Psalm 119:9~Guarding Your Way With the Word

Is there any segment of society more notorious for their sins than young men? They are often headstrong and willful. Rarely can they see the downstream effects of their actions. They fail to listen carefully to advice thus making foolish and ignorant choices. The psalmist knows this. In fact, he was probably a young man himself. Psalm 119:9-16 begins with something that sounds like a word of despair:

How can a young man cleanse his way?

Or as the ESV says:

How can a young man keep his way pure? 

“Lord, I am a young man. The world is filled with pits and dangers. My heart is filled with sin. There are lusts that wage war on my soul. There are temptations to greed, anger, bitterness, lust, and disrespect all around and I give in to them too often. Lord, how can I stay clean in a world like this with a heart like mine?”

Is that not a cry for help?

The word for “cleanse/pure” points to morally purity. Asaph uses it in Psalm 73:13 where it looks like the wicked are winning. He thinks he has been morally clean for no good reason. David pleads with God to cleanse him from his sins in Psalm 51:7. Here we see that the word does not just point to action, but also to our hearts. David is asking the Lord to clean his heart. Micah 6:11 says that those who cheat others out of money cannot be counted as “pure.” In Psalm 119:9 the emphasis is on how we live, how we walk.

How can I live a pure life in the midst of this wicked world?

The first thing we should note is humans do not change, no matter how much time has passed. Young men in 600 B.C. are the same as young men in A.D. 2015.  Their hair may be different. They carry cell-phones instead of spears. They shop at Wal-Mart instead of hunting for antelope or growing corn. But inside nothing has changed. The temptation to sexual immorality is the same. The desire to get rich while being lazy has not changed. The tightening in the throat when they are told what to do by parents or employers has not changed. Therefore the Bible remains relevant at all times, in all places, and for all men because it is given by the one God who does not change to address the fundamental needs of mankind who does not change. Despite being over 2,500 years old Psalm 119:9 still speaks.

The answer to the young man’s cry is simple. “Take heed/guard [his way] according to God’s Word.”  A young man is to watch his path and his heart. When he sees himself wandering from God’s Word he is to come back. His thoughts, deeds, words, and desires are to be fenced in by the Word of God. God’s Word keeps us from heading down the path of destruction. 

We don’t like this answer. We want something new. We want something magical. And let’s be honest, we want something easy. But the path of holiness is obedience to God’s revealed Word. It always has been and always will be.  The only way a young man can stay clean in this world is to read, study, memorize, and obey the Bible.  The Scriptures are the primary tool for sanctification. If you do not use this tool then you cannot expect victory. There are no short cuts around God’s Word for righteous living. 

The psalmist is telling young men to watch out for “big” sins, such as sexual immorality. But he is talking about much more than that. A young man whose way is guarded by God’s Word will be a man of prayer and repentance. He will be a man whose faith in God grows day by day. He will learn to sacrifice for those around him. He will put off temporary ease for long term gain. He will love his neighbor. He will protect the weak and cast down the proud. He will love to sit underneath God’s Word every Sunday. He will treat women with respect. He will work hard and give generously. His close friends will be those who love Jesus. Be careful about thinking of a pure/clean life only in terms of sexual sin. It includes that of course, but there is much more to “cleansing our way” than avoiding porn. 

The battles young men fight with lust, anger, pride, laziness, disrespect, and apathy are not new battles. They are as old as Genesis 3.  The way to win these battles has always been the same; believe and obey God’s Word. Young men if you are losing the battle against sin you can be sure your failure to believe and obey God’s Word is the main problem. Do you know the Word? Are you reading it regularly? Are you memorizing verses or passages? Do you humbly listen to your pastor every Sunday? God has given all you need to grow in holiness. Are you using what He has given?

Other Posts on Psalm 119
Psalm 119:2-4
Psalm 119:7