There's only so much one can cover and uncover in a single message, so I wanted to make just a couple of additional points here that I won't be able to touch on with the sermon on this text - though one could preach countless sermons on these lovely and powerful words of praise for God's word.
1. The word for 'sum' can be translated as 'head', but the idea the word conveys is 'head number', or 'sum-total'. In other words, if the Psalmist 'reckons up the word of God in its separate parts, and as a whole, truth is the denominator of the whole, truth is the sum total' (Keil-Delitzsch; Psalms; Eerdmans).
- This underscores the significance both a narrative-Biblical theology and Systematic theology (the latter often downplayed in favor of the former). Scripture must be taken as a whole, with 'truth' arising from the sum of the parts and revealed as a whole. This is true from a narrative standpoint, seen in something as simple as the commands regarding sacrifice for sin and in worship culminating in their fulfillment in Christ; it is seen from a Systematic Theology perspective, the meaning of a particular doctrine (say the Trinity or the Two Natures of Christ) being derived from all that is said rather than from one or two verses separated from their context and/or from other texts which speak to the same doctrine. In both cases, the 'sum' is true, and the part - while true in itself - would left to itself lead to confusion or falsehood.
- Cults and sects of every kind are notorious for ignoring the sum in favor of the part, building bizarre teachings and doctrines out of texts isolated from their literary and historical context, with the interpreters uninformed by the theology in the text, under the text, and arising from the text. It is also true that many individual Christians sometimes disdain theology as unimportant - as though the Scriptures cannot and do not offer us a sum of truth - not realizing that such an approach is itself a theological statement.
2. I have just started reading John Frame's new book "The Doctrine of the Word of God", and wish I'd finished it long before I started preparing for this sermon! if you don't have that volume I commend it to you and your study. There are of course numerous books on the subject, as well as on the history of the text itself. Next week I will try to publish a brief list for interested readers.
3. Finally, while I won't be quoting directly from the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith, that section of the Confession certainly is at the root of all I will be saying. In fact, I commend that single section of the Confession to your study more than any other particular work as a starting place. The Westminster Confession has many wonderful summaries of the truth of Scripture, but the chapter of the Doctrine of Scripture is, in my opinion at least, the single finest chapter of the entire confession. Before you spend a lot of money on other books related to the subject, simply work with the WCF, commit it to memory, and make it the foundation for your further study.