The Hidden Sin of Self-righteousness

Today is our final devotion in Psalm 19. To read part 1- Seeing God’s glory in the Skiesclick here. For Part 2- Honey for the Heartclick here.

Psalm 19 is a reminder of God’s glory and greatness which are showcased through the skies and Scripture. No matter who we are, creation provides our bodies and souls with wonder and refreshment. Likewise, God’s laws in Scripture are true and beneficial for human flourishing, “making wise the simple”. But the Bible tells us that it is impossible to know God personally by loving nature or having an intellectual knowledge of Scripture, because sin separates us from Him. Sin is the fatal disease infecting every son and daughter of Adam, and its only antidote is the Saviour God provided. Our healing is free and total if we trust in Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God who died in our place (Isa 53:5). But Christ’s healing does not immunise Christians against sin, especially the hidden sin of self-righteousness. This sin is a devious charlatan that lulls us into thinking we are quite good after all and blinds us to the truth about ourselves. Unless we see our hearts clearly and know our desperate need of Christ’s grace every day, we will be easy prey for Satan and sin that entangles us. J.C Ryle gives us a realistic diagnosis of the human heart:

“We are all naturally self-righteous. It is the family disease of all the children of Adam.”       

Today we look at the last four verses of Psalm 19. It is a heartfelt prayer that is as vital for Christians today as it was for King David in 1000BC.

Who can discern his errors?

“Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19:12-14)

The anatomy of sin

John Piper probes beneath the skin and scans the anatomy of sin:

“What is sin?
It is the glory of God not honoured.
The holiness of God not reverenced.
The greatness of God not admired.
The power of God not praised.
The truth of God not sought.
The wisdom of God not esteemed.
The beauty of God not treasured.
The goodness of God not savoured.
The faithfulness of God not trusted.
The commandments of God not obeyed.
The justice of God not respected.
The wrath of God not feared.
The grace of God not cherished.
The presence of God not prized.
The person of God not loved.
That is sin.”
― John Piper

Piper scan reveals that sin is subtle and deeply embedded in the human heart. Likewise, the prophet Jeremiah warns us not to be fooled by the false pretences of our hearts (Jer 17:9). James describes the journey of sin from its conception as temptation, to its birth as sin, and to its end as death. The shocking image of sin as a stillborn baby is a sober reminder of sin’s critical consequences (James 1:15). For a Christian, sin kills our love for God and intimacy with him, and quickly leads to slavery (1 John 1:6Rom 6:16). For someone who has never received the forgiveness God provides through Christ, sin ultimately leads to eternal death in hell (Rom 6:235:12). The stakes are high.

It is easy to slide on the slippery slope of what is socially acceptable and what is not, but sin is not just the shocking exposé we see on the news or the public scandal. Long before an action is performed or a word is on our lips, distorted desires have already infected our choices.

When we look at sin in this way, who can claim to be healthy?

Faith in the Physician

That’s exactly the point of the gospel! The gospel announces the arrival of the Great Physician who heals the sick from the deadly disease of sin. There is no sin hidden from Him, even if it is invisible to us. Jesus knows everything about us– every thoughtless word, shameful thought, envious glance and malicious motive. He sees how we seek justice, vindication, belonging, identity, peace and fulfilment apart from Himself. He knows every way in which we’ve been infected and affected by sin, and even our blind spots are perfectly clear to Him. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight; everything is laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb 4:13).

But despite everything He knows about us, Jesus died to heal sick people like us. He did not come as a celebrity or king, but as a doctor without borders. He came to the people who knew they were sick, not those who thought they were healthy. Jesus made the meaning of his metaphor explicit, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners(Mark 2:17Matt 9:12).

We are in danger the moment we feel smug and think we have moved beyond the need for Christ’s healing every day of our lives!

The gospel is not a once-off door we walk through, but a path of healing and restoration for our entire lives.

Humility means inviting Jesus to remove the giant cataract of self-righteousness, so that our eyes can see our hidden faults. Instead of fleeing the Doctor or feigning perfect health, let us come to the Lord Jesus Christ and hand over the scalpel. Has He not come to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind (Luke 4:18)?

Minding our own planks!

The starting point is to know that we are those poor, blind captives who cannot help ourselves. But self-righteousness is the ‘plank’ in our eyes that prevents us from recognising Jesus as Saviour and trusting Him as Lord. It remains the greatest blind spot for every follower of Jesus and has the potential to turn us into hypocrites:

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matt 7:3-5).

