The Attributes and Power of Written Revelation (Psalm 19:7-8)
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; 8the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; —Psalm 19:7-8
The Bible is something and does something. Indeed, Psalm 19:1-11 indicates that written revelation does something natural revelation cannot do. The breathtaking wonders of the created order ably trumpet God’s glory to all people under the sun (vv. 1-6; cf. Romans 1:18-20). But the revelation of God’s will in Scripture singularly unveils his life-transforming, soul-satisfying counsel to his people. Nature speaks, revealing a glorious Creator (vv. 1-6); but in Scripture God himself speaks, meticulously revealing how we may flourish in our relationship with him (vv. 7-11).
Having celebrated natural revelation in verses 1-6, verse 7 transitions to a consideration of written revelation. Verses 7-8 revel in Scripture’s ontology—its nature or the attributes of its essential being. They also revel in Scripture’s economy—its functional use and power to effect transformational good in the lives of believers.
Synonymously employed here, God’s “law,” “testimony,” “precepts,” “commandment” (also “fear” and “rules/decrees” in v. 9) is something. It is “perfect.” Honoring the meaning of the Hebrew word, we should not think in strict terms of “without error,” although Scripture is inerrant. The Hebrew word speaks of that which is “complete, whole, or sound.” Scripture is a testament to God that is complete, marked by integrity, and never found lacking.
Scripture is “sure” in the sense of “firm” and “lasting.” God’s word stands as a lasting witness to his wisdom. Nothing can topple its truth. The Bible is “right” in the sense that it is just and upright. It reveals nothing twisted or out of line, but only what is straightforwardly right. It is “pure.” The Hebrew word speaks of moral cleanness. Scriptures contain nothing corrupt or corrupting.
King David does not intend for us to finely differentiate these words from one another. Rather, they work synergistically, providing a field of glorious attributions. David’s point is that God’s word is utterly beautiful, entirely complete, unimpeachably accurate, and wholly trustworthy.
Further, the Bible does something. It revives the soul. The Hebrew word speaks of restorative refreshment achieved by turning us around and drawing us back into fellowship with God. It makes the simple wise; that is, it provides moral skill to the morally naïve person whose life trajectory would otherwise end in disaster. It rejoices the heart. Scripture tells us a lot of things we do not want to hear. It rebukes and warns and corrects. But when we trust and obey it, we find it is a source of unending joy. Scripture also enlightens the eyes, fitting us with the capacity to see all of life from God’s perspective.
Theologian John Frame’s reminder is particularly helpful here: “What the word does, God does, and vice versa. So the word not only has distinctively divine attributes, but also performs distinctively divine acts” (The Doctrine of the Word of God, p. 67). On this side of the cross, may we rejoice in the Word who became flesh, displaying in glorious fullness those very attributes and acts (Hebrews 1:1-3).
Identify several ways our culture consistently conveys a message about the Bible that starkly conflicts with the one we find in Psalm 19:7-11.
Identify several life-altering examples of how God’s revealed word has had the effect upon your life described in verses 7-8 (i.e., reviving the soul, making wise the simple, rejoicing the heart, enlightening the eyes).
List several practical ways we may demonstrate the attitude King David had concerning Scripture in our ongoing relationships with other believers.