The Rev. Ian Emile Dunn
A Homily for Trinity 8
July 22, 2018
All Saints Anglican Church, Prescott, AZ
Text: Psalm 19
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
The English Standard Version titles this Psalm “The Law of the Lord is Perfect” drawing from the seventh verse of the Psalm which is rendered in our Psalter - “The law of the Lord is undefiled.” We don’t often spend a lot of time contemplating what it means to live under the perfect law of the Lord, or why that’s an important thing. Yet the law of the Lord shows us two things – first the way of good living, that is how we were created to live, and second our failure at that way of life and our need for Christ. We read the Ten Commandments once a month to stand as a perpetual reminder of how we are to walk, where we need to repent, and where we need to learn to trust in the Lord all the more.
In yearning to understand the Law of the Lord we can start by looking at the Ten Commandments. First, as we look at them we see that there are two clear types of laws, those laws as to how we interact with God, and the laws as to how we are to interact with our fellow human beings. They are, as we know from Christ summarized in the simple commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself or more simply put: love God and love people.
There is a permissive way to look at the commandments, that is to say – reading them to see how we are to behave. They tell us how we are to love God well and love our neighbors well. If you’ve gone through the catechism or membership class here you know that we understand this to mean not merely that we don’t have statuaries to pagan gods in our houses that we worship or that we don’t murder, but it means that we flee all those things that we may make into gods, that we do not put our trust or hope in anything but Christ. It means not only that we don’t murder, but we don’t hate because hatred kills relationships.
When we come to know Christ, the Holy Spirit writes these laws on our hearts – not that the moral law of the Old Testament is no longer true, but that through Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit an internal change is expected. This internal change comes through the operation of the Holy Spirit and living our Christian life, in reading scriptures, fellowship, partaking in the sacraments, and constant prayer.
Now, if there is a permissive way to view the Ten Commandments there must also be a prohibitive way of looking at them. Just as the first four commandments tell us how to Love God and the latter six tell us how to love our neighbor – the first four remind us not to create gods, to avoid trying to treat God as a sky puppet that will grant us our every desire, but rather to submit to God and know Him as he is. In the same way, the later 6 commandments remind us that we are not to make ourselves a god over others.
These are the ways in which we so often fail to follow the Lord – we fail to love him, or we want to recreated him in a way that is more pleasing to us, we fail to love our neighbor, or worse yet we desire to be their god. In all of these ways God is no longer the center of what we are.
While the law of the Lord can sometimes seem huge, oppressive or confusing – it is in fact very good. It is perfect because as we are starting to see it not only tells us how we are to live, but shows us who God is. It shows us that He is good, He is gracious, He is just, He is kind, and He is merciful.
There is one more way to understand how the law works – often people think of the Law being this fence that surrounds us and keeps us hemmed in. Keeps us from straying too far. To an extent this is true, to an extent it does keep us on the straight and narrow. There is, however another way to look at this, that is a metaphor of wells. If you think for a moment of a field filled with wells or pitfalls. The law is less like fence that would hem us into the field, but fences around the wells and pitfalls. It is there to prevent us from falling into these things that would hurt us. In other words, we can think of the law as a series of buffers that protect us from falling into the hazards that would hurt us, hurt our relationships with others, and most important hurt our relationship with God. If we view the law this way, we see that it is not so much restrictive as it is protective.
As we look at the Psalm this morning we notice that there are three discernable parts – the first section which describes, again, the glory of God, the second part that describes his law, and a final section that describes our blindness to our sins.
Verses 1-6 remind us that all of creation, all of heaven, and earth declare the glory of God. One of the wonderful things about the Psalms is how often they remind us of this fact. How they remind us of how worthy the Lord is of our worship. Today the Psalm reminds us of how it is amazing to walk down a path, or look out the window and contemplate that all of this was created by a God who loves us deeply. How can that fact not bring us to praise Him?
Now, verses 7 to 11 turns it focus from the glory and creation of God, to His Law. We will spend a fair amount of time focusing in on this section, because it is good to be reminded of why the Law is important.
