This beautiful Psalm is a poetic celebration and response to God’s personal revelation both through His Creation and through His Word.
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
And the firmament shows His handiwork.
2 Day unto day utters speech,
And night unto night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech nor language
Where their voice is not heard.
4 Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their words to the end of the world.
In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun,
5 Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
And rejoices like a strong man to run its race.
6 Its rising is from one end of heaven,
And its circuit to the other end;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 The statutes 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 judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.
12 Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be 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 strength and my Redeemer.
Psalm 19 (NKJV)
This Psalm can be viewed simply in three parts:
These are beautiful words of poetry and testimony. But, what can we learn from these poetic words written so long ago? How can the Psalmist’s testimony filled with praise, wisdom and response speak to us right now?
Well, let’s remember that even though these words are the words of David, the Psalmist, they are part of God’s Word written for us. We really need the truths and the passionate commitments that are expressed in this Psalm.
One way of expressing how this Psalm speaks to us is to ask the question, could we, could you, have written this Psalm?? Would it express your heart, your relationship with the Lord??
Sadly, many people today live with little or no personal awareness of God on a daily basis. It certainly is possible for people to lack any real concern to live a life pleasing to God. Even Christians can live for periods of time with very few thoughts about God. They can be Christian Atheists, as one Christian pastor and writer has described the lifestyle. People who call themselves Christians can be focused on their work, their other activities, their health, their problems and their necessary relationships. They don’t live in a daily relationship with the Lord, who is real, present, and active.
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, wants us to have a real personal relationship with Himself. That is why our Lord Jesus Christ came to live among us. He died a death for our sins according to the will of God the Father. And being the very eternal Son of God, the grave could not hold Him, and He rose again from the dead. He is alive and exalted on high. As Lord, He has provided a right relationship with Himself through the forgiveness of sins, and the presence of His Holy Spirit. We enter into this relationship by repentance, admitting our sin and selfishness that have kept us from a right relationship with God. Then, we place our total faith for salvation, our genuine trust in the Lord for what He has done for us. We cannot earn this relationship, and we don’t deserve it. This relationship is the gift of God received by faith. And it is our privilege to live a life in fellowship with the Lord and to seek to live for His pleasure and glory daily.
As this Psalm concludes, it expresses a passionate desire to live a life pleasing to the Lord who has revealed Himself in such wonderful ways. We will look at this Psalm together especially in the light of this emphasis in the closing verses that express the Psalmist’s heart desire to be cleansed, to be holy, and to live a life pleasing to the Lord.
1. As the Lord’s People, We Should Celebrate the Glory and Sovereignty of the Lord (Revealed in His World) Verses 1-6
It is so easy to miss what we can learn from the heavens above us and the creation around us. The Psalmist is teaching us that the vastness of the heavens communicates God’s glory (1). The world around us is His handiwork, showing us something of God’s creative power. The communication about God through His creation, especially the heavens, is constant and universal. The Psalmist is celebrating the glory, the work, the very knowledge of God that can be learned from the heavens “and the firmament.” From other Scriptures, it is fair to say that we can learn from all of God’s creation. We can actually grow in our knowledge of God by learning through what God’s creation ”speaks” to us (vs. 1-3).
A definite truth we learn about God from creation is that He is sovereign. It is His creation. The created world is subject to God and does as He directs, even as the sun goes through its daily routine crossing the sky. It is God who “has set a tent for the sun,” (vs. 4b). The poetic language describes the movements of the sun as it joyfully runs its course across the heavens (vss. 4-6). What a beautiful metaphor for what we can see day-to-day!
We need an eye for the glory, the beauty, and the sovereignty of God. The vastness and majesty of the heavens give us a glimpse of God’s greater glory. The movements of the sun and other aspects of God’s creation remind us of God’s control and the joyous response of creation to its Creator. By the way, a little poetry in our lives is helpful as well. Scientific descriptions have their place, but our observations of God’s heavens and all of His creation should aid in our worship of the Lord and in our awareness of His greatness and power.
The Apostle Paul views the knowledge of God through His creation as very important (Rom. 1:19-21). This general revelation of God in creation reveals His character, His eternal power, His nature as God. The appropriate response should be worship and thankfulness. Along with the creation, we should celebrate God’s glory and greatness, even as the Psalmist does. Indeed, people will be held accountable for not appropriately responding to what God has revealed of Himself in the very skies above, His handiwork, His universe.
As believers, when we are overwhelmed with daily tasks, and we wonder whether God is able to help us, even the creation around us reminds us that there is nothing too big for God. God is over all. He made it all. He is sovereign over it all. As we have noted God “set a tent for the sun.” This is under His control. He is the glorious God of creation who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is not only with us by the power of the Holy Spirit, the world around us testifies to His glorious presence and power. And we are part of His creation.
As people in Christ Jesus, we know that greater glory is ahead. So, although we see the glory of God in creation, the creation has been tainted, impacted, indeed is in bondage due to sin. Our creation groans along with us as we await a day when our redemption is complete. As we move towards being fully glorified in the likeness of Christ, creation itself will one day “be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21, NKJV).
But, even in its present state needing liberation, the heavens and the creation around us still testify to the glory, beauty, power and sovereign rule of our God. Let’s allow God’s revelation through His Heavens and His total creation to help us, indeed inspire us, to appreciate the “highness” and majesty of our God.
Now, let’s go deeper into this Psalm.
2. As the Lord’s People, We Should Apply the Instruction and Direction of the Lord (Revealed in His Word) Verses 7-11
We learn from the New Testament that the Scriptures can lead us to the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. The Scriptures, also, are able to help us grow in Christ towards spiritual maturity and fruitful service (2 Tim. 3:14-17). These qualities of the Scriptures are true of the Old Testament and the New Testament.
The Psalmist wrote at a time when the Scriptures were not complete, but what is said about God’s Law can be applied to the Scriptures as a whole. And God’s Word is God’s specific revelation that the Psalmist celebrates and values greatly. It is this Word that is critical for our growth in the Lord. For the way of salvation and the way of sanctification are made plain through the Scriptures, not through the world around us. We need to be those who know the Word of God.
First, notice that the Content of God’s Word is sufficient to reveal God’s will to us and for us. The different words used by the Psalmist for the Word of God through verses 7-9 bring out the sufficiency and completeness of God’s Word for God’s people. Consider the following words that describe the content of God’s Word: law and testimony (vs. 7), statutes and commandment (vs. 8), fear and judgments (vs. 9). So, many people are living lives without clear direction or purpose, and God has revealed Himself, His will and His purposes for His people in His Word. Praise the Lord for that!
When you are in one location and you are trying to travel to another location, you want clear and accurate directions. You want the best way to travel from one place to another. God gives us that in His Word, and much more. God not only gives us directions in terms of the path or road to a destination, He tells us how to travel.
Second, notice the Qualities of God’s Word that are expressed. The Word is God’s perfect Word (vs 7). The Word is God’s reliable, certain Word (vs. 7). The Word of God is right in every way and true in what it affirms (vss. 7, 9). The Word of God is pure and clean and righteous (vss. 7, 8, 9). After all, it is God’s eternal Word (“enduring forever,” vs. 9) and therefore it reflects the character of God Himself.
Third, notice the power and the Benefits of God’s Word. And this needs to be emphasized if we are being negligent in our reading and applying of God’s Word. The Word of the Lord is a restoring Word. It brings us back to where we are supposed to be. It revives us. It helps us if we are stumbling or struggling in our Christian life. It brings us back into the right place with the Lord (vs. 7).
Of course, this Word leads us to salvation, to begin with through Jesus Christ, but that is only the start of our spiritual journey. There may be many times when we need to be restored in one way or another.
Maybe you sense right now that you need restoration or spiritual movement in your life. That is God’s purpose for you and He can do that as you allow the Word of God to minister to your own soul.
The Word of God gives us the wisdom we need to live day by day (vs. 7). So, often in life, we face challenging circumstances, decisions, trials or even relationship matters. How we need wisdom to respond to these situations. God has given us His Word to provide wisdom for living.
God’s Word is also a gift to us that brings joy and rejoicing as our hearts are encouraged by God’s truth (vs. 8). There is comfort, there is strength, there is peace, there is the assurance of God’s love for His children that is found in the Scriptures. These words of truth and of comfort can lead to great joy.
Another powerful benefit of God’s Word is that it warns us (vs. 11). Sometimes the warnings of God’s Word are viewed negatively. But, if you are a parent of children, you know how important it is to warn your children by telling them the truth about life, about decisions, and about consequences. As God’s servants, we can be kept from evil and its consequences through the Word of God.
It is helpful on a road through the mountains to be warned of a sharp turn, or of construction, or of fallen rocks on the road in order to avoid a serious accident. I’ve appreciated those warnings, especially when a road is not that familiar.
