Living in a time like ours where laws have been created and amended to suit needs of the people (or so we would hope) or to protect the vulnerable and needy (again, we would hope), it seems appropriate to think about God’s law.
I read Psalm 19 one morning this week and it talks about law, statutes, precepts, commands and decrees. As you can imagine, I spent some time looking up the words in the dictionary – here we go: 1) law: the system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties. 2) statutes: a written law passed by a legislative body; a rule of an organization or institution. 3) precepts: a general rule intended to regulate behaviour or thought; a writ or warrant. 4) commands: an authoritative order and finally 5) decrees: an official order that has the force of law. You guessed it – they are used as synonyms. What is remarkable about the verses in this Psalm is the way the Law of God reflects His character.
In verse 7 we see that “The law of the Lord is perfect”. We should not be surprised by this bold statement because God is perfect. His law is perfectly good, perfectly right, nothing needs to be added to it or taken away from it. It is given by a gracious God and is perfectly designed to bring us back to God, thus “refreshing the soul”. The verse continues: “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy”. What an amazing assurance for those who trust the mighty God! We can be absolutely certain that what He has commanded is honest, sure, reliable and truthful because God is trustworthy. He cannot change. His character is the same from all eternity. We can rest knowing that what the Bible teaches us is a sure foundation for our living and for our hope thus “making wise the simple”. We can find wisdom by following God’s law.
It does not stop there. The psalmist carries on by saying in verse 8 “The precepts of the Lord are right” completely in harmony with God’s eternal will. They are right because God is holy and merciful and just. All He desires for those he created as image bearers is right and when we follow his commands we can see them “giving joy to the heart”. There is no hidden agenda, no selfish motives. All of what God designed for us is right. How amazing to think about God’s law in this way. David continues by saying “The commands of the Lord are radiant” because our God is radiant! There is no darkness in Him or blemish. His glory cannot be gazed upon. It reveals all to all. For those who embrace His commands, the Holy Spirit uses it by “giving light to the eyes”, and so we can see our misery and how much we need God in our lives.
Verse 9 starts like this “The fear of the Lord is pure”. This fear is the reverence and owe we are to have before God because of who He is. It is pure – clear and clean and when we revere God in the way He deserves it will cleanse us. It will help us focus on worshiping God alone. Many will say that these verses have application only for the people living in David’s time because of the ceremonial law and that now, because of Christ we do not have to revere/fear God in the same way. Well, this awe is something that culture and time will not change it will be “enduring forever”. This has definitely got me thinking about the way I act when talking about God. David concludes this part of the psalm saying “The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous”. This means they are established, penned, proclaimed, framed in God’s perfect and infinite wisdom. The law in all its entirety is good and worthy. There is no part that needs to be re-written, edited or updated. All of the commands are righteous.
These rules, were declared by God, given to us so we can know how to live our lives in a way that will glorify His Name. There is no error, no misjudgement, no bias. The men who create laws in our world are full of flaws, some with good intentions, some after self gain, but all are imperfect nevertheless. Our God is perfect and so is his law.
It seems a bit odd that I started the post discussing the middle verses of the Psalm first, but rest assured that David set the scene of this amazing psalm by first describing God and his glory and majesty which are revealed through His creation. Who has not marvelled at the starry sky and wondered about the power required to bring it to being and to sustain it? The order and the details of how the sun, the moon, the stars, and how the obey the design of the Creator are inexplicable. It is amazing and terrifying! David used the common things that people in his time and ours would take for granted and he points to the God who is Creator, powerful, good, merciful before he starts telling them about the law He has given us.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. 3 They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 5 It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. 6 It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.
At the end part of the psalm, David tells us that God’s law is more desirable that gold and sweeter than honey from the honeycomb. Again David uses the common things like wealth and senses to illustrate his point. Gold is only momentary, it gives pleasure only in this life. Its value fluctuates and the status it brings changes and even ceases. God’s law is richer and more desirable because it comes full of grace and it concerns our souls for eternity. As for the sweetness of honey, it gives nutrients to the body and quenches the hunger for a brief moment. But the law of God satisfies the soul and its nutrients help our faith grow. They are used by the Spirit to warn us and assure us of the great reward we already have in heaven waiting for those who follow God and obey His commands.
They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb. 11 By them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.
Then David looks at his own heart and his sin and he pleads with God to free him from sinning and breaking the law he has just been talking about. He knows he cannot do it on his own. He knows that he needs God to help him. Do we? Do we recognise we cannot keep God’s law on our own?
12 But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. 13 Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
David finishes with the most famous verse in this psalm: He is praying that his words, the confession he has just uttered, the desperate need he had of his Saviour, would be pleasing to God.
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
May we learn to see God in the way David did and may we seek his help to obey his law.
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash