Words of My Mouth and Meditation of My Heart: Psalm 19:11-14

 Psalm 19 is one of the most popular psalms in the psalter. 

It beautifully speaks about creation declaring God’s glory and the value of God’s revelation for his followers. While most of the psalm is objective, focusing its attention on describing what is outside of the speaker, it becomes subjective as it closes in focusing on the speaker himself.

The closing lines to Psalm 19 connect what is external to the psalmist (God’s word) to what is internal in the psalmist, his own sin. 

Verse 11 marks a shift from describing what God’s word is to how it impacts the poet (representing all believers).

“Moreover, by them is your servant warned [illuminated];
in keeping them there is great [positive consequence].” – Psalm 19:11 

The law of God illuminates the best way to live and it creates positive life effects. The psalm then leaves God’s law as its direct topic and moves to what the law is implied to reveal, personal sin.

Secret Sin

First, the psalms speaks of secret sins, 

“Who can discern errors? Clean me from secrets.” – 12

This could refer to sins that a person does in secret from others or sins unknown to a person themselves. The answer to the rhetorical question, “who can discern errors?” is God, showing that the nature of sin is unable to grasped — a frightening and frustrating reality. 

This is why the psalmist asks to be cleansed from secrets. While we may be unaware of some of our sins, they are still transgressions against God; sins unknown to us can be sin by omission (failing to do what is right; James 4:17) or intentional sins we are acutely unaware of. The only way to rid of those sins is for an outside source to clean us. (See Psalm 139:23-24 and blog post.) Be careful if you think you have your sin under control (1 Cor 10:12, 1 John 1:8)!

Outright Sin

Second, the psalm speaks of the outright sins,

“Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have rule over me. Then I shall be clean and faultless from great transgression.” – 13

These sins are obvious to ourselves or to others. They are not deceptive, secret sins but they can be just as dangerous, if not moreso. While the psalmist needs to be cleansed from what he is unaware of, he needs to be held back from his outright sins—God must intervene and prevent him from doing these sins. The speaker then asks God to prevent these sins from ruling over him. 

Secret sins can pollute our heart and outright sins can rule our lives. When we knowingly engage in the same sins or make deliberate actions, they will rule over our hearts. When God acts and prevents sin’s tyranny over us, we can be innocent and faultless of great evil. 

Pleasing Words and Thoughts

Aware of both secret and outright sins, the psalmist closes with a petition,

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be accepted in your sight, O Yahweh, my rock and my redeemer.”

The request is for his mouth’s words and his heart’s meditation to please God. This holistically encompasses all of our conduct—words involve what we say to others and the heart’s meditation is what we dwell on. The psalmist needs both his outward and internal activities to be pure—both must be present to truly please God. 

When speaking of Yahweh as “my rock and my redeemer” the psalmist refers to his personal relationship with God. Yahweh is not just a sturdy rock or a redeemer, he is these things to the psalmist personally. A personal God enables change in one's personal speech and thoughts.

While it demands action on the part of the speaker (ourselves), the conclusion of the psalm is also asking God to act on our behalf. Sometimes, asking God to work on our behalf is the means by which we are able to change on God’s behalf. This makes verse 14 an extremely powerful prayer, one that should govern our lives and be woven into constant prayer. 

While verses 12 and 13 are about God working against negative qualities, verse 14 is about God working towards positive qualities. The reward of God’s word in verse 11 is the positive qualities of verse 14. 

This psalm was intended for all of God’s people to read and reflect upon together. Put yourself in the shoes of the psalmist: contemplate your secret and known sins, ask for God to intervene in both, and then ask him to make your thoughts and words pleasing to him. Read the psalm in its entirety and consider how God’s word has power to bring this about in our lives.


TL; DR

  1. In verse 11, Psalm 19 transitions from the Word of God objectively to a first-person subjective address about personal sin
  2. Only God fully grasps sin—some of us is hidden from others or even ourselves
  3. Both outright sin and secret sin need an outside solution to solve the problem: God's work (through Christ)
  4. Asking God to work on our behalf is the means by which we are able to change on God’s behalf. This makes verse 14 an extremely powerful prayer, one that should govern our lives and be woven into constant prayer.

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