King David, the psalmist, loved God’s Word. He likened Scripture to fine gold and sweet honey. In Psalm 19, he uses six terms, descriptions, and effects to make his point. In doing so, David produced one of the most beautiful stanzas ever written about the inerrant, infallible, God-breathed Scriptures.
“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:7-10).
Six Names, Six Descriptions, and Six Effects
“Six distinct titles here designate the Word. Each bears a separate character, and each describes a separate effect. How worthy is this glorious Word of constant study! Let it be read on bended knee until all its efficacy molds our hearts. None are so wise and happy as the Bible-taught. This study is the richest feast. It regales the soul far more than [the] sweetest dainties can please the palate. It gives wise warning for our every hour. Obedience is wise blessedness” (Henry Law).
David uses six different terms to identify God’s Word:
- Fear (true religion and godliness, as prescribed in the Word)
- Rules (or judgments)
Each term is given a description:
With each term and corresponding description, the psalmist presents an effect the Word of God has on the person who believes, loves, and obeys it:
- Reviving the soul
- Making wise the simple
- Rejoicing the heart
- Enlightening the eyes
- Enduring forever
- Righteous altogether
A Closer Look
I was very encouraged as I studied this passage of Scripture. Let’s take a closer look at this six-fold description of God’s Word.
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.
Everything that comes from God, everything He does is both good and perfect (James 1:17). His law is no exception. God has given His Word–His perfect, literary expression and revelation of His character and His revealed will–to His own special people: Christians.
God’s perfect law is a soothing balm lovingly applied to His people. It refreshes and revives the soul.
The KJV translates the Hebrew word “meshibah” as “converts” in Psalm 19:7. Whether refreshing, reviving or converting, the word carries with it the idea of restoration.
The same word is used when God speaks of the restoration of the human soul from the disorder and decay of sin. “Restore us, O Lord God of hosts! Let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80:19)!
The word is also used in the narrative that describes Elijah’s resuscitation of the widow’s son. “Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again'” (1 Kings 17:21).
When read, meditated upon, memorized, and/or otherwise engaged God’s Word has the ability, the power to restore a Christians weary heart (Psalm 23:3)and renew his troubled or distracted mind (Romans 12:1-2).
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
God’s Word–the testimony of Himself about His creation and for His people–is sure. Meaning: it is fixed, firm, stable. It’s not fleeting, shifting, or often changing like the arbitrary and self-serving judgments of human reason.
No matter how proud a man may be, he is but a simpleton when compared to the infallible wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Yet here, in Psalm 19, the word “simple” isn’t referring to a lack of intelligence or the foolishness of heart and mind of the person who insists he doesn’t believe God exists (Psalm 14:1). Rather the word “simple” refers to a person who is humble and teachable.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). For those whom God has elected to salvation (Acts 13:48), He gives those He regenerates a humble and teachable heart and a fear of the Lord, which leads to wisdom. And God uses the sure testimony of His Word to make those whom He has determined to save wise unto salvation (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.
According to Puritan theologian Matthew Poole, a precept is “a learning or teaching; doctrine; knowledge orally given and received; the matter of learning (Prov 1:5). Not vain, or foolish, or false, or pernicious counsels, but such as are true and profitable.”
God’s Word is doctrine, initially orally given and now forever and perfectly codified in the Scriptures we have today. The Scriptures are right. They are a proper representation of God’s perfect, revealed will. Again, they are not arbitrary. God’s precepts are unchanging yet, as is the sanctification of His people, His revelation is progressive.
God is right. He is right in who He is. He is right in what He has said. And because His precepts are right, the hearts of His special people, Christians, can rejoice.
God’s precepts are a source of elation for the Christian. Albert Barnes wrote: “It is always a source of true happiness when we can feel that we are under just and equal laws; laws in themselves right, and laws administered in righteousness and truth.”
For the Christian, and only for the Christian, peace, comfort, and joy are found in the rightness of God’s Word. Rest, relief from anxiety and worry, and the refreshment of mind are found in the stability, reliability, and equity of the only perfect source of truth.
It’s in the Word of God that we find the nature of His perfect love, grace, and mercy—not in our circumstances. But it only brings rejoicing to those who love the truth.
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Gold must be refined to bring it to it’s purest form. Yet, at 24 karats, what’s believed to be it’s most pure form, gold is imperfect. There are no doubt microscopic levels of impurity that are beyond the eyes of man’s ability to detect. And again, gold must be processed for it to reach even a modicum of purity. Not so with the commandments of God.
