How Firm a Foundation (Psalm 19:7-11)


How Firm a Foundation

Psalm 19:7-11

Well, it is truly a privilege we have, to study God’s Word together. What an immense blessing–we should rejoice. Let’s open our Bibles to Psalm 19–a wonderful and vital chapter regarding the sufficiency of Scripture. The sufficiency of Scripture can be defined as the doctrine that the Bible is all we need to equip and empower us for a life of faith and obedience to God. When it comes to theology, spirituality, all eternal matters–salvation, a relationship with God, with one another, all doctrine, the Church–the Bible is the only inerrant and inspired source of truth, so it is the final authority. All other authorities are subservient to Scripture.

The sufficiency of Scripture also maintains that the Bible is powerful. It is the Word of God, which carries with it life-giving power. This is why we sing that great hymn, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord . . .”–what’s the next phrase? “Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!” What’s it say next? “What more can He say than to you He hath said?” That’s an 18th century way of saying, the Bible is enough. Scripture is sufficient.

We read about this doctrine in several places in the Bible, but one of my favorite places is Psalm 19. Psalm 19 is sort of Psalm 119 in miniature form–and you will hear some parallel language, if you are familiar with that Psalm. Let me read to you that central section, verses 7 to 11, and we will study this magnificent passage.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

10More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:7 to 11).

If you were to get in a boat in the Pacific, and sail about 4,000 miles south from here, you would end up in a group of four islands called the Pitcairn Islands, population 47. The entirety of that population lives on the actual Island of Pitcairn in the capitol city of Adamstown. Those people are the descendants of the traitors who instigated the infamous mutiny on the Bounty. You all know that story? It happened in 1789. The Bounty was a British ship that had been sent to Tahiti (Tahiti is roughly 1,000 miles west of Pitcairn), and they went there to pick up a load of fruit to take back to the West Indies. That was what back then they called a group of Caribbean islands. William Bligh was the captain of the ship.

Well, they got to Tahiti and fell in love. Some of them, literally, fell in love with Tahitian women–but for most of them, I think, it was just the Pacific Island lifestyle. So when it came time to leave, a bunch of the crew resisted–and Bligh did what any self-respecting 18th century captain would do. He publicly flogged them. And this was probably when the idea of mutiny was planted in the minds of the crew.

The first mate, a guy named Fletcher Christian, led the crew in a munity. They were successful, and they put Captain Bligh and those loyal to him on a tiny boat and took them out to sea and set them adrift in an ocean current that took them further west, away from Tahiti.

One amazing story, if you want to do more reading, is that Bligh and his men actually navigated 3,700 miles in that tiny craft all the way to the island of Timor which is near Indonesia. Anyway, the mutineers took control of the Bounty, collected all their stuff and their women, including some children from Tahiti, and sailed about 1,000 miles east to Pitcairn.

By that time in history, on that particular island, there was nothing there but five square miles of beautiful, mountainous jungle and white sandy beaches. So they decided to settle there. And what wise thing do you think they did for their survival early on? You’re right–they figured out how to distill liquor, of course! So this community, unsurprisingly, turned into an anarchist disaster–debauchery and fights and murder all the time. And again, in another stroke of genius, they took what they wanted off the ship and burned it completely.

Well, when it was all said and done, every single man had been murdered except two of them. So you had these two men, and 20 or so women and children. One of the fellows was educated and a little more mature–his name was Ned Young and he was the accepted leader of this group of survivors. And one day as he was going through the detritus from the ship, he found the Bounty’s Bible–and using that Bible he taught the other man, John Adams, how to read and write. But more importantly, they together began to study the Scripture. Together, they both embraced Christ, and together decided to teach everyone on the island about Jesus.

Ned Young died of some kind of lung infection that he’d had, leaving John Adams alone to complete the task–and he did. He taught and trained people from that Bible. He set up a church and a schoolhouse, and all were required to come and learn the Bible and how to read and write English, and how to do math and astronomy and just the basic organization of and morals of a Christian society. Well, about ten years passed, and some of the older children had married one another. Adams eventually married a Tahitian lady who was with them, and they had a boy named George Adams who was, later on, one of the leaders there on the island like his dad.

In 1808, an American ship called the Topaz spotted the island far in the distance and decided to sail over and see what they could find. Remember, Adams and the other islanders had no ship–no way of escaping the island. Well, the captain of the Topaz arrived and was amazed to find this little community there–civilized, free of crime, free of diseases associated with debauchery, and operating in peace and happiness. And he discovered that they all followed Jesus Christ.

