Academic Apologetics Theology
R. L. Solberg  

Praising God’s Law in a New Covenant Context


This paper contends that, for Christians, the proper understanding of the praise of God’s law in the Torah Psalms is as an expression of the holiness and moral purity of Yahweh and the benefits of obeying God’s instructions for his covenant community. Thus, the proper locus of such praise for Christians is not the Old Covenant law, per se, but the person of Christ, who perfectly embodies Yahweh’s character, holiness, and moral purity. Further, while praise for (and the benefits of) God’s torah (instruction, direction) remains, it must be understood within the context of God’s New Covenant community. We begin with an exposition of Psalm 19:7–11 (as a representative sample of the Torah Psalms) and then examine God’s law and its relation to the covenants. Lastly, the meaning and principles found in the text of Psalm 19 are applied to Christians in the context of the New Covenant, revealing the enduring continuity of Yahweh’s character, holiness, and moral purity.


The Torah Psalms (Ps. 1, 19, 119), as well as many other OT passages, teach us to love the Law of God, that God’s law is eternal, that we are to meditate on it day and night, and that it revives our soul. At the same time, other passages in the Bible teach Christians now “serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom. 7:6) and that Jesus “abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances” (Eph. 2:15), and that we “are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). As Bible-believing Christians who accept all of Scripture as true, how can we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory teachings about God’s law? Indeed, as Daniel Diffey notes, “The relationship between the law and the life of the Christian is one of the most pressing interpretive and theological questions that faces the church today.”1

Psalms 1, 19, and 119 are often referred to as the Torah Psalms because they are unique in the Psalter in that they express a particular focus on the law. James Mays notes, “They do not fit easily into any of the accepted genres or into any of the proposed orders for festivals in ancient Israel.”2 Although these three psalms differ in content and form, they share a distinct characteristic. All three feature the torah (instruction, direction, law) of Yahweh as their central organizing theme. Because these are psalms containing hymns and poetry rather than texts in the genre of law, they offer a beneficial and beautiful perspective on the role the law plays in the lives and theology of God’s people.

Of the Torah Psalms, Psalm 19:7–11 has been selected as an appropriate representative for this study because of the depth of its commentary on the law and its manageable length. It will be shown that the Torah Psalms are highly relevant for Christians as an expression of Yahweh’s holiness and moral purity and the benefits of obeying God’s instruction for his covenant community. However, we will see that the ultimate locus of such praise is not the law but the Lawgiver. Thus, the New Covenant application of the Torah Psalms is not as a tribute to the Old Covenant law, per se, but to the person of Christ, who perfectly embodies Yahweh’s character, holiness, and moral purity. We begin by examining the meaning of Psalm 19 within the historical and covenantal setting in which it was written to determine how its contemporaneous readers would have understood it.

Exposition of Psalm 19:7–11


Psalm 19 comprises soaring poetry with a powerful message. C.S. Lewis lauded the psalmist’s literary brilliance. “I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world.”3 However, as Bruce Waltke notes, “understanding Psalm 19 only as a poem fails to grasp its theological unity.”4 Indeed, this text expresses a unique character in its amalgam of wisdom, thanksgiving, and praise. The psalmist contemplates Yahweh as the sovereign source and giver of knowledge in two different arenas: creation and torah.

Indeed, the abrupt shift in the text between these two arenas has led to a number of compositional theories among expositors. There is a substantial break in style and substance as the psalmist moves from praising Yahweh as Creator (vv. 1–6) to extolling Him as the giver of a torah teeming with beauty and blessing (vv. 7–14). John Goldingay suggests, “these [two parts] were originally separate psalms or parts of psalms that have been combined.”5 E. Gerstenberger takes it further, suggesting that the two parts come from separate, unrelated sources—the first section from a “Hymn to Creation,” the second from a “Hymn to the Torah”—which he posits were later collated into a personal prayer in a synagogue setting.6 C. Westermann views vv. 2–7 as an initial fragment—“a psalm in praise of the Creator”—to which the text exalting the law was a later addition.7

Scholars who view the psalm as two unconnected texts are not without cause. The two sections even use different Hebrew names for God. The first section uses ʼēl; the second uses the tetragrammaton YHWH. John Barry et al. note, “The Hebrew name el emphasizes God as Creator, while yhwh—God’s personal covenant name—relates more to the Law.”8 Barry, however, sees a degree of unity in Psalm 19 as highlighting Yahweh as supreme Creator, revealing His perfect law to His covenant people. Peter Craigie, too, sees the present form of the psalm as “a unity, either composed as a single piece, or else the author took a fragment of an old hymn (vv. 2-7) and extended it by means of a theological commentary and comparison.”9

Interestingly, in wider ancient Near Eastern theology, the sun god was often a god of justice. Walton posits a possible thematic link between the two halves of Psalm 19.