Is it not helpful to have warning labels on medicine that direct us to take the medicine as prescribed? The warning helps us not to take too much or too little. Too much could harm us and too little could be ineffective. We need warnings and cautions.
There are specific warnings we receive in the Scriptures. These warnings are not just in direct commands or statements of consequence. We learn from the sins and consequences of people in the Scriptures. For instance, the exile of God’s people from the land of promise due to their idolatry and other sins – speaks to us. The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira teach us something about the importance of integrity and God’s opinion of insincerity.
Warnings keep us doing the right things and moving in the right directions. We live in a sinful world. We are living in a world with evil forces, seen and unseen. Sometimes we are not even aware of all the reasons that God directs us through His Word in the way He does. But, praise God for His warnings to us.
Not only do we receive God’s warnings through the Word, but we can also be assured by God’s Word that there are rewards for those who obey God’s Word (vs. 11). It is not the hearing of God’s Word that brings benefits, it is the keeping of God’s Word that matters. And these rewards are not merited by our obedience. They are the result and the benefit of walking with the Lord in the light of His Word. Obedience just brings blessing. That blessing may not be in the form we expect, and it may not come at any particular time. But, we can be assured that keeping God’s Word by His grace and His enabling will lead to blessing (See also James 1:22-25)
I have waited to comment more fully on Verses 10 because I think it expresses how we should respond to the wonderful gift that we have in God’s Word.
“More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the “honeycomb.”
The person who wants to live for the Lord and to live a holy life will need to value, enjoy and obey this wonderful revelation that has been given to us.
But, this leads us to our final emphasis and the final part of the Psalm. It is almost as if we started in the great outdoors, looking at creation. We were in the outer court of the Temple, so to speak. We were surrounded with a sense of God’s glory, sovereignty, power and purpose. We saw God’s greatness and majesty.
But, through His Word, we move into a place of learning and fellowship. Here in the Scriptures, we learn more intimate things about the Lord and His will and plans for our lives. Keep in mind that the Word also points us to the Living Word, our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our Rock and our Redeemer. And part of our desire to live close to the Lord and to please Him is to be people of the Word of God. The Word takes us into the Holy place (so to speak).
But, in the final section of the Psalm, the Psalmist is expressing his most personal thoughts and response to what he knows of the Lord. It is as if he is kneeling privately before the Lord in a personal Holy of Holies. He is expressing his heart’s desire to the Lord.
As we view this most personal part of the Psalm, consider with me that:
3. As the Lord’s People We Should Seek the Protection and Pleasure of the Lord (in Response to His Revelation) 12-14
In these final verses, we hear the prayer of a person whose passion it is to be right with God and to live a holy life. As we move through these verses, let them challenge us to consider how seriously we desire to live lives pleasing to the Lord.
We know that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. But, that salvation in Christ and receiving all the benefits of the mercy and grace of God should be used by the Holy Spirit to have the same heart for holiness expressed by the Psalmist. So, let’s view how the Psalmist’s heart and passion for holiness and a life pleasing to the Lord is expressed.
First of all, (in verse 12) we should follow the example of the Psalmist and Seek the Lord to be innocent and cleansed of secret or hidden sins. This demonstrates humility in recognizing that even unknown sins can be committed. Indeed, we can sin without even being aware of the sin or knowing that what we said or thought or did was in fact sin.
The Psalmist does not want his life to be stained or defiled before God by even something unknown to others or even to himself: hidden sins. This speaks of a heart’s desire for total purity, a desire to be cleansed and right and pure before God. Can we pray that kind of prayer sincerely in the next few minutes?? Is it really our desire to live without any unconfessed sin in our lives?? Do we want to be pure and right with the Lord daily?? (Remember 1 John1:9 NKJV – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us for all unrighteousness.”)
We are instructed in Ephesians 4:30 not to grieve the Holy Spirit. We are to walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8). It is my experience, I am sorry to say, that the Holy Spirit’s grief is made real to me when I sin. This motivates me by His mercy and grace to confess my sin and to get right with the Lord and seek unhindered fellowship with Him. Praise God for the precious powerful blood of Jesus. Praise God that we have an “Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
Then, what strong petitions are prayed in the next verse (vs. 13). We should follow the example of the Psalmist and Seek the Lord for Protection and Deliverance from deliberate Sins. He is praying for God’s help, God’s protection and provision in order to avoid deliberate sins that can be committed. These are sins that are in defiance of God’s Word. These are sins that are deliberate even with the knowledge of God’s Word. These are sins that are committed with arrogance. These are sins that, and this is my application, that captivates us and causes us to do something against His will and Word. Many examples could be given. The Apostle Paul draws attention to “You shall not covet.” It is easy for us in our old nature to desire something that we should not have or to desire for something in an impure way. Think of a passage of Scripture like Proverbs 6:16-19, which speaks of things that God hates. Think of Jesus’ teaching in the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matt. 5-7) So, the Psalmist prays that these sins will not control his life. He prays that God will not let them have dominion over him. The Psalmist desires God’s control of his life.
