Summary: How to keep our ways pure.
TEACH ME YOUR STATUTES.
The question is posed: “How shall a young man keep His way pure?” (Psalm 119:9a). Before we look at the answer, we might consider who this young man is? The Psalmist seems to be putting himself, and us, in the position of the son (i.e. student) in Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 3:1; Proverbs 5:1.
The answer unfolds in the rest of this stanza of the Psalm. The word “way” appears again as “the way of thy testimonies” (Psalm 119:14a), and then again simply as “thy ways” (Psalm 119:15b). So, perhaps one short answer to the question of ‘how we keep our ways pure?’ is ‘by conforming our ways to God’s ways’!
Yet this we find to be impossible (Isaiah 55:8-9). How can we even begin to know God’s ways? Well, Jesus said, ‘I am the way…’ (John 14:6) - and we have already established in an earlier sermon that ‘the undefiled’ are those who are found in Him (cf. Psalm 119:1).
The Psalmist begins his answer “by guarding (our way) according to your word” (Psalm 119:9b). “Word” stands for the entire teaching of God, and ultimately points us (again) to Jesus (John 1:1-2). “Word” stands for the Bible, but not just as ‘law’ (or ‘Torah’ - a Hebrew word which is unusually absent in this stanza), but also including the Holy Spirit’s application of that word in our hearts (John 14:26; Psalm 119:10a; Psalm 119:11a).
The Psalmist contrasts ‘seeking’ with ‘straying’: “Let me not wander from thy commandments” (Psalm 119:10). We must actively direct our heart towards God, as opposed to wilfully wandering from Him.
We must store His “promise” (sometimes translated as ‘word’) in our hearts (Psalm 119:11). The word of God is our only buffer against sin (cf. Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 7:1). All the promises of God are ‘yea’ in Christ, and so through Him our ‘Amen’ is spoken to the glory of God (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:20).
The Psalmist has begun to know God already (cf. Psalm 119:7) - and begins to praise Him (Psalm 119:12a). But he knows that he still has much to learn and appeals to God for further teaching (Psalm 119:12b). This is the stance of the Christian: the more we know Jesus, the more we want to know Him.
If God has come into our hearts, our lips will want to proclaim it (Psalm 119:13). If we have found our salvation in Christ Jesus, that is the greatest thing that could ever happen to us. Why would we want to keep it secret?
If we had a stroke of so-called ‘good fortune’, we would hardly be able to contain our joy. The Psalmist rejoices in the way of God’s decrees, “as much as in all riches” (Psalm 119:14). We might suggest, that he ‘treasures’ God’s word in his heart (cf. Psalm 119:11a).
Meditation on God’s word is also important (Psalm 119:15). It is not enough to just read our portion. We need to “contemplate” God’s ways and fix our eyes on Him.
Our emotions are also engaged in our reception of God’s word. We should “delight” in it (Psalm 119:16). Furthermore, we do not ‘leave our brains at the door’ (as one brother put it) when we come into God’s presence. We must exercise our minds, too, in “not forgetting” God’s word!
So, how do we keep our ways pure? By taking heed to, treasuring, learning, meditating upon, and delighting in God’s word. By wholeheartedly seeking Him. By fixing our eyes upon His ways and conforming our ways to His ways. By treasuring Him in our hearts, and speaking forth God’s word, recognising Jesus as both Word and Way (cf. Romans 10:8-9).