Psalm 19 – The Heavens Are Telling the Glory of God


Psalm 19


Both creation and God’s law make God known to the world, and this knowledge of God turns the psalmist to self-examination and prayer. Because of its praise of the law, Psalm 19 (along with 1 and 119) has been called a Torah psalm.


The opening stanza of the psalm (vv. 1-6) announces that the heavens themselves proclaim the work and glory of God. There are no words, of course, no speech and no voice (v. 3), but paradoxically the wonders of creation function as voice and words (v. 4) to reveal God to “the end of the world.” The sun is seen as the most important example of God’s creative work because of how it stays reliably in its course and of the power and energy of its heat. In the ancient world, because of these qualities, the sun was thought to be a god, but for Israel the sun instead points to the God, the Lord of Israel.

In part two (vv. 7-10), the psalm praises the perfection, truth, and clarity of God’s law or instruction–the primary way in which God makes God’s self and God’s ways known. In this psalm, both creation and Torah point to God, which is what unites these two things that may seem totally different. Creation has no voice, so its beauty and regularity imply the Creator more than they name it; but the law is clear and enlightens the eyes.

Now that the law is clear, the psalmist realizes that it reveals even his or her hidden thoughts. The psalmist, God’s servant, prays for forgiveness and protection from further transgression (vv. 11-13).

The psalm closes with the prayer that the words of the psalmist may be acceptable to God (v. 14), adding his or her humble speech to the majestic speech that was there and not there in God’s glorious creation (thus forming an inclusio that ties the psalm together). This verse continues to serve as an appropriate prayer for preachers and others as they seek to speak and teach in God’s name.