How did this happen? Because of God’s Word. That Bible still exists. If you want to see it, you’d have to go there to Pitcairn–they have it in a little museum there in Adamstown. Sadly, like a lot of Islands in the Pacific, they have been subject to all kinds of cultic proselytizing, so there is no longer a unified love of Scripture like there once was.

And just as an aside, especially to you young folks–this is a reality across the Pacific. Island countries that once were evangelized and embraced Christ have been heavily tainted with false religion. That mission field that was once declared “evangelized for Christ,” is a now true mission field once again. Just put that in the old hopper, folks–there is great need for biblical truth across Oceania.

Well, the story of Adams and the Bounty’s Bible is a story of the sufficiency of Scripture. In terms of our spiritual life, our joy, our growth, our morals, our inner being, our character, our relationships, our worship is found in detail and with the power of God in his Word. So it follows–in terms of a ministry philosophy, all we need and what should sharpen our church is the Bible. From the preaching, to the music, to the missions, to leadership, to evangelism–everything should be guided by a commitment to the sufficiency of Scripture.

Our philosophy, as a church, is not pragmatism, what the church growth movement holds–to get as many people here as possible. To fashion our churches by the whims and desires of a lost world, just to get them to like us, and show up. Our philosophy is also not revivalism–where the objective is to create an emotional experience, to whip up the spirit and psyche them into following Jesus. Our philosophy is also not to toe some denominational line in order to get all the Baptists or Presbyterians or whatever to come.

Ours is the job of the sower in Mark 4. We sow the seed of the Word, we fashion our church by the Word, we worship according to and with the Word and then we sleep. We cannot change hearts, we cannot save people, we cannot sanctify people–but God can, through His Word. And He has declared that He will do these things with the Word of truth (John 17:17).

This is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture. And Psalm 19 is David rejoicing over the truth of the sufficiency of Scripture. He poetically uses all these beautiful synonyms of the Word–six of them. He gives them description and then identifies the result in the human heart. So what we have here is a thoroughgoing theology of the sufficiency of Scripture. So let’s go through these–write this down first . . .

1.  Scripture is Sufficient for Spiritual Life  Verse 7

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul…” The word “law” here, or torah–this is God’s instruction, God’s expectations and demands laid out for us, specifying to us what God wants of us. Scripture is God’s teaching, His outline of how we mold and shape our lives. What morals and character, and then how it is applied to everyday living. The Bible is our owner’s manual–how to operate, how to function properly in life.

Because God does not change, His morals never shift–so His moral will for us never changes. What He demanded morally of the Old Testament saints is no different than the expectations for Christians today. This is one reason I think the Old Testament is so relatable for us. We read the Old Testament and it’s about our kinfolk–our spiritual relatives trying to live by the same moral code, and to look to the same Savior presented there in the Old Testament which is described by David here as the Law of the Lord.

What does David say? The Law of the Lord is what? “Perfect.” This word “perfect” means more than just error-free. It means complete or comprehensive. All that you need is here–morally, spiritually, religiously. All that you need in terms of your character, all that you need in terms of your understanding of God, your understanding of the broad story of the world and eternity, and God’s plans–how a person is saved.

In the Law we find we are incapable. But when you finally give up and trust in Christ’s life to cover you, when you trust in Christ’s atonement to pay for your sin, and when you trust in the resurrection that it grants you eternal life–what happens? You are declared righteous. And you can sing with David later in this chapter, “O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer,” verse 14. Your heart is awakened as the Spirit applies the Word to your heart. So the Word brings life.

Let’s make this clear–beginning with salvation, revival doesn’t happen when we make revival the objective. Revival happens when we delight in and submit to the Word of God. Are you worn out, spiritually speaking? Have you become dry in your devotion to God? Have you become lukewarm or even downright cold in your passion for the things of God? The answer is not to focus on passion, focus on revival–be revived! Rather, it is to go to the perfect Law of the Lord–it will revive your soul. That’s one—two is . . .

2.  Scripture is Sufficient for Spiritual Wisdom

The rest of verse seven gives us the second of these six characteristics–“the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” Testimony–this is divine witness, divine attestation. That’s what we have in the Bible. Hebrews 6:18 says, “It is impossible for God to lie.” What He offers us in this book, this divine witness, is truth–the sufficient or comprehensive truth, and nothing but the truth. Every testimony of man is tainted, it is a failure, we inject our own ideas, our memories are weak. Let God be found true and every man a liar. That’s why David sings, “the testimony of the Lord is sure.”

