God Speak’s and Formation Happens
The older I get the sweeter God’s voice becomes. Of course, it is profoundly challenging these days to hear Him with all the clamor and clanging for our attention. The digital world experts tell us that during one twenty-four-hour period, around the world, we text 188 billion times. We email 144 billion times. We Google 4.7 billion times. We download something of interest to us 30 million times. We Skype 2 billion minutes. We write 2.1 million blogs. We Tweet 400 million times. I assume these numbers are conservative. There is a lot of noise out there.
People seem more inclined to being distracted, alone and restless these days. In stark contrast stands Psalm 19, inviting us and wooing us to consider and pray this eloquent Psalm of David. Because of this Psalm’s brevity, I offer it below.
To The Choirmaster. A Psalm Of David.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 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,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the LORD is clean,
the rules of the LORD are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Right or wrong, C.S. Lewis thought Psalm 19 was the greatest Psalm in the Psalter. In this chapter’s reflection, I am taking an ancient path that others have long taken before me. Like those early church fathers, I hear God speaking through three distinctive voices in this majestic prayer. Eusebius of Caesarea, John Chrysostom, Jerome, and Theodoret of Cyrus, all believed that this Psalm revealed a mature King David reflecting on these three distinctive voices. Let me name them.
First, God speaks through creation (19:1-6). We often refer to this speaking as General Revelation. God discloses, reveals, and unveils His nature through what He has created. This first voice is available to everyone. David says God’s voice “declares,” “proclaims,” “pours out,” “reveals,” and “goes out.” Of course, this specific voice is rather limited. It does not contain the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, Paul, in his own reflection on God’s articulate voice makes this vivid declaration: “For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Paul even quotes Psalm 19:4 in Romans 10:18, as a reminder that God is a speaking God.
Athanasius (298-373 AD), one of my heroes, a renown African preacher, pastor and theologian, said that all of creation points to God. God, the all-powerful one, in a paradoxical and ironic way, reveals Himself through wordless speech in what He has made. Jesus said it this way, “Look at the birds…Consider the lilies…” (Matthew 6:26 & 28). This articulate speech of God in and through His creation is one of the reasons why I like to walk to the Kickapoo. I see God, hear God in the details of His creation, even though marred by sin.
Second, God speaks through Scripture (19:7-11). Bible students call this Special Revelation. From my humble vantage point, this Divine speaking is far clearer than General Revelation. The Word is unlimited. God’s character and our salvation are spoken there and revealed there in such powerful and perfect ways. David tucks six synonyms for Hebrew Scripture into this beautiful Psalm. He speaks of the law, the testimony, the precepts, the commandment, the fear, and the rules of the LORD. From David’s view, he sees the Word of God as overflowing with just-right instruction, truth-telling, preciseness, authority, holiness and flawless judgment. God’s speech through His Word is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, righteous, and desirable. Magnificent!
Third, God speaks through His people (19:12-14). I think of this as Personal Revelation. Notice that David inserts very personal pronouns — “I,” “me,” and “my.” David is a praying sinner who has listened over a long period of time to His loving Rock and Redeemer, attentive to God’s voice in creation and Scripture.
David concludes this Psalm by asking for three petitions. He asks God to reveal sin (19:12). He asks God to remove that sin (19:13). He asks God to rescue him from that sin (19:14). I have discovered in my long journey that it is ever-wise to listen to people who listen to God. David is one of those people. God-saturated meditation is David’s application. He concludes his prayer by asking that his soul’s murmuring, his inner life’s attentiveness, his talking to himself about God, that all of it would be pleasing to the One who speaks through creation, Scripture, and people.
Psalm 19 anticipates a fourth voice. That voice is the Christ’s. Hebrews 1:1-2 gives a resounding reminder of God’s ultimate voice found in Jesus. “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.”
Because I believe that God speaks, I also believe that my spiritual formation happens because of His eloquent voice. His voice carries throughout the gymnasium. It is why I often ask myself, as a part of my own soul’s examination, if God only spoke in a whisper, would I hear Him today? There is a lot of noise out there. Do I hear the music of His wonderful melody?