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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Supreme Architect's Self-Portrait
Text:Psalms 19 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-01-25
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Romans 1:18-23

Text: Psalm 19

 

  1. Psalm 97: 1, 3, 4

  2. Psalm 53: 1, 2, 5

  3. Psalm 19:1-3

  4. Hymn 80:1-6

  5. Psalm 19:4-6

 

THE SUPREME ARCHITECT’S SELF-PORTRAIT

  1. His Glorious Revelation

  2. HIs Guiding Revelation

  3. Our Godly Response

 

Words to Listen For: desert, diamond, donkey, drink, doctor

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. What is the problem of evil?  The problem of beauty?

  2. Why does David focus on the sky?

  3. What is the description of what the law does for us? (Hint: each aspect adds a step)

  4. How is the law like a mirror?

  5. How do we avoid shipwrecking our faith?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation,

“The heavens declare the glory of God”

Hasn’t this been so gloriously true recently?  Usually I write sermons in my study, surrounded by books, typing on my computer, but this week, perhaps slightly motivated by the suggestion to stay indoors, I just had to go outside to work.  I sat in my backyard, gazing upon a perfectly blue sky, not a cloud in it, basking in the sunshine.  My computer traded in for a pen and paper, the view through my window traded in for the real thing.  The bigger view.  The smells and the sounds of creation.

The heavens truly declare the glory of God!

And it seems our God constantly gives us what we need, doesn’t He?  When He allows a virus to break out, showing His power over this world that claims to be so independent and self-reliant...when His power is displayed, His love comes too.

When we experience the problem of evil, we are forced to encounter the problem of beauty.  Have you heard of these?

The problem of evil states: How can there be a good God if evil things happen?  A legitimate question.  A legitimate question...but one with an answer.

“Why doesn’t God do something about the evil?”

    HE DID, and HE IS!

He DID in Christ, and He IS through His Spirit, His church, and His plan to return.

When the problem of evil rears its ugly head, you can be sure that the problem of beauty isn’t far behind.  The problem of beauty is the exact opposite of the problem of evil.  “If there is no God, no Creator, what is the point of beauty in the world?”

Evolutionarily, there is no point!  Take something as basic as colour.  The blue of the sky.  Not exactly turquoise, not royal blue, but azure.   Why?  What reason is there behind the azure sky turning to scarlets and magentas, oranges and yellows, before fading to velvety black?

Science knows THAT it happens…but WHY does it happen like this?  In this way?  That is a question best answered by theology.

Why did God make the sky so alive with colour?  The sun-sets and rises that burst with beauty?

It is to reveal Himself to His creation, through His creation.  We could say that this world is:

THE SUPREME ARCHITECT’S SELF-PORTRAIT

He reveals Himself through 1) His Glorious Revelation - the world

2) His Guiding Revelation -His Word,

And we are to respond with a 3) Godly response of humble worship

 

His Glorious Revelation

When we search for God, we start by looking up.  And this is exactly what our psalm does.  It begins with our eyes heavenwards

 

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.

God has made creation so that human beings would recognize Him as God.  From the smallest atomic particle seen under a microscope, to the largest galaxies, each and every part of God’s creation screams out that He exists.

So, with all of creation before him, why did David choose to focus on the skies?  Is is because the skies are the best part of God’s creation?  The pinnacle?

No, this could not be, for humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation.  The creation of humans was called “very good!”  Human beings were given dominion of all the earth.  So the sky is not the pinnacle of God’s creation.

But why not the rocks, the trees, the birds?  Why did the psalmist focus on the sky?

Well, like we already heard, it is natural to look up.  When we think of God, we start by looking UP.  We look up because God is above us.  Physically, spiritually, the heavenly realms are above us...after all Jesus ASCENDED into Heaven.  He was taken up from them into the sky and kept going until a cloud obscured Him from their sight.

Looking up also has the idea of our humility and insignificance in the grand scheme.  We bow down before God so that we look up to Him.  He is so far above us in His power, His might, His grandeur and His glory.  It is natural to look up.

But there is another reason that David chose to start with the heavens.

You see...because of God’s creativity, this world is filled with so many different biomes.  There is the rainforest, the Savanna, Tundra, desert, grasslands, plains, mountains...each and every one of these ecosystems declares the glory of God.  But they do so in a different way.  If David would proclaim the majesty and might of God by looking out to the mountains, here in BC, we would say “Amen!”  Mount Baker rising in the distance, or the Golden Ears...we can see that.

