Have you ever felt like it was hopeless that you will ever change? Perhaps there is a particular sin issue that you just don’t seem to be able to overcome. No matter how hard you have tried, you just don’t seem to be able to defeat the sinful tendency, and most of the time you feel like a failure. Perhaps when you hear testimony by others of their victory over sin, you find yourself sinfully envious of them. Such testimony may, in fact, tempt you toward hopelessness.
And yet, have you not also found that, in spite of recurring failure, there seems to be an irresistible drive toward improvement? Such a drive is because of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27), and such hope is never disappointed or ashamed, because of the Spirit who indwells the believer (Romans 5:5).
Those graced by God to be born again carry with them Christ, the hope of glory. They have biblical, and therefore certain, hope that one day they will be like Christ (Romans 8:18-30; 1 John 3:1-3; Philippians 3:9-14). That is ultimately what motivates them every day in their pursuit of living to the glory of God. There is no greater way to glorify God than to “remind” Him of His Son. In this sense, we are to imitate Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1-2).
But, again, such a pursuit is no easy task. Because we are still sinners, we find this pursuit of holiness sometimes less than hopeful. In fact, sometimes we find it very nearly hopeless.
The question, then, is, how can we keep hope afloat? Is there some way in which we can feed hope? It is my goal in this particular study to answer that question. I wish to feed your hope and to help you to constantly do the same. But first, we must review what we considered previously.
In our previous study, we were reminded that hope is the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19) and that faith is the anchor of our hope. Faith is the declaration that we believe God, while hope is the disposition that we believe God. But if hope is the anchor of the soul, and if faith is the anchor of hope, then what is the anchor of both? I would submit that the answer is Scripture. Scripture is the anchor of faith, which anchors our hope, which in turn anchors our soul sure and steadfast.
So, when our hope of glory appears to be waning, where do we turn? When we pursue this glory, what is the key? The answer is given to us in Psalm 19. In this study, we will consider this psalm with a view to strengthening our hope that our resolve to pursue Christ and His likeness will be strengthened. My main objective is that we will see the power, ability and dynamic of God’s Word, which is the basis for our hope—our hope for change.
The theme of this psalm is the revelation of the glory of God. In it, David contemplates the perfect revelation of the Lord.
C. S. Lewis said of this psalm, “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.” Craigie adds, “This psalm combines the most beautiful poetry with some of the most profound biblical theology.” And while some interpreters have seen a jarring change of theme between the two halves of this psalm, causing some to wonder if it is not in fact a composition of two separate psalms, Weiser correctly (as we will see) notes, “The unity of this psalm . . . reflects an insight that is the result of great concentration.”
The psalm focuses on God’s general revelation through creation (vv. 1-6) and special revelation through the Word (vv. 7-9). It concludes with the appropriate response to this revelation in vv. 10-14, which is simply a desire for transformation. Those who are the graced recipients of general and special revelation respond appropriately when they cry to God for salvation and to be accepted by Him. There is also, we will see, a hint here of the Incarnation.
The appropriate response to God’s revelation in the skies and in the Scriptures would be something like this: “God, now that you have revealed yourself to me, make me acceptable. Your self-revelation to me creates a hunger in me for soul-transformation—through and through. Your self-revelation to me has resulted in a self-revelation of me. Change me, please!”
Importantly, this desire for transformation is a hopeful one. “Let” (v. 14) is a word of faith, of hope. The Christian’s hope in this regard is in “my strength and my Redeemer.” Because of who God is (our strength and our Redeemer), we have every reason to believe that we can change. We therefore cry, “Lord, change me!”
And so v. 14 is clearly a very hopeful verse. The question is, how do we get there? Let’s study this psalm together to see.
God Gives General Hope
Our pursuit and hunger for the hope of v. 14 begins with God’s gift of a general hope.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden from its heat.
According to these verses, creation reveals at least two important things to us.
First, we are not alone and are not abandoned. There is a Creator. There is a purpose to our existence. There is meaning. There is hope. As Francis Schaeffer put it, God is there, and He is not silent.