In its original state, the autographs of Scripture, the Word of God was and is as pure as the mind of God itself. Like God, His commandments are without the slightest bit of error. They are free from the stain of sin, free from any corrupt tendencies. While man can approach the Word of God with an impurity of heart, and while his motives for approaching and utilizing the Word of God can be impure, the commandments themselves are free from corruption.
God’s Word (His commandments) provides every believer with light and knowledge. The Scriptures clarify for the believer God’s revealed will and every duty of man to this holy and just God.
According to theologian Albert Barnes: “The reference here is undoubtedly to the mind or soul as being enlightened by the truth of God. We are made by these commandments to see what is right and proper; to understand what we should do.” Therefore, the enlightening of the eyes about which King David speaks is not a physical enlightening (giving sight to the blind), but rather a moral enlightening (allowing a man to see the sinfulness of his sin and his desperate need for cleansing by the blood of Christ).
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.
Joseph Benson, methodist minister and contemporary of John Wesley, wrote of the fear of the Lord, as it is used in Psalm 19:9. “[The fear of the Lord is] true religion and godliness, prescribed in the word, reigning in the heart and practiced in the life; or rather, that word or law itself is intended, and called the fear of the Lord, because it is both the rule and cause of that fear, or of true religion.”
According to Albert Barnes, the psalmist uses the term “fear of the Lord” to mean “the precepts of piety or religion. It is used evidently in this sense here, as referring to revelation, or to revealed truth, in the sense that it promotes proper reverence for God, or secures a proper regard for his name and worship.”
God’s fear-provoking, awe-inspiring, love-inducing Word is clean. It’s sincere in its employment of tone. It’s free from any form of vanity, falsehood or vice. It is pristine in its form and function.
And, like God Himself, the Word of God endures forever (Isaiah 40:6-8), just like God’s love (Psalm 100:5), His righteousness (Psalm 111:3), and His faithfulness (Psalm 117:2). God’s Word has and forever will endure all scrutiny and every attack against its origin, nature, credibility, veracity, and power.
The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
God often refers to His Word, in His Word, as “rules” (See Exodus 21:1; Leviticus 18:5; Numbers 36:13; Deuteronomy 4:1; 1 Timothy 5:20-22).
The rules of God are true. His Word is always a correct representation of the reality of things. Truth is whatever God says. While every man and every human institution, including religions created by men, are, in one way or another or at one time or another, proven to be liars, God is always, perfectly true (Romans 3:4). The Word of God is grounded in truth, sacred as truth, and unquestionably true.
The truth of God’s Word is the bedrock of its righteousness. The rules of God are righteous altogether. By this statement, the psalmist declares that each and every one of God’s rules is as righteous as any other. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, emphasis mine).
The Word of God is the only perfect reflection and representation of the holiness and righteousness of God. “All that God determines, whether in giving or in executing his laws – all in his requirements, and all in the administration of his government – is always and wholly righteous. It is precisely what it should be in the case, and is, therefore, worthy of universal confidence” (Albert Barnes).
To all of this, the unbeliever will likely say, “So what?” He can do nothing else because he lacks the requisite faith in and love for God; he lacks the requisite wisdom that comes from and with the fear of the Lord. Therefore, in his fallen state, he is unable to recognize his eternal need for the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14-18), for the Auther and Perfecter of the faith of those who believe (Hebrews 12:1-2).
To all of this, the believer might say, “I know this already. I’ve read Psalm 19:7-10. I don’t mean to be irreverent, but, ‘So what?’ I know God’s Word is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey.”
Believer: if this is you, then it may be true that you do in fact value and desire the Word of God as you ought. It may be the buried treasure or the pearl of great price for which you would spend all you have to obtain it (Matthew 13:44-46). But is this really you? Is it me?
Beginning with me, who within the Body of Christ can say he (or she) desires the Word of God exactly as he should? Even when we say we “love the Bible,” have we reduced the expression to a sappy sentimentality, kind of like how we can often use the phrase “I love you” with no more meaning than a friendly hello? Is there any real meaning behind our expressions of love for the Bible?
Let the above exposition serve as a litmus test. Ask yourself, “Do I love the Word of God the way the psalmist did?”
More Precious than Gold
“More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:10-11).