But in Winnipeg, it is rather harder to say “Amen” because in the plains, there are no mountains on the horizon.

But the SKIES.  Whether you are in BC or Manitoba, or Ancient Israel, the skies remain constant.  No matter the ecosystem, the skies shout out God’s glory.  They are a constant reminder to mankind of God’s glory and His might.  They are constant, they are visible, they are powerful, and they are beautiful!  And this is how our faithful, powerful, beautiful God reveals Himself to us!

The rhymed version of this psalm that we sang earlier in the service puts it well

The spacious heavens declare

    God’s glory everywhere

The skies proclaim His might

It is God’s glory and God’s might that is made so beautifully visible to us here below.  This is what our reading from Romans said as well:

Romans 1:20 - For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world.

His invisible attributes are revealed in His visible creation, His eternal power is clearly perceived - The skies proclaim His might

His divine nature is clearly perceived -  God’s glory everywhere

 

It was a mighty God who created all of this!  He is the one who laid the foundations of the earth.  He is the one who calls out the sun each morning to go across the sky.  This is CLEARLY PERCEIVED by all those who dwell on the earth under the sky.

This was so easily understood by David in Ancient Israel...how much more for us than him?  Because of the work of astronauts and astronomers, we have seen the surface of other planets, we have seen black holes and asteroids.  We have seen solar systems and galaxies.  Our night sky is much much fuller than the psalmist’s!

In the 1800s, astronomer Sir William Herschel, is quoted as having said, “the un-devout astronomer must be mad!"  It is IMPOSSIBLE to look up at the sky and not recognize our mighty and glorious God!  But this knowledge is not complete.

A God who is mighty and glorious could really look like anything.

Zeus of Greek Mythology is mighty and glorious...but he is not the true God.

Allah, the god of the Muslims is mighty and glorious...but he is cruel and unpredictable.  He is not the true God.

And this is shown in the wording of our Psalm.  Did you notice that there are two different names for the Creator used in this psalm?  We do not have to go into the Hebrew to see this.

Look at verse 1 - the heavens declare the glory of GOD.  God.  The divine one.  The general word for God.  Zeus is a god.  Allah is a god.

But then, when we look at verses 7-14, notice that LORD is used.  LORD in all capitals.  This is Yahweh.  The one true God.  The one true creator.

And this is a wonderful and poetic way for the psalmist to explain that we cannot know everything about Yahweh through creation.  We see His glory, we see His might...but does that tell us anything about His character?  Does it tell us about His love?  His mercy? His grace?  His holiness?

No.  We have to look deeper for that.  We started by looking up.  Now we have to look down.  To look down at the Scriptures.  His guiding revelation.  Our second point.

When one looks at Psalm 19, there seems to be something jarring.  There doesn’t seem to be any transition from verse 6 to verse 7.  Verse 6 is talking in a wonderful poetic way about the sun...and then suddenly we read: 

The law of the LORD is perfect

What is going on here?

The reason that we seem to think that this jarring is because so often we see God’s creation and God’s Word as two very distinct, very separate things.  One is words, the other works.  But there is a common theme in this psalm: God’s self-revelation.  God reveals Himself in two different ways, and the works flow into the Word.

They have the same source, and they tell the same truth.

God has revealed Himself to be GOD in His creation

God has revealed Himself to be YAHWEH in His Word

The two couldn’t be closer together - God’s works and God’s Word.

You may have noticed that so far, I have avoided referring to this second half of the psalm as “law.”  And there is a reason to that.  When the word “law” is said, our mind immediately jumps to the 10 commandments.  The 10 words of the covenant.  And yes, the 10 commandments are the law.  Absolutely.  But the word “law” means far more than just the 10 commandments.

The word “Torah” is a fuller word than just law.  It means law, instruction, the path that should be travelled on.

And in our psalm, there are 6 distinct words used for this concept.

  • Law

  • Testimony

  • Precepts

  • Commandment

  • Fear

  • Rules

And we should not view these as 6 different things the psalmist is talking about, but rather 6 aspects.  Six facets of the one diamond that is God’s guiding revelation.  And before we get into everything, I know that “fear” doesn’t really fit with the others.  Strictly speaking, fear is not a synonym like the others.  But we will get there.

The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul

Yahweh’s law is perfect.  What exactly does this mean?  The law of the LORD is perfect...this has the idea of completeness.  It is complete, it is full, it is whole.  No holes, no flaws.

