Beckett: Who Can Discern His Errors?

Psalm 19:7-14
The law of Yahweh of perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of Yahweh is sure, making wise the simple;
the precepts of Yahweh are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of Yahweh is pure, enlightening the eyes;
the fear of Yahweh is clean, enduring forever; the rules of Yahweh are true, and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is a great reward.
Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless and innocent of transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Yahweh, my rock and my redeemer.

This section of the psalm lists a thing belonging to God, its attribute, then its action according to this attribute. It begins with God’s Law, which is perfect, and therefore revives the soul; God’s testimony is sure, which makes one wise; God’s precepts are always right, which causes the heart to rejoice; God’s commandment is pure, which enlightens; the fear of God is clean, which endures forever; and the rules of God are true, which is pure righteousness.

All these belong to God’s Law. God’s Law—which is His testimony, precepts, commandments, rules, and instills fear—is perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, and true. The entirety of God’s Law is to be more desirable than the riches of the earth, David says. God’s Law is more precious than gold, even the finest gold; and sweeter than honey, even straight from its source.

These properties belonging to God’s Law is damning, for as David says, “Who can discern his errors?” Through the Law, David recognises that without it, he—and no one else—can rightfully discern his ways and recognise his errors. So, he begs God to declare him innocent from all his “hidden faults”—all the sins he fails to recognise and recall. David relies on the grace of God—not the keeping of the Law—to deliver him from its dominion over him and to grant him pardon.

Who can discern his errors? We cannot. We fail at this constantly. If we could rightly discern our errors, we would never sin, and we would never need the Law. O, but it is our natural inclination to err from God’s Law. Consider the Israelites, who, when God told them to enter the Promised Land, doubted God and sent out spies to see if it was indeed good land and capable of being captured. By doing so, they “rebelled against the command of Yahweh your God,” and “in spite of this word you did not believe Yahweh your God” (Deuteronomy 1:26, 32).

Even today, we still fail to discern our errors; for we all think we are not guilty of being murderers, yet Jesus says unresolved anger and hate toward a person makes one liable to judgement just as murder does; and lust and divorce are the same as adultery; seeking vengeance is ungodly; and hating our enemies is ungodly (Matthew 5:21-48).

Who of us has not done all or most of these things? We fail to discern our errors every day. Thus, the answer to David’s rhetorical question is no one.

Yet the grace of God is that He answers David’s prayer. God indeed declares us innocent from all our faults—even those we fail to discern—and He declares us blameless and innocent of all our transgressions for the sake of Christ. For when Christ was lifted up on the cross, He took upon every sin of the whole world. Name any sin you have committed, even the one you think God cannot forgive—those sins were nailed to the cross with Christ and He died with them.

Thus, for His sake—for the sake of His innocent sacrifice—God declares us blameless and innocent, if only we believe this.

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