Not a common experience.
Beth is the story of my life.
And yet, it is not in God’s plan for all to be met so early in life in this way. So many have not had godly parents that took them to church, or were met at church with unkind or puzzling experiences. Perhaps what was learned in church-type environments was in direct opposition to what was experienced at home such that the truth of God was perverted. Perhaps there was no experience of God at all.
What is your experience?
By beginning with the “young man”, the psalmist is simply saying that youth is fraught with questions, molding and shaping experiences, and opportunities to choose a life course whether for good or for bad.
“How can a young [person] keep his way clean?” the psalmist begins. Youth is a time we come to realize that we are NOT clean, and we desperately want to be made so. As we grow older, we get less interested in the diagnosis or the cure on the same conscious and tender level.
Taking Heed to The Word
Yet, the answer is the same for all, regardless of age or life experience: “…by taking heed to thy word!”
The psalmist was not necessarily a young man when he wrote this. He is challenging all of us to direct our questions and our frustrations and failures toward the Lord though the reading of His Word.
And not the reading only, but the obedience of it. We don’t just read the bible like we read a bestseller or a story book, but we read as though all life depended on it. We “hide” God’s Word in our heart; that means we tuck it away in our memory banks so that we remember it when life’s incidences come to play.
I used to think that to hide God’s Word in my heart meant that I had to memorize the verses word-for-word with chapter and verse references. While that is a singularly advantageous thing to do, it is not required.
But am I thinking about what I just read? Am I asking questions? Am I applying it to my own thinking to make corrections to faulty ideas? Am I repenting of error in light of the corrective truth I read? Am I modeling what I see that is right and good from what I read?
The purpose of meditating on God’s Word in this way is so that “I may not sin against [God].”
We cannot handle the Word of God alone. That doesn’t mean we can’t read and learn and come to know God on our own. It does mean that we need to be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We need to ask God to help us understand (see Defiled).
We also need to read in “community” with other believers. How has the Word of God changed them? What questions do we all share that we can dig into together and study to find the answers? We can repent together! We can experience the joy of forgiveness together! We can find correction together. Those wiser than us can advise us and we can share with those younger in the faith as well.
We are needy and we are needed.
We can delight in the Word of God together and find strength and stability for the days ahead. We will need a community of belonging, just as a song needs expression to live.
It is clear that the earlier we come to the Word of God, the earlier we can find the stability and salvation that the Word brings. Yet whether we are young and life is pinging us against the guardrails, middle-aged and bustled by the business of life to the point we don’t have time to think about our struggles (we just live them), or older and struggling with old sins come to life again–we can all find the truth, correction, and comfort of God’s Word.
It is never too late to cleanse one’s way, to seek Him with our whole heart, to apply His Word moment by moment, to be taught by the Holy Spirit, and to joy and delight and treasure in God’s Word “more than” any earthly treasure that we’re holding on to.
A Different Kind of Past
Has your youth or past been full of pain, and the following years tortured with stuffed-back memories, or perverted ideas about a heavenly Father?Have you given up hope that you will ever be cleansed from the pollution that has haunted you? Have you come to know Christ only to be struggling still with the years when you didn’t know him? Are you doubtful, hesitant, frustrated and puzzled? Are you fearful still?
Look carefully at the psalmist’s prayer.
- Take heed and seek. Taking heed implies intensive sustained focus. To “seek” God with our “whole heart” implies the same. No one can get by in life with a casual ingestion of parables and truths. We must all come hungry and thirsty to the Word of God. We must be on the lookout for the truths that “are” for our correction. We must look to God for worship, for He is worthy to receive our praise.
- 2. Try Him. We must put what we read into practice. God says “test me and prove me in this” (1 John 4:1). See what the Lord will do, not for tomorrow, but for TODAY. He doesn’t always take us out of our painful circumstances, but stays with us, gives us peace, and shapes us so that we are not only stronger, but able to comfort others with the comfort we have been given (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). He is already working all things for your good, if you love Him and believe that He is able and willing to transform you into His likeness.
- 3. Turn from sinful thoughts. Others may have sinned against you, but we still must wrestle with our own sin (e.g., unforgiveness, rebellion toward God or man, self-focus, lust for ease, pleasure and comfort). We must “go and sin no more” (John 8:10-11). We do this by “feeding” on the Word of God for life. We cannot continue to love our sin and be free of it at the same time. We must hate sin as God hates it. We must ask God’s help in this. “Blessed art thou, O LORD; teach me…”
- 4. Declare it! Verse 13 calls us to teach others. We cannot afford to keep what we learn in private (Luke 8:39). Accountability comes by sharing with others. Tell someone what you have learned and how God has corrected you, how He has given you hope in His promises and in His salvation. Sharing strengthens the truth in our mind and heart. It extends our new community of faith and we gain a sense of belonging that is stabilizing and comforting.
- 5. Defend it. Finally, we must stand up for the Word of God. While that may include a conversational defense (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16-17;4:2), this also means that we must defend our time with the Word of God and not let “busy-ness” come between us and our reading and praying time (Matthew 6:33). We must give high priority to the Word of God and not make light of its power.
Are we meeting regularly with other believers to study the Word of God together (Acts 17:11), or are we in hiding from the accountability. Do we join with others in making light of the Body of Christ (the Church), castigating them for being as faulty and human as ourselves, or are we defending its honor by being an encourager and teacher of the Word (Colossians 3:12-17)? To “have respect unto thy ways” means to honor God’s ways, to set His Ways as higher than myself.
Decide for it
The Psalmist speaks in determined terms: “I [do these things]..”, “I will [do these things]…”. He is not bragging (“See me? I’m so good!”). He speaks like this because he is setting his will deliberately toward obedience. It is not that he is already there, but he is determined to be so, with God’s help.
Dear Lord, I am so grateful for your coming to me and assuring me of your reality and your kindness and love. You have guided me through life and have kept me from destruction even when I set you aside to pursue my own goals. You corrected me and I suffered under that correction but only in such a way as to bring me back to you. You are always with me, drawing me to you in love and not condemnation, thanks to your sacrifice on the cross. You are always teaching me, if I have a will to pay attention. Lord, I don’t always respect your Word, even though I want to. I don’t treasure my time with you but get distracted. I don’t speak up when I should to admonish or encourage another believer, and I do not always enjoy being admonished or encouraged by others. Teach my heart and let me be humbly, wholly, and only for my King. I set my will early this morning to be in obedience, just for today, so keep me just for today.
And Lord, for those who have not known you from a tender age, for those who have so much to overcome from their formative years, draw them to you in a special way that they may rejoice in you at this late hour as fully and as wholly as those of us who have known you from childhood. Wash all our memories with fresh assurances of your love for us now, and forgiveness for those who hurt us. Bless us as we seek you and surround us with your Church, for you place the lonely in families and the Church is your family. In gratefulness and praise to the Father, Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
This is the second of a two-part post. (See From My Youth, Pt. I)
© 2018 by http://www.readpsalm119.com; last revised Feb 8, 2019.
“Recovering from Child Abuse: Help and Healing for Victims (Part 1)”by David Powlison, Sept 6, 2009, CCEF.org (blog post)
“Recovering from Child Abuse: Help and Healing for Victims (Part 2)”by David Powlison, Oct 8, 2009, CCEF.org (blog post)
NOTE: Child abuse can take many forms: psychological, sexual, neglect, physical, emotional, and even spiritual (e.g., perversion of the truth of God and His Word through manipulation by those who should be our protectors and shepherds under Christ). NOTE: Abuse can happen at any age.