Psalm 119:9-16: How Can a Young Man Keep His Way Pure?

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Psalm 119:9-16: How Can a Young Man Keep His Way Pure?

June 2, 2022


1 Kings 2-3Psalm 119:9-16Luke 1:26-38Ephesians 1:15-23

Psalm 119:9-16:

The question with which this part of Psalm 119 opens is a question that has troubled young men from time immemorial. It is ever pertinent and important, and sometimes for some people seemingly unattainable. “How can a young man keep his way pure?” (119:9). While the psalmist asks this question, let us begin by giving him credit for asking it at all.

First of all, it is apparent that he wants to be pure. Do you? If you do, that is a great first step! It is a sign of God’s work in you that you desire to be pure! “Give me clean hands and a pure heart”: is that your request and your desire? If so, be encouraged—even if you feel you have failed recently. It is a sign that God is at work in you: that you want to be pure.

But then also, not only does he desire to be pure, he is asking how to be be pure. It is one thing to desire purity of heart and life in theory; it is another thing to actually seek out techniques and tools to have the discipline that will bring about the end that you desire. Some people want to do well at school, but unless you ask how to do well at school and put those lessons into practice, you are unlikely to do well at school. Some people want to get a job. But unless you seek a job, you are unlikely, all things considered, to find a job. So, do you not only desire to be pure, but also do you want to know practically how to be pure? Consider carefully your answer to that question! Because if you answer yes, that you do desire to be pure, then this psalm will provide you with some practical help—a practical tool that you can put into practice in order to be pure.

The key is all in the next line that comes after the question; every other part of the psalm is filling out this maxim and completing it and further applying it. What is the answer to how a young man can keep his way pure? “By guarding it according to your word” (119:9). This is the great answer to how to maintain a pure heart and life: read the Bible, understand the Bible, apply the Bible, meditate on the Bible, obey the Bible, let the Bible come into you and transform you. This is the way that Jesus defeated the tempter in Matthew 4. This is the way that you can defeat temptation too—for you will be tempted. The only question is whether you will find the strength to keep your way pure even in the middle of sometimes acute temptation to not be pure.

What does it mean to guard your way according to the Word of God? The verses here give us further explanation.

  • It means to seek God with your whole “heart.” This is no dry intellectualism. It is a seeking of God personally with all that is in your mind, will, and emotions too.
  • It means to “store up” God’s Word in your heart. That is, memorize God’s Word—again, not merely to be able to repeat it as if it were merely Bible trivia or some sort of Scriptural Spelling Bee test. No, store it up in your heart. Memorize it, but to such an extent that it means something to you. Why is it that many of our churches have stopped memorizing Scripture? Do we not want to be pure?
  • It means coming to God’s Word with a sense of humility to learn: “teach me your statutes” (119:12). People who learn nothing from the Bible usually don’t want to learn anything from the Bible. You’re never too old to learn something new if you come to the Bible wanting to learn, asking God by His Spirit to teach you!
  • It means passing on the truth of God’s Word to others. One of the best ways to obey what God says in the Bible is to do evangelism. When you tell someone else about the gospel, you realize again how precious it is. Perhaps you are struggling with purity because you are not evangelizing!
  • It means “delighting” in the Bible (119:16). That is worshipping God because of what you are learning in the Bible. Singing the Bible. Putting the Bible ahead of monetary gain—for it is more precious than many rubies.
  • It means “meditating” on the Bible (119:15), churning it over and over again in your mind until you gain insight, and so in this way fixing your “eyes” on what it is saying. It is not just skimming over the surface, but churning it over and over again in your mind.
  • It means doing this all regularly so that you “will not forget God’s word” (119:16). My experience is that there is no replacement for daily Bible study and prayer. That way you won’t forget what God is saying in his Word. Whatever you don’t do every day probably won’t have much lasting impact on you. Do not “forget” God’s Word.


Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.


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