BETH - Pleasing God
(9) How should a young man keep his life’s path pure? By obeying your Word. (10) I seek you with my whole heart. Do not let me stray from your commands. (11) I have hidden your Word in my heart so that I might not sin against you. (12) Blessed are you, Yahweh! Teach me your decrees. (13) With my lips I rehearse all the judgments of your mouth. (14) In following the way of your statutes I rejoice as though (I were rejoicing) in great riches. (15) On your precepts I meditate, and consider your ways. (16) In your decrees I find delight. I will not forget your Word.
The first verse of the Beth stanza opens with a question, “How should a young man keep his life’s path pure?” The rest of the segment provides the answer. By using the same word, “obey” (vs. 9), as he did previously (vss. 4, 5, & 8), the psalmist establishes obedience as the central theme of this segment and links it to the previous one.
A question of interpretation arises with the verb translated “keep pure” (vs. 9 in the NIV). An earlier translation (KJV) renders this verb as “cleanse.” Was the author asking how a young man maintains his purity (NIV) or how he regains his purity after sinning (KJV)? While both senses may be conveyed by the Hebrew verb, the context pushes us in the direction of the NIV’s interpretive translation (vss. 10 & 11). The psalmist first asks God to keep him from straying (vs. 10) and then gives as his motive for hiding God’s Word in his heart the avoidance of sinful behavior (vs. 11). Three other words are repeated in this stanza: “your Word” (vss. 9 & 16), “path/way” (vss. 9 & 15), and “heart” (vss. 10 & 11).
I. Question: how can a young man maintain purity in life? (9a)
II. Summary response: by living according to God’s Word (9b)
III. Specific responses: (10-16)
- seeking God with my whole heart...not straying (10)
- hiding God’s Word in my heart so as not to sin (11)
- praising God...desiring his teaching (12)
- rehearsing God’s truths in my heart (13)
- rejoicing in following God’s statutes (14)
- meditating and considering God’s ways (15)
- delighting in and not neglecting God’s Word (16)
Only those who delight in obeying God’s Word maintain a lifestyle that honors him.
What does hiding God’s Word in our hearts specifically entail (vs. 11)? Believers over the centuries have considered this a strong exhortation to commit important scripture passages to memory. This way, verses needed at moments when we might be tempted to sin are readily available for our protection. Jesus modeled this for us at the beginning of his earthly ministry in his encounter with Satan in the wilderness (Mt. 4:1-11). In each of three temptations, Jesus responded by quoting verses from Deuteronomy. First, when tempted by Satan to turn stones into bread to assuage his hunger, he quoted Deuteronomy 8:3. (Mt. 4:3 & 4). Then when Satan proposed that he jump from the pinnacle of the temple to prove that he was God's Son, he quoted Deuteronomy 6:16 (Mt. 4:5-7). Finally, when offered dominion over the kingdoms of the world in exchange for bowing the knee to Satan, Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:13.
If this approach enabled the Son of God to overcome temptation and defeat the enemy, we should certainly follow his example. While we may never be tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy our hunger, we are constantly bombarded with the allurements of the flesh. While we will never be tempted like Jesus to jump off the temple roof to prove his claims to deity, we will certainly be faced with the desire for fame, personal significance, and power apart from Christ. While we may never be personally enticed by Satan to bow down and worship him, we all struggle with temptations to idolatry, enthroning something other than Jesus at the center of our lives. We do well to ask ourselves, “What portions of Scripture have we hidden in our hearts so that we might resist any temptations that we may encounter?”