Text: Psalm 19:11-14
Last week we looked at the first part of Psalm 19, which declared that the heavens and all creation are “pouring forth speech” that God IS and God is glorious – powerful, big, creative, amazing! We also looked at the middle part of the Psalm, which overflowed with love and gratitude for God’s Word – His Law and Commandments written in scripture. God has shown us who He is and what He wants! So with the broad message of creation and the specific message of scripture, we come to the final part of Psalm 19, which describes what is left: how we respond to that amazing, enormous, and yet intensely personal message from God to humanity.
We are going to look at three aspects of responding to God’s revealing of Himself: OBEDIENCE, REPENTANCE, and WORSHIP.
With verse 11, we are put on notice that God has not been silent: “By them [God’s Words] Your servant is warned.” If Romans 1 declared that God’s general revelation in creation leaves humanity “without excuse” then God’s specific commandments leave us all the more responsible. God has told us who He is and what He wants. The Psalmist says that we should not ignore that!
But the warning also comes with a hopeful promise and invitation. Continuing in v.11, “In keeping them there is great reward.” The word ‘them’ refers to the Commandments and words of God that have just been so eloquently described in the preceding verses. God’s Laws are not to shut us down or rob us of joy or imprison us. They are for freedom and blessing and flourishing. I have talked many times about how the right kinds of rules and boundaries protect us and bless us. Think of speed limits… we don’t have them because lawmakers want us to have no fun; we have them to reduce accidents and deaths on the road. It’s hard to really believe that when you are 17 and feeling the power of a car engine beneath your feet, but it is nonetheless true. Likewise, God’s Word to us is for our good; actually, for our best!
So the Psalmist begins this third section holding out the goodness and blessing of obedience, of faithful response to God’s showing us who He is and what He wants.
In verses 12-13 we read about the process of turning around. That’s what repentance is… turning around from whatever keeps us from looking or listening to God and turning TOWARD looking, listening to, and serving God. I gave an example last week that it could be as simple as laying my phone down to pay attention to what God is doing around me or in the people around me. Or it can be as difficult and deep as seeking to relinquish a habit or addition or sinful pattern to God’s help and healing. Let’s look at some of the language the Psalmist puts around repentance.
“Who can discern his errors?” (v.12) – Repentance involves an honest look at ourselves to discern the ways we sin and are turned away from God. And indeed it is only with God’s help and the light of His Word that we can do so. But that is the first step in turning from sin toward God. We have to examine ourselves and consider our transgressions and rebellion against God.
“Acquit me of hidden faults.” (v.12) – Repentance involves trusting in and throwing ourselves on the mercy of God. We can’t earn or prove our way into God’s good pleasure. Rather, we turn toward God in order to cry, “Help me, Lord, a sinner. Have mercy on me!”
“Keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins.” (v.13) – Repentance also involves continued obedience, not turning and returning to old patterns. And for this too, perhaps especially for this, we need God’s help. So the Psalmist appeals, “Keep me back… restrain me!”
“Let them not rule over me.” (v.13) – Likewise, repentance involves submitting to God’s rule and reign in our lives, not that of false gods, idols, or sinful patterns. The Psalmist is still appealing for God’s help with this process of turning and submission: “Let these sins not rule over me.” Rather, our repentance and turning is a cry to God for Him to rule over and in us.
Finally, at the end of verse 13 we read that the result of repentance, which is God’s work and part of the “great reward” of turning and obedience is that God will forgive and make us clean. We will be “blameless… and acquitted of great transgression.” While there was a system for forgiving sin and granting temporary righteousness in the Jewish Law, true and lasting forgiveness, mercy, and righteousness would come through Jesus Christ.
The Psalm ends with a verse that the pastor I grew up with used to pray before every sermon: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (v.14) This prayer is a beautiful description of worship. It describes a repentant will, turned from sin and turned toward God. It describes an obedient spirit, desiring to follow God’s commands in scripture. And it is framed in terms of worship – not specifically what we do for an hour on Sunday mornings, but a life offered and rendered to God for his pleasure. It is a desire that God find my words, thoughts, and deeds “acceptable” because they are faithful and obedient.
What we do in here is also worship. But it’s just the beginning. We practice listening and responding, repenting and obeying, so that when we walk out the door we are primed to continue worshiping in thought, word, and deed. In fact, you could take your bulletin with you as a good template for each day. Pull it out and let’s look at it together.
We start with gathering around God’s Word – As you rise, invite and welcome God intentionally into the events of the day. Picture you and the Lord gathering together as you don’t just invite God to participate in what you are doing, but you look for ways to participate in what God is doing. Look for opportunities to “pass the peace” those you encounter – not literally with “the Lord be with you” but by extending the compassion of God in your interactions.
We hear the Word – Find some time to read God’s Word and listen to God. It may be working your way through a chapter or two of the Bible or using a devotional to help guide you, but soaking in God’s Word regularly is essential to spiritual health.
We respond to the Word – Whether you offer a prayer of confession or an action, let your day be lived in response to the Word that you read or heard. Just as we set aside time for an offering, look for opportunities to offer yourself to God throughout the day. Even as we sing a Doxology – a song of praise – look for ways to love, thank, and praise God throughout the day. Pray, whether it be thanks, petition, or intercession. Do it often. It doesn’t have to be fancy or formal; it’s conversation with God.
We bear the Word into the World – Remind yourself before you get out from under the covers and as you head out of the house that God is sending you out into your day with His presence and purpose.
You don’t have to get all the way to that tomorrow, but consider what it means for our days to be acts of worship and service to God. The bulletin is just a tool; you may find a better one. The point is not that tool, but what Psalm 19 is all about. God has declared in creation and in word who He is and what He wants. And humanity must respond in one way or another. May God’s revelation of Himself lead you to turn toward Him again and again in obedience, repentance, and worship. Amen!