David says that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Creation, he says, “utters speech” and created orders has a “voice.” The word “line” in v. 4 can speak of a “sound” or a “voice.” The simple lesson is that if we will but pay attention and seek, hope can appear. Paul understood this principle and so spoke to the Athenians:
Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’”
Creation bears clear testimony to the fact that there is a God and, therefore, there is hope.
Second, although we are not alone, we are in trouble. We have offended our Creator and are therefore under His wrath.
Thankfully, it is not a hopeless trouble. The revelation of God’s glory is at the same time a revelation of our guilt (see Romans 1:18-20; 2:!3-15), but the very fact that creation grabs our attention shows that there is hope.
I know an Australian missionary in Papua New Guinea who has an incredible testimony in this regard. By his own testimony, he was once a surfer junkie who spent all day surfing, drinking and taking drugs. At night, he would dig a hole in the sand at the beach, cover himself with his surfboard, and sleep until the next morning, when he would drink, take drugs and surf for another full day.
One day, however, he recalls that he was overcome by a sense of God. As he looked over the ocean, he realised that there is a God and felt the weight of his sin and his need for a Saviour. That realisation, however, was not enough to save him. It was only enough to condemn him. There mere fact that God had grabbed his attention, however, was reason for my friend to have hope.
Creation bears testimony to the existence, the power and the wisdom of God. But that only serves to bring us to the realisation of our condemnation in God’s sight.
Believers would do well to engage in “astronomical therapy.” As we gaze at the stars and behold God’s wondrous creation around us, it should fill us with a sense of awe at who God is. It should lead us as believers to love God more, to desire to serve and please Him more. Creation in itself, however, is insufficient. It testifies to the character of God, but it does not show us how to be right with God. We need further revelation for that.
God Gives Special Hope
In vv. 7-9 we learn that we need the revelation of inspiration to feed the hope of glory begun by creation.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgements of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
When you consider the author of general revelation, and the obvious ability to which His design testifies, then you are encouraged to aspire toward the hope of glory. Creation testifies to the fact that we stand condemned before a holy God; Scripture tells us how to be right with Him.
My friend, by virtue of creation, was brought to the point where he realised that there is a God, and that God had made him for more than drinking, taking drugs and surfing. Creation, however, did not show him how to get right with God. By God’s providence, my friend met another man, who was a believer, and who tried to witness to him. The gospel made no sense to him, and so this man advised him to travel from Sydney to Cairns to meet with an American missionary he knew there. Though, by his own testimony, he hated Americans, he made the journey to meet with this American missionary, who showed him from the Scriptures how to be saved. My friend began to attend church and to listen to the preached Word, and he soon found that the law of the Lord was perfect, and it converted his soul. His hope, that had started with general revelation, was satisfied by the special revelation of God’s Word.
Consider just how special this hope is: It is rooted in an authority that we can completely trust to change and to charter our lives. According to vv. 7-9, this hope is displayed in several ways.
The Hope of Salvation
First, “the law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul” (v. 7a). Paul bears witness to this fact in writing to his young friend Timothy:
From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
(2 Timothy 3:15-17)
David describes the law of the Lord as “perfect.” The word speaks of a multi-dimensional perfection. It speaks of comprehensive completion. It is as if you are holding a perfect diamond, and any angle you view it from you can behold its perfection. It covers every area of our being without fault.
This perfect law displays its perfection by “converting the soul.” The word “converting” describes a return, a transformation, a restoration. As David said elsewhere, “He restores my soul” (Psalm 23:3). Or as Jesus prayed for His disciples, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
In v. 14 is our hope, then God’s Word will be our authority, for as Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31; see also 14:21).
God’s Word changes us and gives us reason to be hopeful. It is powerful to help us overcome drunkenness, addiction, homosexuality, pornography, or any other sin of which you can think. It can take a society from chaos to cosmos. It can sure selfishness in marriage. It is perfect, and able to convert.
The Hope of Stability
Second, “the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple” (v. 7b). It is able to give us wisdom in a profoundly unwise world. It is, indeed, a firm foundation, and we need this if we will enjoy the hope of v. 14.
