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October 21st, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Psalm 119:9: Keep Your Way Pure

Today we start into the “beth” stanza of Psalm 119, Psalm 119:9-16, the stanza where every line in the original poem begins with the Hebrew letter “beth.”

The first line is familiar and widely memorized:

How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.

The phrase “young man” suggests that the writer of the Psalm may indeed be a young man, though that is not certain.

It’s almost like the writer is saying, “How can I keep my way pure?” The answer: “by keeping it according to your word.”

And so, we’re back into the environment of prayer, of personal communication between the Psalmist and God, between ourselves as God.

The “man” in the verse is a man who is moving or has moved out from under his father’s rule. It is someone at the beginning of being “his own man” and “on his own.”

He seems to be struggling with the reality of youthful passions of whatever nature. There is within him a longing for purity, for “cleanness” before God. This young man desires that his “way”,” that is, the course of his life, his “daily walk” in our terms, would be pure and holy.

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

As we peer into this young man’s heart we see a yearning and a longing for walking blamelessly before his God. Yet we also detect fear, doubt, anxiety, and lack of self confidence. I think this particular type of lack of self confidence is a good thing.

In light of the inner passions of life, the enticements of the world, the whispers of the devil, and the false counsel of godless friends, how in the world is a young man supposed to keep his way pure?

It is a great question. Everyone should ask this question.

The answer at first doesn’t seem to satisfy. The answer is quite simple: “by keeping it according to your word.” Part of us may want to say, “Duh, of course, but how do I DO THAT?”

Well, it is not a “duh” for everyone. Many professing Christians go about their lives as if they are not required to be directed by the Word of God. But there is only one path of purity and holiness and blamelessness towards God, and that is the path set forth in His Word. We need to have firm resolution about that. We need to know for certain that there is no other way. Many people, even professing Christians, don’t really believe that.

But Jesus modeled this for us. His meat and drink was His Father’s word. He knew that man cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. He fought off the devil’s temptations with the Word of God.

Thankfully we know that by ourselves, in our own strength, we cannot keep our way pure. We know, realistically, that we’re going to mess up along the way.

And we know that We’ve already sinned and rebelled against God, and we already are under judgment, except that His Son and our Lord has stepped in for us, taking upon Himself our sin and guilt, His obedience being  imputed to us by His Father. Thus we are given standing before God.

We are not to be flippant about this standing, or disrespect the cost of acquiring it. We are still supposed to have a deep passion for holiness, a longing to please our heavenly Father, a yearning to represent Him well and a striving to be what we were made to be.

And so we must press on. We seek to walk blamelessly before Him by walking according to His Word.

My fellow believers in Jesus, The Word of God and the Spirit of God work together. The Spirit who renewed you abides in you to strengthen and empower you in your struggle against sin. You cannot keep your way pure without the Spirit’s power.

Nor can you keep your way pure without the Word dwelling in you, for the Spirit uses the Word to transform you. Neither Word without Spirit nor Spirit without Word is healthy or enough. There must be both.

The Spirit needs to the Word in your heart and mind to “work with” as it were. He uses the Word to guide, convict, teach and exhort. The Word without the Spirit is but a dead letter.

The “how” question always seems to tempt us to look for a definitive technique. We are vulnerable to promises of shortcuts. What three steps can I take to remain pure before God? What one thing can I do to jump to a different level? What is the exact day to day “how to” guide that will keep my way clean and blameless.

There isn’t one.

But, we must (we absolutely must) know that the way to purity is through the Spirit of God working with the Word of God in our hearts. We must take consistent advantage of all the means of grace for the Spirit to do His work. We read our Bibles. We pray. We engage in Christian community where we find the Word of God dwelling. We partake of the sacraments which are the Word of God visibly displayed. We let ourselves be open to counsel, rebuke, exhortation. We confess our sins. We read good books that build us up and fill our faith with understanding.

There is no silver bullet, magic pill, or water tight process. It’s the consistent ongoing exposure to God’s word, a word that, like Mary the mother of Jesus, we treasure up in our heart, or as it says later in this stanza, we “store up” in our heart “that we might not sin against Him.”

A couple of years ago some not-very-nice people – probably Russian mafia or a radical Islamic group or a drug cartel (according to the security agents I talked to) – planted a little “trojan” on my computer, a small little program that came in under the radar. I was likely not targeted. They send these out by the millions and they land where they land. I had anti spyware and anti virus software running, but when they send out new variations by the millions day after day the software can’t keep up.

So this little bug landed and sat on my hard drive waiting…..waiting until I typed in the URL to a bank it was programmed to recognize. Then it came alive. It recorded my user name and password as I signed in, and then sent this information to somebody far away somewhere. A little later and unknown to me that somebody used the URL, user name, and pass code to get into my bank account, set up Bill Pay (which I had at that time not yet set up), and sent a check for all but $200 in my account to someone in Texas who was also being scammed. Thankfully I caught it quickly and the security officials were able to restore my money and I think halt the check so the other person would not be scammed. I had to get a new checking account number and all the rest. It was a nightmare. The very Secret-Service-sounding security guy said that usually these kind of key logger trojans self destruct, but not always. We later found a previously undetected trojan, but we were unsure if it was the one that had done the deed.

The point? Well, the Word of God dwelling richly within us is like a little program that can communicate with our conscience and with the Spirit. When we have treasured up the Word, we find that when there is opportunity to sin, the Spirit activates the Word that activates our conscience, and we are able to say “no.” We are able to stay clean. We are able to do the right thing. The Spirit and the Word go together and work together.

Thankfully the Word does not self destruct and we don’t have to wipe our hard drives clean. In fact, the more the Word dwells in us, and the more we see the Spirit at work, the more we build resistance to certain temptations (though others are waiting in line…).

“Father in heaven, how can a young (or old) man (or woman) keep his way clear? Yes, thank you, by keeping it according to your word.”

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