Today’s reading: Psalms 17-20.
“It was necessary for our salvation that there be a knowledge revealed by God, besides philosophical science built up by human reason. Firstly, indeed, because the human being is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason. ‘The eye hath not seen, O God, besides Thee, what things Thou hast prepared for them that wait for Thee’ (Isaiah 64:4). But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation.” Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas promoted the concepts of general and special revelation, also referred to as natural and divine revelation. We grasp God by our reason with general revelation, reasoning from the created world that there must be a creator. God directly reveals himself in special revelation through his spoken word (as to the prophets), by the written word (the Bible), and by the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Psalm 19 captures both of these revelations. It opens with the declaration of God’s glory by the created heavens, proclaiming the creator’s handiwork every day, in every language, and in every part of the earth. Paul therefore insisted, in Romans 1, that all people are without excuse for denying God. The psalm then moves on to God’s divine revelation by his written word:
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. Psalm 19:7-10
The law revives. We are dead in our sin, but the law opens our eyes to our lost condition. Thus begins our journey toward salvation. The law, Paul said, is our teacher, educating us about our need for grace and forgiveness.
The statutes make the simple wise. In our natural condition we are prone to all kinds of mistakes and errors, and especially to scorn and mocking of God, but the Word takes away our foolishness.
The precepts give joy. Joy comes from loving God, and immersion in God’s word reveals him in all his glory so that we will love him.
The commands give light. God’s word is the light on our path, showing us where to go and what dangers to avoid.
The fear of the LORD is pure and everlasting. The Bible teaches us to live in awe and respect of God who reigns over all and will judge each man. Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, leading to submission to God, repentance, obedience, and eternal life.
The ordinances are sure and righteous. The sum of God’s word, revealed in the Old and New Testaments, enables us to take on the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ, and shows us how no man can be righteous by his own effort.
Psalm 19 magnifies the power of both general and special revelation. Don’t neglect God’s word, and don’t fail to glorify God as you look at his wonderful creation.
Image by Food Thinkers on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0.