How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
Psalm 119:9 ESV
Psalm 119, as we have seen, is a unique poem. First, it is the longest chapter in the Bible (longer than many entire books in the Bible, in fact). Second, the entire poem is built around one theme: the Scriptures. Psalm 119 is a love poem to the Bible, as God’s revealed Word.
Having concluded the first of twenty-two stanzas that correspond to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, the psalmist builds upon his themes of the blessedness of obeying God’s law by beginning the second stanza with an intriguing question: how does a young man keep his way pure?
In our culture of purity rings and such, the meaning of purity is somewhat watered down. Purity is not simply chastity, though it does indeed encompass chastity. Instead, purity is to be without fault. Pure water is free of any contamination, and pure life is a life without the imperfections of sin. In Christian terms, we could describe the concept of purity simply as being Christ-like. Christ was sinless, and we seek to imitate Him in that purity. So the question could also be asked: how can we be Christ-like?
We know that Christ offered Himself as the sinless sacrifice for our sins. We know that His righteous has been imputed onto us, and we also know that we are commanded to imitate Him. From the beginning of creation, we were created in the image of God. We were always meant to reflect Him, to be like Him. The psalmist knows this and is frustrated by his continuous sinning, so he turns to the Word.
But why do we go to the Word? If all of Scripture points toward Christ, it makes sense that we can go to Scripture to see what He is like. To be like someone, you must first know the person that you are imitating. Thus, when seeking to be like our Savior, we must turn to the Word for guidance. The Bible is our means of becoming more like our risen Lord through the power of the Spirit. The more we know Jesus, the more we will love Jesus. The more we love Jesus, the more we will naturally want to be like Him. When we look more like Christ and less like our sin, the result is purity.
Since we know that we must immerse ourselves in the Word to become more like Christ, we must also make certain that we are reading the Word correctly, not as the Pharisees read it. We must, as the psalmist says, use it to guard our way. We must open up the Word of God, asking how we might submit our very lives to it. That is the meaning of this verse: guarding our way with the Word means submitting your life to the Scriptures. By conforming our lives to the pattern of the Word, we conform our lives to Christ. We go to the Bible because Jesus is there, and upon finding and knowing Jesus, we will desire to mold ourselves to His image. We follow after the purity of Christ only by guarding our way with God’s Word.