May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. NIV
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer. NKJ
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. NRSV
Before the sermon on most Sundays, we recite the last verse of Psalm 19 and ask God that the words that we speak and those that we hold in our hearts will be acceptable in His sight. This prayer is a burdensome request and one that we should always be asking. I checked three different versions of this passage and found that some have the phrase, “may these words…” while others have the version we use, “may the words…”
“May these words…” would seem to imply that the words we are about to speak, say the sermon, should or would be acceptable in the sight of God while the other version, the one we use here, “may the words…” implies that all of our words should be acceptable in the sight of God.
So are the words we speak acceptable in the sight of God?
It is a privilege and an honor to stand in this spot each week and bring you a message that not only uplifts but also convicts. It is always my prayer that the words that I hope God gives me move us to action of some kind in our personal lives or the world at large. A preaching mentor told me that the sermon should make people uncomfortable and squirm a little. We are supposed to preach what we need to hear and just what we want to hear.
But standing here each week is also a great responsibility, and I try not to take that lightly. All through history preachers have used their words for all sorts of reasons, good and bad. Our prayer that the words we speak not only here at this moment, but later today and continuing, will be words that are acceptable to God.
Words have immense power that can build someone up, offer them hope and comfort or can shatter their world and cause irreparable harm. Because of the damage that can be done by our words, it is essential for us to have custody of our words. There are very few examples in Scripture of Jesus making fun of someone or otherwise putting them down. Even when Jesus was “dressing someone down” his words were from a pure heart with the intent of making corrections to build up and not to break down. Although he had stern words for people they were always spoken in love, I am not sure I can say that about my words.
The words that the writer of this verse uses come from deep within himself, from his heart, the place where thoughts form and fester if you will. The Psalmist is asking the God purify his heart so that his words will also be pure.
From a psychological perspective, we do not say things by mistake or say things we do not mean. For us to speak we have to have thoughts, so if we say a cruel or hurtful thing to someone that thought was born and took root in our hearts and our minds. We have control, or at least we should, over the things we say, and that is Psalmist prayer today, that just because the thought has formed does not mean we have to speak it. He is asking for God’s protection from himself!
There is an old saying, “engage brain before opening mouth.” I know I am guilty of saying something that should not have been said or perhaps said something that needed to be said but said it wrong like the Psalmist my prayer is that God will protect me from myself and purify my heart, so my words build up and not break down.
In a few moments, we will symbolically gather around that table and reenact of you will, a very intimate time that Jesus had with his followers. Among them was the person that would turn him in as well as the one who would deny him and they all abandoned him when he needed them the most. But knowing this he still gave himself to them in the bread and wine.
My faith teaches me that it is not so much about what happens if anything, with the bread and the wine but what happens with us at that moment. Theologians have argued for generations whether the bread and wine are transformed, but the question we should be asking is, are we changed?
As we continue this service and the meeting that follows let us keep in mind the prayer we say and the prayer of the Psalmist that the words of our mouths and the what we hold deep in our hearts may be acceptable in the sight of God. We invite him into our lives to change us not to change him.
Let our closing prayer be the same as the one we used to open:
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer.