World Wide Study Bible
a Bible passage
God’s Glory in Creation and the Law
To the leader. A Psalm of David.
The heavens are telling the glory of God;
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.
1. The heavens declare the glory of God. 444444 Dr Geddes has remarked, in reference to this psalm, that “no poem ever contained a finer argument against Atheism, nor one better expressed.” I have already said, that this psalm consists of two parts, in the first of which David celebrates the glory of God as manifested in his works; and, in the other, exalts and magnifies the knowledge of God which shines forth more clearly in his word. He only makes mention of the heavens; but, under this part of creation, which is the noblest, and the excellency of which is more conspicuous, he doubtless includes by synecdoche the whole fabric of the world. There is certainly nothing so obscure or contemptible, even in the smallest corners of the earth, in which some marks of the power and wisdom of God may not be seen; but as a more distinct image of him is engraven on the heavens, David has particularly selected them for contemplation, that their splendor might lead us to contemplate all parts of the world. When a man, from beholding and contemplating the heavens, has been brought to acknowledge God, he will learn also to reflect upon and to admire his wisdom and power as displayed on the face of the earth, not only in general, but even in the minutest plants. In the first verse, the Psalmist repeats one thing twice, according to his usual manner. He introduces the heavens as witnesses and preachers of the glory of God, attributing to the dumb creature a quality which, strictly speaking, does not belong to it, in order the more severely to upbraid men for their ingratitude, if they should pass over so clear a testimony with unheeding ears. This manner of speaking more powerfully moves and affects us than if he had said, The heavens show or manifest the glory of God. It is indeed a great thing, that in the splendor of the heavens there is presented to our view a lively image of God; but, as the living voice has a greater effect in exciting our attention, or at least teaches us more surely and with greater profit than simple beholding, to which no oral instruction is added, we ought to mark the force of the figure which the Psalmist uses when he says, that the heavens by their preaching declare the glory of God.
The repetition which he makes in the second clause is merely an explanation of the first. David shows how it is that the heavens proclaim to us the glory of God, namely, by openly bearing testimony that they have not been put together by chance, but were wonderfully created by the supreme Architect. When we behold the heavens, we cannot but be elevated, by the contemplation of them, to Him who is their great Creator; and the beautiful arrangement and wonderful variety which distinguish the courses and station of the heavenly bodies, together with the beauty and splendor which are manifest in them, cannot but furnish us with an evident proof of his providence. Scripture, indeed, makes known to us the time and manner of the creation; but the heavens themselves, although God should say nothing on the subject, proclaim loudly and distinctly enough that they have been fashioned by his hands: and this of itself abundantly suffices to bear testimony to men of his glory. As soon as we acknowledge God to be the supreme Architect, who has erected the beauteous fabric of the universe, our minds must necessarily be ravished with wonder at his infinite goodness, wisdom, and power.
2. Day unto day uttereth speech. Philosophers, who have more penetration into those matters than others, understand how the stars are arranged in such beautiful order, that notwithstanding their immense number there is no confusion; but to the ignorant and unlettered, the continual succession of days is a more undoubted proof of the providence of God. David, therefore, having spoken of the heavens, does not here descend from them to other parts of the world; but, from an effect more sensible and nearer our apprehension, he confirms what he has just now said, namely, that the glory of God not only shines, but also resounds in the heavens. The words may be variously expounded, but the different expositions which have been given of them make little difference as to the sense. Some explain them thus, that no day passes in which God does not show some signal evidence of his power. Others are of opinion that they denote the augmentations of instruction and knowledge, - that every succeeding day contributes something new in proof of the existence and perfections of God. Others view them as meaning that the days and nights talk together, and reason concerning the glory of their Creator’, but this is a somewhat forced interpretation. David, I have no doubt, here teaches, from the established alternations of days and nights, that the course and revolutions of the sun, and moon, and stars, are regulated by the marvellous wisdom of God. Whether we translate the words Day after day, or one day to another day, is of little consequence; for all that David means is the beautiful arrangement of time which the succession of days and nights effects. If, indeed, we were as attentive as we ought to be, even one day would suffice to bear testimony to us of the glory of God, and even one night would be sufficient to perform to us the same office. But when we see the sun and the moon performing their daily revolutions, — the sun by day appearing over our heads, and the moon succeeding in its turns — the sun ascending by degrees, while at the same time he approaches nearer us, — and afterwards bending his course so as to depart from us by little and little; — and when we see that by this means the length of the days and nights is regulated, and that the variation of their length is arranged according to a law so uniform, as invariably to recur at the same points of time in every successive year, we have in this a much brighter testimony to the glory of God. David, therefore, with the highest reason, declares, that although God should not speak a single word to men, yet the orderly and useful succession of days and nights eloquently proclaims the glory of God, and that there is now left to men no pretext for ignorance; for since the days and nights perform towards us so well and so carefully the office of teachers, we may acquire, if we are duly attentive, a sufficient amount of knowledge under their tuition.