The opening stanza of the psalm (vv. 1-6) announces that the heavens themselves proclaim the work and glory of God. There are no words, of course, no speech and no voice (v. 3), but paradoxically the wonders of creation function as voice and words (v. 4) to reveal God to "the end of the world." The sun is seen as the most important example of God's creative work because of how it stays reliably in its course and of the power and energy of its heat. In the ancient world, because of these qualities, the sun was thought to be a god, but for Israel the sun instead points to the God, the Lord of Israel.
In part two (vv. 7-10), the psalm praises the perfection, truth, and clarity of God's law or instruction--the primary way in which God makes God's self and God's ways known. In this psalm, both creation and Torah point to God, which is what unites these two things that may seem totally different. Creation has no voice, so its beauty and regularity imply the Creator more than they name it; but the law is clear and enlightens the eyes.
Now that the law is clear, the psalmist realizes that it reveals even his or her hidden thoughts. The psalmist, God's servant, prays for forgiveness and protection from further transgression (vv. 11-13).
The psalm closes with the prayer that the words of the psalmist may be acceptable to God (v. 14), adding his or her humble speech to the majestic speech that was there and not there in God's glorious creation (thus forming an inclusio that ties the psalm together). This verse continues to serve as an appropriate prayer for preachers and others as they seek to speak and teach in God's name.
1 The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament* proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours forth speech,
and night to night declares knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words;
their voice is not heard;
4 yet their voice* goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In the heavens* he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy,
and like a strong man runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them;
and nothing is hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the decrees of the Lord are sure,
making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is clear,
enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is pure,
enduring for ever;
the ordinances of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey,
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
12 But who can detect their errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from the insolent;*
do not let them have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org
10 February 2011