For the psalmist, then, it is natural to move from the relationship of Yahweh and the sun to Yahweh’s provision for justice through the law. Much of the imagery used to describe the law can also be found related to sun gods in the ancient world.10

Indeed, Waltke acknowledges, “David may have adopted and adapted an old hymn to the Canaanite god, ʼEl (proper name), to the praise of the God of the patriarchs, using ʼēl as a generic term for God.”11 Waltke finds an even more profound integration of creation and torah in this Psalm. “The psalmist’s praise of God, the I AM, is based on the acceptance of both general revelation given in creation and of the special revelation of Scripture, and of their integration as understood by Israel’s sages.”12 He further argues that failing to understand this integration can cause the reader to miss the importance of divine revelation in the text of Psalm 19.13 It is in Waltke’s integration that I believe we find the key to understanding the relevance of the Old Covenant law, as revered by the psalmist, for the modern Christian.


Based on its parallelism, brevity, and lyrical style—including diverse figures of speech such as personification, metaphors, and more—Psalm 19 can be classified as a poem or, more precisely, a song. The superscript marks it a mizmôr (psalm), and it is found within the canon of Israel’s hymnbook. The hymns of the Psalter are chiefly songs of praise and petition, and Psalm 19 includes both. Based on the vocabulary and the thematic connection between creation and torah, some scholars would additionally classify it as a wisdom psalm.14 R. Clifford reasons,

The divine wisdom (meaning ability to govern) discernible in the daily movements of the heavens (vv. 1–4b), especially in the sun’s course (vv. 4c–6), is also visible in the teaching (vv. 7–9) to which human beings have access through humble prayer (vv. 10–14).”15

Andrew Knowles notes, “There are two great witnesses to the power and perfection of God—they are his creation and his law.”16 These twin witnesses are the focus of David’s psalm. A. H. McNeile suggests the intended effect was to highlight that both nature and the law are the work of the Creator God, adding, “To the Christian both these aspects are represented in the Logos, God’s Agent in creation, and also the revelation of His Being and Character.”17 Daniel Ashburn posits the limited nature of general revelation as the motivation behind the psalmist’s move from creation to the law. “Beyond the awareness of the Creator, the instruction of nature tells us little about the ways of God or what our response to God should be. Therefore, the psalmist turns to the instruction of God’s Torah.”18 With this background and overview, we turn now to an exposition of the text.

Psalm 19:7–9

While acknowledging the unity of thought found throughout Psalm 19, due to the limitations of space, our exegesis will focus on vv. 7–11. This passage speaks most directly to what we will refer to as God’s torah. We use a lowercase “t” to signal that we are not speaking solely of the Torah (Pentateuch or Law of Moses) but more broadly of God’s instruction and direction. While the Hebrew word torah can refer to the law, its meaning is broader. It comes from the Hebrew root yara, which connotes “the sense of stretching out the finger, or the hand, to point out a route.”19 Thus, torah carries the idea of the instructions or guidance of a father or teacher, as much as the commandments of the sovereign Lord. In vv. 7–11, the psalmist takes a wide-ranging view, utilizing various Hebrew words to develop a multifaceted picture of Yahweh’s overarching instruction, direction, and guidance.

In verse 7, the writer, David, shifts from lauding Yahweh’s knowledge and glory as evidenced in the firmament of creation to praising His torah. He makes a series of parallel statements utilizing six different Hebrew terms: torah (law), eduth (testimony), piqqudim (precepts), mitsvah (commandment), yir’ah (fear), and mishpat (rules). The psalmist associates a different positive benefit to each word:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
    reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
    making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
    rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
    enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
    enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
    and righteous altogether.

(Psalm 19:7–9)

It was mentioned earlier that the psalmist uses the name ʼēl to refer to God in vv. 1–6, and starting at verse 7, he begins using God’s self-given name, YHWH. Given the material in this torah section, this change in name seems intended to invoke the I AM of the covenant under which the law was given.

