But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer (NIV).
The last three verses of Psalm Nineteen show David’s response to God’s revelation. We should always remember that Biblical knowledge has been given to affect the way we live. It is one thing to know the truth about the God who speaks through his creation and in the Holy Scriptures and even to sing about this in worship. It is another to humble oneself before God and his message and let it teach, correct and rebuke us. David closes this psalm with the practical application of the knowledge of the Scriptures.
“Who can discern his errors?” To ask the question is to answer it. Those who know God and his message best will have some understanding of their errors, but none of us can truly discern all our errors in the complexity of all that we are: heart, soul, spirit, mind, conscience, etc. As we view ourselves Biblically, which means in Christ and his grace, we make progress in self-discernment, but still much escapes us. Perhaps this is a reason that the saints who have walked with God the closest have the most tender conscience of their sinfulness. Repeated living in the light produces a richer fellowship with God and the forgiveness of sins (1 John 1:7). “Many books have a few lines of errata at the end, but our errata might well be as large as the volume if we could but have sense enough to see them. Augustine wrote in his older days a series of Retractions; ours might make a library if we had enough grace to be convinced of our mistakes and to confess them” (Spurgeon).
“Forgive my hidden faults.” This one phrase speaks volumes about the spirituality of the believer’s experience and our absolute need to be saved by free grace alone. First, let us consider the meaning of hidden or secret faults.
- Some sins are hidden because of our ignorance of God’s will (whether through spiritual inexperience, sitting under inadequate or false teaching, laziness, distraction, etc.) or of an unwillingness to acknowledge an attitude or action as sinful. Too often we try to paint our sins as virtues. “I’m not stingy, but prudent and thrifty!” This hides them to ourselves and to the less spiritually discerning. “Many have unknown sins, as a man may have a mole on his back and himself never know it” (Thomas Adams, quoted by Spurgeon).
- Some sins are hidden because others do not see them. They are sins “behind closed doors” that others might see if they were present.
- Some sins are hidden from any physical observation because they are spiritual sins, such as lust or greed. A rules-centered spirituality never touches these, because there is no need to change inwardly and still maintain an outward religious or spiritual testimony. However, consider Matthew 5:27-28; 23:25-28; Ezekiel 14:3-4,7.
Grace and peace, David