I’ve just finished preaching on Psalm 19.12. I was attempting to preach the text taking careful note of context. Having now descended the pulpit my thoughts crystallised as I drove home. I have come to think of this Psalm as ‘The Gospel According to David’. I have a sneaking suspicion Paul had its structure in mind when he wrote the Gospel to the Romans.
The Glory of God in Creation – Supressed v1-6
It is this universal knowledge of God the Gentiles have spurned. Like the gushing of a fountain silent speech pours forth on earth. The sun’s relentless rays leave a magnificent message. It’s heat melts Arctic ice because no land escapes God’s light. This rejected knowledge of God leaves all men without excuse. Indeed they heard, say Paul, for:
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth and their words to the ends of the world” (Romans 10.18) “…For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse,” (Romans 1.19-20) in the knowledge they suppress.
The Glory of God in Revelation – Transgressed v7-11
If natural revelation is insufficient to give sinners broken hearts, contrition only comes through the medium of the supernatural revelation of the Law. Like a convict before God’s bar, David sees the light of God. The monarch is undone by the magnificence and majesty of Moses. It is almost an understatement to say “the Law is holy, righteous and good”. Our Maker provides this mirror as a reflection of Himself.
David exhausts the dictionary to describe the contents of God’s Book – perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, true, desirable, sweet, rewarding. David stuns himself with its many life changing effects – reviving the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes, enduring for ever, warning God’s servant, rewarding when kept. Yet when all is said and done all Jews fall far short. In the glare of divine sun, David senses his own human dirt and defect. The man after God’s own heart falls far short of glory and can only stop his mouth.
“What then? Are we Jews any better? No, not at all ..both alike are under sin, as it is written ‘None is righteous, no not one …Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under law, so that every mouth may be stopped and the whole world be held accountable to God’,” (Romans 3.9-11 & 19).
It is this fact that accounts from the mood music change in Psalm 19.12, where the joyful song that hymns the truth, becomes recoil in lament:
“Who can discern his errors?” is a necessary conviction and prerequisite to what follows!
The Glory of God in Salvation – The Best v12-14
The response to God’s light, absorbed from the world, and observed in the Word, is to pray for redemption for all his recently unmasked sin.
v12b is, as Franz Delitzsch correctly notes, “a prayer for justification”, as the text clearly implies. This is not the normal ‘declare righteous’ verb. Nor is it the regular ‘reckon by imputation’ term. It is intensive form of an expression drawn from libations where the drink offering cup was emptied or poured out. It is used in prayer by David to stress his desire for total cleansing, emptying, freeing from his sin. In terms of his guilt he desires to be ‘clean as a whistle’. He pleads the mercy of God to remove every drop of liability to the sentence of the Law upon his ill-deserts. It is this the king desires for a right standing before God.
v13a is a prayer for preservation. If sins of ignorance, infirmity and inability require emptying, its is deliberate intentional sin against the light that in David needs restraining. He wants the power of sin broken. He prays for God to slam the brakes on sin. To be kept from such sins of presumption as He heeds the warning to guard his own steps carefully.
v13b is a prayer of sanctification. He longs to be blameless, with clean lips, hands and heart: that, as leader of the nation, he may be saved from great transgression, or as he puts it shortly, he seeks conformity to God’s likeness, so that:
“The words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart may be acceptable in you sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”
What then is the basis for this prayer, particularly that of justification from unintended sins of ignorance? The answer David’s conundrum is found in Leviticus 4.13-31: in these verses for congregations, leaders and members, atonement is promised, for confessed sins exposed by the daylight of God’s Word.
“When a leader sins, doing unintentionally any one of all the things that by the commandment of the LORD his God ought not to be done, and realises his guilt, or the sin which he has committed is made known to him, he shall bring as his offering a goat, a male without blemish …so the priest shall make atonement for him for his sin, and he shall be forgiven,” (Leviticus 4.22-26).
Do you see what David is doing? He takes hold of the Gospel promise that was offered in the Law! By means of the prescribed sacrifice put to death, for his sins in his place, by faith he casts himself on the mercy of God, trusting in His promise, to atone for all his sins. In effect he prays: “In the abundance of your mercy, O LORD, empty out my guilt, so not a drop of sin is left.” Paul draws the same conclusion, sinner’s only have one refuge:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith,” (Romans 3.23-25).
If it would be hard to argue a clear linguistic connection between the Glory of Psalm 19 and the Garden of Agony, it is nevertheless helpful to remind ourselves of this fact: in Gethsemane, the cup of wrath for guilt, was held for His acceptance before the Saviour by the Father. “If it is possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, let not my will by thy will be done.” It is humbling to hear Calvin comment, on v12, how serious & prevalent sins of ignorance are. “Satan has so many devices by which he deludes and blinds our minds, that there is not a man who knows the 100th part of his own sins.” And if this is true, our only grounds for hope, is that Christ Jesus has drained the cup and left it ‘whistle clean’ of wrath.
In other words, David, by faith, took hold of the promise, signified in the sacrifice, that God His redeemer v14, by the payment of a ransom, would justify the sinner, in the slaughter of Messiah. It is in this hope he laid the confessed load of guilt upon the head of the goat, knowing God had Covenanted, from his own seed, to send a later anointed king to make an end to all his sin.
In the ‘Gospel According to David’ we see the glory of God both suppressed and transgressed – His glory in the Gospel is surely the best, as it reveals His divine nature, full of mercy, peace and grace.
Such heights of grace, in light of depths of sin, should make us slower to judge others, and regularly breed fresh broken-heartedness before the LORD. We should pray for preachers to bring both comfort and discomfort. When we do our daily devotions we regularly should be shocked as we face up to ourselves in God’s mirror. In the final analysis the reason for revelation is in order that, in penitence and faith, we would cast ourselves down at the Cross, cling to pardon freely offered and promised in Christ, and believe the God, whose Name is mercy, mercy, will free us fully from our guilt, condemnation, slavery, pollution, and finally presence of sin – could any revelation be greater?