God's Will and the Bible

| Psalm 19:7-14

Week of October 20, 2019

The Point:  God gives us direction through His Word. 

The Law of the Lord is Perfect:  Psalm 19:7-14.

[7] The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; [8] the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; [9] the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules 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] Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. [13] Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not 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 in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.   [ESV]

“Specific Revelation: The word of the Lord is most desirable because it not only reveals God’s will but also transforms the lives of people [7-11]. A. The word of the Lord reveals God’s will and transforms the lives of people [7-9].  In verse 7 there is an abrupt change in language, style, and content. The attention shifts from the splendor of God’s creation to the value of the word of the Lord. Natural revelation declares a good deal about the power and majesty of God, but it cannot communicate the details specific revelation reveals. All the heavenly hosts and especially the sun have a great impact on life on this planet, but they cannot match the impact of specific revelation. Lives are transformed and enriched as people follow the instructions and principles of the word of the Lord. The material in verses 7-11 comes close to wisdom or torah literature with its emphasis on Scripture. The first part, verses 7-9, extols different aspects of the word of the Lord and describes the effect of each on the believer. The second part, verses 10-11, proclaims how desirable and beneficial the teachings of Scripture are for the believer. There are six aspects of the word of the Lord that are extolled. The first is the general heading, the law of the Lord. This word translated law can refer to an individual teaching, the law given at Sinai, all the books of the law in general, or all of Scripture. Here it seems to refer to the law given at Sinai, but it can easily be applied to any biblical revelation. With the shift to specific revelation the covenant name “Yahweh” is now used instead of “God.” Natural revelation can tell us about a sovereign, powerful God who created all things; specific revelation can tell us about the personal, covenant God Yahweh who revealed His will and His plans to His people. This law, David says, is perfect. It is flawless. It is without error. There is no misleading or unnecessary instruction. It is sound, consistent, unimpaired, and genuine. In other words, the law of the Lord has divine integrity, and its effect on people is that it restores life (reviving the soul) – it brings the person back. No matter what spiritual condition people might be in, or what physical location or event might have brought about their waywardness, the law of the Lord shows them how they may be restored to a right relation with God. Many people hear the word “law” and think only of rules with condemnations; but the law also included all the ritual of the sacrifices – God’s gracious provision for forgiveness and restoration. The second topic listed is the testimony of the Lord. The word may be translated “covenant” or “testimony”; it is a general reference to the laws and commandments that make up the covenant God made with Israel. This testimony is sure. This means that it is reliable or trustworthy, and the effect is that it makes wise the simple. The simple is the naïve person, often young, who has had no training and is therefore without knowledge or discipline, and who wanders into all kinds of danger. The simpleton desperately needs wisdom, which is the skill to live a life that is disciplined and productive, bringing honor to the community, the family, and to God. By entering into the covenant with the Lord and living according to its stipulations, the simple may become wise; but without Scripture, there can be no godly wisdom. The third topic is the precepts of the Lord. The word means “appoint” among other things; it often has an emphasis on changing someone’s position or destiny. The Lord’s statutes are