9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word*.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
* Through these reflections, those phrases that identify God’s word, revelation, or law will be highlighted in the text in the hopes of accentuating the many and varied ways we can visualize what God has given to us for our good.
One of the great fears of the Christian journey is failing to live up to God’s standard of holiness. Well, allow me to comfort you my friends. No one can live up to that standard. There is not a single person who has ever lived who has matched God’s perfect standard; other than Jesus.
This is a wonderfully uncomfortable truth to accept. We are not perfect. And we will never be perfect as we travel on life’s road. What we can do, what we should strive to achieve is a steady progress in our understanding of God’s goodness.
When we live our lives with God and others in fear of failure, we actually rob ourselves of one of the essential comforts of our relationship with God. We are robbing ourselves of experiencing God’s grace. Whether we fully appreciate it or not, the reality is that our constant trying to impress God actually short-circuits our spiritual development.
The word of God, his commandments and statutes serve as the guiderails of life. They are what keep us from veering off into unhealthy directions. What’s more, when we realize this function of God’s word, we may very well stop trying to be God, and simply enjoy being his children. We can trust God’s direction and even God’s boundaries for our lives when we accept and surrender to his tender care. And this care is seen best when we obey his commands more.
Verse 9: The second section of Psalm 119 begins with a simple question. This question reflects the often unspoken struggle of God’s people: how can we keep our way pure? In other words, how can we please God with our lives? The answer is simple and puzzling. It is simple in that we are given one task. We are to “guard” our way. This means that there will be assaults against our living in purity. There will be circumstances that would pull us away from where we should be and what we should do. But there is something puzzling about this task. The Psalmist implies that there is an attribute to God’s word that makes guarding our way possible. That characteristic is that God’s word is the codification of God’s wisdom. When God speaks, we should listen. When we listen, we can learn. And if we learn, we can live in a way that is pleasing to God.
Verse 10: We see here, the link between intentional devotion and a focused life. The Psalmist makes it clear that we ought to fill our hearts completely with the labor of seeking after God. To seek is to pursue. To commit ourselves to find what we are searching for. In the Christian journey we should avoid taking a passive posture toward God. While God’s presence is everywhere, his focus is drawn to our yearning for him. When we seek, he draws near. But our seeking is to be directed by his commandments. As we heed them and obey them we are kept on track. Our course through life is safeguarded by God’s word. Why? Because God’s word will always return to God and will never be empty. Look at what God said through the Prophet Isaiah, “…so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11 ESV).
Verse 11: Continuing with the theme of the heart, the Psalmist declares that the word of God can be “stored up.” We do not often think about the fact that the word is not a limited resource. It is bountiful and rich. We can return to it over and over and draw from it new strength. The reservoir of God’s word never runs dry. But why should we store up God’s word? These resources are what we use to fight against sin in our lives. When we have God’s word in our heart, we eliminate the room for sin to get in. This is not a formula. It is a process. The more of God’s word that is in us, the less room exists for anything else.
Verse 12: The Psalmist take a moment to worship and honor God. We must bless the Lord. Not with some physical gift. God has not need for anything material. When we bless God we are acting and living with the correct knowledge of who and what God is. To do anything less is to not bless the Lord. Interestingly, it is in the context of worship that the Psalmist petitions the Lord to instruct them in God’s statutes. Our desire to learn should not be seen as separated from our worship of God. The greater our worship, the more our capacity to be taught increases. It may seem paradoxical, but that does not negate the implication of this relationship between worship and instruction.