Glory of God

March 15, 2009



Psalm 19

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.


David Chambers builds flagpoles. Not just any old flagpoles. For the past eight years, Chambers has been in the business of building the world’s largest flagpoles. In fact, his small company is at the center of a “monster-flagpole boom,” which sweeping across Central Asia and the Middle East. His latest project, a pole that is slated to stand some 532 feet tall, is located in Azerbaijan, in the capital city of Baku, which is, as you might know, an oil town. When completed, this will be the world’s tallest flagpole—but not for long. Clients are lining up, especially in the oil-rich areas of the world, each requesting that theirs be the last to hold the coveted title of “tallest.”

Chambers believes that he could build a flagpole 720 feet high (the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, by comparison, is 630 feet tall), but he is too shrewd a businessman to go there just yet. In fact, he tells his clients that each new pole can be only 3 feet higher than the previous record holder. He does this to keep the business going, to keep building flagpoles.

Furthermore, we can be sure that Chambers is not the only one cashing in on the tallest flagpole craze. He has competitors, and think about related opportunities. If there is a craze for tall flagpoles, there must also be a craze for huge flags. Betsy Ross, eat your heart out.

Of course the drive to build the biggest and the greatest — be it skyscrapers or flagpoles — is nothing new. It’s a uniquely human “thing,” never really going out of style but rather shifting its focus. Whether it’s the undeniable magnificence of the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, or the curious accomplishment that is the world’s biggest ball of twine (located just off Highway 12 in Darwin, Minnesota), it’s clear that something inside us just loves to build big. And we love to admire what we have done, we think we are hot stuff.

But let us put all that in perspective. When Apollo astronauts went to the moon and looked back at our planet, they saw the big blue marble that is planet earth, but they saw nothing at all of the works of humankind. Nothing we have done on the earth, not the tallest flagpole, not the island shaped like a palm tree, not even the great Wall of China is visible from our nearest neighbor in space, the moon.

That is sort of deflating to our collective egos. A whole vast universe is out there that we have no influence on, and if there are other life forms out there, they might never notice us. Or if they do notice, they might regard us as vermin who happen to infest a small planet in the backwoods of nowhere.

I do not mean to belittle human achievements, but we need to have things in proper perspective. We are rightfully proud of our achievements in science and technology, but compared to the work God has done, we are like children playing in a sandbox.

The stars speak of a scope and size to the universe that is beyond our grasp. The mountains give hint of a maker more powerful than comprehension. Right now, with the coming of spring, we have a smell and taste in the air and we see the plants beginning to unfold and grow, and all this displays an artistry unmatched by the most skilled of human hands.

I will give you more than that. There is an animal that is longer than three dump trucks, heavier than 110 Honda Civics, and has a heart the size of a Volkswagon Beetle. This mammal is the blue whale. It eats four tons of krill a day. That is three million calories if you are into counting calories. A baby blue whale can put away 100 gallons of milk every 24 hours. When a blue whale surfaces, it takes in the largest breath of air of any living thing on the planet. Its spray shoots higher into the air than the height of a telephone pole, higher than most flagpoles. The saying is God must have loved whales because he made them so big.

Traditionally Psalm 19 is a Psalm of David, and David like to do stuff. He built an empire and made Jerusalem the capitol city. He built a palace for himself. David loved to press the limits of human abilities. However, in Psalm 19, we catch David in a different mood. We hear a man who, at least for a moment, is awed by the wonders of God’s creativity:

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.

Now this is Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry does not have rhyme or meter. It is a poetry of ideas. The first line states the idea, the second line expands the idea or contrasts something to the idea, or just repeats in different words. In fact, the criticism of this kind of poetry is that it can boring. However that may be, let us look at line 1: “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” that is the basic idea.

Second line: “and the sky proclaims his handiwork.” Same idea, just different words

The Psalm continues:

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.

What is that all about? That is a riddle. Do you like riddles?

What is black and white and red/read all over? A newspaper.

When is a door not a door? When it is ajar (a jar).

The riddle is Psalm 19 is what can speak without speech?

What has a voice but cannot be heard? The answer is creation. Creation speaks to the created on a direct level. Creation speaks God to us.