David speaks of the Word as “the testimony of the LORD.” What God testifies can, of course, be depended on. The word “sure” means “reliable,” “dependable,” “firm” or “stable.” Just as Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was “sure” (Daniel 2:45), so God’s testimony is “sure.” We can safely and securely lean on God’s Word as we make our way through a dangerous world. By God’s testimony we can gain a heart of wisdom to live out the reality of v. 14. Without God’s Word, you are doomed to live the life of a simpleton; with it, you can lead a life of wisdom.
Do you want to know how to raise a godly seed? Do you want to know how to respond in conflict? Do you want to respond in a godly way to heartache? The testimony of the Lord can enable you to realise these desires. As Joni Eareckson Tada has said, “The best we can hope for in this life is a knothole peek at the shining realities ahead. Yet a glimpse is enough. It’s enough to convince our hearts that whatever sufferings and sorrows currently assail us aren’t worthy of comparison to that which waits over the horizon.”
The Hope of Singing
Third, “the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart” (v. 8a). This teaches us that we will get to where God has us going.
The term “right” means literally “to be as straight as a road.” It refers to a straight path. After I was in South Africa for just a short while, someone arranged for my family and me (only three daughters at that time) to have a holiday at the coast. They arranged a place to stay, gave me some money to spend, and even loaned me a more reliable car to get me where I was going. I had only been in South Africa for a little while, and then only in Johannesburg, so it was with some apprehension that I pondered taking my family into deep, dark Africa for holiday! Even on the journey, I kept having fears of getting lost and perhaps ending up in Zaire rather than Natal. My confidence came from the fact that I had a map, given to me by people who had been where I was going and knew the way. I followed the map and, happily, made it safely to my destination.
God’s Word is “right.” It is the map book for life, and if we have the map, why should we worry about where we are going? Even when it seemingly doesn’t make sense, we would do well to obey it, because it will take us to where we are going. And so, while it may at times seem strange that the Bible forbids sex outside of marriage, instructs us to exercise corporal punishment on our children, and commands us to tithe, we can safely follow these instructions, knowing that the instructions will lead to where we want to be. If we obey the Word, we will be made more like Christ.
The result of being secure is that we will be able to sing, to “rejoice.” And the more we obey, the more we will joyfully sing. Are you on the right road? “There is a way that seems right to a man,” cautioned Solomon, “but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). Let’s be sure to follow the God-given map book, so that we can be confident that we will end up where we are supposed to be.
The Hope of Sight
Fourth, “the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes” (v. 8b). God’s Word clears up the dark so that we can live in the light.
The word “pure” means “clear.” It speaks of making clear, and of being free of impurity. When something is “pure,” there is no dust on the lens. God’s Word has the ability to reorient us and to reinvigorate us. This changes our countenance (see Psalm 42:11).
I can recall a time in 1982, while I was in Bible College, when I was really having some struggles in some areas. One night, I told my roommate, Jim, that I was going to spend some time in the Word, and that I would be back when I was done. I spent several hours reading Scripture and praying. As I came upon Psalm 32, I recall feeling a sense of great peace as God gave me some assurances. When I returned to my room that night, Jim looked up from his desk and immediately asked, “What in the world happened to you?” When I asked what he meant, he told me that I looked different. My eyes had been enlightened and it changed my countenance.
The Word of God does that. It enables us to see the love of God in the midst of hardships from the hand of God. It enables us to cry with Paul, “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
The Word reveals God to us, who is the light of the believer’s life (Psalm 27:1)—and that certainly changes your countenance.
What does your countenance say about your hope? Feed it with the truth! Have friends who will help you to feed it! Be a friend who will feed others’ hope!
The Hope of Surety
Fifth, “the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgements of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether” (v. 9). God’s Word is always relevant. Its absolute claims are unshifting. There is a certainty about it which vindicates our confidence in it. God’s self-revelation in His Word is “clean,” that is, incorruptible. It is faithful in fulfilling its promises and claims.
