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HOW CAN A YOUNG MAN KEEP HIS WAY PURE?

Psalm 119:1-119:16
Key Verse: 119:9

Psalms 119 consists of 176 verses, the longest single chapter in the whole bible. The other feature of this chapter was alphabetic acrostic structure. In each strophe of eight verses, it begins with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So in verse 1-8 each line begins with the first Hebrew letter (aleph), in verses 9-16 each line begins with the second Hebrew letter (Beth) and so on. Author is unknown. Most scholars say that David could be one of the potential authors. The theme or keyword of this chapter is God’s word. Many synonyms of the words of God were used here such as “way, law, testimony, precept, statutes, commandments, and judgment”. This chapter was known as Psalm for Torah or God’s word along with Psalms 1 and 19. The author, in particular, wrote the blessings through life with the words of God. However, when we read whole chapter carefully, we can see that this Psalm was composed in the midst of the Psalmist’s great struggling at the time of sufferings and his sole desire was to hold on to the words of God. In general, people know that the book of Psalms are like beautiful melody with many beautiful words. However, the beauty of this chapter was not in listing the blessings nor unique structure but the beautiful struggle of a man loving the words of God in order to overcome the evil world and to live a godly life. We will study only first two sections out of 22. But we pray humbly that we can learn a right view on blessings and right attitude toward the words of God.

Part I. Blessed are they whose ways are blameless

Look at verses 1 and 2. “Blessed are they whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord. Blessed are they who keep his statutes and seek him with all their heart” (1-2) Here, Psalmist spoke who are blessed. According to the standard of this world, blessed are those who are healthy, rich and famous. However, Psalmist declared different blessings. Blessed people are those who keep the words of God which make them blameless before him. Here, we can think what kind of life is blameless life. Actually, the blameless doesn’t seem to fit to human being because of imperfect and sinful nature. When Adam and Even sinned against God, they blamed each other. We have same deposition. It is not easy to find someone who is blameless around us, home, school, work like blameless husband, wife and blameless colleague. What about when perfect God sees us having many transgressions!-- However, in the Bible, there are examples of people who were called blameless; Noah (Ge 6:9), Job (Job 1:1), Abraham (Ge 17:1) in the Old Testament and Zechariah and Elizabeth in the New Testament. How could they have such recognition from God? Is it because they were perfect or sinless? No. Answer is written here. They walked according to the words of God and kept them and sought God with all their heart. They constantly followed the words of God and lived what God desired.

Taking Abraham as an example, God called Abraham who had no heir and gave him a promise that he would be a father of many nations. However, Abraham could not wait God’s time and had a baby with his maidservant. It was Abraham’s failure. Abraham lost God’s promise and lived before his son Ishmael. But God visited him and said “walk before me and be blameless.” (Ge 17:1). Here, “be blameless” means that he should hold onto God’s promise again and devote himself to God. At that time, Abraham listened to God and made circumcision, as a symbol of repentance and full commitment to God. Later he could send away Ishmael to focus on raising God’s promised son Isaac. Likewise, when we devote ourselves to God’s promise that is personally given to us, he will consider our ways blameless.

Verse 2-3 repeats about blessings “Blessed are they who keep his statues and seek him with all their heart. They do nothing wrong; they walk in his ways” In this chapter,119, Psalmist described different types of blessings that are followed when we are faithful to the words of God; Salvation (41, 166), Preserved life (50, 93, 116, 144, 149, 25, 107, 154, 156/37, 40, 88, 159), The words of God also keep us pure (9), help us not to sin (11), They also make us thankful (7, 62), They are not being ashamed (6), They become wiser, They have lamp and light (105). With great peace, nothing can make stumble (165). In short, the words of God make our life secure, sure and victorious.

Look at verses 4-5. “You have laid down precepts that are to be fully obeyed.” The psalmist lived at the time when the God’s words were not honored. According to verse 126, “It is time for you to act, O LORD; your law is being broken” When he saw this, his heart was broken with many tears “Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed” In the ungodly environment with no fear to God, the psalmist still spoke that God’s law is existing to be fully obeyed. In other words, God’s law does not fade away even at the time of people’s indifference. In the end, the law would judge people. Therefore, like the Psalmist, we must be aware of God’s law by respecting and honoring it. What is best expression of honoring God’s law? It is obeying. In verse 5, the Psalmist said “Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!” Obeying God’s words was his utmost and longing desire.

Verses 6 and 7 tell blessings through living with the words of God. Verse 6. “Then I would not be put to shame when I consider all your commands” God’s commands were like a mirror to the author of this Psalm correcting his wrong doings. So, living by the words of God leads us to shameless life. Verse 7 “I will praise you with upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.” As good law sustains the quality of person and community life healthy, righteous laws keeps our way of life safe and just. In addition, righteous laws reveal God’s justice in unrighteous world. Therefore, when the Psalmist learned God’s words, he could not but praise God. In verse 164, he said “I praised God seven times a day for his righteous laws” God’s righteous words make us praise him with thanks and sense of victory.

Look at verse 8. “I will obey your decrees; do not utterly forsake me” It was his honest request. Psalmist was in great suffering by his enemies. He said “I am laid low in the dust” (25), “I suffered much” (107) ‘They almost wiped me from the earth” (87). Yet he sang the benefit of the suffering in other section saying, “Before I am afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word” (67). Suffering made him feel forsaken by God. But, he experienced the grace of God’s salvation as he determined to be obedient. In this way, his obedient spirit grew pure and strong.