In Psalm 19:10, David makes a distinction between gold and fine gold. According to JM Bullion, “Fine gold is gold that is almost pure. Its purity is typically graded using a scale of millesimal fineness. This denotes the number of parts per thousand of pure metal in the alloy, according to its mass. This fineness is generally rounded to a three-figure number, with decimal places to follow where appropriate, especially where it’s used as a hallmark. For example, a fine gold piece that contains 99.9 percent gold would be labeled 999 or .999.”
Fine gold is not typically used for jewelry. Because of its level of purity, it’s too soft. Gold is a soft metal. Constant or regular wear of the purest gold would result in a distortion of a piece of jewelry’s shape and size. Fine gold is, by and large, limited in use to investment-quality coins and bullion.
Dear Christian, your Bible is not an eye-catching ornament you wear around your neck or a book you carry under your arm to look spiritual. The perfect law of the Lord is a precious, intrinsically valuable investment in your soul. While not to be kept under lock and key rarely to be looked at or touched like gold coin or bullion, Scripture is a treasure you should guard in your heart (Matthew 6:21; Luke 12:34). And as you treasure God’s Word in your heart–guarding it by memorizing it, studying it, and meditating upon it–His sure testimonies, in turn, will guard you, keeping your way pure. “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word” (Psalm 119:9).
King David, a man who had all the wealth of royalty, realized God’s Word was to be valued far more than fine gold. “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Psalm 119:72).
“Gold is only for the body, and the concerns of time; but grace is for the soul, and the concerns of eternity” (Matthew Henry).
Do you treasure God’s Word more than you treasure fine gold? Do you treasure it more than health, wealth, and prosperity? Will you give up your health, wealth, and prosperity to mine the deep, deep caverns of God’s Word until you have replaced the desire for the temporal comforts of this life with the desire to know the Word and the God of the Word?
Sweeter than Honey
Just as fine gold is the most valuable gold, honey right off of a honeycomb is the sweetest form of honey.
David, more than once, likened the benefits of Scripture intake to the joy of consuming the sweetest honey. “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103)!
According to Healthline.com, “Most of the honey you find in grocery stores is pasteurized. The high heat kills unwanted yeast, can improve the color and texture, removes any crystallization, and extends the shelf life. Many of the beneficial nutrients are also destroyed in the process.” Raw honey, however, is the freshest, sweetest, and most beneficial of all forms of honey.
“Honey is sweet; but honey just out of the comb has a sweetness, richness and flavour, far beyond what it has after it becomes exposed to the air. Only those who have eaten of honey from the comb can feel the force of the psalmist’s comparison: it is better than gold, yea, than fine gold in the greatest quantity; it is sweeter than honey, yea, than honey from the comb” (Adam Clarke).
Are the precepts of God sweet to you? Are God’s altogether-true rules so sweet to you that reading books about the Bible that, while beneficial and profitable, you recognize extra-biblical sources are but pasteurized substitutes for the pure and eye-enlightening commands of the Almighty? Have you grown so accustomed to reading books about the Bible, making them your primary means of Scripture intake, that you have forgotten how sweet tasting the Scriptures are when they come straight from the honeycomb of a well-worn Bible?
Don’t get me wrong. God’s Word is God’s Word, after all–whether you read the Scriptures while they are enclosed in a Bible wrapped in the most expensive animal hide or you read it from a list of verses handwritten on 3×5 cards. And God has given teachers to His Church to help her understand the Word He has graciously and lovingly given to His people. Praise God! But does your time in God’s Word consist more of commentary and devotional reading from the works of influential men of God, or does it consist more of direct Bible intake, which includes the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit?
Don’t stop reading good books about the Bible. Certainly don’t stop sitting under good teaching, especially if it comes from the pulpit of your pastors/elders who are charged with watching over your soul (Hebrews 13:7, 17). But are you spending more time on blogs or more time in the Bible? Your honest answer to that question may speak volumes to just how much you truly regard the clean and forever-enduring, God-breathed Scriptures as more precious than fine gold and sweeter than honey from the comb.
Have you settled for cheaper gold of which jewels are made that can improve your outward appearance? Have you settled for honey that’s so diluted or manipulated that it tastes the same whether it’s fresh-bought or it’s sat on the shelf for five years? Or is your desire for the finest gold and the sweetest honey–the very precepts of God that cannot but help to rejoice the heart?
The Word of God: We should fall asleep with it on our minds; we should awake with it on our lips. The Scriptures: We should recite it to ourselves, we should sing it to each other, and we should shout it from the rooftops. The Bible: We should value it more than the purest gold bullion and we should desire it more than the purest and sweetest honey.