Second Peter 1 says in verse 18 that, in the Bible, we have something “more sure”, more fully confirmed than even eyewitness account. Why? Because this is divine witness–God’s own perfect, fully confirmed attestation–His testimony. And what does that do? When we go to the sure Word, what does it do for us? It fills our simple minds with true wisdom. You want to grow spiritually, don’t you? Study the testimony of God. You want to mature, know what truth is–study the testimony of God. You want to know how to deal with life and challenges and arm yourself? Make yourself wise in the Word by studying the testimonies of God in the Bible. God’s Word is the only sure testimony. And it is the only thing that will make you truly wise.

Moving on . . .we began verse 8 which says, “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.” Number three . . .

3.  Scripture is Sufficient for Genuine Joy

Precepts, here, means doctrine–or you could say theological principles. Truths about God, man, the world–truths concerning salvation and eternity, truths about sin and judgment as well as sanctification and Heaven. That’s what precepts are–those are doctrines or biblical principles. These precepts are, David sings, right. They are truth, in a real sense. They are proven, they are established, seen throughout the Bible and throughout history.

And then, he says, if you start to grasp these principles, what will you find? Joy! Isn’t that great? Again, some Christians think that because joy is the result or the reward, then they should just pursue the empty, emotional happiness. But David shows us here–no way. Pursue, study, know the true precepts of the Word–then you will discover joy.

Scripture is sufficient for spiritual life, sufficient for spiritual wisdom, and sufficient for genuine joy. And why is Scripture sufficient for these things? Because it is God’s Word–it is God speaking to us. The power and life and joy all flow from His Word. So why would any pastor–whether the preacher or family pastor or worship pastor or lay pastor . . . why would we do anything but give you the true, sure, and perfect Word? Anything else we would give you would be only a cheap substitute and falls short of the power God has for you in his Word.

Then number 4 . . .

4.  Scripture is Sufficient for True Discernment

End of verse 8, track this verse, “The Commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” “Commandment”–commands are the specifics inside the Law. The Law presents a whole system, and the commands are the specifics. These are the binding demands of God upon His creation. This is what He expects of mankind, He commands us. And we see even in those earliest of commandments–with obedience, there is joy and blessing. But disobedience to these commandments results in sadness and cursing, hardship, and difficulty.

That doesn’t mean all difficulty is because of your sin, but it does mean the converse–with all sin, every time you violate God’s commands, you create hardship, sadness and difficulty for yourself and others. May not be immediate, may not be instantly visible, but it builds into your life hardship, not blessing. And I want you all to get that in your hearts–what God commands, since it is for His glory, and since He created you to glorify Him, it is in your best interest. It is not overbearing or unreasonable, it is good for you, it is a blessing. An immature view of commands is to resent, to want to be self-determined–“I won’t be told what to do!” That’s your fallenness speaking. Resist that. See the commands of God as a pathway to blessing.

Now how does David describe the commands of God? They are “pure.” The Word pure there in Hebrew is bar and doesn’t mean pure in terms of moral purity–though of course that is always the case of God’s commands. But that is the word that David uses in the next phrase, “clean”. The word pure here means pure like the purity of a diamond, or the purity of a water stream. A better idea for that word is the idea of clarity–they are clear. Isn’t that great?

Along with the doctrine of sufficiency is what is called the perspicuity of Scripture. What does that mean? It means it’s clear. Whatever we struggle with in terms of meaning in the Bible is not due to lack of clarity on God’s part. It is because of our own baggage and lack of wisdom. The Bible is clear. Deuteronomy 6, the Shema, God tells the people, “These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children.” You pick up on that. These commands are not convoluted philosophical nuances–they’re so plain you can teach them to children.

Martin Luther famously said that all he did was to get the Word of God, the commands of God out to people–it was so clear, so plain, that people immediately indicted the papacy in Rome. Made complete sense–he had to do nothing other than get the clear word of God out. He said, “I simply taught, preached, and wrote God’s Word; otherwise, I did nothing… the Word so greatly weakened the papacy that no prince or emperor ever inflicted such losses upon it. I did nothing; the Word did everything.”

