Last week for our Sunday devotionals we began to treat Psalm 119 section by section, pointing out that this unique psalm is a twenty-two (22) stanza acrostic, each stanza and line (eight in each stanza) beginning with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. In the first stanza the eight lines began with the first letter – Aleph. As we look at the second stanza today, we note that each of the eight lines begins with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet: “Beth” (comparable to our letter “b”). Perhaps this was in part a memorizing tool for the psalmist and for the people of God for whom he wrote. This would certainly fit well with the content of Psalm 119, which is devoted to the theme of love for the law (Word) of God. One of the ways in which we show and deepen our love for God’s Word is by memorizing it. And even if we do not know Hebrew, the KJV rendering of the stanzas of this psalm also makes it conducive to committing it to memory. Something for us to think about (perhaps commit to memorizing one verse from each section each week – pay special attention to v.11 below!).
In any case, here is the Word of God through the psalmist in this second stanza:
9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
10 With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
12 Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.
13 With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
16 I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.
We will see immediately that the psalmist has concern for the youth of the church and kingdom of God. Whether he is himself a young man (as many think he was), or an older believer reflecting back on his youth, he begins this section by asking how a young person should cleanse his or her way. I.e., how shall a believing young person stay in the way of and grow in sanctification? What means must they use to abide in holiness, staying devoted to the Lord and rejecting the twisted ways of sin, Satan and the world? The answer is clear: God’s law or Word, where His holy ways are plainly spelled out!
But then, notice, the means of sanctification is not simply reading or knowing the Word of God, it is “taking heed” to that law. “Taking heed” is more than listening to and taking in the Word of God. This is a military term and means “to guard or keep”, in the sense that we take commands and follow them. If the Lord is our Commander-in-Chief (and as our Creator and Redeemer He is!) and we are soldiers of the cross (and by grace through faith in Christ we are!), then His Word is law in our lives. He gives us commands (-ments) and we are to take these words to heart (in that sense “guard” them in our hearts) and keep them (in the sense of obeying them). That’s the way we cleanse our way, whether young or old. That’s the way of sanctification throughout our lives, no matter how young or old we are. God’s Word never changes, and God’s way of our spiritual cleansing never changes. Day by day till the day we die we are preserved in holiness and make progress in holiness by taking heed to God’s Word.
Do we fully realize the vital place God’s Word has and must have in our lives? Do we consider this when we start each day? Do we think about it now before we enter God’s holy courts of praise? We need the Word for our week of work! And we need to Word as we prepare to worship on our day of rest!
But then that means that we must love God’s Word and devote ourselves to taking it in every day. And you will see how the psalmist reveals that devotion. He seeks God with his whole heart (v.10). He rejoices in the way of God’s testimonies (v.14) and delights himself in His statutes (v.16). He meditates on the Word (v.15) and hides it in his heart (v.11). And so he will not forget God’s Word (v.16) but declare His judgments (v.13). Do we have that same devotion to the Word of God? I must confess to my shame that I do not. But going through this psalm should inspire us to be and do better, in reliance on God’s grace and Holy Spirit!
And thus too the psalmist prays about this matter. Notice his petitions in this section: that he not wander from God’s commandments (v.10) and that he be taught these statutes (v.12). Those are important requests to make. Prayer too is a vital means of sanctification for us. As we must be in God’s Word daily, so we must also be in humble reliance on Him for our personal holiness. And we express that reliance in prayer. Is prayer part of our daily devotion to the Lord? Are cleansing our way by “taking heed” to His Word and calling upon Him for grace to do so?
How we (I!) need Psalm 119! May we weigh the words of this second stanza carefully and learn again the wise way of walking with our God through this world.
If you wish to meditate on this section by way of music, you may do so by visiting our Psalter page. Below is the versification that matches the second stanza of Psalm 119. Click on the title to hear piano accompaniment.
322. Guidance for Youth. Psalm 119. L.M. (4 stanzas)
1. How shall the young direct their way?
What light shall be their perfect guide?
Thy word, O Lord, will safely lead,
If in its wisdom they confide.
2. Sincerely I have sought Thee, Lord,
O let me not from Thee depart;
To know Thy will and keep from sin
Thy word I cherish in my heart.
3. O blessed Lord, teach me Thy law,
Thy righteous judgments I declare;
Thy testimonies make me glad,
For they are wealth beyond compare.
4. Upon Thy precepts and Thy ways
My heart will meditate with awe;
Thy word shall be my chief delight,
And I will not forget Thy law.