Note that each of the six aspects are said to be “of the Lord,” indicating they belong to or come from Yahweh. Moreover, they are terms related to God’s torah (instructions, direction). This clear pattern is broken by one exception, yir’ah (fear), which is neither a torah reference nor something that belongs to Yahweh. For this reason, it seems best not to read this passage as utilizing parallelism to state and restate the same (or similar) concept in various ways for emphasis. Rather, there appears to be a cascading, cumulative meaning in the words intended to communicate a multifaceted contemplation of God’s torah.

Indeed, David begins in v. 7 with the broadest term for God’s instruction: torah. However, given the context and David’s shift to the name YHWH, this term is best understood here as the capitalized Torah, the Law of the Covenant. David describes that law as tāmîm (perfect). This is more than the notion of being free from fault or blemish; it is also the idea of completeness or wholeness.20 Because of this perfection, the psalmist declares that Yahweh’s Torah “revives” (ESV), “refreshes” (NIV), “renews” (CSB), or “restores” (NASB) the soul (v. 7). The Hebrew word translated into these various English glosses is šûb, which literally means “turn back, return.”21 Thus, in this line, there is a sense of the wholeness and perfection of Yahweh’s Torah returning or restoring the nefesh (soul, life, self) to wholeness.

The psalmist next speaks of the “testimony of the Lord” (v. 7) using the Hebrew word ēdût. This is the same word used to describe the “ark of the testimony” (Exod. 25:22, 26:33–34) kept in the Most Holy Place in the temple which contained the “tablets of the testimony (ēdût)” written by the finger of God (Exod. 32:14, 34:29). The psalmist describes the “testimony of the Lord” as neʼĕmānāh22—sure, firm, dependable. Waltke notes, “Inferentially, it is reliable because it is based on God’s comprehensive knowledge (v. 2) and derives from his sublime character.”23 The psalmist declares that such a reliable testimony makes the “simple” (pĕtî)—those open to learning, teachable people—hokmah (wise), from the root ḥkm, meaning “to have masterful understanding.” The testimony of Yahweh is so steadfast that anyone who puts themselves under its counsel will acquire a wise understanding.

The third aspect the psalmist contemplates is the precepts (piqqûdîm) of the Lord (v. 8).Here, the specific gloss is challenging because piqqûdîm (typically: instructions, procedures) only occurs in tandem with torah in contexts of divine commands.24 Yahweh’s precepts are said to be yešārîm (right). Yāšār is a geometric reference indicating that which is straight, plumb, or flat. It is a standard or fixed order against which something can be compared or judged. The result for those who recognize and acknowledge that Yahweh’s piqqûdîm are the standard of rightness is a heart that rejoices. The root of rejoice is śāmaḥ, which “denotes being glad or joyful with the whole disposition as indicated by its association with the heart (cf. Ex 4:14; Ps 19:8 [9]; 104:15; 105:3), the soul (Ps 86:4) and with the lighting up of the eyes (Prov 15:30).”25 The instructions of Yahweh are so fixed and true it fills our whole being with joy and gladness.

The fourth facet the psalmist contemplates is the purity of Yahweh’s commandment (mitsvah). Although the singular form is used in Hebrew, David is clearly referring to all the commandments (mitzvot) of Yahweh. He describes them as bārâ (literally, “pure, empty”). This is a statement of moral purity. Yahweh’s commands are entirely free from sin or wickedness. Whereas the previous facet focused on the rejoicing of the heart within, the psalmist here focuses on external effects, “enlightening the eyes” (v. 8). Indeed, the Hebrew word meʼîrat means “to become light, shine, illuminate.” The poetic imagery invokes the idea of Yahweh’s clean and glowing commands (which cause one’s heart to rejoice) lighting up their eyes for all to see. Indeed, Scripture elsewhere links sparkling eyes with righteousness (Prov. 4:18; 6:23; 13:9; 16:15; Matt. 6:22–23). Walton et al. note, “Light to the eyes refers to life and therefore, in one sense, is given to all (Prov 29:13). The law, however, is able to bring extended life to those who follow its commands. When the light goes from the eyes, death is near (13:3; 38:10).26 Yahweh’s commandments are so morally pure as to make one outwardly radiant.