Only Jesus can remove the “planks” from our eyes and give us insight into ourselves. In David’s case, God used Nathan the prophet to show him his planks. At first David was full of self-righteousness and could only blame a fictitious man, but then Nathan held up a mirror to David’s own heart and exploded the fiction, “You are the man!” Little by little, the scales fell off David’s eyes and his fortress of self-righteousness crumbled. His heart was laid bare and it was not a pretty sight. King David may have been able to justify and hide his secret sins for over a year, but they were not hidden from God and their outcomes were severe and public: “You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.”  Finally the cataracts were removed and David admitted to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:11-13). Only when David perceived the true state of his heart, could confession, repentance and healing begin. He was finally able to write Psalm 51 which is a template of confession for every believer. God delights in truth in our inward being and will not despise a broken and contrite heart (Ps 51:17).

Like David, don’t you long for a clean heart, the joy of salvation and a renewed, willing spirit to do what is right? (Ps 51:101217). The problem is that although we are naturally self-righteous, we cannot find righteousness in ourselves. But a thousand years after David, his promised heir came to earth and lived a perfectly righteous life. Jesus Christ was the only man who could justifiably be self-righteous. He heralded a gospel that makes morally flawed people like us new from the inside out through faith in Him. For those who believe day by day, the gospel has the power to transform and empower us to be more like Jesus (2 Cor 3:18Phil 2:13). 

Today is the day

Psalm 19 reminds us that we hear the voice of God every day through the skies, the Bible and our consciences. The Bible warns us: “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb 3:15). We can never be sure about tomorrow, but today is the day to soften our hearts before the Lord.  If you are not sure that you are saved, today is the day to speak to a trusted Christian about what it means to get right with God. If you know you are born again, today is always the day to invite Jesus to expose your “hidden faults” and “presumptuous sins” before they rule you (Ps 19:13). Let us never be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” or gently nurse a sinful habit (Heb 3:13-15). We dare not live a single day without ordering our hearts to follow Jesus and fighting to the death against our sinful selves (2 Cor 5:17Eph 4:2224). “Today is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation!”(2 Cor 6:2).

Handing over the scalpel

Are we ready to trust the Great Physician to heal us, even if that means painful surgery or amputation of deeply rooted sin? Unless we believe that His skills are superior to ours and that only He can heal us, we will not be willing to hand over the scalpel.


Lord, it is humbling to think that you created the universe and everything in it, and yet you care so deeply for each person you have made. You cared enough to leave your glory and the holiness of heaven to die for people like us, who do not seek, honour, obey, thank, praise, revere or love you by nature. Thank you for your forgiveness and your gift of a new heart that longs to please you. Today we lay our hearts bare before you and ask you to remove the cataract of self-righteousness from our eyes. Save us from our own hypocrisy! Use your scalpel to remove every offensive way in us set us free from our blindness, sickness and captivity to sin. Purify our hearts and lead us into the light and freedom of your presence today.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Worship as you listen to “Purify my heart”. 

Snapshots of women adorning the gospel (part 2)

For Part 1 of Snapshots of Women Adorning The Gospel, Click here.

Luke is my favourite book of the Bible, because the ink on every page drips proof that women are not invisible to God. Romans 16 is my favourite chapter for the same reason. That might sound odd since this chapter is a message of final greetings. If you are tempted to skip over the long list of names like credits after a movie, I hope I can persuade you to see the beauty in these greetings. Paul’s very personal, affectionate greetings capture the soul of women’s ministry in early Christianity. They give us a picture of redeemed men and women working as partners alongside each other in Rome’s first church, and this is the prototype for our local church. Women found the church a liberating place to be. It was a beacon of light in their Greco-Roman culture where husbands could abandon them on a whim, baby girls were considered worthless and left outside by their fathers to die in the cold, and child brides were married off at 11 or 12 years old. In contrast, the church was a place where husbands were taught to be faithful and to love their wives like Christ loved the church. This was a far cry from husbands in Rome who expected their wives to be chaste while they engaged in any kind of sexual behaviour themselves, including having mistresses, temple prostitutes and homosexual encounters. For centuries, Christianity was mocked for being pro-women as women made up two thirds of the church, while the ratio in Greco-Roman society was two thirds men. Christianity was a safe haven for women because the wisdom of the gospel gave them life and dignity. Their voices were heard and their contribution valued in the local church. It was a place where they were free to be all that God created them to be, instead of chattels or sex objects. Romans 16:1-16 gives us a glimpse into these things:

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae,2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.
3 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks but all the churches of the Gentiles give thanks as well. 5 Greet also the church in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in Asia. 6 Greet Mary, who has worked hard for you. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known to the apostles, and they were in Christ before me. 8 Greet Ampliatus, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. 10 Greet Apelles, who is approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the family of Aristobulus. 11 Greet my kinsman Herodion. Greet those in the Lord who belong to the family of Narcissus. 12 Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord; also his mother, who has been a mother to me as well. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and the brothers who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.

