I would like to reflect upon Psalm 19.7-14 in this paper. There is much to glean from it for our nourishment in the faith.
“The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul…”
In v. 7 we see that the “law of the Lord is perfect.” This is a theme often neglected by Christians. On the one hand, Paul the apostle noted that “Christ is the end (aim) of the Law.” He is the point of the Law, the very fulfillment of the Law. But this does not mean that the Law is a deplorable thing as it is often assumed.
Paul also declared the Law to be “spiritual,” and elsewhere, “holy, just and good.” Though Romans and Hebrews reveal the limitation of the Law to justify us, thus declaring the necessity of the Gospel, they do not demean the Law of God. In this Psalm we see that God’s Law is perfect, and as it issues from God Himself, it revives the soul who is humbled before Him.
“…the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple…”
When we prayerfully contemplate and receive the testimony of the Lord about Himself we find ourselves upon the surest footing. What He says of Himself is immutable, glorious, unbending. Though He often surprises and brings us to awe, it is never because He changes. His testimony is sure, quite unlike ours. Though we consider ourselves wise, we are fickle and changeable creatures. His sure testimony dismantles our purported wisdom and brings us to the “simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ,” the One who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” There is deep-seated rest in being made simple before the immutable God.
“…the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart…”
The “precepts” or “decrees” of the Lord are right, and this is of great comfort to the one who trusts Him. There is no “shifting shadow” in Him; no dubious claims, no suspicious motives. He is perfectly accurate and perfectly just in all His statements and requirements. The Psalmist says that this truth “rejoices the heart.” The servant of the Lord, whose hope and trust are in God, will be brimming with happiness over the fact that God has given him boundaries and promises regarding the life of discipleship. Lawlessness and relativity breed chaos and unrest. The just and true “precepts of the Lord” bring happiness to the heart, and this is a very precious thing “to those who are being saved.”
“…the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes…”
That which God commands is pure, and brings holy enlightenment to the eyes of Israel’s singer. The “Enlightenment” of the 18th century did little more than expand the horizons of how human depravity grapples for the vanity of self-expression. It dressed up fallen wisdom with frills for philosophical pageantry and the perpetual parade of human narcissism.
The “enlightenment” of Psalm 19, or Ephesians 1 as another example, is a holy enlightenment: One which reveals the character of God and the commandments/ways of God. It opens blinded eyes and frees us to behold and treasure Him. All of His commands are in the spirit of John 11, when Jesus commanded Lazarus to come forth from the tomb. By His command we emerge from the tomb of unclean thoughts and vain presumptions, and into the purity and sweetness of seeing and hearing the God of our salvation.
“…the fear of the Lord is clean,
The fear of the Lord, which is “the beginning of wisdom,” is both “clean” and eternal, according to the Psalmist. This should be encouraging to our weary souls, which are fraught with the subtle drone of a thousand worldly fears. To fear Him is to be cleansed from all other fears, and that precious fear endures forever. It will always be present and increasing in the hearts of the Redeemed.
“Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, the clouds ye so much dread; Are big with mercy and shall break in blessings on thy head.” -Cowper
To fear God is to be freed from all other fears, extricated from their stranglehold, purified from the effects of the world, the flesh and the devil. How clean is the fear of God! It is our portion through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, “accomplished and applied” to us on the basis of faith. Therefore, as it is summed up in in the infinite God, it endures “forever.” Let us see to it that we fear Him.
“…the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.”
The Lord has rules, and He is no legalist. We must consider a few things about this.
1. The rules are the Lord’s rules. They are not the rules of kings. They are not the rules of popes or potentates. They are not the rules created by men for government or religion. He is the eternal God, and He has rules.
2. His rules are true. They are not flimsy. They are not optional. They are not relative to time, culture, and opinion. They are true. They do not change color or shape, for their foundation is God Himself. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne,” and true rules issue from that holy place, yielding rewards and consequences for the obedient and the rebellious.
3. His rules are “righteous altogether.” They are not merely accurate and immutable, though they are certainly characterized in those ways— they are righteous. We have lost the savor of the Biblical word “righteous,” and we need to recover it. It is “more to be desired” than “much fine gold,” for only righteousness can put the universe right again.
God’s rules are righteous, for they issue from His righteous Being. This is why they are more desirable than find gold and sweeter than the “drippings of the honeycomb.” They come from God— the King of all kings and the desire of the nations.
There are two more reasons given to explain the preciousness of God’s rules.
1. “By them your servant is warned.”
2. “In keeping them there is great reward.”
The Psalmist cherished the warnings of God, which communicated God’s mind to him and instilled in him the fear of the Lord and a hatred for sin and error. And he clung with hope to the promise of God, that “great reward” would be given to the one who keeps and obeys the “rules of the Lord.” Do we share with the Psalmist this kind of relishing in the rules of God in both Testaments, those rules which are applicable to all men?
We suffer from the twofold problem of living in an “anti-rules” society as “anti-rules” men. The problem is both in our hearts and in our surrounding societies. But the Psalmist had learned to delight in the King of the ages and in His rules. They protected him from deception and gave him certitude and hope in the reward which is to come. A true disciple will find himself increasingly agreeing with the Psalmist along these lines. Are you?
“Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
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.”
The Psalmist acknowledges that we cannot discern our errors on the basis of our own assessment. We need God’s Word. We need His Spirit. We need the community of faith around us. And we need His cleansing mercies to declare us innocent even from “hidden faults.” We need Him to keep us back from “presumptuous sins” and to break their “dominion over” our lives. So he prays for this, and we should too, on every stretch of our pilgrimage in the faith.
In God’s answer to the prayer of the Psalmist comes the assurance of forgiveness and belonging in His house. If God will help us discern our errors; if God in Gospel-mercy will declare us innocent even from hidden faults; if God will preserve us and keep us from presumptuous sins which would otherwise master us, “then” we would be “blameless and innocent of great transgression.” This demands our submission and obedience, but we cannot do this by our own discipline or wisdom. We need Him to expose us, to justify us, to keep us, and to complete the work in us. In short, we need Him. Therefore, we must pray as the Psalmist prayed.
This is a glorious Old Testament Gospel-prayer, one which speaks to our justification, our sanctification, and our glorification. The Ancient of Days has given His ultimate and final answer in His Son. We must behold Him to be changed, and we can be assured that “all who call on the Name of the Lord will be saved” to the uttermost.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
In 2 Cor. 5.9 Paul stated, “Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.” As a man in Christ he voices the same desire as the Psalmist does in our final verse. The Psalmist longed for his words and the very deepest thoughts and intents of his heart to be “acceptable” or “pleasing” to God. In calling the Lord his “rock” he acknowledges that he has no other source or foundation than God Himself. He cannot please God without God. In calling him his “redeemer” he relishes in the promise of God’s faithfulness to save us from all that displeases Him.
So we come full circle. The Laws of God, the precepts of God, the rules of God are perfect and sweet. The one who looks unto Christ and finds Him to be the rock and the redeemer may be found blameless before Him, wrenched loose from the powers of self-deception and worldly chaos— his cup running over with everlasting happiness in Him.
This is the portion of the redeemed, “and it is marvelous in our eyes.”