God inspired David to write this psalm in three sections, or stanzas.
Stanza 1, verses 1-6: The glory of God in creation. I imagine that as a shepherd boy David would lie under the night sky and look at the stars, studying the constellations. He was right: the heavens do declare the glory of the God who created them! David talks about the wonder of the sun that God created. He knew so little about the sun, the solar system, and we know so much – we should praise God even more than David did!
Stanza 2, verses 7-11: The Word of God in my life. David talks about the Word of God, the Scripture. If you like to outline Scripture, this is a fun passage to outline:
He calls the Word of God by six terms: the law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord, the precepts of the Lord, the commandment of the Lord, the fear of the Lord, and the rules of the Lord.
He describes the Word of God with nine adjectives: perfect, sure, right, pure, clean, enduring, true, righteous, and sweet.
He tells five ways the Word of God affects us: it revives the soul, makes us wise, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, and warns us about evil.
Stanza 3, verses 12-14: The hope of the repentant. David prays about the problem of sin, asking, “Who can discern his errors?” It’s a mystery isn’t it? Why do I sin when I know it’s wrong? Why do I sin when I know God hates it? Why do I sin when I know there are consequences? Why do I sin when I don’t even want to? I can’t explain that. “Who can understand it?,” David asked.
David prayed about three kinds of sin in his life, from least to greatest, in progressive order:
Secret faults – these are hidden sins that no one sees. These are the little white lies, the cheating in the game, the lustful looks, the hateful thoughts, the looks that could kill, the bit of gossip, the flirting with another person’s spouse, the private dirty joke, and so on. Like tiny fault lines, cracks in the foundation of a building, they are weak places, and when something comes along and shakes our lives, we will crack in those places. They are hidden, they are small, but they are dangerous.
Presumptuous sins – (also translated “willful sins” or “deliberate sins”) these are sins we commit arrogantly, knowing all the time that they are wrong. These are not mistakes, but sins on-purpose. They are presumptuous when we reason, “I know this is wrong, but I need to do it – so I’ll just ask forgiveness later.”
Great transgression – this is the big one: the lie that ends the marriage, the theft that ends the job, the crime that gets you arrested, the indiscretion that ends your ministry. The big one.
David was aware of these sins, and he wanted to avoid them. He prayed (v.13), “Let them not have dominion over me.” Dominion means control. Sin can gain dominion over us, and we become a slave to it.
David’s idea is right-on: take care of the little sins before they grow and take control. Arrest the thoughts and attitudes before they become actions and habits. David was inviting God to clean below the surface – to dig around in the secret places, the tender places, the hidden places of his life and completely cleanse the little seeds of sin. He was not interested in how to manage his sin (keep it under control, minimize the damage) – but how to kill his sin!
David said in verse 14, “the Lord is my rock (strength) and my Redeemer.” I love those words! When I’m surrendered to Jesus, the one who has dominion over all sin, sin won’t have dominion over me! He has the power to cleanse me from sin (v.12) and to keep me blameless (v.13).
Jesus is my Redeemer. He shed His blood for all my sins. When I sin He will not disown me; He will forgive me and restore me. When Jesus died on the cross, He was paying the price to redeem us from sin and to bring us to Himself.
That is the hope of the repentant – a living hope in a loving Lord!