There is a break in the pattern in the fifth aspect mentioned by David. Here, instead of referencing a term related to a standard or regulation, David contemplates a proper response to Him. In v. 9 he writes, “the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.” Waltke suggests that the “fear of Yahweh” (yirʼat yhwh) “refers to I AM’s special revelation in the Bible, in contrast to the ‘fear of God.’”27 As opposed to R. N. Whybray’s definition of the “fear of God” as “a standard of moral conduct known and accepted by men in general,”28 Waltke sees the “fear of I AM” as referring to the duality of (1) rationally understanding and (2.) emotionally responding to the revelation in faith, fear, and love. Thus, vis-a-vis Proverbs 1:7, the “fear of I AM” is the gateway to wisdom (See also Job 28:28; Eccl. 12:13). It is ṭāhôr (pure, ceremonially clean) and, as such, just like “the commandment of the Lord” (v. 8), the “fear of the Lord” (v. 9) is pure and uncorrupted by moral impurity. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is said to ʽômedet lāʽad, literally “stand” in perpetuity.

The sixth and final aspect lauded by the psalmist are the mishpat (rules, judgments, just decrees) of Yahweh. This phrase invokes the idea of judicial verdicts (e.g., Exodus 21–23). David makes a twofold declaration about the Lord’s mishpat. They are, first, ʼemet (firm, trustworthy, steady, see v. 7). Unlike human judgments, mishpat yhwh can never be overturned. This is because they are, second, ṣāde(righteous, just). Indeed, they are the very standard against which justice is to be measured (see v. 8). The psalmist adds that mishpat yhwh “are true and righteous altogether (yaḥdaw: at the same time, invariably)” (v. 9).

Before proceeding to the final two verses of our passage, let us summarize the multifaceted image of Yahweh’s torah (instructions, direction) that King David has described. We cannot ignore the inferences carried into this torah section of Psalm 19 from the opening section. David began this psalm by declaring the glory of God as Creator (vv. 1–6), and the apostle Paul will later use an intertextual allusion to this passage. In Romans 1, he argues that creation—for which David uses the metonym of the sun (vv. 4–6)—is a witness to the knowledge of God (v. 2). Thus, we see in the opening section, as well as vv. 7–9, the psalmist reflects on how both creation and the law reveal Yahweh’s holiness, goodness, and moral purity.

In other words, David’s praise focuses not on creation but on the Creator. He contemplates the glory of the created order of the world because it “declare(s) the glory of God” (v. 1). It is evidence of Yahweh’s character and goodness. Likewise, the locus of the psalmist’s praise is not the law, per se, but the Lawgiver. Indeed, the six elements he examines are said to be “of the LORD.” David delights in the law and extols its benefits because it is evidence of the heart and greatness of the One who gave it. It is perfect, trustworthy, right, pure, clean, reliable, and true (vv. 7–9) because it flows from Yahweh, who was all those things first. God’s torah refreshes the soul, imparts wisdom, causes hearts to rejoice and eyes to light up.

Psalm 19:10–11

Because Yahweh’s instructions reflect His moral purity and holiness and bring such blessing to those who keep them, the psalmist continues,

More to be desired are they than gold,
     even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
     and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
     in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:10–11

The Psalmist declares that God’s torah is more desirable and beneficial than great material wealth. It is also sweeter than honey, a delightful indulgence in the ancient Near East. Waltke remarks, “the value and delight of God’s judgments are breathtaking.”29 The Psalmists’ point is plain. Those who trust Yahweh and keep His torah will find they surpass the values and pleasures of the world.

Exposition Summary

For King David, of course, God’s torah encompassed the Torah. In other words, this psalm was written when both the Sinai covenant and the law that came with it were still in effect. Daniel Diffey highlights the foundational connection between the two. “To approach the OT law properly, it is important to understand…that the law was given within the context of a covenant.”30 Indeed, the Torah is not an arbitrary collection of commands independent of its covenantal and historical context. Therefore, while we can affirm that the fundamental truths declared by the psalmist hold true today, the circumstances of God’s people have changed significantly. Because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we now live under Yahweh’s New Covenant and are nearly two millennia into the Messianic age. To understand how the truth of the Torah Psalms is properly applied for Christians today (who are not under the Old Covenant law), we next examine God’s law and the covenants.

