“Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee. Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes. With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways. I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word” (Psalm 119:9-16).
The second grouping of verses under the title ‘Beth’ deals mainly with thoughts about cleansing from sin. Here the psalmist reveals that purity can be maintained through constant obedience to the word of God.
The opening question ought always be at the forefront of a believer’s mind if he or she desires to stand in the presence of the holy God. The question acknowledges the fact that each one of us were lost in sin before we received the wonderful gift of salvation through Christ. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). The question is quickly answered, for true cleansing is maintained when we apply the Scriptures to every part of our lives. Through it God gives us all the instruction we need to live in a fallen world free from uncleanness and sin. The Lord Jesus Christ speaks of the cleansing power of His word in John 15:3, “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you”. By allowing Him to direct our way, we fill find that the Holy Spirit always leads us in the path of righteousness and holiness. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6). This may be called practical obedience.
Verses 10 and 11 are the psalmist’s confession (declaration) of his complete trust in the cleansing power of the word of God. Once again he speaks of coming to God and obeying His will with his whole heart, but recognises how easy it is for man to neglect and ignore His commands. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The Lord can reveal His will, but it is our responsibility to stay in the centre of it. Some might suggest that God automatically keeps believers in His will, yet the everyday life of the majority of Christians is proof enough that while He can, He does not. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27). Verses such as this would be meaningless if God imposes His will on us. In fact, God does not live our Christian lives for us, but He does give us His Holy Spirit and His word, so that if we walk obediently according to them; we can live in His will. No wonder therefore that the psalmist states, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee”. If we put this into action in our lives, through reading, studying, meditating upon and memorisation of the Bible, we would find that we are well equipped to overcome temptation and sin. Did not the Lord Jesus Christ defeat Satan’s temptations by the power of the Scriptures (see Matthew 4:1-11)? Therefore, as the Lord requires in John 8:31-32, we must abide and remain in His word if we are to truly walk in freedom; “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. The lives of Christ’s followers are determined by their obedience, or the lack of it, to the word of God. The best book in the world is the Bible. The best place to put it is in the heart. The best reason for doing so is that it keeps us from sinning against God.
The rest of the passage reveals the psalmist’s commitment to acting upon what he learns from God’s word. He acknowledges that all glory belongs to the Lord for empowering him to overcome sin rather than it being mere willpower on his part. God teaches His people the truth and gives them every possible means to live in it. Notice that there is no drudgery in being obedient to the will of God, instead it is a joy and a reason to rejoice. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:3). Perhaps he had great riches, yet the word of God was the absolute best treasure of all. Solomon wrote exactly this about the wisdom, “If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:4-5). Can we forget what Jesus said in Luke 12:34? “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It is certain that if our heart is not in searching out the wonderful truths of Scripture, then we will receive nothing from it, nor will we be blessed by it. With this in mind, we can say that God’s word ought to be our delight. Any neglect of His word should be an abomination to all faithful followers of Christ. Maybe we should start our day with the same confession of faith as the psalmist expressed in :16, “I will not forget Thy word”. Forgetting God’s word here refers to abandoning, turning away from and neglecting what God has said.
Let us remind ourselves what the ‘Beth’ section of Psalm 119 is all about by noting the words of Jesus’ in John 17:17, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth”. Therefore God’s word is not just given so that we can have daily devotionals and listen to preachers expounding on the finer points of doctrine, much more than this, God uses it to cleanse and keep us from sin. As mentioned above, obedience to the word brings freedom into our lives, but let us not ignore the fact that it is freedom from sin that Jesus is talking about. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). It is our responsibility to live according to the revealed will of God as clearly stated in His word, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Romans 8:13). Those who do so will know the joy of serving the Lord. “Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isaiah 12:3).