Framing the Puzzle

How Psalm 19 Teaches Us to Listen to the Universe . . . Or, How to Really Enjoy a Good Sunrisepuzzle-piece

How do you put together a 500-piece puzzle? The first step is to look at the box cover, right? But then, you find all the corner pieces and then the edge pieces. Putting all those together gives you the frame of the puzzle, right? Then, it’s just a matter of filling in with all the other pieces.

Life is like that. Life is a puzzle. We have lots of pieces to the puzzle of life. But, we have a lot more than 500 pieces — we have millions, if not gazillions, if not an infinite number of pieces. If we don’t have the big picture, or at least a framework from which to begin, it’s really hard to put all the pieces together. How do we figure it out? Of course, some would say, “We can’t — there’s no design, so the pieces won’t fit together. Just do your best to enjoy the pieces!”

But that’s just one view of the world — that it’s chaotic and there is no Designer. No real meaning, no purpose, no framework. But, the Bible offers a very different view. A view that makes all the difference in the world. It tells us there is a Big Picture. It tells us there is a framework which helps us put all the pieces together. The second king of Israel, King David, wrote a psalm one morning that explained his framework for life. And that framework communicates the Christian world view.

ENJOYING A GOOD SUNRISE

David didn’t tell us when he wrote Psalm 19 or why. But I believe he wrote it one morning after watching the sunrise. And, that sunrise caused him to think deeply about God and the meaning of life. Look at Psalm 19 and see if you agree. I’ll separate it into three paragraphs to make it easier to explain:

Psalm 19 (NIV84)

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. 4 Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun, 5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. 8 The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. 9 The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. 10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.

11 By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. 12 Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression. 14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

PARAGRAPH 1: GENERAL REVELATION

Heaven is perhaps the greatest subject discussed by the Bible. But that’s not what David was talking about here. “The heavens” is a simple way of saying, “The universe” — the stars, planets, the moon, etc. Notice that “the sun” is mentioned at the end of verse 4. That’s why I think David was watching a sunrise. He stepped outside when the sky was still dark. Then he watched the sun “coming forth from his pavilion”.

But notice what he said “the heavens” and “the skies” actually do: They “declare the glory of God, the work of His hands…They pour forth speech, display knowledge”. To those who are paying attention and listening closely, God speaks through creation as an artist speaks through her art. This is what is known as “general revelation” because the universe declares some “general” truths about God by its very existence. What does this “general revelation” tell us about God? He is magnificent and powerful. He is infinitely creative and intelligent. And, we can extend this to more than just the things we see in the sky. Everything on Earth — the leaves on maple trees, Brazilian spiders, blue whales, single-celled organisms, and especially the human body — “declares the glory of God, the work of His hands”.

Good science tells us that the universe was designed. For example, is the universe more or less complex than a cell phone? Of course, it is much more complex. Would you believe a cell phone suddenly appeared by chance and not by the work of a designer somewhere? Of course not. Even though we have no idea who designed the cell phone you use every day, we all know someone designed it somewhere, at some point. Does it make sense to believe the universe — which we agree is infinitely more complex than a cell phone — appeared by chance without a designer?

Think about that carefully: Does true science ever observe something coming from nothing? Life coming from non-life? Complexity coming from non-complexity? Of course not. Even if a person is not ready to call that Designer “The God of the Bible” or “Jesus,” it is not unintelligent to acknowledge a Designer. It is, in fact, the result of good science. If you were strolling through the Black Hills and came across Mount Rushmore, it would not be logical, scientifically speaking, to conclude that those large faces were the result of natural causes. It would be logical, however, to conclude that there was a designer — an intelligent person — behind the creation of that art work. You may not know that his name was Gutzon Borglum and that he was helped by his son, Lincoln Borglum, but you would — without a doubt — know that those 60-foot tall faces were designed. What I am saying is that everyone should be able to look at God’s creation and know that God created it. This is exactly what David — and the Bible — teaches.

David told us the “voice” of the heavens and the skies “goes out into all the earth, their words to the end of the world.” All people in all times and all places on Earth can understand their message. “Speech” and “language” imply that the heavens declare their message to human beings. Human beings — those who use “speech” and “language” — can hear and understand.

But David wasn’t the only one who believed this. The other writers of the Bible agreed. Romans 1:20 — written by the Apostle Paul — tells us, “For since the creation of the world (God’s) invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they (“men”; all people) are without excuse.” No one will be able to stand before God and say, “I didn’t know You existed!” We are all “without excuse” because God’s creation — “what has been made” — is designed to help us understand not only that God exists, but also His “eternal power and divine nature”.