God’s Law and the Covenants

As Bible-believing Christians who accept all of Scripture as true, how can we reconcile the psalmist’s praise for God’s law with the NT author’s declaration, “We are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom. 7:6). This is a consistent refrain of the NT authors. The old covenant law commanded many rituals that the NT teaches are no longer required. “Do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (Col. 2:16–17, NIV). Roy Gane puts a finer point on the issue by asking rhetorically, “If we are saved by divine grace through faith in Christ’s once-for-all atoning sacrifice, not by our works of keeping God’s law (Eph. 2:8–9; cf. Heb. 9:25–28), why should we invite outmoded values to play a role in directing our lives?”31

Indeed, the Torah remains a beautiful and fundamental part of the Christian faith. The question is not its relevance or enduring authority but its proper application. James Todd suggests that our approach to the laws given at Sinai should model how we instinctively approach the story of Noah. Namely, with an inherent understanding that the commandments God gave to Noah are not directly applicable to us, yet they do contain truths that are still relevant today.

Like his instructions to Noah, God gave the old covenant laws to a particular people at a particular time for a particular purpose, thus displaying his righteousness in an ancient near Eastern context. We should therefore feel no obligation to appropriate these laws directly to our 21st-century context.[32]

However, we can still draw lessons from even those laws that do not directly apply to us. They help us understand the unchanging heart of God and His desire for righteousness, holiness, and obedience. Gane notes, “OT laws reveal wise and enduring values and principles, even when certain laws do not directly apply to us today.”33 Todd adds, “Our ability as Christians to understand the biblical story and to interpret later biblical books relates directly to our knowledge and interpretation of the old covenant laws.”34

The contrast between the views of the law held by the OT and NT is perhaps most starkly drawn in the apostle Paul’s writings. Psalm 19:7 says that the law revives the soul. Paul writes, “The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me” (Rom 7:10). Thomas Schreiner offers another example. “Psalm 119:93 says, ‘I will never forget your precepts for by them you have given me life.’ The Psalmist assigns life here to the precepts of the law, whereas Paul sees the law as multiplying transgressions.” Schreiner resolves this apparent contradiction by noting,

When Paul says that the law kills and puts the death, he thinks of those in the flesh (Rom. 7:5) – those who are unregenerate (Rom. 8:7) … The Psalmist reflects on the role of the commands in those who already know God.35

While Schreiner’s observation may be valid, I would offer another way to resolve this tension.

Principle & Expression

I have developed a framework called Principle & Expression (P&E) that offers a significant degree of explanatory power, which can be a helpful key for unlocking difficult passages about the law. When properly applied, the P&E lens can help bring many challenging biblical passages and statements into sharper focus and resolve apparent tension without damaging the text or the context of the passages.

The concept behind this framework is the simple distinction between a general principle and the various expressions of that principle. The simplest analogy is how a parent expresses an unchanging standard in different ways to their child as she grows. Consider the principle “be kind to others.” When the child is a toddler, the parent expresses this command in simple terms, such as “Don’t hit your brother.” By the time the child is a teenager, the parent’s unchanging principle of kindness is expressed differently. Now, the child is instructed to mow the lawn for an elderly neighbor, stick up for bullied kids, or volunteer at the local food pantry.36

This same general concept can be applied to Yahweh in a biblical context. The P&E framework posits a set of perfect principles that are grounded in God and never change. For the sake of clarity, we will refer to this set of unchanging principles as God’s טוּב (tuv).37 This is not a standard created or declared by God; it is His nature. God did not invent love, life, righteousness, and goodness; He is all those things. God’s טוּב is His very nature—it is a reality that transcends human experience. Indeed, God’s טוּב had no beginning and always will be, and everything He communicates flows from it.

We might ask, “If God has an unchanging טוּב, why would He ever need to change the way He expresses it to mankind?” There are two good reasons. First, like a maturing child, His people have changed and evolved over time. The Bible was written over a period of 1,500 years, and at each stage in God’s cosmic story, His People have grown and matured in their knowledge of Him. Yahweh first spoke directly to individuals like Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Later, He gave His people stone tablets engraved with His Law, expressed in the Ten Commandments. Then came the Torah, the writings, and the prophets. Centuries after that, He gave us a new expression through Jesus and the New Testament authors. Despite all of these changes in expression, God’s eternal טוּב has never changed.

