The Limits of Our Perfection (A Meditation on Psalm 119:96)
I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.
In verse 96 the Psalmist observes that there is a limit to all perfection. In a post-Genesis 3 world, this is our reality. Nothing on earth is without limit or boundary. The boundaries of geography contain the rivers, lakes, and oceans of the world. The boundaries of time restrict what we can accomplish in a given day. The limitations of our physical bodies determine what we are capable of doing without assistance from others or some form of technology. Likewise, perfection, as we can observe it with our human eyes and comprehend it with our finite minds, has a limit. Every created thing will decay and wear out. Everything comes to an end.
Another way in which human limits are demonstrated is by our ever-changing standard of perfection. We can be utterly convinced we have found the perfect (fill in the blank) until one day we inevitably discover a limit to that thing that we were previously blind to. We no longer see that thing as perfect and we begin the search for perfection anew, perhaps with different standards by which to measure it. Evidence of this is even found in Google’s definition of perfection: “the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” Did you catch that? Man’s version of perfection allows for the compromise of being “as free as possible from all flaws or defects.” True perfection is impossible for man; it has been tainted by the limits of a world fractured by the effects of sin.
There is, however, no limit to God’s perfection. As Creator, He is the standard for perfection. We see this in Isaiah 40:13-14: “Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult and who made him understand? Who taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” He is perfect in every way, and infinitely so. Unlike man’s wavering standard, His standard NEVER changes, because He, Himself, never changes (Numbers 23:19, Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). He is not bound by time or place (Isaiah 40:28), nor is there a limit to His knowledge (Psalm 147:5) or power (Psalm 145:3-6). All of the traits that characterize who God is (also known as His “attributes” or “perfections”) are limitlessly true of Him and He manifests each of them perfectly.
The Psalmist not only acknowledges the limits of earthly perfection, he contrasts those limits with God’s “exceedingly broad” commandment. Here is a tiny fraction of the myriad ways in which God’s commandment is exceedingly broad:
1. It is perfect – Psalm 19:7a: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul”
2. It gives life, wisdom, refreshment, and warning– Psalm 19:7b-11: “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. 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.”
3. It instructs, corrects, trains, and equips – 2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All scripture is breathed out by God 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.”
4. It enables us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to return to right image bearing, reflecting the divine nature rather than our sinful flesh nature– 2 Peter 1:3-4: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.”
5. It is eternal, and thus limitless – Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”
As limited creatures, how do we respond to our limitless, perfect God? May it be in worship and awe for the One whose infinite power is perfected in our weakness and whose overflowing grace is sufficient for our every need (2 Corinthians 12:9). May it be in gratitude for His measureless love for us that knows no bounds (Romans 8:39). And may it be in our delight and obedience to keep His exceedingly broad commandment.