A Prayer to Be Pleasing to God (Sanctifying)

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Psalm 19:12-14

INTRODUCTION: Today’s is the last message in our series on the Magnificent Word of God. We have been looking at the various aspects of God’s word as presented here in Psalm 19. So far we have seen that God’s word is inspired, infallible, authoritative, everlasting and priceless. Today we look at one final aspect of God’s word – it is sanctifying. You will notice there is a shift in David’s language as we come to the end of the Psalm. Up to now David has been speaking about God, but here in these final three verses David speaks to God. And so David ends this Psalm with a prayer – a prayer to be pleasing to God. (Read Psalm 19:12-14 and pray.)

How does a person change from bad to good? How do we grow as a Christian? How do we get rid of sinful patterns in our life and replace them with good patterns? How do we live a life that is pleasing to God? That is the theme of David’s prayer here in verses 12-14, and it is the theme of our message today as we study this prayer to be pleasing to God.

It is helpful before we jump into these final verses to step back for just a moment and see them within the context of the whole Psalm. Psalm 19 basically divides into three sections. Verses 1-6 focus on God’s creation, verses 7-11 focus on God’s word, and verses 12-14 focus on God’s servant, David.

And so there is a progression we see in the Psalm. First David looked at creation, then he looked at the Scriptures, and then finally he took a good look at himself. After reflecting on God’s holiness as revealed in his word, David recognized his own weakness and sin, and he cried out to God for help. God’s word had a sanctifying effect on him.

God’s word also has a sanctifying effect on us. It changes you. It helps you grow in Christ. Or as the great evangelist D. L. Moody put it: “The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”

So how do you grow as a Christian? How do you change? Through the power of God’s word. God’s word is not only inspired, infallible, authoritative, everlasting and priceless. It is sanctifying. God’s word helps you grow.

I. God’s word leads you to confess your sins

First of all God’s word leads you to confess your sins. True change always begins with confession, and God’s word leads you to confess your sins to God.

   A. We are more sinful than we know (12a)
      – Jeremiah 17:9; Hebrews 4:12-13

It is not until we read the Bible that we begin to realize how sinful we really are. Most of us tend to think we are pretty good people. We think: “I’m a good citizen, a good family member, a good friend. Sure, I have my faults, but who doesn’t? Over all I’m a pretty good person.”

But God’s word tells us we are more sinful than we know. Look at verse 12 where David begins with a question: “Who can discern his errors?” (Psalm 19:12a) David is asking: “Who can know all their own sins? Who can keep track of all their errors?” It’s a rhetorical question, because the answer is no one! No one can discern his own errors. None of us can discern how much we’ve actually sinned before God.

After reading God’s perfect will as revealed in God’s perfect law, David realizes how far he falls short. He starts thinking about all the times he has broken God’s law. He is struck by how many and how bad his sins really are.

The word translated “errors” here doesn’t even refer to those times we’ve deliberately sinned against God. Those are bad enough. But this refers more to our sins of ignorance or inattention. Sometimes we sin, and we don’t even know it’s a sin. Or we sin and we don’t notice it because we’re not paying attention.

Jeremiah 17:9 says: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Did you know that? That your heart is deceitful? Your heart’s default mode is to ignore your sin, to hide your sin, to justify your sin, to do anything but confront and confess your sin to God.

So how does God’s word help you get past this? We read in Hebrews 4: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)

God’s word is living and active. It penetrates your heart. It tells you the painful truth about yourself: you are a sinner to the core and apart from Christ even your best actions are tainted with sin. We are more sinful than we know. We see only a fraction of it, but God sees it all. Nothing is hidden from his sight.

Only God knows the true depth of your sin, but here’s the good news. He loves you anyways. Who can discern all your errors? God can, yet he still loves you and forgives you. The God who knows you best loves you most. The sins you have forgotten, God will forgive, and then he too will remember them no more. We are more sinful than we know.

   B. Ask God to forgive even your hidden faults (12b)
      – Psalm 139:23-24; 1 Corinthians 4:4

And therefore you should ask God to forgive even your hidden faults. That’s what David does in the second part of verse 12. He prays: “Forgive my hidden faults.” (Psalm 19:12b)

So what are our hidden faults? Our hidden faults are many. They include sins of ignorance, the things we have done that we did not know were against God’s law at the time. They include those sins which we have forgotten about or perhaps did not even notice when we first committed them. They include those sins which we do know about but which are hidden from everyone else.

