Psalm 19, which opens with those famous words: “The heavens declare the glory of God”, gives us a great example of what theologians call “General Revelation” and “Special Revelation.”
“General Revelation” refers to what we can know of God from creation. We see that taught in the first verse of Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” Anyone can look at God’s creation and infer that there is a Creator. The Apostle Paul asserts this in the first chapter of Romans, where he writes: “For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made …”. (Romans 1:20)
Perhaps significantly, the Hebrew word for “God” in Psalm 19:1 is “El” — not “Yahweh”, the personal, revealed name of the God of the Bible, but a more generic name for deity. This reminds us that what we can know about God through “General Revelation” is limited. For example, we can deduce that this intricately made universe must have a Creator, but we cannot discern from observation that this Creator is a Triune God, existing eternally as Father, Son & Holy Spirit. For this, we must have “Special Revelation.”
That “Special Revelation” is what we find referred to in the second part of the Psalm, beginning in verse 7, which begins: “The Law of the Lord is perfect …”. The word of God, the scripture, which this section refers to, is God’s “Special Revelation” to us. In it God unveils the details of His nature and work, that He is a God of holiness, love, and mercy, who has a plan to send a Messiah to save mankind.
It is instructive that the Hebrew word for “Lord” in Psalm 19:7 is “Yahweh”, the personal, revealed name of that God. This Psalm is a reminder to us that although there is much we can discern about God through the “General Revelation” of His creation, more specific knowledge of His Person and Work — and His plan of salvation through Jesus — only comes to us through the “Special Revelation” of His word.