This contributed article is a condensation of a recent discourse which beautifully enhances our appreciation of Psalm 19—

“Cleanse Thou Me”

“Who can understand his error? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.” —Psalm 19:12,13

IN SPITE of his many failings, David tried to be like God. He had a reverence and love for God whom he saw in every area of his life. He was so transported by the beauty and power of the Creator that his every breath served to reflect this reverence. This is the dominant theme of the 19th Psalm. David saw Jehovah everywhere in his life: in the infinite, in the infinitesimal, and even within himself.

God in the Cosmic Universe

During those star-studded nights above the plains of Judea, David looked into the heavens and there beheld the vast glittering band of stars making up our Milky Way. He was awed and knew there had to be boundless power, intelligence, and purpose behind it all. He was transfixed. He so identified with that power that it became his passion. Everywhere he looked he could see the stamp of the divine Creator. He exclaimed in words that welled up from within his heart “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.”—Ps. 19:1-3

The italicized words there is and where are not in the original manuscript. The translators added these words supposedly to improve the meaning of the text. The marginal reference reads: “without these their voice is heard.” In other words, although there is no audible sound or voice, the message is so clear that all may recognize it.

David saw the creative finger of God everywhere. In the next verses his thoughts turned to our own solar system, as though the universe was only a backdrop for our earth on which the great divine plan of the ages is being enacted. David called it a “tabernacle for the sun.”

Our sun pictures the laws and the plan of God pertaining to mankind. In verse five David compared the sun of our planetary system to “a bridegroom coming out of his chamber and [who] rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.” Notice the comparisons: the sun, the bridegroom, a strong man rejoicing, a race. All these terms are descriptive of the role and work of our Lord Jesus here on earth. He is the sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2); the bridegroom (Matt. 9:15; 25:11; John 3:29; Luke 5:34); strong (Jer. 50:34; Ps. 24:8); rejoicing (Heb. 12:1,2); the race.—I Cor. 9:24

David saw the earth as the theater where God’s plan for the universe is being enacted. In symbolic language he described the one who is at the center of all God’s purposes. All of God’s dealings with man are through his Son, whose influence and domain extends throughout the heavens. Like the sun, nothing is hid from his control or influence. Just as the literal sun is the means of sustaining physical life on earth, so the Lord Jesus is the means through which the Heavenly Father gives everlasting life to all mankind.

In verses seven through ten, David described the laws that God has within himself. The laws which govern the material universe also govern the moral and spiritual realms as well. They are bounded by wisdom, justice, love, and power. They are infinite in their expression and work together in unison for the blessing of God’s creation.

Verse seven: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” The powers that govern are absolute. In God’s terms there is no deviation whatever from his absolute and perfect law. It not only controls the very workings of nature, it governs the very thoughts of man, transforming his mind, his heart, his life.

“The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” When we accept the ordinances of God, there is no debating the issue. We know what we believe and, more importantly, in whom we have believed. It gives a sureness and certainty to our lives that enables us to go forth in full assurance of faith.

“The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” It illuminates and gives a great insight that results in newness of life. We see the glorious character of our Father and that he has a plan which permits us to work together with him in his great work of providing a sin-offering.

David further saw the reverence of the Lord as bringing cleansing to our hearts: “He that has this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure.” (I John 3:3) In proportion to our love for God, we will seek more diligently to conform our lives to be like Christ’s life. As we love God, we will keep his commandments, “cleansing ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord”—II Cor. 7:1

Reverence for the Lord will always be a requirement for life and will never cease. The entire universe is ultimately to be a glorious cathedral of worship, cleansed from sin and serving God in Spirit and in truth.

In verse ten David indicates his recognition of the value of this insight into God’s laws: “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” He evaluated all life’s experiences—checkered, difficult, triumphant—and was able to weigh them, concluding that God’s laws were far more to be desired than anything the world could offer.

Likewise do we appreciate the Creator in such magnificent terms and make the same judgment! Then comes the inner satisfaction and joy of heart. We have the warmth, the love, the oneness, the intimacy of relationship which far surpasses the sweetest delicacy of this life. “Sweeter than the honeycomb.” This is the life of the spirit.