The second reason His expressions have changed is because Yahweh has stepped into history to effect change in the world and execute His plan of redemption. This has happened many times—in the Garden, at Sinai, on the cross. Each act of God brought with it a new, though not entirely different, expression of His unchanging טוּב. A biblical example will be helpful.

One universal principle of God’s טוּב is this: atonement comes through the shedding of blood. This principle is first hinted at in the Garden when, as a result of their sin, Adam and Eve suddenly became aware of their nakedness. In response, God instituted the first shedding of blood in history. “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). The phrase “garments of skins” indicates the shedding of blood and suggests the original institution of animal sacrifice for sin.

Later, God’s principle of blood atonement is expressed in a new way. In the Lord’s commandment to Israel to sacrifice the Passover Lamb, we explicitly see the shedding of blood secure the salvation of God’s people (Exod. 12:6–13). Yahweh’s principle remains clear and unchanged: It is blood that saves God’s people from His wrath. Shortly after the first Passover, the Israelites arrived at Mount Sinai, where God revealed a new expression of His enduring atonement principle. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement” (Lev. 17:11). Under the Mosaic Law, the new expression of God’s enduring principle of blood atonement took the form of annual animal sacrifices at the tabernacle (Lev. 16). His universal principle had come to be expressed as a recurring ceremony in the temple.

Centuries later, under the New Covenant, God gave a new expression of His enduring principle, which elaborated further on its nature and ultimate meaning. “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14). Under this new expression, God’s טוּב requiring blood atonement remained unchanged. It was not abolished, and it did not come to an end. However, the specific expression changed dramatically, finding its ultimate fulfillment in the blood of Christ.

Thus, on the issue of blood atonement, we can clearly trace the evolution of the various expressions of the Yahweh’s טוּב. His unchanging principle was first expressed in the Garden through the skins of animals. This was a “shadow” of Christ’s sacrifice. Later, under the Law of Moses, the “shadow” took on more detail as the expression changed to the ritual sacrifice of bulls and goats. Finally, under the New Covenant, the “shadow” gave way to the substance (Heb. 10:1). God’s blood atonement principle was ultimately expressed in Christ, “whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith” (Rom. 3:25).

Do Christians today still have a sacrifice today? Yes, we do. Christ is our sacrifice. Under the New Covenant, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). The blood sacrifice required by God’s Law was satisfied “once for all” through the death of Jesus. A. P. Ross traces these concepts nicely.

An animal was sacrificed to provide garments of skin, and later all Israel’s animal sacrifices would be part of God’s provision to remedy the curse—a life for a life. The sinner shall die! (Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23) Yet he will live if he places his faith in the Lord, who has provided a Substitute. The skin with which God clothed Adam and Eve perpetually reminded them of God’s provision. Similarly in the fullness of time, God accepted the sacrifice of Christ, and on the basis of that atonement, He clothes believers in righteousness (Rom. 3:21–26).38

Contemporary Application

The old covenant law remains relevant to the new covenant Christian. Gane writes, “There is both continuity and discontinuity between the OT and the NT. Throughout the Bible, the divine covenants function as phases of cumulative development in God’s overall covenant plan.”39 Indeed, at various points throughout history, Yahweh’s divine acts have brought with them fresh revelations of His will and ways and advanced His redemptive purposes in the world, culminating in the new covenant.40 And yet God’s טוּב remains unchanged. While the cultural rituals given under the old covenant law do not directly apply to Christians today, God’s unchanging principles behind those rituals indeed remain.

In every expression and under every covenant, those who delight in God’s torah (instructions, direction) will find it refreshing, enlightening, and “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). And Jesus is the ultimate expression of God’s טוּב. Therefore, Waltke concludes,

As for the praise of Torah, the Law expresses the moral purity, the holiness of God and its benefits to the members of God’s covenant community. But Jesus Christ, who is the incarnate Son of God, fully manifests his character. Therefore, Christians use David’s praise of Torah to praise the sinless Lamb of God who became righteousness for them and gives them his Spirit, enabling them to enjoy its value and delight.41

Indeed, Spirit-filled Christians now comprise God’s covenant community (Luke 22:20; Heb. 8). The Giver of the Law has written the Good News of Christ “not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:3). Waltke adds, “For them it is the perfect law that gives freedom, for they are free from their bondage to sin (James 1:25). These truths are pregnant in the psalm, but the New Testament births them.”42


The praises of the Torah Psalms have a welcome home in the heart of the Christian faith. They reveal the enduring goodness, purity, and holiness of God’s טוּב and His heart for His people. While the particular expression may have changed under the New Covenant, Yahweh’s unchanging principles are “perfect, refreshing the soul…trustworthy, making wise the simple… right, giving joy to the heart…radiant, giving light to the eyes… pure, enduring forever…true and righteous altogether” (Ps 19:7–9, NIV), world without end, amen.

