Do me a favor and please read Psalm 119:9-16
This portion of the psalm jumps right out by asking a very simple, complex, and deeply timeless question: How do I walk along the path of purity? Now for you and I that may seem like an odd question – or maybe it’s just me. The Hebrew word here means proper, innocent, but even more so it brings this connotation of a superior moral quality. So for me, and this is me here, I picture some hoity-toity person who never does the wrong thing, always makes the right choices, has never gotten a bad grade, has never defied their parents, has never had to sneak into the house because they missed curfew, and generally someone who is BEYOND perfect. And in a way this is what the psalmist is declaring by using the word. But is that what they’re saying they are?
No – they are not. They are asking a question and so in case you missed it (like I tend to do) here is the question again with some nice little emphasises (that’s not a word but I need it so I made it up) that becomes utterly important: “How CAN a young person STAY on the PATH OF purity?” What this means is that they are declaring that not only are they NOT pure but everything they keep doing knocks them OFF this “path of purity”…and yet they want to be on it. They want to be of “moral quality.” They want to make themselves pure (think of washing here), they want to be proper and proclaim to be innocent – but they aren’t. So how? How can they? How can someone, who is walking down the wrong path get onto the right one?
Well, what is the wrong path or what is the right path – because ultimately this is about making the right choices in life. So what are the wrong ones? Well, the psalmist doesn’t tell us what those wrong choices they’ve made are but we do see what the RIGHT choices are:
- Vs 9b: Living according to God’s word
- Vs 10: Seeking God’s heart and following his commands (this would be the Law and those 613 commands the people were supposed to adhere to)
- Vs 11: don’t sin against God
- Vs 12: learning God’s decrees
- Vs 13: SPEAKING the Law and not just knowing it
- Vs 14: following the statues of God
- Vs 15: reflecting on God’s way and word
- Vs 16: seeing the beauty of God’s Law, finding the joy it has, and obeying the Word of God.
This is the path the psalmist declares that they WANT to be on. A path that leads to joy, happiness, and eventual purity. Yeah, that’s what I WANT but how attainable is it? It’s not. But is it a pipe-dream then? Is it some false reality that we try to achieve but know that we never will? And if that’s the case why even try? Because I know this simply is not going to be my reality. I will sin…A LOT. I will NOT stay on that path of “purity” because I wander all over the place and my attention span is like a dog who is walking along, doing great, then sees a squirrel and takes off running!
I know I’ve said this quite a bit about the psalms but I love the fact that they are not only timeless but that they are also extremely honest. I love how the psalmist, in this text, declares what they know they NEED to do but in that same breath declares that this is going to be hard. Here’s a few examples:
- “Do not let me stray” – the psalmist is declaring that they will but they need God to hold them close. (vs 10)
- “…that I might not sin against you.” – the psalmist is recognizing that they will sin against God. They hope that they don’t but they know that they will. (vs 11)
- “Teach me your decrees” – what I love about those 4 words is that the psalmist is saying, “I don’t know what the right thing to do is, and I’m probably doing the wrong thing, and I know that YOUR ways are right and true…so team me the right things so that I can stop doing the bad things.” (vs 12)
- “I recount all the laws that come FROM YOUR MOUTH” (my emphasis added). I love this because it, just like the previous one, declares that the laws that come from OUR MOUTHS are not the laws of God. Ours are wrong – His is good. (vs 13)
These 8 verses declare that the ways of God are good and yet this young person knows that it is a struggle to walk that path. More than a struggle, it’s impossible and they need God to lead, guide, hold, and help which is why I love that question in the opening verse: “How can a young person stay on the path of purity?” Answer: We can’t. Better answer/understanding: it’s a path that LEADS to purity – the path itself says nothing about being pure while on it!
You and I, because of God’s grace through the redemption of Jesus Christ (Rom 3:24) understand that this is the very reason Christ came! We know that the path we’re on isn’t one that is pure but because of Christ our path LEADS TO purity – because HE HIMSELF is pure. And yet we’re still called to walk that path and work towards purity (by following the Laws, precepts, decrees of God) all the while understanding we cannot. So yeah, I love the fact that the psalmist declares they can’t get pure and yet seeks to try every single day. It’s a beautiful lesson for all of us broken sinners.
3 QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CHEW-ON:
- What does the “path of purity” look like for you? Are you currently there? What changes should/can you make?
- Are you like me and a have a vision of what someone “pure” looks like – is it negative or positive? If negative – why? Why is “doing the right thing” seen as nugatory?
- Verse 14 seems like it works completely against the ways of this world. How can we “rejoice” in the statues of God just like, or more than, one rejoices in “great riches” (thins like money and “stuff”)?