I love questions, and I hope you love them as well. Questions are the ingredients of learning; if we ask them, we may find answers that season our minds, and our hearts, and our spirits in such a way that God and life can be savored more deeply. If we don’t ask questions, then we may find our taste buds soon become dull to the pleasures of life.
In Psalm 119:9, the Psalmist asks: How can a young man keep his way pure? This is an important question—one we’d all do well to consider. And the question is interesting in that the young are called out in particular. The assumption almost seems to be that the path we take early in life is often the path we continue later in life. And this is true, isn’t it? Many of us live out our youths and then spend the rest of our lives dealing with the consequences, whether positive or negative. School experiences, the absence of a mother, the abuse of a father, the training of loving parents, the presence of a dear friend—all of these affect us deeply in ways that are lasting.
The answer to this question, and the answer to the question of how an old man can keep his way pure, is the same: by guarding, storing, seeking, and using the word of God.
We might imagine our lives as a walk along a path. As we become young men and women, there are many paths we can take, like spokes on a wheel, and as we choose one and walk along it, we find there are many things that would pull us off this path. Detours, obstacles, ruts, holes, calls from others to join their paths—all these distract us from the simple task of walking forward each and every day.
What keeps us on the path of faith is the word of God. His word protects this path, and it directs the path itself. But using it in this way is intentional—the Psalmist says we “guard” or “keep” the path according to His word. So as the path is to be walked daily, the guarding or keeping must be daily as well.
Also along these paths are storehouses. Storehouses, as you know, are meant to store things. And we store things not for the sake of storing them, but so that we might use them one day. The Psalmist says he has “stored up [God’s] word in [his] heart [so] that [he] might not sin against [Him]” (v. 11). If the storehouses are empty, then we may be out of luck. And if they’re full and we don’t use them, then we may be out of luck. So storing up His word is crucial, and going into the storehouse to use the word is crucial, if we’re to remain on our path of faith.
Finally, we can never keep to this path alone. The Psalmist cries out, “With my whole heart I seek you,” (v. 10) which is odd in that he just lamented his lack of steadfastness in v. 5. So he must be expressing a heart desire, rather than a statement of fact. And we do find him on his path, crying out for help, saying, “Let me not wander from your commandments!” (v. 10). He knew what we know—that we walk our paths of life alone at our peril. The best path, the path of purity, the path of joy, is a path walked with God.
This God, who is the Word, who gave us His word, who reminds us of His word, is our faithful companion. May we grow in our understanding that He is there with us, that His word will guard our paths, so that we might not sin against Him, and so that we might experience the fullness of joy in walking each day by His side.
Question: When you read Scripture, do you think of it as storing up for use, either now or later, or something else altogether?