By Cathy Horner
How can a young man keep his way pure?
By guarding it according to your word.
With my whole heart I seek you;
let me not wander from your commandments!
I have stored up your word in my heart,
that I might not sin against you. (Ps.119:9-11, ESV)
Even as a small child, I was very aware of the presence of God. I remember those delicious afternoon nap times when I was 4, when you become increasingly drowsy and utterly aware of the steady beating of your heart. It was then that I would drift off to sleep totally convinced that my heartbeat was drawn from my Creator, who was very near. It was a Romans 1: 20 moment – a perception of God’s limitless, divine nature — within the soul of a child.
As I matured and became more aware of my personal rebellions against God, I was still aware of His presence, but more with a sense of fear and dread. I had been taught that He knew my every thought, word, and deed, and that my sin had put a barrier between myself and Him. I was afraid of His justly held wrath. What does this have to do with our passage? Bear with me.
It was not until I was a teenager that I realized that I knew of God but I did not know God. So I jumped into studying the Bible, God’s Word. I was blown away that God, the Heavenly Father, would send His Beloved Son to bear the wrath that I deserved so that I could be reconciled to Him. He loved me first, before I ever loved Him!! I surrendered my life to Him in faith, wanting to love Him in return. But how could I love someone I did not know?
At that point in our lives, God’s Word becomes intensely relevant. The Bible is God’s revelation of Who He is — of His divine nature as Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer. Therefore, I grow to know and reverence God by searching and studying the Scriptures. Within this passage in Psalms about the purifying effect of God’s Word, I find three essential truths it reveals about God (and consequently myself).
God is God and I am not.
He is the Creator of all things, the author of my physical life (Ps.139) and my spiritual life in Christ (Heb.12:1-2). That means that what He has to say – His Word – has authority over my life. It tells me that I am called to walk with Him in a way that reflects His glory – what verse 9 calls the “pure” way. Yet God, who knows all things, is aware that the remnants of my old sin nature would have me chasing after things that could darken and destroy my life and my witness. Therefore, His Word provides commands and precepts that set a guard around my life and heart, establishing boundaries for pure living. Since God knows all possible outcomes and consequences of my every word and deed, clearly His way is the wisest and best. The pure way offers my life protection, growth in spiritual understanding, and right relationships with others. Gloriously, Christ’s Spirit indwells me and will help me to guard my ways according to His Word. My boundaries actually free me to develop a deeper trust relationship with God.
My obedience is fueled by whole-hearted devotion to Him.
In verse 10, the psalmist gives us the key to obeying God – seeking Him with your whole heart. Because we are in Christ, we can have intimate relationship with the transcendent God who made all things and is enthroned above the heavens. When our hearts are whole-heartedly in search of His will and His ways, our benevolent “Abba” Father will support and guide us with His all-sufficient hand (2 Chronicles 16:9). If our love is only half-heartedly given because we also carry allegiance to other things in this world, verse 10 warns that we will tend to stray from His path.
Internalizing God’s Word keeps me from sinning against Him.
Finally, since God is everywhere present, verse 11 indicates that when we sin we are doing it in His face. Our sin is ultimately against Him. That stunning truth from the Word should be a check to any believer’s stubborn and willful heart, causing it to tremble in fear and reverence. The psalmist assures us that God’s Word – when stored up in our hearts –acts as a constant measuring rod to our thoughts, feelings, and decisions. It can deter us from sinning.
Thankfully, I have experienced this. When I’ve been tempted to participate in anything the Bible calls impure – drugs, sexual immorality, occult practices, defiling entertainment – God’s Word, memorized years ago, wells up within me: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). … Activity check.
Likewise, when my desire is to verbally lash out at someone, God’s Word whispers: “ Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear” (Eph.4:29). … Tongue check.
When I am discouraged and feeling overlooked by God, He speaks to my heart: “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). … Attitude check.
So let no excuse stop you! Internalizing God’s Word is important to your spiritual health. Write a pertinent verse out on a card. Put it where you will see it and can repeat it frequently – your car’s dash, your kitchen window, your mirror, your desk. Meditate upon it, memorize it, store it in your heart. God’s Word is powerfully active, either restraining your feet, reminding your heart, or re-training your thoughts. Allow His Word do all it is meant to do within you.