God from an Inner View

At this point, David’s focus changed and this change is reflected in the latter portion of the psalm. He had been looking at God from a universal, outer viewpoint. Now he begins to look at God from an inner view—even beyond the world of matter—into thought itself. He says, “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.”

Here David is saying that there is a whole portion of our beings which we cannot understand and of which we are not wholly aware. He tells us that there is a lot about ourselves that we really cannot perceive, there are whole blocks of our thinking that we may not really know about. These include unresolved problems, attitudes, and character defects that we do not actually realize, but which play an important part in determining our characters. These have an accumulative effect upon our lives. God knows all about them, even though we do not.

The conscious mind is but a small part of our mental capacities, much like an iceberg that looks enormous even though 90% of its mass is unseen, hidden beneath the water. So it is with our mind. Many of our past experiences have been apparently forgotten—hidden from our conscious awareness.

The brain is made up of two or three billion specialized nerve cells and weighs about two pounds. Every impulse, every thought, everything that has ever happened to us from the moment of our birth to our last breath is stored in our brain. All of this vast reservoir of experience is preserved, the sum total of which comprises our character, our personality, our lives.

It is the unique combination of impulses, thoughts, words, and deeds which God preserves and recreates in the resurrection. If faithful, the new creature will receive the divine organism. (I Cor. 15:35-58; I Thess. 4:13-17; II Cor. 5:1-4; I John 3:2) Likewise the identity, personalities, and characters of all the remainder of mankind who died in Adam will be preserved and given human bodies. At the time of their resurrection, during the glorious mediatorial reign of Christ, they will have the opportunity to erase the effects of sin accumulated in their lifetime. Nothing that ever happens to an individual is lost. All will be recalled—it will be part of their education in learning to determine between good and evil.

David pondered how he could better understand his errors, and pleaded for cleansing from secret, unknown, and hidden faults. There are blemishes, defects and spots in our characters of which we are not aware. Because we cannot know them, we need God’s guidance to reveal them to us by his Word, so we may overcome them by the transforming process of sanctification.

How often we are bombarded with ideas or thoughts or impulses without knowing from whence they came. These mental impulses often spring from within, from the deep well of the submerged and forgotten past, which break through to our present stream of consciousness. Often Satan plays upon this storehouse and uses such thoughts to undermine and to discourage a Christian. But David knew God could keep us safe from these errors, faults and weaknesses. Although we cannot always control the suggestions introduced into our consciousness, we must not dwell upon them nor allow them to govern us. As the well-known aphorism says, you cannot stop birds from flying over your head, but you can most certainly keep them from building nests in your hair!

Analyzing Our Thoughts

At times we are impelled by forces we cannot even discern, much less control. Who can understand his errors and know his secret faults? We must try to get to their source and become aware of them, so we may change and construct new thought patterns. David gives us this formula: “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer.”

We must become more observant of our own thought and behavior patterns. If we find we are having problems with others, it may not necessarily be the fault of the other persons, or even of the situations themselves. There may be irrational responses rooted in the past which are influencing or determining our present attitude.

In our relationships with each other we are to see one another as new creatures. If we react to situations with anger, or in a defensive manner, we should ask ourselves, Is this due to secret faults that are besetting me? Such weaknesses must be taken to the Lord in prayer, asking whether we are seeing the matter in its proper light, or if perhaps fleshly tendencies contribute to our problems.

To keep the new creature alive we must be alert, actively guarding and weighing our every impulse. This is the principle that David identified with the words, “The law of the Law is perfect, the statutes of the law are right, the commandments of the law are pure, and the fear of the Loa is clean, the judgments of the Lord are true.” With this as our measuring rod, a godlike, reverential life results as we seek to conform to its control. We will have an awareness of sin that we could not otherwise have. We are to love righteousness—that is the principle. We are also to hate iniquity. We are to espouse righteousness, but also to despise evil.

