Sunday, February 17, 2019

"God is Real!" (Psalm 19)


In the face of the world in which we live, we need to be assured that God is real. If we are going to make a greater impact on the culture around us, we need to be able to show that God is real. The world needs to know that God is real! Michael Jenson, an Anglican from Sydney, writes these challenging words in an Eternity magazine piece, “Forget the culture war: it’s the decadence and half-heartedness of us Christians that is the biggest obstacle to the Gospel in Australia”.  

Psalm 19 gives us at least three points of reference through which we can be assured that God is real – creation, Scripture and experience. If others are going to be convinced, first we need to be convinced … that God is real. So, in that desire, in that pursuit, we turn to Psalm 19. And the assurance we should find in meditating on this psalm, should in turn encourage greater faith, hope and witness amongst us.


Three Areas of Revelation

In Psalm 19, there is a general revelation about God through creation (verses 1 – 6). There is also … a particular revelation … through God’s Word … as it was recorded over many centuries in the cut and thrust of life on earth (verses 7 – 10). And then there is a special revelation … in the lives of those who have experienced and know Jesus (verses 11-14). [If we look at the bookend verses, we see at one end a great universal declaration about God, and at the end – something very personal.]

This psalm moves from the grandeur and wonder of universal creation, through the significance of God’s Word and how God has encountered the world, culminating in a very personal way for each one of us to embrace our Creator. Those with eyes that have come to see, will be able to believe that God is real – through creation, through God’s Word (when it is handled well), and, thirdly, through the lives of those who know and follow Jesus, as they … as we … point to him.


(a) Creation (vs 1-6)

There was intricate and ingenious handiwork involved in the creation of all that surrounds us. In effect, creation speaks for itself, it speaks well of its Creator – all creation speaks well of God. Even though we do not hear actual words – what we see and experience speaks volumes about the glory, majesty and (creative) power of God. Just look around – day and night … just look around! And we do have the sounds of the birds and the wind through the trees, to remind us about the greatness of God.

Everything has been beautifully designed to nurture and sustain life on earth. Creation speaks about God in a universal language, that can be understood by all. The presence of the sun reminds the psalmist (and ourselves) of the life-giving power of God over all the earth. Like the sun, God doesn’t miss anybody!

Yet, within creation, there is an in-built witness to the need for us to depend and rely on the Creator, not trust in the creation itself. The earth will shake, the wind will blow, the rains will start and the rains will stop, and fire will do its work. The seasons will come and go – it will sometimes, in some places, be uncomfortably hot or bitterly cold. In all the circumstances we find ourselves in, we will need to trust God – who causes the sun to rise each morning, and set each night. Thus, we also worship the Creator, and not the creation. Creation calls us into a relationship with God.

And, also, given that humanity was given freewill to decide for or against God, and for or against living in God’s ways, the consequences of our bad decisions will be borne by all, and creation itself. For we were called and instructed to be good ‘stewards’ of all that God had created (Genesis 1:28), and each time we have failed through either action or inaction, there have been consequences that accumulate over the years. This is why Paul says in Romans (8:18-25) that God’s creation is groaning waiting for the children of God to be revealed – these are the ones who will more be likely to have a positive and redemptive effect on earth, and will partner with, rather than rebel against … God’s purposes.

However, we can still see past all this complexity, to the magnificence of what God created so long ago. This includes the brilliant intricacy of our human bodies and brains. No camera lens will ever be as good as the human eye. Despite all the progress, the human brain is better than we will ever know. And despite our capacity for evil, there is also so much capacity for good.

One (well I know I do) finds it difficult to understand how many just don’t see creation this way. As so many refuse to see and hear the obvious, we have to come to accept the powerful forces, human and otherwise, that can block such acceptance. We have to concede and understand that many people, because of their own difficult experiences in life, and how they interpret them, stand in opposition to belief – and they find it almost impossible to accept that there is a God of love and mercy (even in the midst of this beauty). So we pray for them – that they may come to see that God is real!

(b) The Word of God (vs 7-10)

According to an American survey, only 19% of church-going Christians read the Bible daily; and 40% read it only once-a-month, rarely or never. What would be the figures here? Anything resembling this survey would certainly be an indictment. What a waste of the best resource! What a limitation in the building of faith and witness!! [BTW, the same survey said that only 63% thought prayer was essential.]

The Scriptures reveal the heart of God. These Scriptures were written to communities … to reform and heal those communities. And these Writings contain so much significant and life-changing material. There is here a guidebook for life – the best resource that we can have (that is unfortunately left on the shelf or is the least used ap on the mobile phone). The Bible guides conduct – the ethics and morals we need as a foundation for our lives. We learn there … that finding God is the most satisfying quest.

Just to trace some of what we can discover: from the moment humankind rebelled, God was on the search to bring people back. For, God created us to have a relationship with Him. God’s call of Abraham, from the very beginning, spoke of a missional God, who only wanted to form relationships with people from all nations. God brought a vision of a promised land where people could live in peace. This is now the Kingdom of God – that exists wherever God is given top priority. There were heroic figures of faith, yet God’s true prophets repeatedly spoke to a rebellious nation time and time again, to remind them, and challenge them, with the truth … that a faithful relationship with God entailed living with others in justice and with right attitudes.