This section starts out with a series of statements about the law and what that does for our souls: It is perfect, our souls are revived, it is sure, it makes the simple wise, it is right, the heart rejoices in that, it is pure, and that enlightens the eye. The series of descriptors and reactions helps us to get at the heart of the law.
First – when we think of the law so often we like to tinker with it, to reduce it to something that is more pleasing to us – but we need to remember that the law is perfect just as it is. There is not one iota of the law that should be replaced or repeal, it is not the law of our town, state, or country that is subject to the wills and whims of people, but it is the law of the Lord unchanging through out all time. In the same way – it is sure, it is right, and it is pure. While we may want to change it, or dismiss it the moral law stands true, the summary of the law still shows us how we are to live, and shows us where we need to repent. We needn’t change it, merely respond.
The fruit of the law is that it revives the soul, makes the simple wise, causes the heart to rejoice, and enlightens the eyes. We saw earlier as we looked at what the Ten Commandments teach us – that they act to show us how to live and also our need for Christ. It is similar here. That when we look at ourselves in the light of the law we see our need for repentance and we see our need for the righteousness of Christ to be imputed upon us.
So it is when we see the state of our soul as it is, corrupted by sin, blackened by the fall, we see our nature. It is then with Christ, his healing power, the forgiveness we find on the cross in Christ. It is then that our souls are revived, our hearts rejoice for the freedom we’ve found in Christ. Likewise, our eyes are enlighten, for we know the joy we have in Christ and we understand the world as it is. It leads us to compassion for the hurting, for the lost, and even for those who have hurt us. We also know from Christ that those the world would see as foolish recognized him. Following Christ can seem foolish – yet there is a wisdom in that.
Finally, as we have already discussed, the law tells us how to live, how to love God and love our fellow humans. The human heart is designed to love God and live in community with others. Seeing and learning how to do this, is indeed a wise thing.
The next part of this section turns from describing what the Law does for us to describe the law itself. Perhaps the most compelling of these verses is verse 10 which the ESV renders:
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
At first blush, perhaps this seems extreme, how can these words that sometimes seem dry and old and boring be more valuable than gold, or sweeter than honey? Surely, this is an overstatement!
No, let us think about it. It is through the law, it is through the Word of God that we get to know God Himself. One cannot put a price on knowing the creator and redeemer of the earth. How can we possible overstate the value in knowing God. No, the law and word of the Lord is truly invaluable, truly more valuable than gold, and sweeter than honey.
We are a blessed people to live where we do and when we do. Our blessing isn’t because of the security we enjoy or the wealth we have. No, we are blessed because we have inexpensive Bibles that we can easily purchase, we have a plethora of translations, such that if one is to difficult to read, or hard to understand, we can find a version that will help us know God better. There are some in the history of the church, and even in our present time who have died so that others in their community could have the scriptures, there are some that have waited years, decades even, for scriptures to be put into their own tongue. Let us rejoice at having the word of God in a form that we can easily read, that is in our language, and that we can understand. Let us not take this gift too lightly! Truly, this is a very rich and sweet thing.
Verse 12 and 13 turns to our own sin, we are reminded of how often we forget our sin, we are reminded of how blind we can be to it. Yet, we have a great hope that as we repent of our sin we are cleansed of them through Christ. At the same time we pray that the Lord would protect us from our sin, would guide us away from it. This is the path of sanctification that as we grow in Christ, so would we grow and be drawn away from the sin that so often tempts us.
Finally, we have the pray that is often used at the beginning of our sermons: let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart to be always acceptable in thy sight, O Lord my strength and my redeemer. We would do well to pray this often, we would do well to seek to speak only words that please the Lord and meditate on things that are acceptable to him, that our desires would be His desire.
Let us be always mindful of how good the Lord’s law is. The Law not is there to oppress us or hem us in. No, it is there to free us from the wickedness we are so often drawn to, there to show us who He is. Truly such a thing is very rich and sweet.