God’s Word As Refreshment
The law of the Lord is perfect,
refreshing the soul.
The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is pure,
The decrees of the Lord are firm,
and all of them are righteous.
They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the honeycomb.
By them your servant is warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
As a Bethlehem shepherd David spent many days and nights reflecting on God’s revelation of Himself in the skies and in the Scriptures. In Psalm 19 David revels in the wordless book of the heavens and in the words of Holy Scripture. David first praises God for revealing Himself in the heavens that “declare the glory of God.” Without even a word, the skies “Day after day pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge” (v. 2). But David knows that the greater knowledge of God is revealed in God’s written Word. As majestic and marvelous as God’s revelation in the skies, greater still is His revelation in the Holy Scriptures.
In today’s psalm text David turns attention from God’s revelation in the skies to His special revelation in His Word. In an exquisite section of Hebrew poetry and parallelism, David enumerates six synonyms for God’s Word: “law…statutes…precepts…commands…fear…decrees”. All six synonyms have the phrase, “of the LORD”, identifying their source and authority.
David knows that no single word can capture the power of God’s Word, so he uses several verbs and adjectives to try and describe it: “refreshing the soul…making wise the simple…giving joy to the heart…giving light to the eyes…pure and enduring forever…firm and righteous.” The “fear of the LORD” as a synonym for God’s Word might be confusing, but it is the reverential awe of Him that is produced in the careful reader of Scripture.
Life has taught David to regard God’s Word as “more precious than gold, than much pure gold.” Through the many ups and downs of life, and the many turns in the road, David knows that Holy Scripture is “sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb.” Through Scripture David has been “warned” about wrong directions chosen, and harmful attitudes that have taken root. Experience teaches David that there is “great reward” in reading, reflecting, and responding to God’s revelation of Himself in His Word. As much as David loves to look at the night sky and be in awe, he loves much more to look into God’s Word.
For David and the Hebrew people, the most comprehensive term for Scripture is Torah, the Law of the Lord, or instruction. David knows that “The law of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul.” Old Testament theologian Hans-Joachim Kraus aptly describes the meaning of Torah, or Law, to the Hebrews:
The relation of individuals to the Torah is characterized by joy, love, and eagerness, and does not display the traits of a rigid religiosity, or legalistic observance, or of an unconditional obligation….Torah is a stream of life which makes human existence fruitful in wholesome, successful activity. (Theology of the Psalms)
But the blessings of Torah, or God’s Word, belong not to the one who reads and studies it, but to the one who follows it.
READ REFLECT RESPOND REST