All throughout the 119th psalm are words that are descriptive of God’s Word. In fact, there are only a few verses in which you will not find it mentioned. Obviously the author felt that God’s Word was vital.
The passage we will look at this morning has within it one of the most familiar verses of Scripture. While reading, I could not help but think of the cliché “Your Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from your Bible.” I am not a huge fan of clichés, but I believe this one to be accurate. The writer of this psalm would have at least agreed with the first part.
Let’s look at it now.
Section Two – BETH
Psalms 119:9-16 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.
With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.
The passage begins with a question. That is not such a bad idea. Questions, when properly asked, cause us to stop and ponder. We feel the need to answer, and hopefully, to think. I have found that asking questions is the most valuable part of a conversation. Two people who simply talk about themselves in declarative statements will have very little depth in their relationship. However, if one party will ask thoughtful questions about the other person, (both about what they are saying and about the person themselves) they will soon get to know them better, and feel that they have grown closer together.
When we have a question about life, we can do as the psalmist did. Ask a question, and then go to the Bible for the answer.
Here we have a young man who has gotten his feet dirty by walking down the wrong path. Maybe he wandered aimlessly. Maybe he was drawn away by friends. Maybe he failed to heed the signs. Whatever the case, he got off track, and wound up soiled by sin. What is he to do? How can he get both clean, and back on track?
The psalmist provides the answer. “by taking heed thereto, according to thy word.”
Now, sometimes I think we get the focus of this verse a little wrong. The writer is not saying to take heed only to God’s Word, although that is often how I have heard it taught. The word “thereto” refers back to the word “way.” The statement could be written this way to aid clarity:
“Wherewithall shall a young man cleanse his way? By paying attention to his steps and making sure they are according to Your Word.”
How often do we get ourselves in trouble when we allow our lives to take a course that is clearly warned against in scripture? Possibly this young man had been neglecting God’s Word. Either that, or he had failed to let it actually influence his life choices. Most of us are in the second camp. We don’t actually neglect God’s Word, we just don’t let it actually direct our steps, and that is when we get into trouble. The answer? Line up our feet with the signposts of God’s Word.
Notice how easy it is to get of track. “…O let me not wander from thy commandments.” Vs. 2
That is how it happens. Wandering. We look up, and we don’t know how we got here. But the psalmist provides the key to getting back on track.
The rest of the psalm, including the part that is most well-known (Vs 3) describes the psalmist’s plan for staying close to God and on the right path. It involves essentially three things. They are:
- Memorization of God’s Word- He hid God’s Word in his heart. He memorized it. This was either through rote memorization, (which is likely) or simply from spending so much time reading it. Either way. He knew that he could not walk around all day reading the Bible. Neither can you or I. However, if we memorized it, we take it with us. It can speak to us throughout the day when we face tempation and difficult choices.
- Declaration of God’s Word – “with my lips have I delcared all the judgments of thy mouth.” He talked about God’s word. Maybe he even shared it with others. Possibly he preached himself a sermon in a difficult moment. Have you ever done that? It helps!
- Meditation on God’s Word- Psalms 1 describes the blessing on a man who meditates in God’s Word day and night. We hide God’s Word in our heart. We speak it with our lips, and we soak our minds with it. We let it infuse our thinking. We take a verse of Scripture and mull it over all day long. I challenge you to take a verse that speaks to you and memorize it. Then share it with someone. Then mull on it throughout the day.
- Appreciation of God’s Word- Two words, delight and rejoice, give us an idea of how the psalmist felt about God’s Word. He didn’t hate it. He didn’t feel that it cramped his style. He wasn’t bitter that it directed his steps in a certain direction. He loved it! He knew the blessing of it. He knew that sin was deceptive, but God’s Word was light! Dear reader, how often is this our attitude. Do we know the blessing that awaits those who follow God’s Word, and let it direct their steps?
I am left with the feeling that I could do more to let the Bible have a central role in my life. I wonder about you? Be honest with yourself. Could we make any adjustments?
Heavenly Father, You have given us Your Word to guide us, and instruct us. Sometimes I find myself in a place I should not be. Sometimes my feet get dirty. Help me today to let the principles and the signposts of Your Word be my guide. Don’t let me wander from Your commandments. Keep me on the right path, and let me experience the blessing that results from obedience to you. In Jesus name, amen