How can a young man keep his way pure?
By living according to your word.
This questions is worthy of a considerable prayer before God. It is relevant to an individual, but also to the church – it is vital that young people find the way of purity and holiness! With it, their spiritual growth and the prospering of the kingdom is sure. Without it… stagnation, confusion and loss. What is the one thing that allows a person to remain separate and holy and unlike the world? It really is this simple – a life that is aligned to the Word of God. And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us… If we want to align ourselves with the Word of God, we welcome Jesus into our lives, by his Holy Spirit, whom he promised will teach us all things and remind us of his Word – the words that we hear which are not from Jesus but from the Father and of the Father. And the Gospels and the law and the prophets and the letters and every part of scripture, in pointing to the Word, Jesus Christ, is the way we are to live.
I seek you with all of my heart;
do not let me stray from your commands.
The great truth that God will allow us to live as Jesus does – in unity with him – should motivate us to search whole-heartedly for the one who loves us. Forgive us, Lord, when these words are not true and we give other things place in our hearts – but also, Lord, cut away that hard and selfish and stupid heart and give us the heart of flesh and tenderness that longs for you! For God to ‘not let’ us to stray, he must have a firm grip on us – we must allow him to grasp us tightly with his hand – we must be given over to him and willing to feel the uncomfortable proximity of his clutch. Only if we change ourselves to allow this vast and direct invasion of our privacy will God be able to be God in us.
I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.
Sin and evil comes out of the heart, as Jesus taught us – but replace an earthly heart with an eternal, heavenly one, and sin will have no place to be rooted. It cannot survive in the soil of the new kingdom – temptation might attract us, but it will wither, if our heart is given over. How to keep giving over the heart to God? The soil must be tilled regularly, and fertilised. The Word of God – his voice to us – his plan, his intention, as revealed in Scripture and as lived in Jesus – that is harrow that breaks the soil and the fertiliser that makes the heart ready to produce good crops of heavenly abundance.
Praise be to you, O Lord,
teach me your decrees.
These two statements are always intertwined. Worship and praise always implicates a desire to know more of God – to experience and understand more – which is exactly his method of teaching: exposure to himself. If we pray this, then we are asking for God’s presence in our lives, because this is how he gives us eyes to see and a ready heart. His decrees – his eternal judgements and laws – are recorded in Scripture – and if we are ready to see them, we will see the results of them all around us in the world. Praise to God as the Creator will allow our eyes to see his law in nature. Praise to God the Saviour will allow our eyes to see his law in people, whom he saves and recreates.
With my lips I recount
all the laws that come from your mouth.
In the Bible we can count and learn all the laws God has given – to individuals, to nations, to peoples and to all of us. We can also recount his instructions to people, one by one, which are the impression of his law of love and justice in that circumstance. What better thing to dwell upon and learn?
I rejoice in following your statutes
as one rejoices in great riches.
And yes, this is great wealth, isn’t it? We do not possess God’s statutes – his principles – in the manner of ownership; we follow them. This leaves us free and responsible to choose our actions and express ourselves. Truly, we have cause to rejoice when we realise the privilege it is to serve a good and kind God. This following allows us to grow – for what we see one day of God’s instruction will be deepened the next day, and the next, and the next. It also allows us to be surprised!
I meditate on your precepts
and consider your ways.
God’s principles and his actions are well worth our meditation – our deepest degree of reflection and thought. If we simply had God’s law and no record of his miraculous intervention in our world, we could too easily believe that it was in our power to fulfil the law and justify ourselves. If we simply had record of God’s actions in time, to the Jewish people or to anyone else, and no revelation of his law, we would have no responsibility to join his way. But as it is, the Word gives us both, in Scripture and in the person of Jesus, so it is our duty to consider both, and to consider them together.
I delight in your decrees,
I will not neglect your word.
All of God’s utterances bring us joy, because he is both good and just, and we are right to delight in them like people delighting in their leisure and their wealth and their family and their freedom. God’s decrees – his words to all the world – are for us to delight in. How then can we desire anything else? We can honestly say that we will not neglect his word because Jesus has promised to be always with us, and if at times we find it hard to motivate ourselves to study and learn Scripture, or hard to pray and feel his presence, or hard to hear the prophetic guiding voice of the Spirit, or hard to follow through on what we mean to do, we will not neglect the word as long as we praise God and desire to live in him. Why? Because this does not depend on us – it depends on his desire to be with us.