Living Before The Face of God

The heavens declare the glory 
(his royal majesty and power)
of God;
The sky displays his handiwork.
(Heb “and the work of his hands the sky declares.”)
Day after day it speaks out 
(Heb “it gushes forth a word.”);
Night after night it reveals his greatness 
(Heb “it [i.e., the sky] declares knowledge,”).
There is no actual speech or word, nor is its
(Heb “their”) voice literally heard.
Yet its voice 
(“their voice”)
(Heb “goes out,” or “proceeds forth”)
Throughout the earth; its 
(Heb “their”)
Words carry to the distant horizon 
(“goes out)”.
In the sky 
(Heb “in them” (i.e., the heavens))
He has pitched a tent for the sun.

Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber; 
Like a strong man it enjoys running its course.
It emerges from the distant horizon, and goes from one end of the sky to the other; nothing can escape
(Heb “is hidden from”) its heat.
The law of the Lord is perfect and preserves one’s life
(Heb “[it] restores life”).
The rules set down by the Lord are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced
(“the [morally] naive”).
The Lord’s precepts are fair and make one joyful
(Heb “[they] make happy [the] heart”).
The Lord’s commands are pure and give insight for life
(Heb [they] enlighten [the] eyes).

The commands to fear the Lord are right
(Heb “the fear of the Lord is clean”) and endure forever (Heb “[it] stands permanently”).
The judgments given by the Lord are trustworthy and absolutely just.

They are of greater value
(Heb “more desirable”)
Than gold, than even a great amount of pure gold;
They bring greater delight
(Heb “are sweeter”)
Than honey, than even the sweetest honey from a honeycomb.

Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there
(Heb “moreover your servant is warned by them”);
Those who obey them receive a rich reward
(Heb “in the keeping of them [there is] a great reward”).

Who can know all his errors?  Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of
(Heb “declare me innocent from hidden [things],” i.e., sins. In this context (see the preceding line) “hidden” sins are not sins committed in secret, but sins which are not recognized as such by the psalmist).

Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant
(Or “presumptuous”)
Sins; do not allow such sins to control me
(Heb “let them not rule over me”).
Then I will be blameless, and innocent of blatant
(Heb “great”)

May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight
(Heb “May [Then] the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart be acceptable before you”),
O Lord, my sheltering rock and my redeemer
(Heb “and the one who redeems me”). 
   -Psalm 19 (NET, with NET notes in parentheses) 

Are you aware that you are living before God, before his face?  Can you say, "may the words I speak and the thoughts I think be pleasing before your face"?  A person's face is the most intimate part of their body that they show day to day.  We call it "face time" when we get together with someone, so that we can talk or be together, "face to face", and have eye contact and see all the expressions on their faces.

You might be familiar with 2 Chronicles 7:14, "if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land."  God says to humble ourselves, pray, seek his face, and turn from our wicked ways.

The phrase, "in your sight", in Psalm 19,  verse 14, is the same Hebrew word, panim, that is translated as, "face", in 2 Chron. 7:14.  Many translations go with "face" for panim in 2 Chron. 7:14, but none use, "face", in Psalm 19:14.  Instead, "in your sight", is the common translation.

Panim also carries with it the idea of presence and acceptance.  If you come into the presence of the Almighty and live, you must be accepted.  The Psalmist adds "acceptable" to "in your sight": May I be acceptable, to come into your acceptance (presence).  Or, he might say, "help me to be acceptable, by keeping me from sin, especially sins of speech and thought, so that I can have face-time with you, coming into your presence of intimacy (into-me-see)."

C.S. Lewis(1) loved Psalm 19: "I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world."  For Lewis, the key phrase in Psalm 19 is, "there is nothing hid from the heat thereof".  The Law is also like the sun: "luminous, severe, disinfectant, exultant", writes Lewis.  There is no room for self-righteousness, because the Law even uncovers hidden sin, inadvertent, sin of omission.  We should all be like David and pray that God keeps us from hidden and blatant sins. 

You might be thinking, "but this is all Old Testament, the time of The Law.  Now we are under grace." But David was inspired by someone who perfectly knew God's plan of salvation, that would later inspire the words, "you are saved by grace" (Ephesians 2:8).  David writes that as we are all under the sun, it shines on everyone on the earth; we are also all under God's perfect law that is glorious in that it leads us in how to live.  David also reflects that we are all under the gaze of a Holy God, who is our only hope for living a holy life.  He protects us and redeems us.

The law is glorious, it is sweeter than honey and greater than pure gold.  Life is very rewarding when we live by and under the law.  David is correct.  Ephesians 2:8 is also correct in that we are saved by grace and not by own own efforts in doing good.  Grace is God's power to live the life, supplied by God.

David's poem has God's grace in it, because David admonishes his hearers to pray to God for help to not sin.  David's only hope, only power to obey the law, is God's help.  "Please do not punish me for my sins I am not even aware of", and "keep me for committing flagrant sins"; says David.  Only God can shut our sin factories down and keep then shut down.  That's grace.

David closes the psalm with the declaration that God is his redeemer and protector.  That's Old Testament grace.  David says that the Lord is his protector and the one who governs him, watches over him, who gives him covenant protection.

The overarching idea of the Old Covenant is that God keeps it.  He just asks us the have faith which is demonstrated in our faithfulness.

As we all live under the sun, we all also live under the law, and we are invited to live before God,; before God's face, in God's presence.  David was onto something that was fulfilled in Christ.  The blood of Jesus opens the way to the Father (Hebrews 10:19-20).

"Most of us can maintain righteous behavior most of the time.  Our deepest struggles are in our thought life and the words that proceed from it... the tongue is the barometer of the mind .  It measures what is going on inside our heads.  Sooner or later, it will tell the truth about us- that we have pride, prejudices, impurities, petty agendas, and a strong self-will.  If we keep ourselves pure within, we will be pure in our speech and our actions as well.
   ...Do your thoughts and words reflect the truth of who God is?"  -Chris Tiegreen, The One Year Walk With God Devotional

"Holy Spirit, think through me till my ideas are your ideas."  -Amy Charmichael

Meditation is something that we don't know much about as Christians today.  Many translations replace "thoughts", from the NET translation I used, with "meditation".  "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, my strength and my redeemer."

What are you musing about?  What are you chewing on in your mind?  What if you have a sanctified mind, where God is Lord of your thoughts, where truth reigns?  From that place, you speak and you pray.

Hypocrisy is the opposite of this.  The heart and the mind are not sanctified, or in a process of sanctification.  Instead of humility that sanctification brings, you are sanctimonious.

"You will remember that the location where Jesus was crucified was called "Golgotha", which meant "place of the skull".  If we will be effective in spiritual warfare, the first field of conflict where we must learn warfare is the battleground of the mind; i.e., "place of the skull".  For the territory of the uncrucified thought-life is the beachhead of satanic assault in our lives.  To defeat the devil, we must be renewed in our minds."  -Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds

We need to pray as David did that God would change us and govern us from the inside out.  The living before God life is a life of humility, dependence, dying to self, and living in God.

May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, 
O Lord my sheltering rock and my redeemer.

Artwork credit:  Dr. Stephen L. Cook
1. Reflections On The Psalms, C.S. Lewis; p. 64