Zoom Out, Zoom In

The Nineteenth Psalm is on my list of all-time greatest passages. The sweep and scope of its poetry is stunning – like the first time you see the Grand Canyon, or the Northern Lights, or a newborn baby. You are left slack-jawed and without adequate words. Read it with me as if with new eyes.

In a few short verses we zoom from long telephoto to up-close and personal; from Hubble to heart in thirty-two lines. David opens his song of praise with the widest view imaginable. Verses 1-6 teach us that God’s reputation is manifest in the testimony of the universe. This is spectacular, but distant. Here God is breathtaking in His expansive creation.

Zooming in, God’s reputation can be discerned in more detail as His will is focussed in His declarations to man. Verses 7-11 show us that His laws, pronouncements, precepts, and commandments are all intended to be a blessing, and should be attributed great value. These mid-range views of God’s ways are nearer, but still removed. A person could claim ignorance or indifference, but still find wisdom of great worth. Here God is precious, but not personal.

David understands that God would do more than take our breath away, or impress us with His wisdom and righteousness. God would rather invade and pervade our thoughts. In verses 12-14 we see that God wants us to be upright inwardly, so that out of a clean heart would flow righteous actions. It is here, on the intimate level of our thought-life, that redeemed mankind intimately reflects the reputation of God, and joins the Universe and the Word in expressing His character. Here God is truly and wholly personal.

It is right to gaze at the stars and feel a thrill, to let the majesty of it all take your breath away, but the pagans can also stand amazed in their way, and never give a thought to the One True God.

It is right to find extraordinary value in the Word of God. The profound wisdom and penetrating insight of God’s declarations to mankind have been renowned through the centuries. But even atheist scholars can study the Bible and marvel at its crafting, all the while only seeing man in the pages.

What cannot be hijacked or denied is the inward, personal, relational aspect of God’s intimate presence – Immanuel – revealing His reputation by living it out in the lives of His people. People who invite Him to search their hearts. People who seek His help in rooting out what is unclean. People who determine, for His sake, to live lives of dignity, integrity, and honesty.

Let the words of our mouths, and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in His sight.

Copyright © 2009 by Dr Terry Boyle. All rights reserved worldwide.

Posted in Bible Characters, God.

Dr Terry Boyle serves as Pastor for Insight for Living UK. His ministry involves teaching a weekend radio programme, hosting the weekday Insight for Living broadcast, helping with issues that come in from listeners, and providing a personal and local approach to Chuck Swindoll’s ministry.

Terry was born in Windsor, England. He moved to the United States in 1981. Although he began his professional life as a biochemist, Terry holds a Th.M. in Pastoral Ministry and a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas.

Terry served as senior pastor of Skillman Bible Church in Dallas until he and his family moved back to the UK in 2007, to take on the role of pastor for Insight for Living United Kingdom.

Terry and his wife Rose Ann have been married for twenty seven years, and they have three grown children: Hannah, Emily, and Terence.