How can a young man keep his way purePsalm 119:9a (ESV)
This question is not just a casual question of a young man living a pure life and passively hoping to keep it that way. Rather, it is a question of a young man looking down the path of his life, realising that he needs to live a more godly life than he is currently living, and wondering what active thing he can do to both get his life in order, and then keep it spiritually pure.
“What can a young man do to purify his way?” “How does any person live a pure and clean life in this world?” This question plagues all juvenile detention centres, every university sociology department, and the best of psychologised child welfare organisations. Even churches keep asking the question of how to keep the youth in church, as though the answer is still evading us. “What program can we use to get young people not to mess up their youth, but instead prepare them for a stable and clean rest of their lives?”
It is true that the decisions of our youth influence much of what happens in the rest of our lives. So, if, during the most decisive time of life, we want to give a person something to clean up his life and then keep it that way, what do we give him? What answer do you give a pregnant high-school girl considering her parents’ pressure to have an abortion? What answer do you give a young businessman who lost all and incurred massive debt because of a back-stabbing business partner? What answer do you give a young man trying to rid himself of drugs? What answer do you give a diligent worker trying to work with integrity in a corrupt work environment? “How, if it is even possible, can a young man make, and keep, his way pure?”
Some suggest that Daniel wrote this Psalm—young man, perhaps late teens, of noble birth, wealthy background, a true believer. Then, kidnapped to a foreign land, forced to work for his parent’s political enemy, surrounded by hundreds of other young men from all over the world—of which on three others had any fear of the true God. How does Daniel prepare himself for a pure life? How do you as a Christian prepare yourself for a pure life? If you had a one-time opportunity to help all the people in the world prepare themselves for a pure life, what would you do? That is the question that introduces us to this second stanza of Ps 119.
The introductory answer is unashamedly direct, unashamedly spiritual, and unashamedly objective.
How can a young man keep his way pure?Psalm 119:9 (ESV)
By guarding it according to your word.
This answer does not begin with “Well, I think”, or “Well, human research has proven”, or “After years of experience we realised”, but simply affirms “by guarding it according to your word”—unashamedly direct.
But being direct has little virtue in itself. This answer is not only clear, concise, and to the point, but it is also spiritual. It is an answer that is much more reliable than any human opinion, research, or insight. The answer is in terms of “your word” – the Word of God. The question that opens this verse is common to all mankind, but the answer that closes this verse is an answer that reaches above the circle of human understanding, ability, and experience. This answer is an answer that has been prepared by God’s thoughts, boxed up and delivered to mankind by the Holy Spirit. We have an answer that comes from our Creator. We have an answer that is perfect, without error, and unaffected by human limitations.
That means therefore, that the answer given is also objective. It is direct, spiritual, and objective. God has not left us wondering about this life, but has given us His Word. The answer we can give to all mankind, and especially for ourselves, regarding how to clean up our lives and keep them pure, is found in the revealed Word of God. No more do we need to run from one person’s opinions to another; no longer do we need to run from one supposed spiritual experience to another. We have the Word of God. We have an answer that is the same for everyone, that can be read, reread, studied, and explained.
No longer are we trapped by “I think” – we have been liberated by an objective “Thus says the LORD”