- Nations in Disorder – From Where Shall Help Come?
- Why God’s Laws Are the Only Protection from Tyranny
- What the Most BEAUTIFUL PSALM Teaches About A Flourishing Life
- God’s PERFECT LAW: Hope for the Human Race
- ONE LAW That Revives the Soul
- Gaining Wisdom in a World of Folly
- Precepts: The Unlikely Path to Joy
- Find the COMMANDS that Give LIGHT
- The Intimate FEAR that Promotes a PURE LIFE
- God’s ORDINANCES, Your REWARD
- A Human That Doesn’t Thrive is Like a Fruit Tree That Doesn’t Bear
We have come to the last of our reflections on Psalm 19 as it relates to the achieving of human and national flourishing. In this passage, the Psalmist, King David writes: “The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”
As David has done in previous verses he begins with a descriptive title: “The Ordinances of the Lord.” Every government has laws and ordinances as the vehicle of governing authority. God, the ultimate governor, has established the archetype for legal governance in the very creation of heaven and earth. The Creator governs his creation through laws and ordinances. The word “ordinances” used by David in Psalm 19:9 comes from the Hebrew word מִשְׁפָּט (miš•pāṭ): “ judgment, i.e., the act. of deciding a legal dispute or case.”
Note from the table above that the divine nature of these ordinances include four characteristics, two reflecting their essence (they are both sure and righteous) and two that reflect their worth (they are more precious than gold and sweeter than honey). Let’s consider these in turn.
First, the ordinances are sure – אֱמֶת (ʾěměṯ) “faithfulness, reliability, trustworthiness, i.e., a state or condition of being dependable and loyal to a person or standard; true, certain, sure, i.e., that which conforms to reality, and is so certain not to be false.” The ordinances of God conform to reality. They are true to God’s nature and to the creation as He designed and sculpted it. At each stage of the creative process, recorded in Genesis 1, the Divine Artist stands back and pronounces “It is good!” What he has made faithfully reflects his intentions.
Second, the judgments are altogether righteous – דַק (ṣā•ḏǎq): v.; “(qal) be righteous, be innocent, be vindicated, i.e., be in a state in accordance with a standard.” In their individual parts and in their whole His ordinances are just and faultless.
So, in their nature the ordinances of God draw the circle of life. When we live within their frame we don’t merely survive, we thrive; we move toward all the good purposes that God intends for our lives, communities, and nations.
While the first two characteristics speak of the essence of God’s ordinances, the third and fourth characteristics indicate their value, their worth, as pictured in two metaphors: they are a pleasure to the eye (“more precious than gold”) and to the palate (“sweeter than honey”). This third indicator, “worth more than pure gold” comes from the Hebrew חָמַד (ḥā•mǎḏ): “v.; (qal) covet, lust, desire, i.e., strongly desire another’s possessions; (qal) delight, i.e., to be fond of and take pleasure in an object or action; (nif) be pleasing, be desirable, be choice to the eye.”
Human wealth is largely measured in terms of material things that appeal to the senses: precious metals (gold and silver), valuable stones (diamonds and rubies), fine wines, rare fragrances. But there are things much more precious: the laws and ordinances of the Kingdom of God. These ordinances are more precious than all the material treasures of all the kingdoms in all the history of the world.
Note that the gold that symbolizes this wealth is not simply raw ore as it comes from the earth. It is, rather, gold repeatedly refined so no dross remains. Note, as well, it is not merely better than the purest gold, it is better than much pure gold.
David was the wealthy king of one of the world’s great kingdoms. When he speaks of wealth, he speaks of what he knows. His testimony that the ordinances of God are more precious than much pure gold, carries royal weight of much experience.
Fourth, the ordinances of the Lord are more sumptuous than honey from the honey comb, מָתוֹק (mā•ṯôq): adj. “sweet, i.e., pertaining to that taste which is pleasant and sugary.”
Eating honey is a metaphor for the wonder of sumptuous pleasure. Honey is famous everywhere as the sweetest natural ingredient known to man. Our family raised bees years ago and I well remember how my daughter, Maryrose, looked forward to the honey harvest. While I harvested the honey, Mary wanted to chew on the honey comb.
The ordinances of God are not only of immense value, they are intensely pleasurable.
And what is the divine purpose of these ordinances? They are to warn and reward the servant of God! Yes, the subject of these ordinances is the servant עֶבֶד (ʿě•ḇěḏ): n.masc.; “slave, bond servant, i.e., one who is owned by another for service until sold to another, or worked his way out of slavery.” The apostle Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians,
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
We have been purchased with a price from the slave market of sin!
We belong to God. We are his servants. And by His ordinances, His servants are warned, זָהַר (zā•hǎr): v.; “warned, take warning; (hif) give warning, dissuade, i.e., tell one of a future happening which is dangerous and having consequences, implying a future event may change in some way based on contingent present behavior.”
The ordinances of God have the power to make the servant prudent in obedience to the king. He or she is careful to follow the path set before them. The ordinances show us the way to walk and warn us the paths to avoid. They show us the path to life and fruitfulness and warn us off the path that leads to death and destruction.
God’s ordinances help the servant live a circumspect life. The great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, “We are warned by the Word both of our duty, our danger, and our remedy. … The Bible should be our mentor, our monitor, our remembrance, and the keeper of our conscience.”
As we come to the end of our study of Psalm 19 we come full circle to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20.
First, we are reminded that Christ is King of heaven and earth, now! He is the great law giver, not for our bondage, but so that we might know how to live as free women and men. He gives us the law, defines the meaning of the law, and fulfills the law on our behalf.
He commands us, His followers, to disciple nations, bringing them to live under his name and authority, to obey all that he has commanded – to freely self-govern our lives based on his commands and ordinances.
Second, when we do so, there is great reward, עֵקֶב (ʿē•qěḇ): “recompense, reward, i.e., a benefit given to another based on merit for behavior or trustworthiness.” This great reward is found not simply after keeping them but in keeping them. The greater reward is our relationship to God, discovering who He is as a person in relationship with us. The blessing that comes from the obedience, as special as that can be, is actually the lesser reward compared to the joy of relationship in obedience!
The wisdom of obedience to God’s divine ordinances leads to flourishing and development. The reward is not found as a result of the doing, but in the doing. We flourish when we live as God designed us to live, when we walk within the circle of his order.
If you long to find and walk in your divine purpose, if you want to see your community flourish and your nation reach its God-given potential, heed the truths found in the beautiful Psalm 19.
– Darrow Miller
This is the final in a series of ten posts on Psalm 19.