Psalm 19: 8, 10, 12-14
Although the general theme of Psalm 19 is praise, its tone is didactic and exhortative. It describes the blessings that acceptance of the law can impart. It does this not merely to describe the law but also to persuade the people to embrace it as the will of God and to live in accord with it.
When most people today talk about law, they normally mean legal enactments that have some degree of binding force. While this is certainly one dimension of the meaning of the Hebrew word, tôrâ might be better translated as “instruction” or “teaching.” As found in the Bible, the law consisted of directives for living a full and god-fearing life.
The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul;
Each of the statements in this psalm identifies the law as belonging to the Lord. This is not just any religious law; it is uniquely Israel’s, because in a very specific way it represents the will of the God of Israel.
If the law is understood as the will of God for human beings, then the qualities enshrined in that law could legitimately be considered reflections of divine attributes. If the law is thought to be that point where an encounter with God takes place, then those who are shaped by the law will be godlike.
The qualities associated with the law found in this psalm are some of the most highly prized attributes in any tradition. The law is perfect, or complete; it is trustworthy, upright, and clear; it is pure and true. Fidelity to the law should lead one to the godliness that is enshrined within it.
the decree of the LORD is trustworthy, giving wisdom to the simple.
The enumerated effects of the law are all relational, enhancing human life itself. The law imbues the soul with new vitality; it gives wisdom to those who would not ordinarily have it.
The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever;
The law establishes an enduring attitude of awe. This is taken as part of the law, insofar as it commands man to honor and respect God.
the ordinances of the LORD are true, all of them just.
The law is a path to righteousness.
Note how the psalm outlines the various forms of the law (law, precepts, commandments, ordinances), the qualities associated with them (perfection, reliability, purity, etc.), and the benefits they bestow on humanity (life, wisdom, joy, light, etc.).
The psalmist is teaching that the law is life-giving and not restrictive, ennobling and not demeaning. Reverence for the law seems to promise the best that life has to offer.
Though your servant is careful of them, very diligent in keeping them, yet who can detect failings? Cleanse me from my unknown faults!
Despite a sincere commitment to observing the law, the psalmist admits the possibility, even probability, of some form of transgression. The reference is probably not to deliberate acts of defiance but to the failings that result from basic human inadequacy.
From wanton sin especially, restrain your servant; let it not rule over me. Then shall I be blameless and innocent of serious sin.
Acknowledging this weakness, the psalmist prays for God’s forgiveness and asks to be cleansed of any guilt.