Psalm 19: 7-14

Sweeter than honey

Our poet begins with Creation, big creation, like from 15 billion years ago, inviting us to be in awe, not because it’s photogenic, but because it reveals God’s mind and heart. There’s music in the air… Ancient people believed the stars left music in their wake as they streamed across the sky. Science says ‘No’, but then we miss the awe, the joy. Paired quite naturally with this is the Psalm’s pleasure, sheer delight in the Law. Not a burden, not to make us chafe, but the marvelous gift of the God who created so we then can be created, re-created as beautiful people in sync with God’s lovely, sweet ways in the world.

Verses 7-11 naturally follows from vs.1-6.  The Creator of the universe is the Lord who gives Torah; the Creator’s authority is behind the Law.  Even more, this covenant instruction benefits all life, everyone, just as the sun’s warmth blesses all life.  Creation does not speak, but the Lord has spoken in Torah. 

The beauty of the Torah is extolled with unabashed exuberance:  the Law of the Lord is perfect, sure, right, clear, pure, and true.  And to live by Torah invites our most profound longings and desires.  The satisfaction is also profound for such a life is sweeter than honey.  One is reminded of the Jewish practice of placing a drop of honey on the first pages of the written Torah when instruction began for new students.  Tasting the honey the students were reminded of the sweetness of these words for human flourishing.

And yet, the psalmist knows that he cannot keep Torah perfectly.  He needs help.  Thus the last three verses (11-14) are a prayer of confession and a plea to God to guard his life.  The words of vs. 14 sum up this psalmist’s longing – to be secure in God his redeemer and sustainer.

Since it is our sin that prevents us from hearing both the music of the stars, and the honey-sweet words of Torah (God’s commandments), it is only God who can help us out of our impasse.  God does so by forgiving us; only then are we set on the path of life in its fullness and joy.

Praying for forgiveness of careless or hidden failures is not over-religious scrupulosity, a fear of breaking even the tiniest command, but rather a desire to form solid character with a deep instinct for wholesome living as a free and faithful servant of God.   

The OT has no word for religion.  The poet’s definition of true religion is this, then: it is living before God in a proper sense of awe, reverence, and obedience.  Living a Torah life is the most desirable thing in life – not the pursuit of wisdom, not ownership of the most toys, not accumulating          riches. 

What then would our lives look like, lived this way? Wouldn't it show in our relationships first, with God, with one another, and with creation? How much of the suffering of the world today is rooted in these relationships being out of balance, disordered, and broken? We live in an age that chafes at what we perceive to be limitations and curbs rather than freedom itself. We like to speak of grace, but we don't think about its effects so much, especially if it involves changing our ways. Yet that may be just the thing about which the poet sings in this glorious psalm.


‘Your words, Lord, are Spirit and Life’