How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
Blessed are you, O LORD;
teach me your statutes!
With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word.
(Psalm 119:9-16 ESV)
This morning I looked at all the options the Lectionary had to offer, and was manifestly uninspired by any of it. I had just preached on the passage from Matthew that was the Gospel lesson, so you’ve all seen my commentary on that one. Ho hum. The Epistle is some rant by Paul about getting beaten and shipwrecked. That’s boring. The OT reading is from Deuteronomy and is a warning about old people forsaking the Lord and then coming back to him. Yawn… he never breaks his covenant. There were also three Psalms (12, 13, and 14) that were mostly about evil people pursuing the righteous or something like that. I didn’t really read them that carefully.
So I started checking out what my friends were doing on Facebook and Twitter, watched the CBS Evening News (with Katie Couric) – you can do that online anytime you want – I read some want ads, checked my bank balances, and then thought about reading the 119th Psalm… again.
I don’t get the Lectionary. It seems like the Daily Office always ends up back at Psalm 119. I realize it is the longest chapter in the Bible, but really… I’ve read it! Still, I didn’t want any of my readers to think I was shirking my commitment to write every day. I also thought it would come off as pretty lame if I said I wasn’t writing because I was bored by everything I saw.
That’s how I ended up staring at Psalm 119:9-16.
I memorized Psalm 119:9-11 just after I received Christ in 1974. The verse was contained in a packet of verses from NavPress called Going on with Christ. As a young man I was passionate about God’s Word, even before I knew much about about it. I came to Christ listening to a series of messages on Ephesians by Pastor Ray Stedman (1917-1992) of Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, CA. His exegesis of the six chapters of Ephesians in six messages is still the most complete, condensed, and insightful I’ve ever seen in all these years. I think that’s where I got my love for the Word.
Psalm 119:9-11 encourages young believers to really absorb the Word. Yea, I know it says “young man.” Maybe David knew something about the way men are tempted. Or maybe it is just because it was 1000 BC and they didn’t let girls read. In any case, I think we should understand it as a universal application today. All believers will benefit from “hiding God’s word in their hearts.” The warning to old people I spoke of in Deuteronomy 4:25-31 (you’ll have to look it up for yourself) makes me realize that when I was young I would never have yawned with jaded boredom reading anything from the Bible. The genealogies in Numbers were interesting to me back then.
You know, the Apostle Paul declared the Word with his mouth (Romans 10:9-10). He delighted in testimonies from God (2 Timothy 3:16). He meditated on God’s precepts, and quoted them frequently (Romans 3:9-20, for example). He fixed his eyes on God’s ways (Philippians 3:12-16). He delighted in God’s statutes (Romans 3:1-4). Paul did not forget God’s word. I think that’s probably what got him shipwrecked and beaten (2 Corinthians 11).
As to whether Psalms 12, 13, and 14 should be of any interest to a believer today, either they are or, as the Psalmist observes, “the faithful have vanished from among the children of men.”
There’s nothing ho hum about God’s word. But because of the sin of my heart it is so easy for me to end up like the man in Deuteronomy 4, worshiping idols made of wood. “But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Thank God for the grace to always come back to him and for the reminder of my own wandering heart!