The Psalms relay the rough-and-tumble and the ups-and-downs of life – displaying the worst of human inclinations, but at the same time the best of worshipful trust in God. Wherever we see self-interest give way to love of neighbour (like for example in the book of Ruth), we rejoice! The Hebrew Scriptures – the Old Testament – prepares the way for us to understand the need of a new covenant of grace and service … to replace the old covenant of law that had failed to see lives changed and the world transformed.

These Scriptures look forward to a true Messiah – one who would redeem humanity to God. The Gospels reveal that Jesus is this Christ – the earthly incarnation of God – God walking the streets of Palestine for 33 years – for the last 3 years in a Divine ministry to all he came into contact with. Jesus himself would tell that well-known ‘parable’ … where despite how much the prodigal son had rejected his father, and had gone his own way toward his own destruction – the father figure longingly waited for the day … when he could rush out to embrace his son, as he journeyed toward home.

And then, Jesus took upon himself all the rebellion, sin and brokenness of all humanity, took all this to a Roman cross, and declared forgiveness to anyone who would believe in him. Having been raised to life again, we see the ongoing work of Jesus (through the Holy Spirit) unfolding in the book of Acts; from Pentecost on, we see God’s great ancient promises to Abraham fulfilled – the Gospel is going out to all nations. It’s all there! And all I can say in response … is … God is real!! Yes, the Bible reveals the heart of God; and we can form a deep knowledge of God through giving ourselves to this Word.

If we can just handle it well, individually and collectively, listen to its message, understand the context and different types of writings, devour all its truth, get passionate about its major themes, let it reach deep down into us, change us, and teach it properly, and live it with integrity – then people can know that God is real! For … there is so much in the Word of God to transform people’s lives toward the good! Have a look at verses 7 & 8: so much truth and wisdom. Such a ‘Word’ … revives the soul, rejoices the heart, and enlightens the eyes. And as verse 10 says, there is nothing of greater value.

(c) Human Witness (vs 11-14)

So, God is seen to be real … first in creation, then in his recorded Word, and now thirdly … in the lives of those who accept His salvation and follow Jesus. We are people who are being forgiven, because we trust in Jesus … and what he has done for us. As put in verse 11, we are actively applying God’s Word to our lives, and thereby receiving the benefit. What are the benefits of applying God’s Word in our lives? Less mistakes. Greater focus. Freedom from bondage. More fruit. A sense of peace. Respected character. A living and breathing witness to the fact that God is real!

Yet, verse 12 reminds us that we remain human and open to error. Part of the reason for making bad decisions or doing the wrong thing … can be our poor thinking at times, especially under pressure. At other times we can succumb to the undue and unhelpful influence from certain others … where eventually there could be a domination contrary to God’s best for us. Sometimes this is all subtle, but can begin a gradual downslide. So, we have to keep a check on ourselves – best done (prayerfully) in the company of our brothers and sisters in the faith, and with the Bible close-by.

Sometimes we are blind to our faults and inconsistencies – “hidden faults” is the term used in verse 12b – we are not as aware of this … as we need to be. So part of the restoration process [Rhett talked about last week], is having any behaviour traits, that are unconsciously problematical (to ourselves and others) –  brought into the light of a Spirit-inspired reading of the Scriptures ... those teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, and the application of such truths in the rest of the New Testament (thereby being ultimately dealt with).

Sometimes we are suddenly struck with a new understanding, simply when reading the Bible – and we need to act on this. This is how we begin to change in the right direction. Active reflection on God’s Word makes us become different people! At other times, we have to trust in our Christian community (our church family) to speak into our lives, to reveal blind-spots, even when this is uncomfortable (to receive and to give). Some of our blind-spots are very invisible to us, even though other people may have spotted them. This is why we have to press deeply into God and His Word, and sometimes also be willing to listen to the wise words of ones who are truly and purely trying to help us.

We need, while sharing life with others, to stay true to ourselves … to who we are (in Christ). So we pray, “Do not let them [whoever, whatever] have dominion over me” (v 13b). And we listen to the Spirit, and to wisdom of others – to help clear our path forward. We gain fresh understanding, and new convictions about right over wrong, and confess our shortcomings. “Following Christ does mean renouncing things when they get in the way” (Michael Jenson). Even good things can become a problem, when they (tend to) get in the way of God’s plan for our lives.

For those who are spiritually reborn, we will be forgiven, cleared of sin, released from oppression, and matured toward right living each day (v 13c) – more stable, grounded, purposeful living. Then the words of our mouths and the attitudes of our hearts will be increasingly acceptable to our Rock and Redeemer (v 14). And the world will know that God is real!

It is NOT any pretence of perfection that will reveal that God is real, because this is unreal and falsely constructed! What suggests that God is real … is the process of remarkable change that a person in undergoing – and the power of forgiveness!! It is also through being humble and vulnerable and teachable in the company of each other that a light shines out. As we personally and collectively experience God, and as God is changing us to truly be His people, in His image, as His representatives, His channels of blessing, loving one another – the world will know that God is real!


It is NOT our criticism of cultural trends or judgment of certain behaviours that will identify that God is real, rather it will be the example of our faith in action. Creation itself speaks loud and clear, the Scriptures reveal the heart of God, and our lives can prove the very good sense of knowing and following Jesus. God is real!! Amen!

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