Snapshots from Rome

The nine women’s names in Romans 16 may seem irrelevant, but consider for a moment that these were real women with families and dangers that we cannot even imagine. They were a mix of rich and poor, slaves and aristocrats, married and single, young and old, Jews and Gentiles, bound together as sisters by their common commitment to Christ. They offered whatever resources they had to make a difference for the Lord in all kinds of ways and passed the gospel baton on to their children. They developed ministries to help widows, orphans and believers in prison, and gave their finances and homes too. Paul expresses obvious affection for these women and mentions some of them by name: Phoebe a deacon and patron of the church; Priscilla who (together with her husband Aquila) hosted the church in her house and risked her life for the Christians, Mary, Junia, Tryphena and Tryphosa (sisters), Persis, Julia, and Rufus’s mother, who was like a mother to Paul. These women did not just warm the pews but were active “workers in the Lord.” There is great affection and intimacy in Paul’s tone, but not a hint of impropriety or paternalism.

Costly but liberating faith

Women continued to flock to Christianity in the second and third centuries. Justin Martyr (150AD) noted that Christianity was spreading to wealthy women in aristocratic classes, many of whom were married to non-Christian husbands. Life was not easy for these women, as bearing the name of Christ carried a high price. Many women were single or widowed, and thus were very dependent and vulnerable. The husband of one wealthy woman despised her conversion to Christianity so much that he reported her to the authorities to be imprisoned. Marcia was the mistress of the tyrannical Emperor Commodis (of Gladiatorfame). This brave Christian woman shared the gospel with the Emperor and influenced him to show mercy to Christians in prison, even freeing some of them. Today contemporary culture mocks Christianity for being oppressive and misogynist, but the record of history tells us a different story. The truth is that women have taken refuge in Christianity for centuries, because the gospel accords them value and dignity as image bearers of God. It also provides forgiveness and restoration from the shame many women experience as a result of what they have done and what has been done to them.


Romans 16 introduces us to some of the sisters who blazed the trail for us and we will meet each one of them in heaven one day! Their names and lives matter profoundly to God. Even today, the Lord values the sacrifices women make and takes delight in their joyful efforts to show the world the most beautiful story that has ever been told. History bears witness to the many women who served at the forefront of Christ’s army, which grew from twenty disciples in the 30’s (AD), to thirty million by the end of the 4th century!

What a beautiful picture of a redeemed family of servants on mission!

Why should we care about women who are long dead and part of ancient history? I believe the rich tapestry of women in the Bible and historical sources weaves a picture of who we are as Christian women today, and shows us how we should follow Jesus, through the lens of who God is. The rich heritage behind us can give Christian women perspective to see our worth and to grasp the unique God-given opportunities to make the gospel beautiful to the world around us. That is our ‘Great Commission’ at home, in church and in the city (Matt 28:18-20).

Prayer for daughters of God

Lord, give us the faith of Sarah who left her family, culture and home in Ur to follow her husband Abraham into a strange and dangerous land. Help us to hold loosely to the things of this world so that we are willing to pitch our tent anywhere you lead, like she did.

Father, give us the conviction of Rahab, who took a stand on Jehovah’s side and was resourceful and brave when she hid the spies (Josh 2:11).

If we are entrusted with leadership, help us to lead without losing our God-given distinctness, like Deborah, “who arose as a mother of Israel” (Judges 5:7).

Jesus, give us the loyalty and love of Ruth, who left everything in Moab to care for her mother-in-law and identify herself with your people. Help us to see you alone as our Kinsman-Redeemer who brings abundance from emptiness and joy from mourning.

Give us the serenity of Hannah, who released her beloved son Samuel to fulfill your purposes. Let us always know that our children are on loan from you and help us to raise them to love and serve you all their lives. We declare with Hannah, “It is not by strength that one prevails” (1 Sam 2:9).

