“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” (Psalm 119:9-11).
It is becoming increasingly difficult to find Christians who live a clean, holy and obedient life, therefore this text applies itself to all rather than just young men. “The remark here might be applied also to those who are in middle life, or even to those who are in more advanced years” (Barnes’ Notes on the Bible). Personal purity is a must in a world that has dedicated itself to offending God by every means possible. The Scriptures teach us much about the need for holiness, so we wonder why so few seem to notice. “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD” (Psalm 119:1).
How can a person live righteously? The Bible teaches that “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10), and that any attempt to do so only produces “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). So then, is it possible to live a clean life without making use of the means that God has provided? The answer is a resounding “no”, for without living righteously God’s way, and by attempting to placate Him through duty or religion, we in fact continue to “come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
The remedy for an unclean heart is found in God’s word. There we will find all the instruction we need to please Him and the strength to stand firm no matter what temptations the world presents us with. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
As man has moved away from the commandments of God, so too has his morality degraded. It is evident as we watch the daily news broadcasts just how depraved the heart of man has become, yet he sees himself as relatively moral. What he fails to note is that his understanding of what good and evil has changed with each passing year. The sad fact is that the majority reject Christ, the Scriptures and the church because they endeavour to built a moral society without the provision God has made. “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” ((Romans 10:3).
The psalmist had the right understanding for how a person might live a godly life. He sought the Lord instead of looking for advisors in the world, or trying to justify himself through man’s level of morality. He realised that a half-hearted approach to purity would not change his life, and that he could not do it without full dedication to the Lord. Maybe many Christians today do not accept the need for personal purity because they are either not convinced that they need it, or are not concerned enough about their souls to want it. We have the tendency to go our own way instead of the Lord’s, therefore we must seek Him and allow Him to work His holiness into us. “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments” (Psalm 119:176).
The psalmist’s desire was not to “come short” of God’s standard of perfection, but instead obey His commandments with all his heart. “Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart” (Psalm 119:2). He knew that a life that is not guided by Scripture is one that always allows sin to dominate its nature. The conformity to God’s will was a must. A true believer wants to “Purge himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit” (John Wesley). “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).
As the doctor expects us to take the medication he has prescribed if we are to recover from a physical malady, so too must we receive God’s word to overcome the cancer called “sin”.
To “hide” the Scriptures in our heart means that we must store and treasure them as the most precious thing in our lives. It cannot be done if we fail to read and study God’s word for ourselves. It is simply not enough to listen to sermons or read book about the Bible if we aim to grow in Christ. Also, personal purity is not gained by memorising a lot of Bible passages. What we learn from it has to transform our souls rather than just educating our brains.
The psalmist makes it very clear that all sin is a sin against God. This means that even the smallest sin is an offence to Him. “Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity” (Habakkuk 1:13). If sin is overcome through standing upon the precepts of Scripture we will walk in victory on a daily basis. Sin has the means to keep us from God’s word but God’s word has the power to keep us from sin.
If we follow the standards of the world or the modern church, then we will not believe that living a clean and holy life is possible. “If God’s word is carved in our hearts, we will be more able to resist the assaults of Satan” (Geneva Study Bible Notes). If we abide in Christ and His word, we will not only see that it is possible, but we will experience it in all its glory. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16). The bottom-line is this, do we really want to please God through purity of heart or not? “Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3-4).