12 But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:12-14
I can’t say that David had the same things in mind that I have in mine when he wrote, sang, and delivered these lyrics to Israel’s “Worship Pastor” (what an amazing job that would’ve been!). But that’s the beauty of the Bible’s poetry. It’s more visceral than academic. Nevertheless, as I was reading this on a day when my own sinfulness was more evident and more bothersome than most days it fostered a conversation with God about my “errors, hidden faults, willful sins, and great transgressions.”
To my mind there’s a range of severity of sins being addressed here: errors, faults, willful sins, and great transgressions. One of my most frequently recited prayers in the last few years has been, “Lord, I know I’m going to make mistakes, but may they be as small and seldom as possible.”
“Who can discern their own errors?”
I see these so-called “errors” as bad judgment, stupid decisions, or faulty thinking. They may or may not be sinful in themselves, but they, at the very least, are the result of what’s cockeyed in me. Lately, it’s my past mistakes as a husband, father, and pastor that have caused me more grief than usual. The further down the road I get from those stupid choices, the more vivid they are to me. Something about “hindsight” I suppose. I didn’t “discern” many of these until long after their commission. It might be that it takes a little longer for me than others.
“Forgive my hidden faults.”
These seem like flaws of character that sequester themselves deep in my psyche. I’d like to blame them all on Adam, or on my parents, or my third grade teacher; but most of these defects are probably just the result of my having made those “stupid decisions” somewhere some time. Wherever they came from they’re my “hidden faults,” and I need forgiveness for my part in making them mine and the spiritual strength to overcome them.
If you know me and have observed, or worse, have been on the receiving end of, my un-Christlike behavior, feel free to say, “Finally, he gets it!”
“Keep your servant also from willful sins.”
To my mind, these are the most culpable of all, the sins that I can’t blame anyone or anything else for. I didn’t trip on something in the dark and fall face-first into a pile of these. I wasn’t deceived – not in the classic sense – into committing these sins. I can’t soften these by calling them slipups. No one pushed me into them, I freely willed myself to do my will rather than God’s. Most times I’d rather he imposed his will on me, but since that’s not how he rolls, I pray that he will bend my will to align itself with his.
“May they not rule over me.”
These are the sins, the willful ones, that tend to sap my resolve to resist them. Each time I deliberately disobey God my resistance shrivels a little. Alternately, the more often I resist, my “No Muscle” gets the workout it needs and grows stronger.
“Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression.”
It’s that kind of spiritual crime – the decidedly destructive kind – that I definitely want to prevent. David seems to be saying that if I nip my errors, hidden faults, and willful sins in the bud they might not grow into big poisonous plants. Just by the sound of it, “great transgression” is something to be avoided at any cost. The cost is more ruthless with sin’s younger versions. It’s always easier to keep a garden weeded than let it go too long, and need a chain saw instead of a hoe.
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”
It sort of comes full circle, back to what’s happening inside of me. Whatever my heart muses over eventually comes out my mouth, which can be embarrassing. But if what’s inside is true and wholesome, the way I talk and the way I act tends to follow suit.
Wiget’s Free Translation
Lord, sometimes I can’t tell when I’m blowing it, so help me ahead of time.
Forgive and fix my faulty ways.
Feel free to hit me over the head to allay my belligerent disobedience;
I don’t want self-centered ways to take over my life.
If you’ll do this I’ll be a much better son to you
and will avoid all spiritual felonies.
I hope my wants and words will make you happy,
My Leader, by whom I am saved and in whom I can trust.