Earlier today I was reading from Psalm 19 and came across these words in verse 14:
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, NIV2011)
And I realised that something didn’t seem familiar. Looking into it I found that this was differently in the earlier version of the NIV:
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14, NIV84)
These words are much more familiar and I have often heard them used as the “preacher’s prayer” as someone prepares to reflect on God’s word with God’s people.
Looking into it, I found that the change was introduced in the TNIV and persisted into the 2011 version and I can’t find any other translation that has “these words” / “this meditation” instead of “the words” / “the meditation”.
And so I started to think about “which was right” and didn’t get to a clear answer! Commentators seem to see both ideas as being valid with:
The closing petition of the psalm, similar to the closing petition in Ps. 104:34–35, is a request that God receive the entire psalm as an acceptable sacrifice
Rolf A. Jacobson and Beth Tanner, NICNT
The context suggests the “words” are not the words of the psalm or the psalmist’s words in general, but the words one might address to another deity or the words that might be the means of doing wrong to another person
John Goldingay, BCOT
So instead I started to reflect on what each rendering might say to us in the context of the Psalm as a whole, a Psalm which speaks some amazing and powerful things about God and how we are to live in relationship with him:
- A reminder of how the universe God created demonstrates His glory, His power, His creativity (vs 1-6)
- Statements about the laws, the words, the comments God has given us and how they are perfect, bring joy, provide positive guidance for life (vs 7-11)
- Recognition of the challenges we have in seeing when we go wrong and calling out to God for help in avoiding falling into sin (vs 12-13)
The “these” translation is looking back on what has been said and prayed and asking God to accept it as a sacrifice of praise.
The “the” translation is looking ahead to what we will say and meditate on and praying that it will be pleasing to this God of creation, of good laws, of protection.
And both are helpful as we engage with the realities of daily living, as we spend time with God, as we spend time with others.
And the challenge I was left with is to take time during the day to reflect on what is behind and what is ahead:
- Can I take things I have done during the day up to this point and offer them to God with the hope that He will find them pleasing?
- Am I prepared to dedicate the rest of the day to living in a way that will continue to please Him?
So I don’t know which reading is more correct – but I do know that both of them ask questions of me, and I’ll seek to respond positively to both.