Psalm 19 contains a beautiful set of verses calling us to appreciate God’s good Word. Six statements describe the Torah, the five books of Moses (the major and minor prophets hadn’t been written yet). However, we can apply what David says here to all the Scriptures. There are several terms used to describe the Word: Law, testimony, precepts, commandment, rules. Similar to Psalm 119, these point out different aspects of God’s Word: what he commands, what he promises, what he reveals, what he decrees as good. All of God’s Word is glorious, true, and beneficial.
The Beauty of the Word (vv. 7-9)
- The law of the Lord is perfect. Not many things are perfect. Even when we ascribe perfection to things like a photograph, a well-cooked steak, or human beauty, we know we are speaking in hyperbole. Even creation is tainted by sin, under a curse. It is good, but not perfect. The law of God is perfect, that is, completely without error. The word of God is infallible, inerrant, and perfectly designed to accomplish its purpose.
- The testimony of the Lord is sure. Not many things are sure or truly trustworthy in this world. God’s word is sure, truthful, and trustworthy. What he has said is accurate, what he has predicted will come to pass, what he has promised he will fulfill. You can count on it.
- The precepts of the Lord are right. The moral standards of the Law are right. When we come into conflict with them, it is we who are in the wrong, because in them God has told us what is right and wrong, what is good and evil, according to his nature.
- The commandment of the Lord is pure. Unmixed, untainted. Even when we read books written by Christian authors, we must read with caution because they are still the products of sinful men and women who are themselves prone to error and may lead us into error as well. When listening to preachers expound the Word—even men whom you trust—you must be careful, because we are broken vessels and make mistakes. But you should have no fear of that with the Word of God. It is pure. You can read it knowing that you are getting the truth.
- The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. Here I think the Psalmist departs a bit from the description of the word itself and focuses on what it produces in us: a fear of the Lord. This fear sets our path and our life on the right track. Fear of the Lord purifies the heart and endures forever. While the ceremonies of the Old Testament law (sacrifices, rituals, smoke and incense, bread and grain offerings, etc.) have passed away, the fear of the Lord which they taught will endure forever.
- The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. Those who hate God see his rules as hateful, unjust, and distasteful; or they might choose to like some and hate others. David takes the Law of God as a whole and says it is true and altogether righteous. God will never be ashamed of a single word he has written. It is inscribed in the heavens forever, because it is perfect, pure, good, right, true, and altogether righteous.
The Benefits of the Word (vv. 6-8)
He describes four benefits of those who listen to God’s Word and believe it. The Word of God:
- Revives the soul. The Word gives life. Those who believe the promises have life. The way to salvation, forgiveness, and reconciliation to God are contained within.
- Makes wise the simple. The Word gives wisdom. Those who take care to listen and obey become wise, and not just wise in their own eyes. They become skilled at living.
- Rejoices the heart. The Word gives encouragement. How often have you gone to the Scriptures during a difficult season simply to be encouraged and consoled?
- Enlightens the eyes. The Word gives knowledge. It shows us who God is, who we are, why things are the way they are, and how things will be. God tells us the truth in his Word.
The Surpassing Value of the Word (v. 10)
Christian, I hope you value the Word of God. When I was younger I respected it, but I didn’t read it. Often I read it because I knew that I should, but I struggled. It was a discipline. As I matured and began to read and journal, and as I began to learn things and be encouraged in my faith in Christ, the Word became a joy to me. I wake up early to read it not because I’m a pastor or to keep up appearances, but because it is so precious to me. When I oversleep and miss the sweetness of early morning with God in his Word, I am saddened and worse off for the lack of it.
What David has written here is a love letter to the Scriptures, specifically the Law. It is God-breathed Scripture celebrating Scripture. God ordained for us to have this Psalm, to sing it, to read it and to understand it. Because God’s word is so valuable, we are fools to keep it on the shelf and out of our hearts. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Take up and read today.