Do we have that kind of clear-cut definition of right and wrong as an automatically operating principle within us each moment of our lives? Have we so disciplined ourselves that regardless of the cost to the old nature and our humanity, we will serve righteousness? We are to have such an allergic reaction to sin that we will experience pain to feel it near, that at the very nearness of it we put as much distance between us and it as possible. That is sensitivity, for we do not “rejoice in iniquity, but rejoice in the truth.” Whether we are successful or not in the high calling will depend on how uncompromisingly we put these principles of righteousness into practice.

Any hesitancy after a wrong is seen, only increases our susceptibility to it and to the temptation. It is at that moment of hesitancy when we begin to turn a temptation over in our minds that we begin to rationalize it. Carnality takes over, and compromise with the sin or weakness results. The instantaneous mobilizing of our spiritual powers to resist sin is our surest defense. The future—our eternal destiny—is determined on such seemingly small issues.

There are many close-besetting sins within and about us. We must make certain that in our warfare we are not merely grappling with their symptoms or results, but are really facing the root causes in our heart. The heart directs our thoughts, and that is why we say: “Sow a thought, reap a word; sow a word, reap an act; sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

Secret Faults and Presumptuous Sins

When we experience repeated testings along a particular line, we should not become discouraged. We are to look for their causes. When we allow the fleshly will to have its way, then these secret faults could progress from one level of expression to another, until it is possible they could emerge as partially willful sins; and if unchecked, eventually even into presumptuous sins.

David continued: “Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins.” Every morning and evening we should utter this request in prayer, no matter how advanced we may be in the narrow way. Each day God gives us many experiences so that we may become more aware of what is happening within and around us. He allows trials for the very same reason a doctor gives a vaccination. In protecting a patient from a disease, a doctor may inject some germs of that disease into the body so the body builds up resistance against that germ.

God does the same with us. He tailors our experiences each and every day. Because we are unique one from another, one member of the body may go through an experience far different than another member. Even should they be similar, the circumstances will vary. God gives each of us a daily injection of trials so our spiritual life will build resistance to sin. Later we will get larger doses and greater trials so we will develop even greater protection against sin. Ultimately we are formed and fashioned in the likeness of God’s dear Son, “transformed by the renewing of our minds to prove what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God.”—Rom. 12:2

God has promised that he will not give us more than we are able to bear, but he will give us a way of escape if the burdens become too heavy. (I Cor. 10:13) His providential overruling controls and directs all our affairs. What we cannot do for ourselves, he will surely do for us. He keeps us back from overpowering circumstances so that they will not have dominion over us.

If only we could accept gladly all the burdens, sorrows, pain, as well as all the joys, as gifts from God! The label on each one says, “This thing is from me.” (I Kings 12:24) There are no exceptions: All things are working together for good. (Rom. 8:28) Each day’s package comes with the promise, “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11), and, “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth.” (Heb. 12:6) How this realization would enable us to cherish each experience—to use them joyfully as we look beyond the gift of the giver—to realize that this experience is God’s will for us. With this perspective, we are cleansed from secret faults and kept back from presumptuous sins.

If we are willing to approach the demands of each day with that focus of spirit, living in expectancy and in anticipation of all God’s arrangements for us, then as new creatures we will be successfully fashioned into the pattern of Christ: We need not fear, no matter what our limitations, faults, or failures, knowing that whenever we come short we have Christ’s robe of righteousness, and God’s grace ever available to the penitent heart.

As members of Christ’s body, God’s glory is reflected in our lives as we worship him in Spirit and in truth. But what greater glory will be revealed—far above that which David could discern in the heavens—when the glorified church will be unveiled for all creation to behold: “A crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.”—Isa. 62:3

As great as all prior creations have been, the new creation will be the ultimate demonstration of the workings of God’s attributes and boundless glory. Thus will be revealed God supreme, from the infinite reaches of outer space into the very thoughts of men and angels. Everywhere will be heralded the declaration, “Unto thee it was showed, that thou mightiest know that the Lord, He is God; there is none else beside him!”—Deut. 4:35

Dawn Bible Students Association
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