This will lead to living a life without the constant bondage of sin. This will lead to protection and being empowered to avoid great transgressions or sins.
This does not mean that we will never sin. But, these are the prayers of a child of God who desires not to sin and to live a holy life. The Apostle Paul teaches in Romans 6 that we should live without sin having control or dominance in our lives. He is teaching us how we as Christians should live, and he is expressing the same desire in his teaching as the Psalmist is praying here in Psalm 19. The difference is that Jesus Christ has now come and has died and has risen to take away the judgment and penalty of sins. But, for those who have placed their faith in Christ, they have started a new life that by grace should not be dominated by sin. This has happened spiritually, we have died with Christ and by His Spirit, we are living new lives united to Him. We now have His life in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. And now we should have the same desire of the Psalmist to live holy lives without the control of sins over our lives.
Is this our desire? We praise the Lord for the forgiveness and cleansing He provides because of the cross of Christ and His shed blood for us. We praise the Lord that He now lives in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. The grace that we have received and the new life that is ours in Christ should be identified by a passion for purity and holiness. Every day we should desire to be clean and pure. We should desire to be kept from sins and sinning. We should desire to be kept from sins that not only are acts of disobedience but sins that hinder a joyful relationship with the Lord.
So, what is our response to be? How do we respond right now?
I think the best way to conclude this message and to respond to this Psalm is to voice in our hearts the final words of this Psalm (verse 14). In my mind the whole Psalm is climaxed by these beautiful words that we find in this closing verse:
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer”
What a fitting conclusion!
Notice that this is a personal prayer (He speaks of my mouth, and my heart). He is expressing his deep personal desire concerning his own walk with the Lord. There are times to be concerned for others, but these words are personal and express an intimate relationship with the Lord.
Notice that this prayer is a sincere prayer. The Psalmist speaks of both of outward words and inner thoughts. The Psalmist is seeking an obedient and pure walk before the Lord internally and externally. The Psalmist is not stopping at outward words or obvious areas of life. He brings his innermost thoughts before the Lord. Even as Jesus taught and the rest of Scripture confirms that sin starts within. The Psalmist is not just thinking of a list of outward sins that he is to avoid. No, he brings his outer life and his inner life before the Lord.
Notice that this prayer is a direct prayer to the Lord, focusing on the Lord’s acceptance and pleasure. This is a prayer of sacrificial commitment to the Lord. Just as sacrifices were to be offered acceptably to the Lord, the Psalmist seeks a life that is acceptable to the Lord. He is not concerned about the opinion of others, nor is he comparing himself to others. This is a direct intimate prayer to the Lord Himself.
This needs to be our desire day by day. We are to live as a living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God. (See Romans 12:1)
Lastly, and this is important, notice how the Psalmist speaks of the Lord. This is a dependent prayer. He recognizes that the source of strength and indeed true redemption and salvation is the Lord Himself. He is the one who forgives and releases us from the penalty and bondage on sin. He is the one who gives strength, He is our Rock.
David’s confidence is not in himself. His confidence is in the Lord. The Lord is the Redeemer. He is the one who delivers His people initially from bondage. And this is what the Lord has done for us today in Christ in providing forgives of sins and eternal life in Him. But, the Lord continues to be our Redeemer day by day, providing cleansing and forgiveness and restoration as we come to Him in need. At the same time, the Lord is our strength, the solid rock we need. To live faithfully day by day, we need His strength, we need His stability, and this is available to us by the Holy Spirit, praise God.
Make the Lord your strength today, by faith, and by letting go of false sources of strength.
Is your desire today to walk closely with the Lord, and to seek to be forgiven or kept from any kind of sin? Do you desire to be an overcomer, someone who overcomes the power of sin through the strength that the Lord provides?
I think an appropriate response right now would be for you to read verse fourteen. Make it a personal prayer. Make it a genuine prayer. Say these words to the Lord, depending upon Him to enable you to live a life in close fellowship with the Lord, pleasing Him.
I invite you now to say these words meaningfully and prayerfully:
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.”