Give us the strength and boldness of Queen Esther who was ready and willing to step up to the plate “for such a time as this.” Help us to see the opportunities you have placed in our lives right now and to act upon them in faith (Esther 4:15).

Holy Spirit, give us a humble, willing spirit like Mary’s so that even if we are afraid, we may say, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me according to your will” (Luke 1:38).

Jesus, give us a teachable spirit like Mary of Bethany who sat at your feet and listened to you, knowing that you would give her something that could never be taken away from her. Let busyness never be our master (Luke 10:38).

And Lord, when life’s storms come and you seem far away, make us as bold and sure as Martha, who, even at her brother’s funeral, declared without wavering, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (John 11:27).

Saviour, show us your vast forgiveness so that we may be like the woman who let down her hair and anointed your feet with perfume. Make us worshippers first so that we may give extravagantly out of the overflow of your grace. Help us to see you as our advocate, our refuge and the one to whom we can bring everything, even our greatest shame and sin (Luke 7:44-46).

Lord of the harvest, give us a big vision to see the many practical ways in which we can sow into your kingdom wherever we are. Make us brave and industrious like those women in Rome.

And finally, Lord, if you give us grace to live until we are old and grey, help us to be like those two old women in Luke. Like Anna, may we always long for your presence, remain steadfast in prayer and be quick to bless others. And if we are left with just a widow’s mite, give us hearts that want to drop it all into your treasure store. Help us to live each day eager and ready for your return as King (Luke 2:36-38Luke 21:123).


Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! (Romans 16:16-17).

Useful resources:

The Dynamic Ministry of Women in Early Christianity (Michael Kruger– a podcast).

Men and Women (Roydon Frost- a sermon)

Snapshots of Women Adorning the gospel (part 1)

Some women always have the perfect accessory to complement an outfit. They know exactly how to adorn themselves to enhance their natural beauty. Unfortunately I’m not one of these talented women! Five minutes before I go out, I’m scratching around for a lost earring, untangling a nest of jewellery and accusing my daughters of stealing my clothes! I like to think it’s because my mind is on more noble things, but the truth is that I just don’t pay attention to that part of life. But as Christian women, we don’t get to divide up our lives into the bits that matter to God and those that don’t. We are called to adorn the gospel in everything (Titus 2:10), to synchronise our lives with its truth in the everyday unseen details—at home, in church, at work and everywhere else. If the people of God are “the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden”, each of our lives matter for the gospel. There is no divide between the spiritual and the physical, between church and home, or between our identity as women and our work for God’s kingdom. Our whole life is an act of worship. It sounds good in theory, but what does it look like in practice for a Christian woman in our generation?

A woman’s gospel hub

Paul gives a down-to-earth memo to all women who claim to follow Jesus. It seems that ‘adorning the gospel’ is not just something we make up for ourselves as though we are choosing an accessory for an outfit.

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4 Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.” (Titus 2:3-5)

This text has real life implications for women who claim to be Christians:

No woman is exempt from ministry, regardless of age, gifting or experience. There is always a woman you can learn from and one coming up behind you, even if it is your grandchild. It doesn’t matter what season of life you are in, adorning the gospel is not an optional extra.

Home is a hub where the gospel is lived out in real relationships. Contrary to popular belief, home is not a prison to keep women subservient, but the center of gospel health and mission. Our children and the world will see Jesus through a warm and life-giving home, no matter how big or small. This surely impacts how we see our kitchen, laundry, dining room, our language and meals? Of course there are priorities attached to seasons of life, but a home is not limited to biological family. Nympha opened hers to the family of God (Col 4:15). Hospitality is a wonderful way of adorning the gospel (Rom 12:13).

Ministry loses credibility if our personal relationships are not aligned with ‘what is good’. This is where the rubber really hits the road! Of course a conflict-free home is impossible, but every time you resolve an argument with a balance of love and truth; forgive without holding a grudge; have the courage to make the first move to reconcile; resist the urge to be demanding, defensive or distant; ask God for wisdom instead of flying off the handle; say the magic words “I’m sorry, I was only thinking of myself”; allow God’s perfect love to cast out your fear; or submit joyfully to your husband, you are building a space where the gospel is a beautiful thriving reality. A woman cannot adorn the gospel in the public arena if she is turning away from her husband at home or avoiding the hard labour of building relationships. A marriage in harmony is a thing of beauty and a rare witness in our times. If yours is limping along, it’s time for change!