David prays in Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24) David knew that his faults were many, so he asked God to search his heart, to find all the sin that was hidden there, to forgive him, and to lead him in the way everlasting.

The apostle Paul understood this as well. He writes in 1 Corinthians 4:4: “My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.” (1 Corinthians 4:4) Paul knew that even if his conscience was clear, that did not mean that he was sinless before God. Paul knew that he had many hidden faults, and so he refused even to judge himself but left that up to the Lord.

None of us can confess all our sins, because we do not even know all our sins. We all have hidden sin in our lives, whether hidden from knowledge or hidden from conscience or hidden from memory. Charles Spurgeon wrote: “The transgressions which we see and confess are but like the farmer’s small samples which he brings to market, when he has left his granary full at home.”

We are more sinful than we know. So ask God to forgive even your hidden faults. God’s word helps you grow first of all because it leads you to confess your sins to God.

II. God’s word leads you to ask for deliverance from sin

Secondly, God’s word helps you grow because it leads you to ask for deliverance from sin. Prayers of confession have to do with past sins, while prayers of deliverance have to do with potential sins in the future. God’s word not only leads you to confess your past sins to God but also to ask him for deliverance from future sin.

   A. Ask God to keep you from deliberate sin (13a)
      – Numbers 15:27-31; Matthew 6:13; John 17:15-17

There are a couple of things you should do here. First of all, ask God to keep you from deliberate sin. Look at Psalm 19:13: “Keep your servant also from willful sins.” (Psalm 19:13a) David is God’s servant, and so he does not want to deliberately disobey him.

The Old Testament distinguished between what it called unintentional sins and willful sins. (Numbers 15:27-31) Unintentional sins were those sins that a person committed out of ignorance or weakness, while willful sins were those sins that a person committed presumptuously or defiantly. The law provided various sacrifices if you sinned unintentionally, but there were no sacrifices available for the one who sinned defiantly. There was no atonement for presumptuous sins in the Old Testament. That’s a scary thought. Praise God the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all our sins, but we should still be on our guard against willful, deliberate sin in our lives. Ask God to keep you from deliberate sin.

Jesus taught us to pray for deliverance from sin. In the Lord’s Prayer right after we ask God for forgiveness, what do we pray for next? “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” (Matthew 6:13) We ask God for forgiveness from past sins and deliverance from future sins. Jesus taught us to pray for deliverance from sin.

Jesus also prayed for our deliverance from sin. In John 17 we read these words of our Lord: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:15-17) Here Jesus not only prays for our deliverance from sin, but he also identifies the means by which God delivers us from sin. We are sanctified, we are changed, we are made holy by the power of God’s word. God’s word is sanctifying. “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

   B. Ask God to break the power of ruling sin (13b)
      – Psalm 119:133; Acts 20:32; James 1:21

Ask God to keep you from deliberate sin, and then ask God to break the power of ruling sin in your life. Look at Psalm 19:13 again: “Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then will I be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” (Psalm 19:13)

There’s a progression in these verses, isn’t there? We have gone from talking about errors to hidden faults to willful sin to sin that rules over you. Because this is the way sin works in your life. First you sin out of weakness. Then you choose the same sins deliberately. Willful sin that is repeated becomes habitual sin which then becomes ruling sin which enslaves you.

So you not only need to ask God to keep you from deliberate sin. You need to ask God to break the power of ruling sin in your life. And once again, how does God do that? He does it through the power of his word. We read in Psalm 119: “Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.” (Psalm 119:133) Or again in Acts 20, the apostle Paul says: “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” (Acts 20:32) Or again in James 1:21: “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (James 1:21) Only God’s word can save you from the power of ruling sin. Then, like David, you “will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.” (Psalm 19:13b)

John Newton wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace.” When he was old and close to dying he said: “Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.” We are all great sinners. But Christ is a great Savior. And so David prays for forgiveness from hidden faults, and he prays for deliverance from willful sin. He is sorry for the sins he has committed in the past, and he longs to avoid sinning in the future.

It’s been said that sin will keep you from the Bible, or the Bible will keep you from sin. God’s word leads you to ask for deliverance from sin. That’s one of the differences between a believer and an unbeliever. The unbeliever doesn’t want any restraints on his life. The unbeliever doesn’t want God to hold him back, but the believer does, and so he asks God for deliverance from sin.

III. God’s word gives you a new desire to please him with your life

God’s word leads you to confess your sins. God’s word leads you to ask for deliverance from sin. And then finally, God’s word gives you a new desire to please him with your life.