like divine appointments to higher service with additional responsibilities and duties. They are right; they are upright, appropriately clear and direct. The effect of these statutes, should one receive them and live on this level, is that they cause the heart to rejoice. Living out the plan of God revealed in the covenant will bring joy. A sense of sadness and insecurity come from the realization one is living in rebellion to God’s law. Next is the commandment of the Lord. The singular use of “commandment” is a reference to the entire law with all its commandments and provisions. This covenant program is pure, without any imperfection or pollution (like pure gold); and because God’s command is pure, it enlightens the eyes – it gives people spiritual understanding and guides them in the right choices (“eyes” representing more than ordinary sight). Spiritual perception is essential for survival in a corrupt world. The fifth topic [9] does not seem to fit the pattern: the fear of the Lord is clean. Since all the other topics are terms for the law of God, the intended meaning here must be the law as well. The psalmist has put the effect of the law, fear, for the law. The law properly understood and received will prompt reverential awe in the believer. The law, which prompts such fear, is said to be clean, a term that is at home in the Levitical ritual of the sanctuary. Its antonym, “unclean,” described anything that was contaminated or corrupted through defilement in the world outside the sanctuary and was therefore not permitted in the presence of God. Clean in Psalm 19 would describe the law that produced reverential awe as being acceptable in the presence of God because it was not polluted or perverted in any way; and the effect is that it lasts forever. God’s holy word will endure forever because it is truth. Heaven and earth will pass away, but not the word of the Lord [Matt. 24:35]. Finally, we have the rules of the Lord. The word “rules” may be translated as “decisions” or “judgments,” but in this context it probably refers to the rulings in the law that decided cases. Because “truth” is related to the words “faithful” and “reliable,” truth is that which corresponds to reality and is therefore reliable. In deciding a legal case, the purpose is to get to the truth. All God’s decisions will do just that, and so the conclusion is that they are righteous altogether. Since righteousness describes that which corresponds to the standard, all of God’s decisions or judgments are right. This is to be expected because He is righteous and loves righteousness. Only in the decisions of God will anyone ever find true justice. B. The word of the Lord is desirable and enjoyable because it enables people to be pleasing to the Lord [10-11]. After this survey of the value and effect of the word of the Lord in the lives of people, the psalmist announces his delight in and benefit from the word of the Lord. For believers the laws of God were not a burden; they were desirable. Such a desire usually leads to acquiring what is desired. The psalmist knew that the laws of the Lord were more to be desired than fine gold, and they were sweeter than honey from the honeycomb. God’s word is sweet in the enrichment and satisfaction of life that it brings to the faithful believer, and its sweetness increases its desirability day by day. As David reflected on the enjoyment the word of the Lord gave him in life, he also reflected on its impact in his life [11]. First, he, God’s servant, is warned by them. One need only read the book of Proverbs to see how the application of the law of the Lord provided warning after warning for the choices one makes in life. The law not only told people what they should not do, but also warned them of the consequences if they violated the law. On the other hand, by keeping the laws of God there was great reward (“good results”). The laws of God were sweet and desirable – they prevented people from ruining their lives and the lives of those around them, and they promised a good outcome for abiding by the law. Based on the first part of this psalm, one may conclude that this is so because the sovereign Creator knows what is best for His creation.

