|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
19:1-6 The heavens so declare the glory of God, and proclaim his wisdom, power, and goodness, that all ungodly men are left without excuse. They speak themselves to be works of God's hands; for they must have a Creator who is eternal, infinitely wise, powerful, and good. The counter-changing of day and night is a great proof of the power of God, and calls us to observe, that, as in the kingdom of nature, so in that of providence, he forms the light, and creates the darkness, Isa 45:7, and sets the one against the other. The sun in the firmament is an emblem of the Sun of righteousness, the Bridegroom of the church, and the Light of the world, diffusing Divine light and salvation by his gospel to the nations of the earth. He delights to bless his church, which he has espoused to himself; and his course will be unwearied as that of the sun, till the whole earth is filled with his light and salvation. Let us pray for the time when he shall enlighten, cheer, and make fruitful every nation on earth, with the blessed salvation. They have no speech or language, so some read it, and yet their voice is heard. All people may hear these preachers speak in their own tongue the wonderful works of God. Let us give God the glory of all the comfort and benefit we have by the lights of heaven, still looking above and beyond them to the Sun of righteousness.
Verse 1. - The heavens declare the glory of God; literally, the heavens are recounting the glory of God - of El, "the Mighty One" - the God of nature (see Romans 1:20). David is perhaps carrying out his declared intention (Psalm 18:49) of praising God among the heathen," and therefore takes their standpoint - the ground of nature. And the firmament showeth his handywork. (On "the firmament," see Genesis 1:6, 20.) It is the entire atmosphere enveloping the earth, in which the clouds hang and the birds move. Like the starry heavens above, this, too, "showeth," or rather, "proclaimeth," God's handiwork.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
The heavens declare the glory of God,.... By which we are to understand not the heavens literally taken, though these with the firmament are the handiworks of God, and do declare the glory of his perfections, especially his wisdom and power; these show that there is a God, and that he is a glorious one: but either Gospel churches, often signified by the kingdom of heaven, in the New Testament; the members of them being heaven-born souls, and the doctrines and ordinances ministered among them being from heaven; and there being a very great resemblance between them and heaven, in the company and communion enjoyed in them; and who declare the glory of the divine perfections, which is very great in the handiwork of their redemption; and who ascribe the glory of their whole salvation to God: or rather the apostles and first preachers of the word, as appears from Romans 10:18; who were set in the highest place in the church; had their commission, doctrine, and success from heaven; and who may be called by this name, because of the purity and solidity of their ministry, and their constancy and steadfastness in it, and because of their heavenly lives and conversations: these declared the glory of the divine perfections; such as those particularly of grace, goodness, and mercy, which are not discoverable by the light of nature or law of Moses, as, they are displayed in the salvation of men by Christ, in the forgiveness of their sins, the justification of their persons, and the gift of eternal life unto them: they taught men to ascribe the glory of salvation to God alone, Father, Son, and Spirit; they set forth in their ministry the glory of Christ, of his person, and of his offices and grace; and they showed that redemption was his handiwork, as follows:
and the firmament showeth his handiwork; for the same persons may be called the firmament, since they that are wise are said to shine as the brightness of it, Daniel 12:3. These were like to stars in it, and were the light of the world, and declared that redemption is the work which Christ undertook, and came into this world to perform, and which he has finished; his hands have wrought it, and his own arm has brought salvation to him. The Targum interprets the heavens and the firmament, of such persons as contemplate the heavens, and look upon the firmament or air; and so do some other Jewish writers (w).
(w) Jarchi & Kimchi in loc.
The Treasury of David
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
5 Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
6 His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
"The heavens declare the glory of God." The book of nature has three leaves, heaven, earth, and sea, of which heaven is the first and the most glorious, and by its aid we are able to see the beauties of the other two. Any book without its first page would be sadly imperfect, and especially the great Natural Bible, since its first pages, the sun, moon, and stars, supply light to the rest of the volume, and are thus the keys, without which the writing which follows would be dark and undiscerned. Man walking erect was evidently made to scan the skies, and he who begins to read creation by studying the stars begins the book at the right place.