The law of the LORD does not only guide governments for how they should rule.  It does not only include general precepts for living your life, but it guides you along the way.  It gives you EVERYTHING that you need!  The law of Yahweh is God’s revelation about Himself and everything else.

It is perfect, and it revives the soul.  Or, as other translations have it, God’s law CONVERTS the soul.

It revives, refreshes, and nourishes the soul.  And it does so in the ultimate way - conversion!  The Law of God has the power to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, and raise the spiritually dead.  God’s law can transfer us from death to life!

Some of you may wonder at this.  Is this really appropriate to say?  Jesus Christ is the only one who can raise the dead and open the eyes of the blind.  It is the Holy Spirit who converts our heart.  But David attributes this to God’s law.  God’s self-revelation.  For the law of the Lord, remember, not just the 10 commandments, the law of the Lord is the power of the Lord!  What our God does, He does, so often, with His voice!

  • With His words, He called the universe into being!
  • With His words, He raised Lazarus from the dead.
  • With His words, we have been born anew!

Peter testifies to this in 1 Peter 1:23 - you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God

LOVE the law of the LORD, for it is LIFE!  It revives the soul.

The Testimony of the LORD is sure

The testimony.  The Testimony of the LORD is His self-revelation.  His witness to Himself.  His character.  His love, His mercy, His power, and His grace.  His testimony is sure.  It is absolutely true from beginning to end.  There is no hint of deceit.  No lies, no deceptions.  Our God is who He says He is.  Period.  We never have to wonder.

The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple

The simple are those who are gullible.  Believing everything they hear, being tossed to and fro as by the waves of the sea.  Always unsure, latching on to the newest and best thing.  But God’s testimony gives us stability.  As it gives us LIFE, converting and reviving the soul, it also gives us STRENGTH, allowing us to stand firm in the truth.  LOVE the testimony of the LORD, for it is STRENGTH!

The precepts of the LORD are right

The precepts of the LORD.  Those things that are ordained.  What is appointed by the LORD.  These are RIGHT. They are straight, they are right, they are pleasing.  The path of the LORD is a path that is worth following.  It will not always be easy, but it WILL get you where you want to go!  The path of the LORD is set out for us, and we must follow it.  We cannot wait for the Holy Spirit to force us down that path, dragging us like an unwilling and stubborn donkey, but we have to realize that we have been filled with the Spirit so that we are able to do the walking ourselves!

The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.

I cannot help but tell a quick story here about a pathway and great rejoicing.  Many years ago now, I was hiking with my parents and my older brother.  It was a new trail that we were on, and the guidebook was WAY off.  It said that it was a short and easy trail, no more than an hour, with a beautiful lookout.  But on this trail there were HUGE boulders, twists and turns, ropes and chains for us to climb the steepest parts.  And afternoon was racing towards us, giving way into evening, and my dad didn’t trust that we would be able to finish the hike in time, and so he made his way back to the entrance and drove around to the end of the trail to pick us up.

And he looked for us.  Mom and two young boys.  He actually ended up driving our old Toyota Camry up the trail as far as the huge roof racks on top would let him.  And it was my brother who eventually saw the car in the distance and heard the honking horn.  And I have never seen him shout like that.  IT’S DAD!! IT’S DAD!  HE FOUND US!  We had the right path, and just in time, as the sun was beginning to set, we were re-united.  There was much rejoicing over being on the right path, and reaching its end.

The law of the Lord revives us, His testimony gives us the strength to stand in the truth, and His precepts are the path that we should walk on.   LOVE the precepts of the LORD, for they are RIGHT.

The commandment of the LORD is pure

Here is where the 10 commandments come in fully, as well as the other commandments in the law.  The commandments of the LORD are those things that God specifically orders His people to do.  Obey your parents.  Do not murder.  Etc.  These commandments are PURE.  They are clean, they are choice.  They are not mixed with anything else, not a little bit of this lawcode and that lawcode, but instead completely, purely from Yahweh Himself.

The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Here these rules are seen as a lamp.  As a light-source.  You may recall the famous lines of Psalm 119 - Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

When we are in the presence of a comprehensive set of rules for how we are to live our lives of thankfulness before God, we find that our vision is clear.  It is clean, it is focused.  When we look at the law of the God and have it in our eyes and in our heart, everything else begins to fade away.  LOVE the commandments of the LORD, for they are PURE.

We will briefly skip ahead to the end of verse 9, saving the fear of the Lord for last.

The rules of the LORD are true and righteous altogether

The rules of the LORD.  This can also been seen as judgements.  The judgements of the LORD.  How He judges between the sheep and the goats

The judgements of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

Each of these judgements are indisputable and unquestionable.  He is proven just when He speaks and blameless when He judges.  The law of the Lord revives us, His testimony gives us the strength to stand in the truth, and His precepts are the path that we should walk on, and His commandments show us how to walk on that path, illuminating each new step.  When He sees how we walk on His road and how we live, His law rightly judges us.  LOVE the rules of the LORD, for they are true and righteous altogether.

Now, back to the beginning of verse 9 - The fear of the LORD is clean

The fear of the LORD.  Not exactly a synonym for the others, but rather a description of its affect.

When we have this Torah, which revives us from death, gives us strength to stand, is the path to walk on, lights up that very path, and helps us to walk that path...we should truly fear it.  Not fear in the sense of terror, but fear in the sense of reverence and awe.  This law...this Torah...does ALL OF THIS?  How amazing!!  Just as we are in awe of God’s creation, we must be in awe of God’s law!

The law of the Lord revives us, His testimony gives us the strength to stand in the truth, and His precepts are the path that we should walk on, and His commandments show us how to walk on that path, illuminating each new step.  When He sees how we walk on His road and how we live, His law rightly judges us.

All of this should cause us to fall on our faces in awe and worship of God’s law.  Of how each facet reveals to us something unique, and majestic, and glorious about our God.

Through the Torah, we see our own inadequacy.  We see as in a mirror what we should be.  But we are not alone in the mirror.  Because the mirror does not only reveal to us how far we have fallen short...but it reveals to us who we SHOULD BE...that is...our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is everything that we should be.  Just as the Torah that David is extolling in this psalm reveals God the Father to us, it also reveals to us God the Son.  Jesus Christ is not only THE WORD OF GOD and GOD HIMSELF (John 1), but He is also completely human.  100% Divine, 100% human.  We will delve deeper in this marvellous mystery this afternoon.

But God’s law reveals to us our Saviour, Jesus Christ.  He is the one who has fully obeyed this law.  Fully used this law.

  • He stood perfectly in the truth
  • He saw the path
  • He followed the path
  • He walked perfectly on the path
  • He was judged perfectly innocent for His own life, and completely guilty for our sins

Beloved, let us not separate the law (the Torah) of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  For they are both food and drink for our hungry and thirsty souls.  They both show our need and they both show God’s grace to us.

And when we come face to face with the Law...there is only one possible response.  Our godly response of humble worship.  Our final point.

It could be very easy to walk away from this public worship service today fairly unchanged.

What did the minister talk about today?

-That creation is beautiful

-That God’s law is useful

 

Oh.  Just the regular then.

 

But the Bible has more than this, and so this pulpit should have more.  The Bible is not just a portfolio of God’s creation.  It doesn’t just display the best and brightest sunrises and sunsets.  The Bible isn’t a just book of case-law.  It isn’t just all the past judgements of God compiled together so that we can get a good idea of how He judges.

But the Bible is a book that is so intensely practical.  It tells us the story of how God created.  It tells us the story of how mankind fell.  It tells us of God seeking us out.  We are taught wisdom, we are shown the good, the bad, and the ugly of God’s covenant people.  And Psalm 19 is no exception.  After extolling the virtues of creation, after singing the praises of Yahweh’s Torah, the psalmist gets practical.

This isn’t just a poem to keep on the shelf, but it is something to reflect on, day and night!

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

Is this your experience?  Do you long to see that azure blue sky?  Here in BC perhaps that’s an unfair question...because most of us do long to see the blue sky.

But the law.  Yahweh’s Torah.  Do you long, do you ACHE to be fed by the Word?  If a day goes by and you have not feasted from Scripture, does it feel like something is missing?  Do your desire your soul to feast just as your body feasts?  Do you find your ultimate security in pouring over the Scriptures?  What is better to you - financial security, or God’s grace?  The taste of a really good steak after a long day at work, or diving into your devotions?

And the psalmist goes on to give us the reason that we should love the Word

Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward

We are warned by the Word what we ought to shun.  Beware the love of money!  Beware the lures of sexual sin.  Beware those easy lies.  White lies, lies of omission.  Because all too quickly the love of money becomes an idol - You can’t serve God anymore.

All too quickly a lustful glance becomes an affair - Your marriage is broken.

All too quickly a white lie becomes pathological or compulsive lying - you’re buried beneath your lies and the truth isn’t an option anymore.

These are the warnings.  But there are rewards too!

