Psalm 119:ב

How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you, let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (9-11)

Observations

1. The question of verse 9 is one that only one who belongs to God will ask.

This text came into my head this morning, so I felt that meant I should open it and study it today. It is an encouraging thought that even one who struggles with a few particular sins as I do can be sure that he belongs to God by acknowledging that one who is not DOES NOT CARE ABOUT THIS QUESTION.

It is an evidence of God’s grace in our lives to wake up each day and wonder, “How can I grow in holiness? I want to be more like Jesus – holy and pure and loving and kind and caring. How do I get there? I hate the remaining sin in my life and want it gone! But how?” Be encouraged if this is you.

Do you have sorrow over your sin? Does it keep you up at night that you don’t love God as you should. Then repent of your sin, and turn to Jesus who has already done everything necessary for your justification, and seek the truth of God’s word to replace the lies that you will never be good enough for God to love or accept you; that you need fill-in-the-blank to be truly happy and fulfilled; that no one really cares about you; that you cannot change. Your sadness and grief over your sin is good. As Paul says, “the kindness of God leads us to repentance,” (Rom. 2:4). It is God’s grace in your life that you would wake up today asking this question. You are his.

2. He answers his own question. (9b)

This is interesting because it begs “why did he ask the question if he knew the answer?” It makes me wonder if this was part of a catechism for Hebrew children or something. Nevertheless, it could be that since the author had set out to praise the goodness of the word of God in this psalm, had decided upon a format (alphabetic acrostic), and needed to start with ב (bet), he chose to ask a question that the reader could resonate with, and then fulfill his purpose by suggesting that the answer to getting and keeping your way pure is to guard your way by living according to the scriptures, God’s commands.

3. The tone of verse 10 sets up a theme of emotional honesty in this psalm of love of God’s word, and desperation for its good effects in one’s life.

Here he is both declaring that he does seek God with his whole heart, and pleading that he will seek God with his whole heart in the future. Therefore he says, “let me not wander from your ways.” It reminds me of this hymn we love:

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it; prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord. Take and seal it…for thy courts above. (Come Thou Fount)

I would not be surprised if this text was not in the author’s mind as he/she penned that stanza.

4. This is one of the most tangible links I’ve found in scripture between love and treasure of God’s word, and countermeasures we are commanded to use against sin. (11)

Along with Ephesians 6 marking the “sword of the Spirit which is the word of God,” and others like it, the author here plainly says that the weapon against the desire and tendency to sin he has chosen is to “store up” God’s word in his heart.

Other translations say “hide” (“I have hidden”, KJV, NKJV, etc), and are often used to encourage scripture memory and the joy and good of being able and ready to pull out verses and ward off temptation and the devil. This is all well and good if that is the best way to translate it. If so, it serves us very well in that way.

But if the ESV, “stored up,” is right, it suggests a different image. Now the word is good and rich food (like “drippings of the honeycomb” in Ps. 19:10) that he puts up in a barn or storehouse to feed upon when spiritual drought comes so that he might not be drawn to eat the non-nourishing dust of sin. Jesus said to his disciples, who were baffled by his response after he spoke to the Samaritan woman at the well, “I have food to eat that you do not know about,” (John 4:32). And he meant, “doing the will of God” was his food, or to revocalize it, “living according to God’s word.” Likewise, when he was in the desert, Jesus responded to Satan by saying, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt. 4:4; Jesus quoting Deut. 8:3). This second citation is the perfect example of this point, for Jesus had been physically starved for forty days and satan was tempting him in the weakness of his human flesh. Yet instead of bowing in worship and selling out for a single meal (like Esau), he turned to God’s word to fight the temptation rather than yield and fulfill even the most legitimate desires of the flesh. Yet how often do we sin, never considering the word of God, to fulfill desires for various pleasures which have nothing to do with life or death the way hunger does.

To take food when starving at the cost of worshipping the devil is worse than drying up into a husk in the desert and remaining faithful. It takes more faith that God will supply all your needs and give you greater fulfillment and joy in this life than sin will to turn to God in those moments, desiring the holiness that makes us occasionally ask the question of verse 9 with this psalmist at night and when we rise in the morning, “How can I make my way pure?” Do we really want to experience in this life the holiness that God has already purchased for us and made possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection? Do we really believe that to strive after it will bring us more joy with God as our Treasure, than to play in the proverbial mud-pit of sin? It seems fun in the moment, but as C.S. Lewis observed:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

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