The heavens are plural for their variety, comprising the watery heavens with their clouds of countless forms, the aerial heavens with their calms and tempests, the solar heavens with all the glories of the day, and the starry heavens with all the marvels of the night; what the Heaven of heavens must be hath not entered into the heart of man, but there in chief all things are telling the glory of God. Any part of creation has more instruction in it than human mind will ever exhaust, but the celestial realm is peculiarly rich in spiritual lore. The heavens declare, or are declaring, for the continuance of their testimony is intended by the participles employed; every moment God's existence, power, wisdom, and goodness, are being sounded abroad by the heavenly heralds which shine upon us from above. He who would guess at divine sublimity should gaze upward into the starry vault; he who would imagine infinity must peer into the boundless expanse; he who desires to see divine wisdom should consider the balancing of the orbs; he who would know divine fidelity must mark the regularity of the planetary motions; and he who would attain some conceptions of divine power, greatness, and majesty, must estimate the forces of attraction, the magnitude of the fixed stars, and the brightness of the whole celestial train. It is not merely glory that the heavens declare, but the "glory of God," for they deliver to us such unanswerable arguments for a conscious, intelligent, planning, controlling, and presiding Creator, that no unprejudiced person can remain unconvinced by them. The testimony given by the heavens is no mere hint, but a plain, unmistakeable declaration; and it is a declaration of the most constant and abiding kind. Yet for all this, to what avail is the loudest declaration to a deaf man, or the clearest showing to one spiritually blind? God the Holy Ghost must illuminate us, or all the suns in the milky way never will.
"The firmament sheweth his handy-work;" not handy, in the vulgar use of that term, but hand-work. The expanse is full of the works of the Lord's skilful, creating hands; hands being attributed to the great creating Spirit to set forth his care and workmanlike action, and to meet the poor comprehension of mortals. It is humbling to find that even when the most devout and elevated minds are desirous to express their loftiest thoughts of God, they must use words and metaphors drawn from the earth. We are children, and must each confess, "I think as a child, I speak as a child." In the expanse above us God flies, as it were, his starry flag to show that the King is at home, and hangs out his escutcheon that atheists may see how he despises their denunciations of him. He who looks up to the firmament and then writes himself down an atheist, brands himself at the same moment as an idiot or a liar. Strange is it that some who love God are yet afraid to study the God-declaring book of nature; the mock-spirituality of some believers, who are too heavenly to consider the heavens, has given colour to the vaunts of infidels that nature contradicts revelation. The wisest of men are those who with pious eagerness trace the goings forth of Jehovah as well in creation as in grace; only the foolish have any fears lest the honest study of the one should injure our faith in the other. Dr. M'Cosh has well said, "We have often mourned over the attempts made to set the works of God against the Word of God, and thereby excite, propagate, and perpetuate jealousies fitted to separate parties that ought to live in closest union. In particular, we have always regretted that endeavours should have been made to depreciate nature with a view of exalting revelation; it has always appeared to us to be nothing else than the degrading of one part of God's works in the hope thereby of exalting and recommending another. Let not science and religion be reckoned as opposing citadels, frowning defiance upon each other, and their troops brandishing their armour in hostile attitude. They have too many common foes, if they would but think of it, in ignorance and prejudice, in passion and vice, under all their forms, to admit of their lawfully wasting their strength in a useless warfare with each other. Science has a foundation, and so has religion; let them unite their foundations, and the basis will be broader, and they will be two compartments of one great fabric reared to the glory of God. Let the one be the outer and the other the inner court. In the one, let all look, and admire and adore; and in the other, let those who have faith kneel, and pray, and praise. Let the one be the sanctuary where human learning may present its richest incense as an offering to God, and the other the holiest of all, separated from it by a veil now rent in twain, and in which, on a blood-sprinkled mercy-seat, we pour out the love of a reconciled heart, and hear the oracles of the living God."
"Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge." As it one day took up the story where the other left it, and each night passed over the wondrous tale to the next. The original has in it the thought of pouring out, or welling over, with speech; as though days and nights were but as a fountain flowing evermore with Jehovah's praise. Oh to drink often at the celestial well, and learn to utter the glory of God! The witnesses above cannot be slain or silenced; from their elevated seats they constantly preach the knowledge of God, unawed and unbiassed by the judgments of men. Even the changes of alternating night and day are mutely eloquent, and light and shade equally reveal the Invisible One; let the vicissitudes of our circumstances do the same, and while we bless the God of our days of joy, let us also extol him who giveth "songs in the night."
The lesson of day and night is one which it were well if all men learned. It should be among our day-thoughts and night-thoughts to remember the flight of time, the changeful character of earthly things, the brevity both of joy and sorrow, the preciousness of life, our utter powerlessness to recall the hours once flown, and the irresistible approach of eternity. Day bids us labour, night reminds us to prepare for our last home; day bids us work for God, and night invites us to rest in him; day bids us look for endless day, and night warns us to escape from everlasting night.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 19:1-14. After exhibiting the harmonious revelation of God's perfections made by His works and His word, the Psalmist prays for conformity to the Divine teaching.
1. the glory of God—is the sum of His perfections (Ps 24:7-10; Ro 1:20).
firmament—another word for "heavens" (Ge 1:8).
handywork—old English for "work of His hands."
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