How would you describe the word of God? Various descriptions are offered in the Bible. The prophet Jeremiah, for instance, described it as both a fire and a hammer (Jer. 23:29). James described it as a mirror of the soul (James 1:25). Paul described it as a sharp two-edged sword that can pierce even to the dividing asunder of the soul and the spirit, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:15). These descriptions are all poetic and memorable. But the Sweet Psalmist of Israel gives us a description of the word of God that is as thorough as it is poetic.
After describing the Book of Nature’s limited revelation of the Creator (Ps. 19:1-6), David begins to describe the more complete Book of Revelation, His word. In verses seven through nine, David offers three couplets of verse that define the word of God and it’s relationship to man.
First, David says that God’s word is Law (v. 7). Many retreat from this description because they prefer to look at the word of God as something less rigid. But a law it is and a law implies a legal responsibility. Today, all men are amenable to the law of Christ (James 1:25; Rom. 8:2; Gal.6:2; cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15,16; etc). A law exists in the context of a kingdom and, as Christians, we are citizens of the kingdom of Christ, governed by His divine and perfect law (Col. 1:13; James 2:8-12).
David also describes the word of God as the “Testimony” of the Lord. The Testimony indicates a covenant and a covenant is a binding agreement between two parties. Under the Mosaic covenant, the place where the Law of the Lord was stored was called the Ark of the Testimony because it held the two tables of testimony (Ex. 25:14, 21,22; 31:18). Today, we are under the Testimony of Christ (I Cor. 2:1,2; II Tim. 1:8; Rev. 1:9), the New Testament (Heb. 9:15; Matt. 26:28). This relationship suggests we will inherit the blessings of the Covenant (I Pet. 1:3-5; Heb. 9:15).
In the next couplet (v. 8), David turns more specific. Whereas the terms “law” and “testimony” are general and refer to the whole corpus of God’s will (e.g., Matt. 22:36-40; Eph. 2:15), the terms “statute” and “commandment” are more pointed. The term “statute” (or precept) is a rule of life, indicating that the Lord is our Guide (Ps. 31:3; 48:14). Under the New Covenant, we are disciples of Christ by virtue of continuing in His word (John 8:31). This indicates a Master – disciple or Teacher – student relationship (Luke 6:40). Following His teaching produces joy (John 13:13-17).
Next, David describes God’s word as the “commandment” of the Lord. This suggests a servant – Lord relationship (Matt. 10:24). The Lord gave commandments to the apostles by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:2) and the apostles, in turn, gave us the commandments of the Lord (I Thess. 4:2). It is through keeping these commandments that we know the Lord (I John 2:7). Jesus said if we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). Therefore, those who violate the commandments of the Lord are not His friends (John 15:14).
Then, ratcheting up the intensity, David turns from the specific to the personal in verse nine. The “fear” of the Lord is the next description offered and fear is a very personal thing. While there are some things that we should not fear (I John 4:18; Heb. 13:6; etc.), there are other things we definitely should fear (I Pet. 1:17; 2:17, 3:2). Truly, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31). But it is through this fear that we perfect holiness (II Cor. 7:1).
Finally, putting a point on his summary, David describes the word of God as the “judgment” of the Lord. His word is a judgment because it is by His word that we shall be judged (Rev. 20:12; Rom. 2:16; John 12:48). Because His word is Truth (John 17:17), we shall be judged in truth. We shall be judged fairly (Rom. 2:3-11) and righteously (Acts 17:31), but we shall be judged. God is the Judge of all the earth (Heb. 12:23; Gen. 18:25) and He will judge us by Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30,31).
This inspired poetry is thus a complete description of both the nature of God’s word and our relationship to the Lord.
Eric L. Padgett