The good news is that Jesus never leaves us to get our house in order alone! Any woman with life experience is told to put up her hand and pass it along– to support her sisters and not envy or compete with them. If every woman is commissioned to be a disciple and disciple-maker, learning, teaching and training is a ministry we will never grow out of. In my experience, it is easier to teach than to make disciples, because discipleship means inviting people into our lives and risk exposing our blind spots and the idols we cling to, especially pride. Discipleship is personal, regular, hands-on and intimate. It requires an emotional investment and integrity, but it yields deep friendship and blessing that far outweighs the effort. In my experience, women’s Bible studies are the perfect setting for this kind of discipleship, as God’s Word re-aligns our thinking, exposes our hearts, while prayer builds an intimacy that is unique to a gospel community. I am officially the leader of three women’s Bible studies, but not a week has gone by when I have not learned from other women in the group.

But what about the wisdom to be gained from the rich heritage of those who have gone before us?

A rich heritage

Real women of history have woven for us a big and beautiful tapestry to show what it means to embrace our God-given womanhood, while partnering fully in the gospel alongside our Christian brothers. To borrow words from Hebrews 11, women are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses” who spur us on and assure us that our lives matter for God’s kingdom purposes– even if we sometimes feel invisible.

Snapshots from Luke

Luke is my favourite gospel because the ink on every page drips proof that women are not invisible to God. I am stunned every time I am reminded that a humble unmarried teenage girl called Mary was central to the gospel story. Her response to the angel’s frightening call leaves me breathless:

“I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

This was not the life Mary had planned for herself and she knew it would bring shame and pain (Luke 2:35). Her surrender of her body and soul to motherhood was not weakness, but the epitome of strength and resolve. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour…From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—Holy is his name.” (Luke 1: 46-55). Imagine Mary standing in the shadow of her beloved son’s cross thirty-three years later, watching him die a criminal’s death. To think that the means by which God saved the world was a devout, responsive girl and the baby she raised in her humble home in Nazareth. Mary’s home was the original gospel hub where the Messiah “grew in stature and wisdom and in favour with God and man.”

Luke provides many snapshots of the assortment of women who travelled with Jesus and the twelve disciples (Luke 8:2-3). Jesus addressed them by name and welcomed them as valuable members of the team, not just cooks and cleaners for men doing important ministry. They were flesh-and-blood women like ourselves, assigned dignity that was unheard of at a time when Rabbis taught that men should not even talk to women who were not their relatives, much less touch them. Jesus defied cultural rules and stereotypes of ‘acceptable’ women. He was radically counter- cultural.

Another snapshot shows Joanna, wife of a prominent government official who “ministered from her belongings” and watched Jesus being crucified. She was among the first witnesses of the resurrection, all of whom were women (Luke 23:55– Luke 24:10).

Then there are the close-ups of Jesus in a Pharisee’s house restoring the dignity of a prostitute (Luke 7:38-50); touching an unclean outcast after twelve years of bleeding (Luke 8:43-48) and praising Mary of Bethany for her teachable heart and extravagant love for Jesus (Luke 10:3842John 12:3;7). One of my favourite cameos is tucked into chapter 21 where Jesus watches a widow giving two very small copper coins into the temple treasury:

“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all the others.4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on” (Luke 21:3-4).

There are many more encounters with women which show how the Lord Jesus reads our hearts and is delighted to find a spark of faith that leads us to give in ministry. But what’s also clear is that we are nothing without His grace. May our response to Christ’s forgiveness be as heartfelt as the woman who let down her hair, poured out an alabaster jar of perfume, kissed his feet and wept (Luke 7:45-47). We must first know our great need and be worshippers of Jesus before we are his workers.

Honey for the heart

It’s amazing how much my family loves honey! I buy a big jar of pure raw honey every week and it gets flattened within a few days because we drizzle it over everything– from rooibos tea and sticky chicken, to French toast with bacon! Honey is a sweet treat that makes everything taste better. But there’s no reward in just buying a jar of pure honey and staring at it on the shelf. We need to break the seal and get sticky! That’s how David saw God’s word—sweeter than honey and more valuable than anything money can buy. For those who take it to heart there are great rewards. As we saw last week, we can know many things about God when we look at his spectacular skies, but we can only know God personally when we respond to the truth of the gospel told in the Bible. If God himself is the author of every page of Scripture, His clear and convicting voice is not a nasty medicine to swallow, but a sweet treat to savour and digest. His word is the source of pure, undiluted truth spoken in love. It is soothing honey that brings  healing and life to people who are broken and dead. David reminds us of this today as we continue in Psalm 19:

Psalm 19:7-11

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward!