Whenever we take the time to take in something bigger or more beautiful than that which is made by mere mortals, a proclamation takes place. There is a declaration that surpasses the boundaries of language and says something to every single soul. “I am small. God is big. I am weak. God is strong. The sun is always on time. I, however, am often late. I am creation; God is Creator.”

In present day pop culture, the word “awesome” can be used to describe everything from the work of Picasso to a peanut butter sandwich, and so the word loses some of its impact, but we need that word with its full meaning. When we stop in our daily rut to consider the works of God, we are astounded and overwhelmed.

We may admire human works, but human works are constantly outdone by other humans. Someone will always build a taller flagpole. We need sometimes to stop what we are doing, cease with the stuff, and look up at the works of God and say, “Wow.”

That is what David is doing for us in this psalm. He is drawing us outward and upward, toward the truth of God in a way that pyramids, balls of twine, and insanely large flagpoles simply cannot do. Think about it for just a moment. The Eiffel Tower, the Great Wall of China and soon the Palm Islands of Dubai, declare human glory. What are we saying with those structures? “Hey, check this out: We can make giant islands that look like palm trees and you can see them from international space station. That is amazing, strange but amazing.

But the psalmist, speaking of God’s creativity says,

In the heavens he has set a tent for the sun,

which comes out like a bridegroom from his wedding canopy.”

The psalmist poetically describes the stretched out heavens as a tent, and we dwell in this tent. And thus everywhere we look, everything we see proclaims God to us, proclaims God on a basic level, on a gut level.

The experience David is describing here is something we are sort of hard-wired for. There is something built into our DNA that causes us to react with reverence when we look beyond ourselves to the universe.

I have all the pictures I have taken in the last ten years on my computer as a screen saver, so that when the computer is idle, it cycles through all these pictures. Now I have a lot of pictures of grandchildren obviously, but you might be surprised by how many pictures I have of mountains and oceans, and rivers and scenes of great natural beauty. That is not unusual. It is a human tendency when we are presented with a great landscape to say, “Wow, look at that.” That is the beginning of an awe of creation.

Again, this is not to downplay what we are capable of. Our ability to create is itself a reflection of God’s ultimate, creative power. Made in God’s image and likeness, we are “mini-creators” doing our thing on a much smaller but still impressive scale (Genesis 1:27). But when we come face to face with the unmatched, creative power of God, we are stunned into silence.

Let’s be honest, most people spend a great deal of time proving to other people that they are important in some way or another. We fill our days building a reputation, we want our kids to be impressive kids because that makes us impressive parents. We want people to look up to us, in some way or another, but sometimes the best thing we can do is stop trying to prove who we are and remember who we are not.

This is the moment in which we find David. The speech of the sun and the message of the moon have struck him deep with a sense of God.

As I said earlier, we are born for this kind of experience. and this is in God’s providence to prepare us to receive the gospel. Confronted by the glory of God, we are ready for an encounter with the Son of God, who stepped into creation and led us to a new revelation of God. Christ is the “firstborn of all creation,” whose death on a cross forgives our constant attempts to put ourselves on the world’s tallest pedestal (Colossians 1:15). When we take the time to stare at the stars that hang over a football game on a Friday night; when we remove our nose from the grindstone long enough to notice what God has done all around us, then we encounter a Maker who created the universe from primeval chaos and can bring sense to the turmoil of our lives.

Albert Einstein once said, “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand in rapt awe, is as good as dead.” Strong words. When was the last time that you stood in jaw-dropped awe? How alive is your sense of wonder? Perhaps one of the best exercises we can do to revive our faith is to simply to look up at what is. It worked for King David.

David closes his song with a simple request. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” The work of God speaks. It tells us of his power. When we listen, it declares the depths of his love and the heights of his grace. David’s desire is that somehow his life might be connected with and made acceptable to this same God.

The good news of the gospel is that this same God has indeed accepted us. God is our rock and our redeemer. We stand in awe of the creation and the creator, and we should. We should never lose our wonder for the One who has made the world. But we should also rejoice that this same One has sent Jesus to us to love us and care for us. Amen.



RE: the monster flagpole boom: article/SB121883827130345579.html.

RE: the Palm Islands of Dubai: new_properties/index.html.


If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant

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