12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and 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 rock and my redeemer.
The verses leading up to this portion of Psalm 19 point out first that God’s glory can be glimpsed in all of creation, in all nature (in general revelation). Verses 7-11 declare the word of God, the Bible, to be God’s perfect tool for changing and perfecting our lives. As a good Southern Baptist, I love that section as it champions the infallibility, inerrancy, and sufficiency of God’s holy word. But, a proper question might be asked of any of us who uphold the Bible with such vigor: So what? What should we do now that we know God’s word to be fully inspired and perfect and life-changing? Should we sit around and pat ourselves on the back for this knowledge? Well, just look at what David asks to close the psalm after declaring the value and perfection of God’s word. And don’t just look, let David’s point of application of God’s word and revelation lead you to respond to God’s word in the same way.
“Who can discern his errors?” David asks who truly knows their own heart. Who truly knows all that is right or wrong in his or her own soul? The clearly understood answer is that no one knows their own heart, and no one can discern their errors or their right living apart from God’s holy word. Without the scriptures, you and I would be like a pagan who prays to any and all gods, never knowing when we have said, eaten, or walked on something that might earn for us the wrath of the unknown deity.
David’s realization that he does not even know, on his own, his own errors along with his understanding that the word of God is God’s perfect revelation of himself and his statutes leads David to pray what we read in these final verses. He first asks God to declare him innocent, forgive him for his hidden sin. David knows, when looking into the perfect word of God, that he has failed to live up to God’s commands in a thousand ways, some of which he knows and some of which he does not. So, he asks God to grand him grace, to count him as not guilty of those hidden flaws in his heart that not even David himself can discern. And, he has confidence, because of what God has revealed in his word, that God has made a way for him to be forgiven of all his sin.
David then asks God to protect him, to hold him back from presumptuous sin. He wants God to guard him from arrogantly crossing the line and committing great transgressions before God. He asks God to keep those kinds of sins from having dominion over him, because he knows that once you begin to sin boldly before God, such sins can conquer your life and enslave you to their destructive power. But, if God keeps him back through the guarding and protecting power of his holy word, David will be innocent of presumptuous, arrogant, bold, insolent sins. That is correct, God is telling us in his word that, while we may regularly need to be forgiven of things we did not see in our life until he reveals them to us, we can, as his children who obey his word, be free from boldly crossing the line and breaking his commandments. Christians, you are no longer slaves to sin.
And David closes with the beautiful prayer of verse 14. He asks that his words and his thoughts, the things he says and the things just deep within his mind, would be pleasing to God. He is asking that God would help him to please God in every aspect of life. And, let me simply point out that this desire can only be rightly prayed after someone truly grasps the glory of God’s revelation in his word—a word which Hebrews 4:12 tells us reveals the thoughts and intentions of men’s hearts.
For you and me the call here is simple. God’s word reveals to us his ways and his commands. It shows us that our hearts are very tricky, deceptive, and full of hidden faults. We need to ask God to forgive us of those, but also to show us, as we study his word, where those flaws are in order that we might repent of them. We also can ask God to aid us in staying away from presumptuous sins, those things which we know are clearly dishonoring to God. And, we have the confidence that by his power and through his holy word, we have the ability to resist such temptation. Then, as we have examined ourselves in the light of his word, we cry out with David, begging God to help our words and our thoughts be pleasing to him in every way.
Praise God that he has revealed his glory in the heavens. Never let such a gorgeous picture of the power of God pass you by. Never lose the wonder of what you can see of God’s glory in general revelation. But praise God even more for his written word, his special revelation. Even more wondrous than the sky and all of outer space, the Bible reveals to us who God is and what he commands of us. The Bible helps us to come to know God, to be forgiven by God, and to see our own hearts for the deceitful little things they are. And, it is through God’s graciously given word that we can seek forgiveness for hidden flaws, step back from intentional sin, and seek that all we think, say, and do be pleasing to the God who created us.
Love the God whose glory is glimpsed in the sky. Love the God whose ways are written in his word. Thank him for both forms of revealing himself to you. Follow him according to his word. Treasure his word. And seek to please him in all that you do.