LASTING LESSONS FROM A PETITION OF THE PSALMIST

God’s people are blessed when they study and meditate on the message of the book of Psalms. As we examine Psalm 19, we are reminded of the wonder of God’s creation and His glory (19:1-6), the greatness of God’s word (19:7-11), the beauty of the cleansing that only the Lord can give (19:12), and the need to come before the Lord with a humble spirit and willingness to turn from our sins (19:13,14). Let us take a look at the final segment of the memorable nineteenth Psalm:

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.

There are so many things in these statements of the Psalmist which cry out for the attention of every God-fearing person. We want to break down the message into three major aspects: Sin, the Savior- Sovereign, and the Sinner-Servant.

First, what does the Psalmist (most likely David) reveal about sin? He acknowledged that sin is a reality of life. He spoke about errors, faults, sins, and great transgression (19:12,13). Like the Psalmist, we all have to deal with sin in our own lives (Romans 3:23). Some sins may be “secret” in the sense that we are not aware that what we have done is wrong, and in other cases our memory may not recall the faults we have committed. Even when one transgresses God’s will out of ignorance, breaking the law is still breaking the law (Acts 3:15- 19), and we can be sure that our sin will find us out (Numbers 32:23).

The Psalmist speaks also of “presumptuous” sins (19:13). “Presumptuous” is from a root Hebrew word which means “be proud, deal proudly, presume” [Strong’s Hebrew Dictionary, words no. 2087 and 2102 via e-Sword]. In at least two scenarios depicted in the law of Moses as presumptuous misconduct, the penalty for the transgressors was death (Deuteronomy 17:12; 18:20). “High-handed” violation of God’s will takes place when a person knows that what he is doing is wrong, but he does it anyway. A heart is in trouble when it formulates a plan to disobey God (we call it “premeditated” sin), then works to carry it out.

It also is clear from Psalm 19:13 that it is possible for sin to have dominion over a person. As followers of Jesus, we are not to be the slaves of sin (Romans 6:12-16). We must learn to control our thoughts and desires, preventing sin from reigning in our lives.

Second, what does the Psalmist reveal about the Savior-Sovereign? He and He alone has the power and authority to cleanse people from sin (19:12). We might admire and respect a human because of his/her outstanding qualities, but no one other than the perfect Creator can take away the guilt of sin.

The Lord also is portrayed as a Master with servants (19:12). As Jehovah God, He rules over all. He is the great Sovereign of the universe. The Psalmist was wise enough to recognize God as His strength and Redeemer (19:14). How fantastic it is that God’s strength and redemption are available to us. A person who sincerely turns to the Lord God for strength and redemption will be blessed!

Third, what does the Psalmist reveal about himself as a Sinner-Servant? He plainly saw his need to be cleansed due to the sins he had committed. He also knew that God is the true Source of cleansing (19:12).

The Psalmist saw himself as a servant (19:13). A servant’s duty it is to obey his master. Every person who today calls Jesus “Lord” is obligated to fulfill His desires. If we fail to do that as we call Him “Lord,” we are only putting out empty words (Luke 6:46).

One portion of this Psalm which really “touches home” with those who strive to serve the Lord are the desires which the Psalmist expresses. Let us itemize them, paraphrasing them in simple language:

(1) I want to be free from secret faults (19:12).

(2) I do not want sins to have dominion over me (19:13).

(3) I long to be blameless before God (19:13).

(4) I want to be found innocent before God of great transgression (19:13).

(5) I want to be acceptable in God’s sight (19:14).

Let us zero in on that last item – being acceptable in God’s sight. The Psalmist knew that there is more to life and more to serving the Lord than outward actions: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD” (19:14). What a wonderful, wonderful sentiment to maintain in the heart! Actions and words come from the heart, so if we want what comes out of us to be pure, we need to practice self- control and keep our hearts pure (Luke 6:45).

How lovely Psalm 19 is! The Psalmist spoke of his personal accountability: it is “my mouth” and “my heart.” No one else can maintain our pure thoughts and pure words in our stead. Is it really possible to be acceptable in God’s sight? Yes, it is! If we will begin with and stick with the commitment to have thoughts and words which please the Lord, then one day at a time we can be the kind of person who pleases Him.

— Roger D. Campbell

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