Theme: Heart to Heart
In this week’s lessons we continue our study of Psalm 19, and move from God’s revelation of himself in creation to the written revelation of himself in Scripture.
Scripture: Psalm 19:7-14
It is only after this evaluation that we find the completion of the parallel in a statement of two things the Scriptures do: “By them is your servant warned” and “in keeping of them there is great reward” (v. 11). In other words, because the words of God are sure and righteous, the servants of God are warned by them and the keepers of them are rewarded.
Those two benefits are worth pursuing. First, the one who knows the law is warned by it. Against what? Against sin and its harmful effects, of course. And against the lies and errors of this world. We need such warnings, because the world about us is clever and pervasive, and there is nothing except the Bible to stand against its deceptions. John Bunyan had it right when he said of the Bible, “This Book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this Book.”5
Second, the keeper of the law is rewarded. But notice how this is said. The text does not say that the one who obeys God’s commands will be rewarded, though that is certainly true too. It says rather, “in keeping of them there is great reward.” Saint Augustine once said that sin is its own punishment, meaning that it turns bitter in the mouth and thus punishes itself. He could also have said that virtue is its own reward. Though the ungodly do not think so, the upright are actually blessed in their uprightness. Goodness is itself joyous. To be holy is to be content.
In the introduction to the last study I called the final three verses of this psalm a concluding section or coda, but they are actually more than that. They are a climax. For in them the psalmist applies what he has been learning to himself.
The response to God’s self-revelation falls into two categories. The first is a prayer that God will forgive his sin and deliver him from additional transgressions. Sometimes we treat forgiveness lightly, asking God to forgive us but not really thinking that we are sinners, at least not serious sinners, and treating forgiveness almost as a basic human right. It is clear that David does not do this. He is aware of sin’s subtle nature and complexity, dividing it into categories: errors, which are wrongs innocently committed; hidden faults, that is, faults unknown to himself because they are so deeply ingrained in his personality; and willful sins, which are sins of deliberate presumption. The latter are probably equivalent to “great transgression” in verse 13. The psalmist is also aware that he can never be fully aware of these sins in order to seek forgiveness unless God reveals their presence and nature to him by his written law.
We remember the prayer of the tax collector in Jesus’ well-known parable, for although it is less detailed it contains these same essential elements. The tax collector prayed, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). We know this man was coming to know God and was really praying to God, because he saw himself to be a sinner, as David also did. The Pharisee did not.
The second part of David’s response to God’s revelation of himself is an appeal to God as his Rock and Redeemer. We are not only led to see ourselves as sinners when we study the Bible. The Bible does that, but it also leads us to the one who is our only deliverer from sin. And, wonder of wonders, he is the same one who has revealed himself gloriously in the heavens. The heavens tell us that he exists and that he is all powerful. The Bible shows that he is our Redeemer from sin, that is, the one who is able to break sin’s bonds and set us free, and that he is the Rock upon which the redeemed man or woman can build and be kept from transgressions.
What things does the Bible warn us against?
How have you discovered that being righteous is itself rewarding?
In what manner should we pray for forgiveness?
Application: Make it part of your regular prayers to ask the Lord to reveal hidden faults.
For Further Study: If you would like to have James Boice’s entire series on the Psalms in paperback, you can order the three-volume set from the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and take 25% off the regular price.
5Qouoted by H. A. Ironside, Studies on Book One of the Psalms (New York: Loizeaux, 1952), p. 123.