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In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Listening to God (Psalm 19)

Psalm 19 concerns divine revelation. The author considers two ways by which God makes himself known: in the creation and in the Scriptures. In verses 1-6, the psalmist describes how God is revealed in the created order (this is called general revelation because it is displayed to every person); in verses 7-11, he considers how God is revealed in the Scriptures (this is called special revelation because it is only revealed to some); then in verses 12-14, the psalmist prays that he would benefit from God revealing himself to him.

General revelation is comprehensive (it includes the heavens as well as the earth), consistent (it occurs every day and every night) and clear (everybody can understand it even although they speak different languages and cannot understand one another). The creation continually says that God is pre-existent (he existed before he made the universe), wise (he designed the universe) and powerful (he maintained it in existence). It also tells us that God is good (he provides what his creatures need).

Nevertheless, creation also says that something is wrong because not everything that takes place is good. There are earthquakes, famines and other disasters, and all of creation is marked by death. General revelation is silent as to the cause of these problems and does not hint whether or not the Creator intends to solve them. In order to know these details, we need special revelation.

The various nouns that the psalmist uses for this special revelation – law, statutes, commands – indicate that it contains precepts to be obeyed, which informs us that God is a sovereign King. One of the terms used for special revelation is the ‘fear of the Lord’ (v. 9), which stresses that it is to be approached with reverence, with the same respect that we would give to the King himself.

Each noun is also accompanied by an adjective such as clean, righteous, and perfect, and they state its moral quality. After all, it is possible for a ruler to have unrighteous or irrelevant laws, but not God. There is not one unrighteous law or one unnecessary command in the Bible.

Each of the six descriptions of special revelation has a statement summarising its effect: it revives, gives wisdom, gives joy, gives illumination, is eternal and righteous. Because of these features, the Bible is both beyond price in value and sweet to a believer’s soul. A Christian learns more about God and receives more from God in the Bible than he could learn about him or receive from him in the creation. Climbing a hill to see the view is good for your health, but the resultant vista does not teach us more about God than is revealed in the Bible. For example, the greatest display of divine power is not the upholding of the universe in existence; rather the greatest display of divine power is the resurrection of Christ.

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