Why is that? As people compared the clear word of God about salvation, about pastors and churches and communion and whatever–the clear word of God indicted the Catholic church. Luther had to do nothing but deliver the Word. So the clarity of the Word–what does it do? It enlightens the spiritual eyes, end of verse 8. You could say it this way–it gives us spiritual discernment. Now let me say something about discernment. Biblical or spiritual discernment is not an inner hunch. It’s not that I deny sometimes we have a sense, some sort of sixth sense about something, a premonition. I’d say that’s a series of unconscious observations and past experiences, more than something mystical–but that’s a hunch, maybe discernment in one sense. But it’s not spiritual or biblical discernment.

Spiritual discernment is also not merely knowing a bunch of Bible facts. There are folks out there that have so many bits and pieces of Bible facts, but they’ve never taken the time to study to gain a biblical worldview, and that’s the key. Sometimes people have a little Christianity in their past–they have some verses, some fact. But they have no clearly established philosophy of life, no biblical worldview. So what is discernment?

Discernment is a spiritual discipline–we see that right here in the text. Someone who becomes intimate with the Word, that’s the person who is given light. “Your Word is a lamp to my way, a light to my path.” Years ago when I was working at a bank, the way they taught you how to spot counterfeit cash was mostly not to learn some facts about true and false money, but to handle over and over real bona fide cash. The idea is that you get so familiar with the feel, the smell, even the slightest glance of genuine cash, a counterfeit bill stands out.

So, discernment is gained, it is learned, it is not something that some folks just have and some don’t. That’s not to say it seems to be present more in some than others. But it is like any discipline, any virtue–it should be pursued by all of us. And you do that by becoming intimate, familiar with the Word.

So about discernment, we can conclude–discernment is achievable by any humble believer. I say humble because, the moment you believe you have some sort of gift of discernment or some capability, you have let your guard down. By definition, you are not discerning of pride in your life. If you are humble, if you are always aware that you can be deceived, then you live in pursuit of the Word. You have your armor on, you are pursuing more familiarity with the Word, and therefore growing in discernment.

Well, that’s what the Word as we study it, grow in it, that’s what it does for us–lightens our eyes, gives us spiritual discernment. And in the end, since only Scripture is fully true without errors, then we can trust it to sufficiently fill us with that discernment. Scripture is sufficient for true discernment.

5. Scripture is Sufficient for Inner Peace

Verse 9, “The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.”  It’s interesting here, David uses “fear” as a synonym to Scripture. We know he is talking about Scripture, because he says commandment, precepts, testimony, law–all easy-to-associate synonyms to the Word of God or Scripture. Then after this, “rules,” so this noun, “fear” must also be a synonym. Well this word “fear” would not sound weird to the Hebrews of that day. The fear of God was worship–and the divine and perfect guide on how to live a life of worship of God is the Bible.

This book is a worship manual–not simply in the sense of corporate gathering like we are doing today, though there is plenty of instruction that guides our corporate worship. But this book is a guide of how we are to live in deferent, reverent worship of God through all our lives. The fear of God–sure it involves actual fear, a reverent fear of the eternal Judge. But it also involves intimacy and joy–and that Old Testament idea of fear is all about knowing God, gaining His wisdom, His truth for life.

The book of Proverbs, if you didn’t know, is a book of wise sayings, wise adages, divine standards, principles of living. It was written to instruct children about their way of life, how to live life in worship of God–and it gives us all the blessings that are inherent in that activity. So there in Proverbs 1, right at the start, says, “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth.” And then verse 7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge!”

It all begins with an attitude of worship, it all begins with the reverent fear of God–the desire to glorify Him in all that you do. And that attitude is planted in the Word, that spirit of worship is found in God’s Word. If you avail yourself, fill yourself with the Word, you are filling your heart with worship. This book is the honor, the respect, the reverent worship of God. Now, as we learn from the Word how we are to worship God with all we are, what happens?

David goes on, “the fear of the Lord is clean.” Now there is that word–I referenced it earlier. This is indeed the idea of moral excellence, perfection, inerrancy, infallibility–in other words, in the Bible we find a mistake-free presentation of the fear, meaning the worship, of God. There is not one statement, not one accounting, not one doctrine, or principle or historical record that is corrupt. It is clean, clear of any stain or taint–it is the prefect re-presentation of God. And because it is the perfect presentation of God, it calls us to worship Him, to fear Him. It is to be trusted with absolute certainty.

In 2 Peter, which I referenced earlier, we are told how this miracle happened. It had to be a miracle, because first of all the Bible authors were human and they just picked up their pen and wrote, their own language their own thoughts. So a miracle had to take place when they did this, because humans are full of flaws–we are anything but inerrant. What happened? Second Peter 1:21, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” God breathed his Word through these men–used their words, their language, their thoughts to produce this absolutely-perfect, Peter says, “fully confirmed” Word of God.

