“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
The Hebrew word translated “open” means to make naked. גל עיני, the Psalmist petitions God to make, not simply the literal sense and meaning of the text, but its existential relevance known to him and its power felt in his life. The LXX and the Vulgate both translate this appropriately as “reveal.” Revela oculos meos! Compare the usage of this word in Num. 22:31; 24:4, 24:16. On the one hand, the meaning of what is necessary for salvation is clearly known from scripture. As we see in chapter 1, section 7 of the Westminster Confession:
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
Yet there are different depths to which the word may penetrate and make its power felt depending on our spiritual maturity. Knowledge of the text and knowledge of ourselves, the readers of the text, are inseparable and must be understood in mutual relation. When we say that the Bible “says” something, we are telling others what we believe the author intended for his audience to understand by it.
Acknowledging the inevitability of subjectivity in interpretation ought not occasion fears of hermeneutical relativism, to which unbelievers often appeal in light of numerous interpretations of relevant texts and the schisms and wars resulting from them, and it certainly should not make Protestants fear Roman Catholics, who point to the need for a hermeneutical control of mediator of the text’s meaning in order to supply some sort of foundation as a bulwark against schism(indeed, there are plenty of churches who attack Protestantism as leading to hermeneutical relativsm, and claim that their tradition provides a bulwark against such epistemological anarchism. That several groups claim this for themselves proves that their proposed solution to this issue is nonsense and only relegates the issue of epistemological anarchy to competing traditions instead of competing interpretations).
On the one hand, interpetations are subjective. But this does not mean that their correctness is relative or nonexistent. It simply means that scripture, though certainly clear in its meaning so far as essential things are concerned, are always only ever understood and read by “subjects.” The text itself is the object which is perceived, processed and interpreted by a subject. God has graciously deigned to humans and make his word sufficiently clear to sinners in order that we might believe what is necessary for salvation and be saved.
The author of the text enthusiastically acknowledging the unavoidability of some element of subjectivity in reading the text and asks God that, by his Spirit, God would help him to more deeply understand the Word of God. We are finite and therefore incapable of fully apprehending the infinite wisdom of God, and we are also sinful, and so prone to distort the meaning of the Word and as the Psalmist acknowledges in this case, fail to properly understand its relevance and significance for our lives.
There is an objective meaning to the text, and as sinful human subjects, our subjectivity must be sufficiently cleansed by the Holy Spirit in order to profit from the word read and preached. Paul acknowledges this in numerous instances of scripture. He prays that God “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”(Eph. 1:17).
“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God”(1 Cor. 2:12).
“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.”(1 Cor. 2:14, 15).
The meaning and relevance of the object in question, that is, the meaning and relevant of the text, is foolishness to most human subjects who are blinded by sin and who require the light of the Holy Spirit in order to illuminate their darkened minds (a darkness to which even the greatest saint is to a great degree subject) and reveal that the meaning of the text is not only true rather than false or irrelevant, but glorious rather than loathsome or boring or ugly, as it is to many unbelievers.
I have found myself pierced more or less keenly by certain truths of scripture relative to how faithfully my Christian walk is. When I am careless and sinful, I am numb, calloused and stupid with respect to the word of God, and fail to see how seriously and fundamentally it indicts me of my sinful behavior. But when my heart is not stony but sufficiently fleshy, I am cut to the core by even the most occasional indictments against sin. The word shows me the bottomless depths of my selfishness only when I am sufficiently cleansed of selfishness to see how selfish I have been, for example. Selfishness paradoxically and dangerously blinds me to how selfish I am at any given time. This is likewise true with various other sins, and God would be perfectly just in allowing us to rush headlong into destruction, but graciously illuminates the darkness of our minds to drive us to mind, the true light and source of all light, in order to expose dispel the rest of our darkness and sinfulness.