Response to Divine Revelation: The proper response to divine revelation is the confession of sin and the desire to be accepted by God [12-14]. After rehearsing natural revelation, the revelation that all the heavenly host provides about the majesty and glory of God, and after delineating the different aspects of the word of the Lord, the specific revelation that transforms and enhances the lives of believers, David responds with an acknowledgment of his waywardness and a prayer for cleansing from sins and preservation from sinfulness so that he might lead a life that is acceptable to God. In this all who believe in divine revelation must share this concluding prayer. Believers must pray for cleansing from hidden faults [12]. Verse 12 begins with a rhetorical questions, Who can discern his errors? The point he is making is that no one can discern them. The type of sins he is talking about are “sins of ignorance” (hidden faults). The term can describe waywardness in general, but in the cultic laws it describes sins that were unintentional, hidden, or inadvertent. That they were sins of ignorance is evidenced by the fact that Leviticus prescribed the sin offering for these sins when the guilty found out about them or was made aware of them [4:28]. The word could refer to any sin that was committed out of ignorance of the law, or any sin that was committed inadvertently, or any sin that was rationalized. These are clearly not the premeditated violations of the Law; but even though they may have been committed unwittingly, they were nevertheless sins. David knows he cannot detect them, and so he prays for God to clear him of secret or hidden sins. The verb declare me is from the verb “acquit”; he wants to be declared innocent or free of any sins that are hidden to him at the moment. If he meditated on the Law he would discover them; his prayer is that they be removed so that he would be free. Believers must pray for preservation from presumptuous sins [13]. He also prays for God to preserve him (keep back your servant) from presumptuous sins. The verb means “boil over,” but also “be arrogant, act presumptuously” (in the sense of overstepping boundaries). The reference is to pre-meditated sins, sins of the high hand [Num. 15:27-31]. He does not want to act with presumption as the presumptuous do. The one guilty of presumptuous sin was a willful sinner; the presumption came in the idea that he could sin knowingly and willfully against God. David’s prayer is that such arrogant sins not have dominion over him – they are that powerful. If the psalmist was cleared of secret sins and prevented from presumptuous sins then he would be blameless and innocent of great transgression. The word for blameless is related to the ordinary form of “blameless.” Of its many applications the word describes animals without blemish that could be brought into the sanctuary. In a similar sense David is saying that when he is free of sin, he will be blameless before God and therefore welcome in His presence. The other word, innocent is the word “free, clear, acquitted” – he will be acquitted of great transgression. What the psalm means by great transgression is hard to say. The word “transgression” is more specifically a rebellious act. In the ancient world the “great sin” often referred to adultery, but the use of the expression in this psalm is probably not that specific. He wants to be free of any serious sin. Thus it is the case with all the people of God, that when they are cleansed of secret sins, and protected from committing presumptuous sins, they are blameless and innocent in the eyes of God; but it takes a constant vigil to maintain such spiritual integrity. Believers must always pray that their words and thoughts be acceptable to the Lord [14]. The concluding prayer is one of the best known prayers from the Psalter. The prayer is that the words and meditations be acceptable to the Lord; it follows the pattern of the formula used for dedication [see Ps. 104:34; 119:108]. The psalmist has dwelt on the words of natural revelation that reflect the glory of God and the words of special revelation that come from God and guide and direct his life in obedience to God; now he prays that his words to God would also be acceptable to God. But the concern is not for words only, but meditations as well. In the good sense, “meditations” would refer to the prayerful analysis and application of divine revelation, but in the bad sense the word can also be used for any contemplation or imagining against God. Here the prayer is that everything he says and everything he thinks be acceptable to God – and this would eliminate improper meditations. The Lord is addressed in this prayer as my rock and my redeemer. The figure of the rock was used in verse 2 in the context of describing the sovereign God of creation as the one who delivers and protects from the enemies. The figure of the rock is broader than that of just “strength” because it represents God as the solid foundation of his life, his place of security and safety, and his strength. The epithet my redeemer is also multifaceted. On the human level the word refers to the kinsman redeemer who protects and provides for the family, as in paying off debts or marrying a widow; but on the divine level the word refers to God’s protection and deliverance of His covenant people, usually requiring His taking vengeance on the enemies. Calling God his redeemer means God is his loyal protector, the one who will make things right. The combination of my rock and my redeemer provides a powerful summary of the nature and provision of God.”  [Ross, pp. 465-487].

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Verses 7-9 describe six different aspects of the Word of God. After each aspect there is a descriptive adjective with a statement concerning the benefit of each aspect. List these six statements. Think about how these six statements can impact how you live your life for the glory of God.
  2. Compare your desire for God’s Word to David in verse 10. What can you do to grow in your desire? How do you express your desire for God’s Word? What is the great reward in keeping God’s Word?
  3. What does David say is the proper response to God’s Word [12-14]? Do you experience conviction of your sin when reading God’s Word? If not, then you are probably not reading His Word carefully enough. Seek to pray through God’s Word as you read.
  4. Make verse 14 your daily prayer this week. Give thought to the prayer throughout the day concerning how the focus of the prayer can be experienced in your daily activity.

References:

Psalms of Promise, Calvin Beisner, P & R Publishing.

Psalms, vol. 1, James Boice, Baker.

A Commentary on the Psalms, vol. 1, Allen Ross, Kregel.