9 How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
10 With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you.
12 Blessed are you, O Lord;
teach me your statutes!
13 With my lips I declare
all the rules of your mouth.
14 In the way of your testimonies I delight
as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on your precepts
and fix my eyes on your ways.
16 I will delight in your statutes;
I will not forget your word (ESV).
In language similar to Wisdom Literature, “the ‘young man’ is the disciple, also known as ‘my son’ in Proverbs” (W. VanGemeren, Psalms REBC, 2008, p. 862). This matter of purity “does not only concern a young man, but any concerned disciple” (A. Ross, A Commentary on the Psalms (90-159) KEL, 2016, p. 476).
Purity was vital to Israel’s existence. The question of “how can a man keep his way pure?” encompasses all areas and activities of a person’s life. The answer is that he will keep his way pure by “guarding” the Lord’s Word (v 9). Guard here is the same as in Genesis 3:24 where the cherubim and flaming sword “guard the way to the tree of life” (emphasis mine). The psalmist is to guard his way with the same ferocity as the cherubim and flaming sword guard the way to the tree of life.
By asking how to “keep his way pure?” the psalmist acknowledges (as in previous verses) that he is prone to temptation and folly’s invitation (see Proverbs 9:13-18). It is worth mentioning the psalmist does not ask, “why does a young man need to keep his way pure?” The psalmist already knows why, “blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord” (Ps 119:1). The psalmist does not lament the effort that he has to give in actively keeping and guarding his way. Today, Christians often lament, whine and complain about the hardship and drudgery of obeying God and keeping pure (see Old Testament Israel for further thoughts).
It is only fitting that with this perspective the psalmist would seek the Lord with his whole being and store His word in his heart so as to not sin against Him (vv 10-11). “Because the word of God has penetrated to his [“heart”], the core of his life that includes his thinking, his feelings, and his choices (cf. v. 2), it keeps him from missing the mark of God’s holy standard expressed in his word” (D. Estes, Psalms 73-150 NAC, 2019, p. 405).
The psalmist calls the Lord blessed and then cries out for the Lord to teach him His statutes (v 12). “The point of the verse is the desire to learn more of God’s law, but a teachable spirit begins with a proper regard for God—hence, the praise for the teacher” (Ross, p. 478). In verse 13 the psalmist declares his learning “publicly because he views himself as the channel of God’s instruction to others” (Estes, p. 405). The psalmist delights in the Lord’s Word “as much as in all riches” (v 14). In verses 15-16 the psalmist actively chooses to meditate on His precepts because he loves Him and wants to obey Him. Because the Lord’s ways lead to life, he will fix his eyes on them. By delighting in the Lord’s statutes, he will not forget His Word.
Lord God, help us to be a people who choose to keep their way pure. Help us to be agents and ambassadors of light and not debauchery and darkness. Lord God, help us to guard Your Word as You have guarded us from finding Eden and the Tree of Life. Lord help us to keep our way pure as we share Jesus with the lost. Lord God, help us to be a people who seek You with their whole being. Lord God, may our times of wandering from Your Way become less and may we become quicker at recognizing when we have strayed. Lord God, as society becomes more and more hostile to Your Word, may we learn Your Word, storing it in our hearts. Lord God, thank You that You will teach us Your Word when we are sincere in obeying it. Remind Your people Lord that You never teach us anything to keep it to ourselves. You teach us so that we may strengthen and encourage Your Body! Thank You Lord for this reader and help them to not forget Your Word. In Jesus’s Name I pray. Amen.