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The Scriptorium

A Most Important Question

You have to answer this. Psalm 119.9

Psalm 119.9-16 (1)

Pray Psalm 119.9-11.

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.

Sing Psalm 119.9-11.
(No Other Plea: My Faith Has Found a Resting Place)
How can a young man cleanse his way, and thus be free of sin?
By keeping God’s Word every day, and storing it within.
With all my heart I seek You, Lord, O let me never stray,
nor let me wander from Your Word, nor stumble in Your way.

Read Psalm 119.9-16; meditate on verse 9.

1. What question does the psalmist raise?

2. How does he answer his question?

The ב (beth) stanza begins with a question which, along with other devices, connects stanza 2 to stanza 1. These stanzas overlap like a person clasping the hand of a fellow climber to lift him to the next height. In the light of stanza 1, and all it requires and promises, the question naturally arises, “How?” The “young man” asking the question is doubtless the psalmist, but he raises his concern for all of us, and that for two reasons.

First, he knows that his “way” has not been “undefiled” (v. 1) or without shame (v. 6). How can he go back and undo the wrong he has done? How can we?

And second, he knows himself well enough to suspect that he is likely to do “iniquity” (v. 3) again, and that sometimes when he looks into the Law he will “be ashamed” (v. 6). How can he – and we – be cleansed of past and future sins, as well as those we commit in the present?

The mention of “his way” ties back to the first stanza. In verst 9, however, a different word is used for “way” than in verse 1. Verse 1’s “way” refers to a pattern or way of life yielding a particular condition (in this case, “happy”). The happy man is “undefiled in the way.” He has embraced a way of life to which the psalmist and we aspire – a goal, a promise, a condition of cleansed happiness.

The word for “way” in verse 9 has a more temporal nuance. It derives from a verb that means to wander or to undertake a journey. Verse 1 declares a condition; verse 9 looks to the journey that leads to the condition of happiness. And that “way” is going to need cleansing from time to time. How will that be possible?

A most important question, indeed.

The answer: Keep the Word of God (“taking heed”, the same verb as in vv. 4, 5, 8). Pay close attention to it. Guard (again, “keep” in vv. 4, 5) it diligently.

OK, but how?

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
“How can a young man cleanse his way?” (Ps. 119.9)

According to science by the age of five 90 percent of our brains are developed. It’s that last 10 percent that’s the kicker!

So if taking heed to God’s Word can keep a young man cleansed, it can work for anybody.

What if we all took David’s words to heart?
“I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know wickedness” (Ps. 101. 3, 4).
That seems a convincing antidote to unclean living, thinking, and behaving.

Then we have Paul’s words to the young pastor Timothy: “Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim. 4.12). Do it. Be it.

Job declared his stance on some of these issues: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman? For what is the allotment of God from above, and the inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is it not destruction for the wicked, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does He not see my ways, and count all my steps? (Job 31.1-4). Be careful little eyes where you go.

And then we have Paul’s words to the young pastor Titus: “…exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Tit. 2.6-8). It is possible. We should seek and strive for it.

We have now read many examples of how young men should take heed to God’s Word. And frankly, what is good for the gander is good for the goose. Young and old.

So to answer this most important question?  All of humankind can, should, and will keep our way cleansed, by taking heed to God’s Word. All of it. Cleansed. Pure and simple.

For reflection

1. What can we do to “cleanse” our way each day?

2. Why is it important that we keep our walk with the Lord cleansed?

3. How can Christians encourage one another to maintain cleansed ways in life?

To original corruption all have added actual sin. The ruin of the young is either living by no rule at all, or choosing false rules: let them walk by Scripture rules. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Psalm 119.9

Pray Psalm 119.12-16.
Pray for an opportunity to speak God’s truth in love to someone in your Personal Mission Field. Rejoice in the Lord at the prospect of declaring His Word.

Sing Psalm 119.12-16.

(Passion Chorale: O Sacred Head, Now Wounded)
Be blessed, O God our Savior; teach us Your holy Word!
Our lips proclaim with favor the statutes of the Lord.
How great our joy, dear Jesus, to follow in Your ways;
What more than this could please us, or brighten all our days?

We contemplate Your precepts and cherish all Your ways,
Delighting in Your statutes, rememb’ring all our days.
With wondrous bounty bless us, Your humble servants, Lord,
that we may live with Jesus and keep His holy Word.

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by
clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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