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“Holding forth the Word of Life” Philippians 2:16
“Holding fast the Faithful Word” Titus 1:9
What is the standard of purity of God’s words? Is it ninety-nine percent pure or ninety-nine point nine percent pure or one hundred percent pure? There are several adjectives and nouns used in the Scriptures describing the standard of purity of God’s words. Psalm 12:6 says, “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” The psalmist in Psalm 119:140 says, “Thy word is very pure.” Again, Psalm 19:7–9 says, “The law of the LORD is perfect, … The statues of the LORD are right, … The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” Not only the Old Testament explains the perfection of God’s words, but also the New Testament. Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:15, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Another important verse is John 17:17, where the Lord Jesus Christ Himself says, “Thy word is truth.” These passages describe the absolute purity of God’s words. Here we will consider one of these passages: Psalm 19:7–10.
7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Psalm 19 generally speaks of the glory of the Lord. In the first part of this Psalm (vv. 1–6), the psalmist praises the great Giver of the law and thus prepares for the expression of the glory of the law which comes from the hand of such a great Author. Psalm 19 can be outlined as follows:
Having stated the glory of the Lawgiver, which has been revealed in His handiwork, the psalmist turns to declaring the glory of the law. Much emphasis is given to the revelation of God in His law, as he attaches it to God’s covenant name, “Yahweh” (the LORD).
In verses 7–9, the psalmist follows a fixed pattern in every verse: first a distinctive name for the law; then an appropriate adjective; and thereafter a beneficial effect or a characteristic.
Verse 7 lists the first two distinctive names for the law, followed by the two adjectives, and benefits. The first line reads “the law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul.” The word “law” is used here to mean “revelation” of God, not just legislation. The phrase “the law of the LORD” indicates that the revelation is from the Covenant God, who is Yahweh. The revelation of Yahweh is described as “perfect” which means “complete, sound, wholesome, unimpaired, having integrity.” God’s law is perfect in the sense that it is flawless and spotless. The function of the law is “converting” or literally “restoring” the soul to God. It is to revive, refresh, and renew life and hope.
The second line reads “the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.” It is important to note that God’s law is called “the testimony of the LORD.” God’s law is His own testimony, which He Himself gives concerning His attributes, works, the glory and harmony of His mercy and truth in His dealings with men. Therefore, the psalmist describes it as “sure.” It means “made firm, sure, lasting,” or “confirmed, established, verified,” or “reliable, faithful, trusty.” This is the word used to describe the certainty of God’s covenant with David (the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7:12–16) in Psalm 89:28. Therefore, God’s law is raised above all doubt in its declarations. Hence, one is able to place the most perfect reliance upon it. The psalmist adds: it makes wise the simple. The simple are those who are open to the suggestions of the moment, and therefore are easily led astray. To such ones, God’s Word gives a solid basis and stability by unfolding to them the great principles of eternal truth which are the fountain of all wisdom in the affairs of men (2 Timothy 3:15; also see Proverbs 1:4; 9:4).
Verse 8 lists the next two distinctive names for the law, followed by the two adjectives, and benefits. The first line reads “the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart.” The statutes, literally the precepts of the LORD, is another name that the psalmist uses for the Word of the LORD. The description the psalmist adds here is “right” which also means “straight, straightforward, just, upright.” This is the word used to describe the uprightness of God in Deuteronomy 32:4; and in Psalm 25:8; 92:15. God’s Word is upright because it proceeds from the upright and absolutely perfect will of God. They are, therefore, rejoicing the heart. Truth, when received into one’s heart, brings much delight to his heart.
A parallel thought follows in the next line of verse 8, “the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” The adjective means “pure, clean” like “a pure heart” in Psalm 24:4. It indicates that God’s commandments are undefiled, unadulterated. It is ritually clean and morally right. God’s commandments are pure because it is given by a holy God. It is sanctified by Him and, therefore, it brings enlightenment to the eyes, not just enlightening one’s understanding, but also one’s whole being, from darkness to light (Ephesians 5:8).
Verse 9 adds two more distinctive names for the law, followed by the two adjectives, and benefits. First, the psalmist says, “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever.” The psalmist calls the revelation of God “fear.” It is not the fear of God as an act performed, but as a precept, it is what God’s revelation demands. God’s Word reveals the way in which God is to be feared. In Psalm 34:11, the psalmist says, “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD” (see also Proverbs 15:33; Deuteronomy 17:19). The psalmist describes “the fear of the LORD” as “clean” which also means “pure.” This word, as an adjective, is used to mean: (1) pure in a physical sense, as opposed to filthy, soiled (used of gold in Exodus 25:11); (2) pure in a ceremonial sense, as opposed to that which is profane (used of animals for sacrifice in Leviticus 13:17; 14:4); and (3) pure in a moral sense (used of heart in Psalm 51:10; Proverbs 22:11). All of these ideas can be applied here. God’s revelation is sacramentally and morally pure and separate.
The same word is used in Psalm 12:6 to describe the purity of God’s Word as compared with the purity of silver tried in a furnace of earth: “The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” This explains the absolute purity of God’s revelation. In the context of Psalm 12, the psalmist is contrasting the words of the ungodly with the words of God. The words of the ungodly are described as “vanity” (v. 2), “flattering” (v. 2), and “double heart[ed]” (v. 2). In contrast to their words, the LORD’s words are described as “pure” (v. 6).
Because God’s Word is undefiled and unadulterated, the psalmist says, it endures for ever. This was what Jesus said in Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” God’s Word stands through all eternity. No word, even one jot or tittle, will ever pass away from it.
The next line reads “the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” God’s law is called the judgments of the LORD because it is through the revelation of God that He establishes His justice. The judgments are “true.” The word “true” here expresses sureness and utter dependability of God’s Word. God’s revelation is His truth and therefore it is true and faithful. Since God’s Word is true, the psalmist adds, it is righteous altogether.
Having dealt with the remarkable perfection and the immense value of God’s Word, the psalmist now comes to his concluding remark on the issue. He now explains the absolute desirability and sweetness of the law. The immense value of the Word has been brought into view by comparing it with the most precious things which men seek after: gold, honey, and honeycomb. Gold is one of the most costly items and most sought after by many. Honey and honeycomb (the finest of the honey) symbolize sweetness that gives the most delightful enjoyment to man. The psalmist says that God’s commandments are exceedingly more precious than gold or the sweetest of honey. Therefore, he desires God’s commandments in his life above all the precious things of earthly life (Psalm 119:127).
All the six adjectives and benefits of God’s Word together describe the excellency of God’s revelation. God’s revelation is absolutely perfect, sure, right, pure, clean and true. These descriptions symbolize the very nature of God.
God’s Word reflects the nature of God because it is His Word, His revelation to man. Hence it always remains perfect, sure, right, pure, clean and true. Therefore, it is able to: (1) convert the soul of men; (2) make wise the simple; (3) make the heart of men rejoice; and (4) enlighten the eyes of men. Only the Word of the LORD is able to accomplish these things in the life of a sinful man, who is saved by His grace and mercy. The Word that is perfect and pure, sure and true is the most powerful instrument of God to work in the lives of His children so that their lives will be converted and transformed to the likeness of the Master.
– Published in Bible Witness, Vol 5 Issue 2 (March – April 2005)