The ultimate impetus for such praise is not the law but the Lawgiver. Thus, the Christian application of the Torah Psalms is not realized through a celebration of the old covenant law but rather in the person of Christ, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Col. 2:9–10). Therefore, followers of Jesus can delight in the psalmist’s praise of God’s torah in their worship of the Son of God, who gives them His Spirit and righteousness through faith.


1 Daniel S. Diffey, “The Problem of the Old Testament and the Christian” in The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings: Studies in Evangelical Old Testament Hermeneutics in Honor of Duane A. Garrett, King, Andrew M., et al. (B&H Publishing Group, 2021), 88.

2 James Luther Mays, “The Place of the Torah-Psalms in the Psalter.” Journal of Biblical Literature 106, no. 1 (1987): 3.

3 C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958), 63.

4 Bruce K. Waltke, James M. Houston, and Erika Moore, The Psalms as Christian Worship: A Historical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010), 340.

5 John Goldingay, The Psalms, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 297.

6 E. Gerstenberger, Psalms Part 1 (FOTL 14; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988).

7 C. Westermann, Ausgewählte Psalmen, translated as The Living Psalms (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1989), 252–55.

8 John D. Barry, Douglas Mangum, Derek R. Brown, et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Ps 19:title–14.

9 Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1-50, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 19, Bruce M. Metzger, ed. (Waco: Word Books, 1983), 179.

10 Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Ps 19:7.

11 Waltke, 353.

12 Waltke, 341.

13 Ibid.

14 M. Futato, Interpreting the Psalms: An Exegetical Handbook, Handbooks for Old Testament Exegesis (Kregel, 2007), 179.

15 R. Clifford, Psalms 1–72 (AOTC; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), 111–12.

16 Andrew Knowles, The Bible Guide, 1st Augsburg books ed. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2001), 236.

17 A. H. McNeile, “The Psalms,” in A New Commentary on Holy Scripture: Including the Apocrypha, ed. Charles Gore, Henry Leighton Goudge, and Alfred Guillaume, vol. 1 (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1942), 350.

18 Daniel G. Ashburn, “Creation and the Torah in Psalm 19,” The Jewish Bible Quarterly, Vol. XXII, No. 4 (88) Oct. 1994, 245.

19 Ludwig Koehler et al., The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994–2000), 1711.

20 Koehler et al., 1749.

21 Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 996.

22 The root is ʼmn, “amen.”

23 Waltke, 365.

24 See Psalm 103:18; 111:7; and 119 [21 occurrences].

25 Bruce Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1980), 2:879, s.v. śāmaḥ.

26 Matthews et al., Ps 19:8.

27 Waltke, Psalms, 367–368.

28 R. N. Whybray, Wisdom in Proverbs: The Concept of Wisdom in Proverbs 1–9 (London: SCM Press, 1955), 96.

29 Waltke, 368.

30 Diffey, 88.

31 Roy E. Gane, Old Testament Law for Christians: Original Context and Enduring Application (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A division of Baker Publishing Group, 2017), 3.

32 James M. Todd III, Sinai and the Saints: Reading Old Covenant Laws for the New Covenant Community (InterVarsity Press, 2017), 157.

33 Gane, xiv.

34 Ibid., 155.

35 Ibid., 86.

36 This analogy is inherently flawed and can only be pressed so far. But it helps to make the point.

37 Tuv is a Hebrew word that means “goodness,” and can also refer to the best things about a place or a person. It additionally conveys the ideas of blessing, beauty, well-being, and happiness.

38 A. P. Ross, “Genesis,” The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck eds., Vol. 1. (Victor Books, 1985), 33.

39 Gane, 402.

40 O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980); cf. John H. Walton, Covenant: God’s Purpose, God’s Plan (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994).

41 Waltke, 375.

42 Ibid.

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