Psalm 119: “How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts?”

Reading the Bible, by Hermann Kaulbach (1846-1909)

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

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.

Praise be to you, O LORD ;
teach me your decrees.

With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.

I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.

I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.

I delight in your decrees;
I will not neglect your word.

(Psalm 119:9-16, New International Version)

When I was a young boy going to Sunday School there was a good bit of emphasis put on the memorization of Scripture, and also on the books of the Bible.

  • “Love your neighbor.”
  • “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
  • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
  • “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right…” (yeah, that one was put on my memory verse list for quite a while…no idea why.)

As we got older, we were encouraged to memorize more passages, relevant to new struggles we would be facing:

  • “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27)
  • “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1)
  • “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.” (Job 31:1)
  • “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (II Timothy 2:22)

There are many, many more. I share these four in the latter list because they get to the heart of what jumps out at me in today’s reading from Psalm 119. The psalmist asks, “How can a young man keep his way pure?” I have to say, in this world in which we live, it ain’t easy. It would seem that Satan is waging war on young men’s souls throwing everything he’s got at them, even the kitchen sink. There have always been the same sins, the same struggles, but they are not always so “in your face” as today (resisting the urge to say “Satan’s got his nasty bus’ness all up in our grill”….oops….should have tried harder to resist). And his tactics are working. “Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the evil pride of life” (I John 2:16) are the American way in the new millennium.

“How can a young man keep his way pure?” The psalmist gets to the crux of the matter in two statements: “”By living according to [God’s] word” and “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” In the battle for young men’s (and old men’s, too) souls, we need a two-pronged approach: head & heart. It’s not enough to memorize Scriptures; we all know those who can quote leather cover to leather cover and wouldn’t know a pure heart if it bit ’em on the nose (Satan himself comes to mind). We need to spend time as the psalmist did, even reading aloud the Scriptures to ourselves if that gives us greater insight. And, perhaps most of all, we need to come to the realization that the Word is not just about rules. God is our Father, better than any other, and has the advantage of having witnessed all of human history. He knows why He has said, “Do not commit adultery.” He’s seen the damage, witnessed the pain, comforted the families torn apart. He wants us to avoid the pitfalls and destruction to which too many have succumbed. In the end, we need to trust Him, that his Word brings forth the truths that will keep us pure and guide us to a life that we can be proud of, that we can rejoice in….to His glory. His Word needs to fill us, and transform us — mind, body, and soul.

Prayer: Father, you know our hearts. You know our struggles. You know our failures. Yet, you still love us. Keep our hearts and minds pure today as we serve You. Help us to see the wisdom and the fruit of Your truths today as we put them into practice. Keep us humble and pure, Lord. We ask this through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever, Amen.

Song: Lord, Take Control by Allen Coker

My heart, my mind, my body, my soul,
I give to You, take control;
I give my body a living sacrifice;
Lord, take control, take control.

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