In Psalm 19 the Bible teaches that God has generally revealed himself in creation and specifically revealed himself in the Scriptures. In response to this glorious God who reveals himself, man is to strive for holiness by avoiding sin. In particular, the text mentions two types of sin which thwart our growth in holiness.
You may have a besetting sin or two which demands your constant attention. But that is not what this text is addressing. So what are the two types addressed here?
The first is what the text calls hidden faults. I have heard more than one person interpret this as meaning faults or sins that I commit but keep hidden from everybody else. We often refer to these as secret sins. Now surely secret sins are deadly. Jesus taught that what we hide today will eventually be revealed. Secret sins are more along the lines of hypocrisy. That is, we present a different face than the one we actually have.
But the psalmist is not here dealing with secret sins in that line of thinking. He is writing about sins we commit that we do not even realize are sins. Our hearts have been so corrupted that we have a tendency to call good evil and evil good. God’s holiness is so beyond us that we have not been able to grasp our own sinfulness.
Notice that the passage begins by questioning our ability to discern our errors. That is a parallel statement to being kept from hidden faults. Our wicked hearts will lead us astray if we adopt the philosophy to simply follow our hearts. The prophet put it this way,
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick, who can understand it (Jeremiah 17:9).
In our striving for holiness, we must acknowledge that we sin far more than we give ourselves credit. If you attempt to list all of your sins, you would never achieve a full accounting of your errors. So we pray that God will keep us even from those sins which we are unaware.
The other type of sin mentioned in this psalm is that of presumptuous sins. These are the sins that we commit while knowing full well in our minds and hearts that they are displeasing to the Lord. On these we have no excuse whatsoever. (We have no excuse on the hidden faults either.)
Presumptuous sins are evidence that we are challenging God for control of our lives. He has specifically told us what to do or not to do and we disobey. That is the sin of presumption. James describes it this way,
So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17).
So far you might find yourself discouraged by this article. Anybody who has exerted much effort attempting to avoid sin, soon discovers that he will fail. We want what begins the second line of this psalm to be true for us. That is that the Lord would declare me innocent. For this we must have Jesus. He lived the sinless, perfect life of holiness. When we are made new in Christ, God has credited the holiness of Jesus to our accounts. God has also placed on Jesus the sins we commit. So that when the final books are settled, God’s wrath which should have been ours has been poured out in Jesus on the cross and God’s acceptance of the holy life of Jesus is counted for us.
This is the beauty of the gospel. One day we will be rid of sin and we will be made holy. Until then we rejoice in the gospel truth and strive to increase in holiness day by day.