Psalm 19:14

‘Let the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
Yahweh, my rock,
and my redeemer.’
(Psalm 19:14)

This verse, from Psalm 19, summarises beautifully how to approach all psalms. First, it’s helpful to remember that they were written to be articulated (ideally sung) as ‘words’ from the ‘mouth’. Secondly, and more importantly, we’re to reflect on them, as a ‘meditation’ of the ‘heart’. Even more importantly, all of that should be done conscious of the fact that we’re in the presence and ‘sight’ of God, ‘Yahweh’. Approaching them in this way, we’ll find ourselves set firmly on His gracious path for our lives, worshipping Him as our ‘rock’ and our ‘redeemer’.

Interestingly, the rest of Psalm 19 demonstrates how these principles can be applied to scripture more generally, and even more widely than that, to everything!

It opens with a majestic contemplation of the Universe: ‘The heavens declare the glory of God… Day after day… night after night… There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard… words to the end of the world’(Psalm 19:1-4). So God should be obvious to us, since ‘the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even His everlasting power and divinity’(Romans 1:20). That’s how we’re to contemplate nature rightly, even sing about it, as with other psalms too: ‘Bless Yahweh, my soul… light… waters… earth… mountains… every animal… grass… trees… seasons… how many are your works! In wisdom, you have made them all… Let my meditation be sweet… Praise Yah!’(Psalm 104:1-35). Nevertheless, it’s easy to miss this divine angle, even be blind to it, or at least short sighted spiritually, so that we see only the created things ‘rather than the Creator’(Romans 1:25). However, any such broken focus that we might have, when admiring God’s ‘works’, can be restored through contemplation of His ‘word’, which Psalm 19 turns to next…

God’s word makes this divine dimension clearer, ‘enlightening the eyes’(Psalm 19:8) spiritually. In fact the perspective/‘world-view’ that we gain from scripture is more precious and delightful than the actual world viewed, ‘more to be desired than gold, yes, than much fine gold, sweeter also than honey’(Psalm 19:10). This psalm also rejoices about God’s word ‘restoring the soul’(Psalm 19:7), bringing joy to ‘the heart’(Psalm 19:8) and much more. The longest psalm in the Bible is all about God’s word, the psalmist there describing it as ‘a lamp to my feet, and… light for my path’(Psalm 119:105).

However, as we meditate on this ‘perfect… sure… right… pure… clean… true’(Psalm 19:7-9) path, we’ll become all too aware that our feet have gone astray, or might do, towards the darkness. So Psalm 19 turns to that realisation next: ‘Forgive me from hidden errors. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion over me’(Psalm 19:12-13). It concludes with this prayerful appeal for forgiveness, protection and restoration, with an air of humble thanksgiving that we can know such grace, from our ‘rock’ and ‘redeemer’.

Such prayers rise up to God ‘like incense… like the evening sacrifice’(Psalm 141:2), the pleasing fragrance of a ‘contrite heart’(Psalm 51:17). The word ‘acceptable’ in this study verse hints at that too. We can do likewise, as part of the priesthood of all believers today, in/through Jesus Christ, in/as His living spiritual temple, ‘living stones… built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’(1 Peter 2:5). Beyond prayers, this includes our wider ‘meditation’ and ‘words’, as this study verse implies – it’s ever been the case that ‘knowledge of God more than burnt offerings’(Hosea 6:6) is what pleases Him. Moreover, through such reflections ‘as in a mirror’(2 Corinthians 3:18) we can be transformed into acceptable, pleasing and even Christ-like living sacrifices, ‘holy, acceptable to God… transformed by the renewing of’(Romans 12:1-2) our minds, ‘imitators of God… even as Christ… an offering and a sacrifice to God… a sweet-smelling fragrance’(Ephesians 5:1-2). So this includes not just prayer, meditation and words, but sacrificial service as well, the ‘good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God’(Romans 12:2).

However, at its core, this study verse addresses our thought-life in particular, and can help us with that. Generally our minds should be set on these ‘things that are above, not… the things that are on the earth’(Colossians 3:2), i.e. not on ‘sexual immorality… covetousness… anger’(Colossians 3:5-8) etc., especially not leading to ‘shameful speaking’(Colossians 3:8) or worse. What better way to nip such thoughts in the bud, changing tack, than by praying this study verse as a stop.

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