse 2 uses a general word and verses 7-9 & 14 use the word Yahweh, translated Lord in the NIV. God as Lord is a more intimate name. It reveals God as the covenantal God (the God who is in relationship with his people), the God of redemption (the God who is active in the lives of his people; the God who saves).
The Psalmist Response: Prayer of Forgiveness
After looking at the vastness of creation, Torah says that there is place for humankind amidst this great universal scheme of things.
The last three verses are the psalmist response. As God draws near and is revealed as Lord, the God who saves, the psalmist response is a prayer of forgiveness.
Verse 12: Only God can discern our errors. “Forgive my hidden faults” – the faults or sins that we do and we are not even aware of. These God is aware of. And the psalmist asks forgiveness for those things he is not even aware.
Verse 13: Moves to the sins he is aware of, willful sins. This is doing things that he knows he should not do. He prays, “may they not rule over me.”
Verse 14: Goes on to ask God to allow not only the words spoken, but things unspoken, his thoughts, be pleasing in the sight of God.
The Heat of the Sun/Torah
One closing story, to tie the two parts of this Psalm together. At the first of Summer, really in the Spring, when it first warms up. The air may still be cool, but the sun comes out, shining brightly. I love to be out in the sun and just feel the heat of the sun. It’s like my body just soaks it up; like somehow it penetrates my whole being. It’s like it blankets my entire body. And it feels wonderful. That’s one of my favorite things to experience at the first of summer.
Now, the sun hasn’t felt that pleasant to me in the past weeks, when we have had upper 80s temperatures with a heat index in the 100s. Precautionary statements are put out warning people of heat stroke. Telling us to drink lots of liquids and do our more active activities in the early or late part of the day. And this psalmist would have known the sun of the desert.
Compare this with Torah, the Word of God. The Word of God is a beautiful gift, given to us to reveal God, given to us to show us God’s will, to guide us to what is right. But God’s Word penetrates the soul. God’s Word can reveal our hidden sins. It is a "double-edge sword." As extreme heat can purify silver, so the Word of God will purify our lives.
As we prepare for Communion, a regular part of our Communion liturgy is the Confession and Pardon. This is according to Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 11.27-32, specifically verse 28 reads:
"A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup."
We will pause for an extended time following the general prayer of confession, so that you may silently pray a more specific prayer of confession. You may include in that prayer words from the final three verses of Psalm 19.