Our hope is rational because its source is real, and thus it is always relevant. And so, when we are tempted to doubt God’s provision, we can confidently assert, “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). When we are worried about all manner of material concerns, we can rest in the promise of Jesus: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
When we are tempted to despair because we have prayed for and witnessed to loved ones for far longer than we would like without a positive response, we can confidently claim Paul’s promise that “the gospel of Christ . . . is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
When we fear that we are losing our children we can turn in hope to the Proverbs where we read, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
When we despair that loved one are too far gone to ever be saved, we can claim with assurance “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. . . . For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved’” (Romans 10:9, 13).
When we feel burdened by our trials and wonder if God cares at all, we can sing confidently with Peter, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
When we wonder what more we can do to reach the lost, we can rally around the confident exhortation of Paul, “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2) and cling to Christ’s promise that He is with us in the Great Commission endeavour till the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20).
We must be ever feeding our biblical hope with the Bible, which will result in us always being hopeful.
God Expects Active Hope
God has given general hope (vv. 1-6) and special hope (vv. 7-9), and now He expects active hope from us.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward.
Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.
Simply put, God expects us to live like we have hope. He expects us to actively strive against that which would rob us of our hope. We must fight in order to feed our hope. Indeed, we must fight by feeding our hope. We do this in several ways.
Expose Yourself to Scripture
First, we must actively expose ourselves to Scripture. Having written of the ability of God’s Word to give us hope (vv. 7-9), David writes, “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward” (vv. 10-11).
In the light of our privilege to know such a glorious God, and in the light of our gracious privilege to grow in glory, we must expose ourselves to the glorious means of grace that is God’s Word. We do so by private study and meditation. We do so in corporate worship and instruction. We do so in discipleship. Was it not the Word of God that transformed the apostle John from a son of thunder, who wished to call fire from heaven upon those who rejected Christ, into the apostle of love? If we want to enjoy similar transformation, we must actively expose ourselves to Scripture.
Examine Yourself by Scripture
Having exposed yourself to Scripture, you must actively examine yourself by Scripture. The two go hand in hand. “Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression” (vv. 12-13). It is the Word of God that must examine our lives, “for the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Let God’s Word be your judge. Let God’s Word point out your blind spots. Of course, this will often require another to use the Word as an x-ray, but “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:6). We must be committed to allowing Scripture to show us where we fall short and to correct us.
Apply Effort in Your Supplications
Third, we must apply effort in our supplications. We must put feet to our prayers. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer” (v. 14).
God uses means to get His children to glory. Applied effort is one of those means. That is why Paul describes the Christian life as a fight and as a race (2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27). The hope of the finish line helps you to dig deep, and God often uses friends to get you there.
I recently had the great joy of running in a race in which one of my daughters was the first lady to cross the line. As we were running, she kept urging me to pull ahead and run at my pace, but I told her that I wanted to stay with her till the end. When someone told us some way into the race that she was the leading lady, I was more adamant than ever that I wanted to stay with her. Toward the end of the race, I kept looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was catching her, but she stayed clear all the way to the finish. I don’t think I would have been any happier if I had won the race myself. It was a great joy to simply run alongside her and encourage her until she crossed the finish line.
Spiritually, God places fellow runners alongside us to encourage us to persevere through the difficult times and to push faithfully for the finish line. Let’s be thankful for the fellow runners God gives us, and let’s be faithful fellow runners ourselves to help others reach the finish.
God Has Provided Your Only Hope
The bad news is that none of us will realise the fullness of v. 14 in this life. The bad news is that we will frequently fail in this life. The good news, however, is that our hope is legitimate, because there is one—a greater servant—who has won the race. Our “strength” and our “Redeemer” has run ahead of us and has assured that we will finish the race.
This psalm teaches not only God’s glory in creation, in inspiration and in transformation, but also in the Incarnation. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Jesus Christ perfectly fulfilled the law of the Lord. He kept the statutes, the commandments and the judgements of the Lord. He obeyed God’s rules. He feared the Lord and personified wisdom. The result is that He is the only one worthy to be called our “Redeemer.” Because of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ alone,
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
We are acceptable in God’s sight in Christ. Indeed, it is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Our hope is a sure hope. Keep feeding this hope with the gospel—found and rooted in the Scriptures.
Is Christ your hope of glory?