Psalm 19 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
5 which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
6 Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
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,
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.
When I was 23 I was engaged to be married, working part-time, and desperately trying to find a job in law enforcement. Over the course of one year I had applied to 35 different agencies, each time getting close, but not being able to get that coveted job offer. However, there were two agencies that I had an inside track on, and was certain that I had a lock on one of them. One chief even told me that they wanted to hire me. In my mind I knew without a doubt that I would get hired by one of them. Within the course of one week, both those agencies told me they were deciding to not hire me.
I was devastated. I had stopped applying for other agencies because I thought I was certain to get hired with one of these two. Questions swirled in my mind as to my future, and what I was going to do. For the first time in my adult life I was desperate to feel the presence of God in my life and know what he was doing in all of this. In two weeks I read through the entire book of Psalms, wanting to have my heart and mind shaped by its truth and hop in dark times.
Within the history of the United States, our culture has had a general acceptance of the Bible. Our nation has seen the Bible as having rules and morals that make one a good person and a contributing member of society. But the Bible is not merely like an engine manual for your car that shows you how to fix problems when it isn’t running correctly. The Bible is meant to be like a treasure map, showing you the path to what your soul needs the most- Jesus. Psalm 19 talks about God’s Word being more desired than money and sweeter to the soul than honey to the tongue. God’s Word ought to help shape your thinking and emotions towards godliness. It should not be seen as merely a way to fix your problems to make your life run better.
We are going to work our way through verses 7 to 11 to see the power of God’s Word. God’s Word has the power to change you, shape your emotions, and direct your decisions to be in conformity to God. The questions we are going to ask ourselves from verses 7-10 are 1) What part of God’s Word is being talked about here and 2) What change should it have on our souls? These are the two questions I asked of each of these verses.
While at the time this passage was intended for Israel to hear, in light of the Pentateuch being given to them, we know that this is also true and applicable to us as well. Paul quotes Psalm 19:5 in Romans 10:18, applying it to us, the Gentiles. And Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is profitable for us. And Jesus says in Matthew 5:17 that Jesus came to fulfill all the law and the prophets. So when David talks about rules, and statutes, and precepts in this passage, there is truth and promise and obedience for us to find and draw from here, even though it was originally intended for Israel. It has bearing on us as Christians today, in this moment.
Psalm 19 fits into the first of five books within the Psalms. Chapters 1-41 make up this first book, and are almost entirely written by David. It has prayers that come out of distress and statements of confidence that to God alone belongs salvation. David is a man desperate to know God and see his salvation.
In the first six verses of chapter 19 we see the inseparable link between God’s work and God’s words. The two ways in which God has revealed himself to the world are through his creation and through scripture. The heaven’s declare the glory of God and sky proclaims his handiwork. When you step out into this world you are seeing the shouts of God’s glory painted across this earth and this universe. That’s a whole other sermon for another time.
THE LAW OF THE LORD
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul (v. 7).” God’s law are his instructions and directions for us to live this life. God’s law is a delight to his people (Psalm 1:2). They love to do his will. Psalm 37:31 says that the godly have the law of God controlling their thinking. It dominates their thinking. Psalm 1 talks about the godly delighting in God’s instructions.
This is counter to how we think in the secular sphere. As a cop, most people that I pulled over for speeding, did not delight in the fact that I was enforcing the law. People by and large obey laws because they fear consequences, not because they delight in them.
That is not the mark of the people of God. God’s instructions are their delight and they revive their souls. In what way do God’s instructions and directions revive our soul? Imagine going for a hike in the woods, confident that you can navigate through it without getting lost. But fog quickly sets in and you realize you are lost. You are walking around in circles, it is getting dark and you are beginning to get cold and are worried. Then you just so happen to stumble across the trail with a sign that points you back to the parking lot where you entered the woods.
That’s what Psalm 42 is like. When the fog of despair sets in, David is instructing his soul to hope in God. The despairing heart looks to the truth of God’s Word and worships God, asking God to restore the hope in the soul. God’s instructions are a path and guide in this life so that we can know how to live. Like a compass and a map when you are lost, God’s instructions are a guide that gives our souls delight and satisfaction, like a lost hiker finding the trail.
I’ve been battling discontentment in my life. So I did a word search on contentment, and found a passage in I Timothy 6 that has to do with contentment, and I’ve been memorizing this passage, praying it, and asking God to give me a heart of contentment. How amazing is it that I have 15 verses of God-breathed instructions to do battle against discontentment! It has been a source of renewal for my soul to remind me to pursue godliness and not comfortable circumstances that falsely promise contentment.
THE TESTIMONY OF THE LORD
“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple (v. 7).” What is the testimony of the Lord? It is the demands of his law which he has given in covenant with his people. It is a divine, solemn charge. Psalm 78:5 says that God established a testimony with Jacob that he was to teach to his children and pass on to each generation. In Psalm 119:111 we are told that God’s testimonies are our heritage forever and a joy to our heart.
The Ten Commandments were given to Israel as a covenantal charge to keep. In keeping them, it as an evidence that they were God’s people. And we see that God’s testimony is sure. That is it is confirmed and faithful and firm. You can bank on them.
The firm, divine solemn charge from God changes our simple minds by giving us wisdom. When we purse this, it changes our naïve, silly, foolish minds. Minds that are easily persuaded by the shallow, temporary allurements of this world. Consider the magnitude of this promise. God’s testimonies change our foolishness into wisdom!
Psalm 119:130 says that the unfolding of God’s words gives us light. It imparts understanding to the simple and wisdom to the inexperienced. It is like night vision. It illuminates what is dark and shows us the world as it really is. The ten commandments are night vision for navigating a this world that is locked in dark sin.
THE PRECEPTS OF THE LORD
“The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart (v. 8).” Precepts are what God mandates to be done. They are his statutes. Psalm 119:4 says that we are to purse these precepts diligently. How can God’s mandates cause our heart to rejoice?
When I first became a cop I remember going to calls that seemed very confusing and complicated to me. I didn’t know how to handle them, what decision to make, or if someone need to be arrested or given a ticket. I felt paralyzed.
I learned that the better I knew my criminal statutes (like the different degree of assaults, or burglary, or DWI), the better I knew the mandates that have been placed on every Minnesotan, the better I could handle complicated calls. So when I would go to a call involving an assault, and knew the statutes well, I knew what questions to ask of suspects and victims. I knew what evidence needed to be gathered. I knew whether an arrest or a ticket was in order.
And there was a confidence that built up in my work that gave me a certain kind of happiness because I knew what to do and what decisions needed to be made. Like a joy that comes with winning a game or conquering a difficulty, when we diligently go after God in obeying the things he has mandated for us to do, there is a joy that comes with that.
THE COMMANDMENTS OF THE LORD
“The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening they eyes (v. 8).” The commandment (singular) refers to all of God’s commands. The whole or sum of all that he has revealed to us in the Bible. Not some of it. Not part of it. These are God’s commandments and we don’t get to pick and choose what we like or don’t like, what to accept and reject. So let’s read our Bibles carefully and evaluate where we are failing to obey the commandment of the Lord.
Keeping God’s commandment is the way we don’t forget about him as we go throughout our lives (Psalm 78:7). As we keep God’s commandments we are being reminded that God is at work in our lives and in the world, and can keep us hoping in him. This helps us fight indifference towards the things of God and keep us from coasting or floating through life. We go on offense by doing all the commandments of God. Psalm 119 describes panting after, meditating on them day and night, running after them, and believing in them.
The reason this should be our disposition towards God’s commands is because they are pure. There is no taint or impurity in the Word of God. When you open your Bible you are beholding complete purity. We live in a world soaked in impurity. This Word is perfectly pure. And by the power of the Holy Spirit, when we put that before the eyes of our heart, we are enlightened. We are given insight for living. Just as the sun illuminates creation so we can see it, so God’s Word gives light to the eyes of our heart.
THE FEAR OF THE LORD
“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever (v. 9).” How is fearing God tied to these other words we have been looking at like precept, statute, command and law? Why is the fear of God in this list? It is probably referring God’s law which teaches us to have the proper reverence before him. To give honor and be in awe of God for who he is. If you do not fear God, you will not have a deep heart desire to obey his law.
What does this fear look like? I think a helpful description of what the fear of the Lord looks like is found in Psalm 2:11. “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice in trembling.” A mix of trembling beneath the awesome, raw power of God yet rejoicing in his steadfast love and mercy. A heart that bows in worshipful awe and fear of who God is (Psalm 5:7).
Our sinful hearts do not automatically fear the Lord. God’s Word shows us who God is and why he is to be feared. This pure scripture shows that all the earth is beholden to the power of God. Nothing thwarts his plans.
The fear of the Lord is clean in that it is morally pure and right forever. Your heart is wired to be be in awe of something. It will be captured by something. Whether it is money, power, sex, success, movies, anger, bitterness, discontentment…or will it be in awe of God. Look at heavens and the earth that shout out his handiwork and be in awe that he created this.