In this first section, we saw the Psalmist’s strong desire to learn and obey the words of God. He upheld the words of God. The words of God were so important since he could learn about God closely and deeply. Aforementioned God’s blessings were actually the attribute of God. He is Savor, sustainer of our life, holy, worthy of praise, light and peace. So when we come close to the words of God, God reveals him who he is. He is the object of our obedience. Obedience is a key of receiving his blessings.

Part II. Hide your word in my heart

Verse 9 starts with a question. “How can a young man keep his way pure?” We are not sure why he inserted this question here. I assumed that while he mediated the words of God, he might remember his youth when he received God’s grace. He might also want to point out an important thing for young man to do during their youth. Nevertheless, this short question inspired countless young men throughout the history to think their way of life seriously before God. Firstly, let’s think about young man. As we know, time in youth is golden season of one’s life. Young people are naturally handsome, full of energy with great appetite, never tiring and quick to learn. Young people have great potential in many ways. Their energy and spirit is like a great roaring waterfalls of dynamism. However, without right channel to use that energy, it is wasted. This month, London Summer Olympics will begin. Olympics’ motto is "Citius, Altius, Fortius" which means faster, higher and stronger. Canada team sends 277 athletes in 23 sports, targeting of finishing in the top 12. Each country will send their best athletes to the games and most are young men and young women. Why? They have energy to bear a hard training to make best performances.

So, Proverbs 20:29 says “The glory of young men is their strength.”. However, the Bible also gives a warning message to them concerning the misuse of their youth. “Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9) Many things in this world look enjoyable and attractive. So, they spend much time to live according to their desires of youth such as youthful lust. (2 Timothy 2:22). However, pleasure seeking life ends up with emptiness, meaninglessness and shame, leaving regret for wasting prime time of their life aimlessly. In the end, God will judge them. So, many young people wander away because they don’t know how to manage their life, to control desire and to keep their life pure. Particularly, as they live in the ungodly culture with immoral sins and corruption, they become assimilated to the pattern of the world without knowing what is right and what is wrong.

In this regard, this psalmist’ question has significant meaning to those who are concerned about their pure life. What is an answer to the question? “by living according to your word” This is the most sure and clear answer to the fundamental question. Purity comes through the words of God. By the words of God, we can cut our impure part away. Jesus also said “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17).

We can find best examples in the Bible. His name is Daniel. He was a young man. But when he became a captive to a strong pagan nation, he made a firm decision not to defile himself with pagan food which was against God’s law. By expressing his faith and obedience, he refused to eat the food. He did not live according to situation but the words of God. The word of God was the standard of his life. God blessed his life so abundantly. Another example is Joseph who was sold by his brothers and sent to Egypt as slave. He was a handsome young man. He had no family in a foreign land. But he tried to live before God. Once the wife of his master, a hot lady, lured him to sleep with her. But he refused and ran away in order to keep his purity before God. These two stories indeed affirm that young people could keep his life pure.

From verses 10 to 16, we can think what could be necessary steps for living by the words of God. “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” At first, we could see that the motive of the author became very pure and he sought God with all his heart. Probably, in the past he sought other things along with God. However, once he experienced God’s grace, his desire was not in them anymore but God alone. He wanted to know him more. God became the object of his love and respect. Verse 11, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might no sin against him.” He loved God’s words and treasured them in his heart. This verse also reveals the preventive power of God’s word. He kept the words of God in his heart to prevent committing sin against God.

It is true that when first man lost the words of God in his heart, he sinned. Satan deceived them by taking out the words of God from them. On a contrary, what Jesus did was to plant the words of God in our hearts. Heart is a very important part. So Proverbs said “Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” How to guard our heart? How to keep our well spring of life which gives us courage and faith? Since heart is so important, it also becomes a battle field. However, based on this Psalm, we can learn that our heart become strong and healthy when we hide the words of God in our heart.

So, how can we hide the words of God in our hearts? I know someone who wrote a bible verse 1000 times until the word of God captured his heart. It gave him great strength and he could stop thinking negative and fatalistic idea and have faith in God. Memorization, recitation, writing testimony, and preaching help us to store the words of God in our hearts.

Look at verse 12. When Psalmist realized this secret of the words of God, he praised him. And he said “O Lord, teach me your decrees” “Teach me more” His heart was like a thirsty deer seeking the fresh water or a hungry baby wanting mommy’s milk.

He also said “With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth” It means your words become my words. Verse 14. “I rejoice in following your statues as one rejoices in great riches.” You might be heard what people say “Christian life looks boring” But it is not. Spiritual joy from the union of the words of God and our hearts is beyond joy coming from anything in this world. Such joy comes upon anyone who sincerely follows the words of God. Verse 15. “I meditate on his precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees.” Finally, what is his firm decision? “I will not neglect your word” (16)

Again, this section sings the importance of living by the words of God and requiring necessary steps. In that way, a young man can grow spiritually mature like the Psalmist. The words of God not only prevent us from sins but also sanctify us to bear good fruits before God. The Psalmist suffered much, but by meditating the words of God his heart was bright and joyful. He loved the words of God so much more than pure gold or million dollars and meditated all day long. They were sweeter than honey to his mouth. May God help us to love his words and uphold and obey them with strong desire. Our life may be blessed through his words. May the Holy Spirit reveal God’s words to us. May we share this blessed word of God with thirsty and hungry souls around us!

by David Kim

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