  • A right relationship with God
  • A right view of the world
  • A right direction for your life
  • And the hope of eternal life with your Saviour.

THESE ARE THE PROMISES OF THE WORD.

And the psalmist goes on to explain how to follow those warnings.  To shun what is evil.  How to hope for those promises.  What should be our hope.  What should be on the horizon as we walk along the Christian road.

Who can discern his errors?

Who can discern his errors?  Not us by ourselves!  Only one who spends their time pouring over the Word of God!  Only those who constantly gaze into that mirror of the perfect law, the law that brings us true freedom, that is, freedom from sin...it is those people who are blessed.

Who can discern his errors?  Declare me innocent from hidden faults

What exactly are these hidden faults?

These hidden faults are those that we cannot see if we do not look into that perfect mirror of God’s law.  We might say, “I don’t want to look into the mirror, because I’m frightened of what I may see!”  But this is the same logic that prevents us from going to the doctor when we feel sick.  “What if the he finds something?”  It seems a logical enough question.  But the tests that uncover something don’t actually cause that problem to be there.

Or what about this.  Once there was a young child who loved the sun but never wanted the curtains open.  He loved to be outside in the sun, but never wanted it inside.  One day, his mother asked him why.  And he said, “I hate it when you open the curtains, it lets so much dust in the room!”  We have all seen the dust particles in the air when a beam of sunlight enters through the window.  But does the sun CAUSE the dust?  No!  It only illuminates what was always there.

We NEED to see our hidden faults.  Because we need to be declared innocent from them!  And there is only one way to be declared innocent, from any fault, hidden or otherwise.  We are declared innocent when we acknowledge our sins before God.  When we acknowledge our sins before God, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness!

And it is a glorious, wonderful thing to be forgiven.  There is no feeling like it.  When your sins are washed away through the blood of Christ.  You can BREATHE again!  The dark cloud has been lifted!

BUT!  If we do not see and confess our hidden sins, they can turn into presumptuous sins.

Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me!

Presumptuous sins do not "just happen."  Those raised in the covenant community, with a knowledge of God, with a love of God...presumptuous sins don’t just HAPPEN.  There is a process.

How does it happen?  Gradually...and then suddenly.

If you are unwilling to look into your heart, the evil that is naturally there will remain unchecked.  It grows and grows silently until suddenly you commit a presumptuous sin.

What is a presumptuous sin?  It is a sin that you recognize as a sin, but you do it anyways.

I’m tempted to take a chocolate bar in the store.  I think about it.  Should I do it? I know that God says, “You shall not steal” … but … it’s just a chocolate bar.  It’s a sin, but it’s just a little one.  I really want a chocolate bar.

And so you do it.  You know it is a sin and you do it anyways.  And presumptuous sins left unchecked...this leads you to make a wreck of your faith!  Not too long ago, author and former pastor Joshua Harris made the news when he left his wife, declared himself not to be a Christian, and publicly apologized for calling homosexuality a sin.  In August of last year, he was seen marching in the gay pride parade here in British Columbia.  How did this happen to a man of God, so focused on teaching Biblical truth?

  • By not taking stock of hidden sins.
  • By giving in to presumptuous sins
  • And then by falling away.  He looked at his life, and saw that his actions weren’t consistent with his message.  And by that time, he felt it was too late to change his actions.  So he gave up the message.

He gave up the perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, righteous word of God for a parade.  He gave it up to look tolerant in the eyes of the world.  He gave up the true gift of God because it was easier than changing his life.

Please congregation, nip sin in the bud.  Cut it off at the root.  Because it is SO MUCH HARDER to kill it when it has taken root.  When it is firmly lodged in your heart and in your mind.

It’s so much harder, but it isn’t impossible.

The strength of God is still stronger than the stubbornness of man.  Joshua Harris cannot run so far that he is beyond the grace of God.  If he confesses his sin before the God of the universe, GOD IS FAITHFUL.  GOD WILL FORGIVE.  The blood of Christ washes away all sins.  Hidden sins.  Presumptuous sins.  Shipwrecks of the faith.

And wherever YOU are at in this process, because you are somewhere on this spectrum.  We all are.  Wherever you are at...the hidden faults, the presumptuous faults, teetering over the edge…

Read this psalm.

Fall in love again with the Creator.

Fall in love again with your covenant God Yahweh.

Fall in love again with your redeemer, the lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

He is glorious.  He is gracious, and He will guide your steps.  Each one of them, on the road into eternity.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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