Sweet drippings of the soul!

The reward of reading God’s word with a responsive heart is deep soul satisfaction, like sweet honey that never stops dripping. Paradoxically, we can only experience this satisfaction when we fear the Lord as David did– when we tremble at his word (Ps 19:9Isa 66:5).

The Apostle Peter reminds Christians that every person who lives will also die. Our achievements are no more permanent than wild flowers and our opinions and words will be buried with us too. In contrast, God’s imperishable ‘word’ is immortal. It remains relevant and true in every generation. It tells the story of God’s unlikely rescue mission to do away with sin and give us eternal life. That’s why Peter calls God’s word the ‘seed’ of our rebirth. The ‘living and enduring word of God’ is fundamental to our birth and growth as God’s children. We neglect it at our peril! (1 Peter 1:232425).

The Bible is not just a fad to froth over, or a book of sage suggestions. It is as vital to the Christian life as milk is to a newborn baby and bread to a hungry soul (Matt 4:1-41 Peter 2:2). We cannot expect to grow up in our salvation without it, just as malnourished babies don’t thrive…and sometimes don’t survive.  A taste of God’s goodness is not enough to sustain us for the long haul of life (1 Peter 2:3).

The Reward is in the keeping!

In Psalm 19:11, David says:

“By them your servant is warned;

In keeping them there is great reward.”

The reward is not linked to knowing or owning a Bible, but to keeping its commands and holding the word close to our chest. Nor is the reward only found in the encouraging promises, but also in the warnings we get when our hearts are cut by God’s double edged-sword. It is good to search the Scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to undress our thoughts and attitudes before the eyes of God who searches our hearts (Heb 4:12-13).

Divine exposure is good news for those who want to change!

There is an implicit warning in Psalm 19 not to revise, edit, or cut-and-paste the Bible to suit ourselves. It is tempting to tailor the truth to dodge offense, but the Lord’s precepts are forever perfect, right, firm, wise and trustworthy (Ps 19:8-9). Instead of being ashamed, we are to ‘guard the good deposit,’ rightly handle the word of truth  (2 Tim 2:1415), beware of those who distort it (2 Peter 3:16) and examine the Scriptures every day to check man’s word against God’s (Acts 17:111 Thess 2:13). This is not only the job of the pastor, but all God’s workers!

Are you ‘keeping’ the clear teaching of God’s word, or do you find yourself bowing to man’s opinions? Jesus is our perfect example of how to keep and speak the truth in love.

The reward is in the eating!

The real reward of honeycomb is the energy it gives. This reward comes from ingestion and digestion, not just the sweet taste on our lips! Here are some of the lifelong rewards David links to reading the Bible with a responsive heart—

Life and refreshment for the soul (Ps 19:7), wisdom, clarity and guidance from God (Ps 19: 7-8) and deep joy and delight (Ps 19:810). Compare these rewards to the shortlived gains of media and entertainment.

If we constantly listen to human voices rather than God’s, our souls will ultimately be drained, confused and unsatisfied. But the voice of God has the power to renew, refresh and guide us uniquely each time we open our heart to the Bible. Each of its 66 books is relevant and true, with fresh application to our lives every day.

God’s laws are never burdensome but are the perfect framework to enable men, women and children to thrive and become everything we were designed to be (1 John 5:3). His commands are like a river bank that prevents its waters from flooding. Or like a fireplace in which a fire can safely burn without burning the house to ashes. Jesus himself reminded us to follow Him “for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:30). God’s commands are not a long list of taboos to make life miserable.

For those who trust the Bible as their final authority, it has the power to set us free and satisfy our deepest longings—for belonging, purpose, identity and fulfillment (John 10:10). That is why it is honey for the heart.

Let’s believe David and drip sweet satisfying honey into our hearts every day!


Father, I praise you for the privilege and joy of your life-giving word to renew, refresh and guide me every day of my life. It is honey for my heart and I want it to stick. Thank you that the Bible holds up a timeless mirror to my soul, answers life’s big questions and offers hope against despair. Lord, thank you that you have not left us to wander in the dark, confused and far from you. I am still stunned by the way you stooped down into this world to make yourself known to us through your creation, your written word and the Living Word, your Son Jesus. Holy Spirit, give me eager ears to hear your voice in the Bible and engrave your word in my heart as I read it. Give me the grace to live it out honestly until you take me home.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Listen to this classic song by Amy Grant.