“How can a young man keep his way pure?” The answer given is 8-fold.
First, there is the statement about guarding one’s way according to God’s Word. The psalm evokes the imagery of a soldier who is vigilant about protecting what is valuable. It encourages the one who prays to see himself as a sentry standing ready to sound the alarm when the enemy approaches. Here is the crucial presupposition: the enemy will come. “Your enemy the devil prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” To spot the enemy the sentry must be equipped with vision shaped by God’s Word. It is by seeing according to the Word that danger is detected. The Law of God serves as a kind of home alarm system. Of course the key difference is that you cannot simply set the alarm and go to sleep but must be alert and active in the use of the Word.
Second, the one who prays the psalm asks not to wander from the Lord’s commandments. Here the image of Christian life as a journey down a definitive path comes to the forefront. The commandments of God serve as the road signs that mark the way in which we should be walking. The commandments are boundary markers and to cross them is to transgress and find oneself in the danger of the wild. But to walk in them is the pure way.
Third, this psalm declares that God’s Word has been stored up in the heart. The one who prays this psalm is encouraged here to view himself as a treasury of God’s Word. Depositing God’s living and active Word in the treasury of the heart prevents a person from sinning. Jesus’ words come to mind: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
Fourth, the psalm prays that the blessed Lord would teach His statutes. The one who prays this psalm recognizes this fundamental reality of the Christian life: we are students our whole life through. Disciples are learners. The content of the life long lesson is the Lord’s statutes. No matter our age we are to grow in our understanding of these statutes. The deeper the lesson is learned the more the student is conformed to his teacher.
Fifth, the psalm speaks of the activity of declaring the Lord’s just decrees. While inward reflection on God’s commandments is good, the further action of verbalizing His rules is put forward as a part of keeping one’s way pure. What is taken in with the ears and stored up in the heart must also come out on the lips. By doing so the Christian builds the wall that the enemy must overcome to deceive him ever higher.
Sixth, the psalm speaks of delighting in God’s testimonies. This is compared over against riches, a common way of speaking in the psalms, “better than gold, yea much fine gold.” Here we find a furthering of what was said in the fifth place. What is stored up, learned, and declared is not only a set of rules, but is a delight that surpasses even the best earthly good.
Seventh, the psalm adds meditation on God’s precepts which is paralleled with fixing one’s eyes on God’s way. Here we see the pre-meditative necessity. A Christian cannot expect to randomly and haphazardly keep his way pure. There are too many temptations, both from without and from within, that will spring up. “Sin is crouching at your door, its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” So, here, in prayer, we learn to have a game plan. To ponder God’s precepts and ways and make plans accordingly. To use a sports analogy, quarterbacks are nowadays praised for their ability to call an audible at the line of scrimmage. But this ability is not innate. Rather it is developed through extensive game planning, studying of the defense’s formations, and thorough knowledge of the team’s own playbook.
Lastly, in the eighth place, this section of the psalm wraps all things together by resounding the note of delight and promising to never forget. Since delight has already been mentioned, it is the memory that is new. Amnesia of God’s Law would undo everything that preceded it. Storing God’s Word in the memory means that it can be recalled at all times and in all places, as the situation demands. The importance of memory and reminders should not be overlooked. Memorization of Scripture is not something beneficial for children only, but for all ages.
One final note. Psalms 119 and 19 are two psalms which use a rich variety of terms to refer to God’s law. While it might be tempting to equate them as mere synonyms, and an overlap between the terms is certainly true, it is much more beneficial to crack open those most important of all tools for Biblical study, the dictionary and concordance. There one can find new ways to delight in the diversity of God’s Word.