So David concludes, because Scripture is the perfect presentation of the worship of God, we can have confidence of its eternal value. What does that do for us? It gives us peace. This is truth, this is the ultimate reality, it will endure forever. And so the more we study it, the more we find inner peace.

So, in the Word we find certainty, assurance Peter says–confidence, surety. This all leads to inner peace. You worship God, you fear God according to His Word, you have inner peace. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. Scripture is sufficient for inner peace, sufficient for true discernment, sufficient for genuine joy, sufficient for spiritual wisdom, and sufficient for spiritual life.

Finally, number six . . .

6. Scripture is Sufficient for the Pursuit of Holiness

End of verse 9, “The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.” I read one commentator who said a good translation of this phrase is “the judgments of the Lord are true, and they produce comprehensive righteousness.” That’s what I want, that’s what I am aiming for, aren’t you? The Bible says we are to be holy like Him, and here’s how.

When someone is saved, they are granted two types of Christ’s righteousness. One type of righteousness is what is called forensic righteousness–this is what we need to stand before God in judgment, right? You think forensic, this is evidence–this is the justifying righteousness of Christ, so you stand before God not covered in your own weak, sin-stained, righteous efforts, but the righteousness of Jesus Christ that has been imputed upon you, forensically, in terms of evidence, so this is the forensic righteousness of Christ.

But before that, thanks to regeneration, you are given what is called the transformative righteousness of Jesus. In other words, you are given the desires of Jesus–the holy desire to perfectly worship God with your heart mind soul and strength. Are you with me? In salvation, you have both that justifying forensic righteousness of Christ, but you also hold to that ultimate objective to perfectly worship God. Now the Bible is clear, we will not do that perfectly until our bodies are also redeemed–but we want to, we pursue that divine goal, “Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.”

Well, all that to say–one sign of salvation is the deep, abiding desire to do what is right. This is evidenced in your willingness to repent, willingness to turn from sin, your constant, perpetual desire to hate sin and love what is right. So this is what David says here in verses 10 to 11, and really this applies not just to this point, but actually to the whole chapter, doesn’t it?

Verses 10 to 11, “More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” Folks, this is the ultimate application of the sufficiency of Scripture, isn’t it? If you refuse or even neglect to do what these two verses say, you do not believe in the sufficiency of Scripture.

All human desire can be put into one of two categories–power and pleasure. Power–that’s money, influence, stuff, political or social fame, rank, respect, authority over others, and so forth. All of those are forms of power. The other category of human desire is pleasure, base human pleasure–this can be sexual pleasure, the pleasure of eating, food, fine dining, fine wine, recreation, rest and sleep, the pleasure of escape, being inebriated through drugs or alcohol . . . pleasure.

Now this is not to say all of those things are wrong to have, though some of them are especially, in the wrong context or wrong way, for sure. But many of those things are not inherently wrong. I mean, Jesus Himself had some of that–authority and influence, he enjoyed food for sure, God gave married couples intimate pleasure. So not all of those things, in and of themselves are wrong, are they? But what David is doing is forcing us to put a different desire above those two most fundamental human desires. “More to be desired than gold [power] or tasty honey [pleasure].”

So above all else, first, he says you put a desire to know and learn the Word of God–you put it above all desire for power or pleasure. Second, applying this, he says you find in the Word warning. This world is a dangerous place–those two desires in your heart can lead to all kinds of sin. So you put a passion for the Word above all else and what will happen? David says you will have what? “Great reward.” What’s the great reward? Well, he’s already told us–it’s holiness, it’s peace, it’s discernment, it’s joy, it’s wisdom, and it’s life! Give yourself to the pursuit of God’s Word and that’s what you will find—why? Because it is God’s Word. And what you find in the end is that the reward is God Himself. We don’t hold to the sufficiency of Scripture or any other doctrine for just the cold hard facts, the veracity of truth. No, we hold them because by doing so we have a relationship with God our Creator and our Lord.

Well, I thank God always for you, FBC–for being a church that cherishes and lives out the sufficiency of Scripture. And my prayer is that all of us as churches and individually rejoice with David over this great truth. Let’s pray.

1 Comment

  1. Danielle V Holzer on March 15, 2022 at 12:58 pm

    where is the transcription for the sermon?

Leave a Comment