PARAGRAPH 2: SPECIFIC REVELATION

Notice the change starting in verse 7 — the second paragraph above: David began discussing God’s “law, statutes, precepts, commands, fear (the beginning of wisdom according to Proverbs 1:7), and ordinances”. These are all synonyms for God’s word or the Bible. God not only speaks through His creation, He also speaks through the Bible. Take a moment to reflect on that idea — even if you aren’t sure whether it’s true — consider the implications of it: God has spoken. This is what is known as special or specific revelation because if God has spoken — as the Bible tells us He has — we can know many specific things about God. We can know what He has revealed to us. We can know more than the simple message of “general revelation”. We can know what He is like — that He is personal (not an impersonal force), good, righteous, true, pure, loving, patient. We can know His names which reveal even more about Him — that He is Judge, Savior, Holy One, Father. We can learn what He has done in the past as He interacted with humans throughout history — especially that He so loved the world that He gave His only, unique Son as a Substitute who died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to God forever. We can also learn what His plans are for the future. All of this is special revelation, recorded in the Bible.

Look again at Psalm 19:7-10: “Perfect, reviving, trustworthy, making wise, right, giving joy, radiant, giving light, pure, enduring forever, sure and altogether righteous” tell us God is a moral, law-giver — and His laws are perfect, wise and righteous. In other words, David believed God’s “special revelation” (referring specifically to the “Law” of the Old Testament — the first five books written by Moses) tells us what God considers good, right and true. He told us that this knowledge was “more precious than gold” and “sweeter than honey”. But David didn’t stop there.

PARAGRAPH 3: PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP

In Psalm 19:11-14, this great king, David, called himself God’s “servant”. But his final words in this psalm reveal something even more beautiful. David described his personal relationship with God. God not only speaks through His universe. He not only speaks through the Bible. God speaks to us personally. He uses the Bible to speak to our hearts in a very personal way. This is called “illumination” — God helping people understand and respond correctly to His revelation. Please note that this illumination will never contradict God’s word as recorded in the Bible. David’s personal responses to God were the result of interaction with God’s written word.

The names David used when speaking to God also revealed the personal nature of his relationship with his Creator.

  • David called God “Lord” (7X). The Hebrew word behind “Lord” here is “Yahweh” — God’s personal name given to Moses many years earlier.
  • David called God “my rock”. God was David’s foundation. David was building his life, his understanding of the world and himself, on God and His word.
  • David called God “my redeemer”. God was David’s Hero-Savior. This actually looks forward to the Christ who would “redeem” God’s people from their sins.

Clearly, David had a personal relationship with God. He was not just God — He was David’s God. And it wasn’t just one-way communication: God “warned” David of danger through His word, He blessed him with “great reward” as David responded to what God said. He helped him “discern his errors” and forgave him of “hidden faults”. In fact, David told us that God knew the “meditations of his heart”. Knowing someone’s inner thoughts is as personal as it gets. And David knew that “pleasing” God was inherently good. Pleasing Him is aligning ourselves with Him. Believing Him. Agreeing with Him. Valuing what He values. Devoting ourselves to what He is devoted to. Caring about what He cares about.

God is personal, so we too can have a relationship with Him. In other words, we really can understand the Bible — it is not beyond our comprehension. God intended for us to understand it so that we can know Him — that’s the point of giving it to us in the first place.

Think about it: If there is a Designer-God who designed us, all true blessing and “reward” comes from aligning ourselves with what He says is good and right and true and best. If we are “pleasing in His sight,” through “the words of our mouths and the meditations (thoughts and intentions) of our hearts,” then our lives will be blessed and meaningful. We will live our lives well. We will do what we’re designed to do.

FRAMING THE PUZZLE OF LIFE

So the framework to life is a Creator God who has spoken. The only important question then is, “What has He truly said?” The more we discover the answers to that question, the more the pieces of our lives come together. Each truth becomes gold that makes our lives richer. Honey that makes our lives sweeter. Even if we discover “errors” and “hidden faults” and “willful sins” and “transgressions” (i.e., sins), that knowledge is the first step toward putting them out of our lives, freeing us of their tyranny rather than letting them “rule over us”.

David ended Psalm 19 with a prayer, asking for help to respond well to what God has said. You are encouraged to begin there. Ask God for the same help in making Him your Rock and your Redeemer. ?

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APPENDIX 1: THE BIG PICTURE

The many stories of the Bible come together into one “metanarrative” — a big picture story. The following is a simple explanation of that metanarrative.

  • Creation. God created everything perfect with people as the pinnacle of His creation (Genesis 1-2)
  • Separation. Man sinned against God creating separation between God and people (Genesis 3-Malachi 4).
  • Reconciliation. Christ Jesus — the only Son of God — died for our sins and rose from the dead to reconcile to God those who believe in Him (Matthew 1-Revelation 3).
  • Restoration. Christ will come again to restore all of creation to its original perfection (Revelation 3-22).

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APPENDIX 2: THE STORY

You are invited to participate in a 10-week study called “The Story: Grasping the Metanarrative in a Postmodern World.” This tool, developed by BILD International, explains the entire Bible. If you already believe the Bible is true, this study will help you understand the entire context which will help you put your own life in its proper context. If you are an honest doubter and don’t know whether you believe the Bible, this study will help you be clear on what it really says and put aside all inaccurate characterizations about it. For more information about this opportunity, contact us or click here.