Something will always capture your heart that will cause it to rejoice and tremble with excitement. If it isn’t God, it will eventually fade. Everything in this world fades. The money, the power, the sex, the success, the harboring of emotions like anger or bitterness that feel good at the time. It will all fade. The grass withers and the flower fades but the word of our God will stand forever. Rejoice and tremble over the word of God.
THE RULES OF THE LORD
“The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether (v. 9).” The rules of the Lord are the just decrees, the righteous commands that he has given to us. And these rules are righteous altogether. That is, they are united and in union with one another. All of them are just and right. There is no injustice with the rules of God. We do not apply some outside standard to determine whether God’s rules are right or not. They are righteous because they are from him, the righteous one. They are true, because they are from him, the one who is truth.
Kids, how many of you love the rules your parents have setup in your home? What would happen if you parents removed every rule in your family for a day? A week? A month? What would happen? Chaos would happen! Disaster would happen. Filthiness would happen.
Often times rules don’t feel fun. But God’s rules are true and righteous and good for us. So we’ve seen that God’s perfect law revives the soul. God’s testimonies make wise. God’s precepts rejoice the heart. God’s commands enlighten the eyes. God’s fear endures forever. And God’s rules are united in truth and righteousness.
DESIRE AND TASTE
“More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb (v. 10).”
This verse gives us two analogies for how we should orient ourselves towards God’s Word. Taste and desire. Because God’s Word is more valuable than money, we should seek it more than money. Because God’s Word is sweet to the soul, we should be experiencing that sweetness just as the tongue tastes the sweetness of honey. This is how we should be oriented towards the Word. God has given us money for living and food for our mouths in order to have a visible picture of how we should experience the Word of God. Is God’s Word more satisfying to you than money? Is is it sweeter to you than honey? Or Sour Patch Kids? Pick your favorite sweet thing! Money and sweet things exist to help us see the necessity of God’s Word in our lives.
In years past, a group of us from Grace Church would go to an annual conference in Minneapolis. Prior to the first session of the conference starting in the evening, we would all go to the restaurant Fogo de Chao for lunch. If you’ve never been to Fogo, it is really quite amazing. It is an all you can eat Brazilian steakhouse.
I have never seen anyone take this experience more seriously than Pastor Dave. Days before we got there he would be thinking and strategizing on how much meat he could pack in during lunch. I think he would even skip breakfast so he could eat more. His desire in his heart for tasting good food with his tongue is the picture for which we should long for the Word of God to satisfy our soul and shape our affections.
God’s commands are not a burden! They are life. They are like money in the bank and honey on the tongue. Verse 11 says that by keeping God’s commands there is great reward. It is the reward of knowing God more and glorifying him through a life well-lived. For me as a 24 year old who was devastated by the loss of two potential job opportunities, I got to know God’s Word as sweet and satisfying to the soul.
Yet the tragic reality is that so often we do not have the desire and taste for God’s Word. We long for lesser things that fill up our day. Facebook feeds, news feeds, money concerns, silliness and trite distractions, and the list could go on. We allow the world to crowd out the Word. Psalm 19 concludes by saying, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
None of us can say at the end of the day that our words and our thoughts and our heart were perfect before the Lord, our rock and redeemer. That is why Jesus had to come as our redeemer. He was the stone that the builders rejected, and has become our cornerstone. Christ is the Rock of our salvation.
Jesus was the Word become flesh, because all of us have rejected God’s Word in rebellion against him. We have failed to keep his laws, commandments, statutes and precepts. It is by looking to Jesus who offers redemption from sin, that we can have our hearts desire to know the sweetness of being in right standing before God. Jesus’ death on the cross made the way for us to know God, and rejoice before him in trembling with awe of his created world and his spoken word. If you are not a Christian this morning, look to this Rock for the first time.
And for you, Christian, if you long to have scripture shape you in the way Psalm 19 describes, I would commend to you to wrestle with memorizing a chapter of Scripture. In my experience, and more importantly because Scripture itself says to do so, memorizing passages of Scripture, with a heart soaked in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to do its work through it, is a great way to be shaped by the power of God’s Word. For me, memorizing the book of Philippians, Romans 8 and Hebrews 11 has been invaluable in helping me desire and taste God in deep ways.
It isn’t easy. Memorizing is warfare. It is a battle. Especially for adults that haven’t done it before. But the payoff is sweet to the soul. There are two different apps I have used on my phone that have helped me do this. One is simply called Verses and the other is Bible Memory. You will never get to the end of your life wishing you’d spent less time memorizing God’s Word. You will be changed forever by Bible-memorizing, prayer-pursuing, Holy Spirit-empowered meditation on the Word of God.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.