   A. Seek to please him with both your words and your heart (14a)
      – Psalm 119:9-11; Romans 6:17-18; Romans 12:2

This desire is whole and sincere and extends to both your words and your heart. Look at verse 14 where Davie concludes his prayer: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

When I was a kid growing up in church, I knew this verse by heart because our pastor said it every week. Each week as he prayed before the sermon, he would close his prayer with Psalm 19:14: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

Now that’s a great verse for a pastor to pray before preaching God’s word, but it is also a beautiful prayer for any of us to pray anytime to the Lord. When you spend time in God’s word, God’s word begins to change your desires, and you seek to please God with your whole life – with the words that you speak and even the thoughts that you think in your heart.

Psalm 119 also speaks about the power of God’s word to change your desires: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:9-11) God’s word brings the changes that you need to live a life that is pleasing to God.

The apostle Paul writes in Romans 6: “Thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (Romans 6:17-18) What happened? You used to be slaves to sin but now through the power of God’s word you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

Again, we read in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) There’s that word “transformed” again. Remember the D. L. Moody quote from earlier: “The Bible was not given for your information but for your transformation.” And how are you transformed? By the renewing of your mind that takes place through the reading of God’s word.

   B. Acknowledge the LORD as your Rock and Redeemer (14b)
      – Psalm 62:1-2; Titus 2:14

God’s word gives you a new desire to please him with your life. You will seek to please him with both your words and your heart. And you will acknowledge the LORD as your Rock and Redeemer. That’s how David ends this Psalm: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

The word “LORD” here is “Yahweh” in the Hebrew. This is God’s personal covenant name, the name by which he revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush. And David does something interesting with God’s name to give it special emphasis here at the end of the Psalm.

If you remember, in the first part of this Psalm, verses 1-6, David was talking about God’s creation. So in those verses, David used the Hebrew word “El” which is just the general name for God. But in verse 7 when David starts talking about God’s word, he uses a different name for God. Six times in verses 7-9 David uses God’s personal, covenant name “Yahweh” or “LORD.”

Now six times may not be immediately significant to you or me, but it was highly significant to David and to any Jewish people reading the Psalm. Seven was the number of perfection or completion and so to use God’s name six times in a row, like David did here, and not finish with a seventh would leave the reader hanging. It’s sort of like in our culture if I told you a story and at the end I said: “And they all lived happily ever …” and I just stopped right there. I just spoke six words to you – “and they all lived happily ever …” – and everyone of you is just waiting for me to drop the final, seventh word – “… after.”

Well, that’s exactly how the Jewish people in David’s day would read this Psalm. David used God’s name six times in a row, and every Jewish reader was left hanging, just waiting for the seventh mention of God’s name. But David doesn’t give it to them right away. He’s a skillful poet, so he leaves them hanging, waiting, anticipating. After the sixth mention of God’s name in verse 9, David doesn’t mention God’s name again in verse 10 or verse 11 or verse 12 or verse 13. It’s not until we get to verse 14 and the final phrase of the last verse in the Psalm, that David finally uses God’s name the seventh time. And by so doing David gives great emphasis and resolution to this final phrase: “… O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14b)

The LORD is your Rock and Redeemer. He is your Rock, your strength who rescues you from the power of sin. And he is your Redeemer, your savior who forgives you for all your sins.

We read in Psalm 62: “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation.” (Psalm 62:1-2) And how does God provide that salvation? God saves us from sin through the death of Jesus his Son on the cross. We read in Titus 2: “Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:14)

And here in that one verse we find all three points of our sermon this morning:

1) Jesus gave himself to redeem us from all wickedness. God’s word leads you to confess your sins that you may be forgiven in Christ.

2) Jesus gave himself to purify for himself a people. God’s word leads you to ask for deliverance from sin that you may be freed from sin’s power.

3) Jesus gave himself to create a people eager to do what is good. God’s word gives you a new desire to please him with your life.

CONCLUSION: God’s word is more than just letters on a page. It is the living and active word of God that changes you from the inside out. God’s word is inspired, infallible, authoritative, everlasting, priceless and sanctifying. It is the key to change in your life. You cannot grow as a Christian without regularly reading, studying and meditating on God’s word. My prayer for you this morning is that you will commit yourself to a lifetime in the Scriptures that you may live a life that is pleasing to God.

© Ray Fowler

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