|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
119:9-16 To original corruption all have added actual sin. The ruin of the young is either living by no rule at all, or choosing false rules: let them walk by Scripture rules. To doubt of our own wisdom and strength, and to depend upon God, proves the purpose of holiness is sincere. God's word is treasure worth laying up, and there is no laying it up safe but in our hearts, that we may oppose God's precepts to the dominion of sin, his promises to its allurements, and his threatenings to its violence. Let this be our plea with Him to teach us his statutes, that, being partakers of his holiness, we may also partake of his blessedness. And those whose hearts are fed with the bread of life, should with their lips feed many. In the way of God's commandments there is the unsearchable riches of Christ. But we do not meditate on God's precepts to good purpose, unless our good thoughts produce good works. I will not only think of thy statutes, but do them with delight. And it will be well to try the sincerity of our obedience by tracing the spring of it; the reality of our love by cheerfulness in appointed duties.
Verse 9. - Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? It does not follow from this inquiry that the writer is a "young man" - rather the reverse. He is anxious to give advice to young men, which is naturally the part of one somewhat advanced in life. By taking heed thereto, according to thy Word. This is the answer to the question raised in clause 1. By looking to God's Word, and guiding himself thereby, the young man may "cleanse his way" - not otherwise.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
BETH.--The Second Part.
BETH. Wherewith shall a young man cleanse his way?.... Some think David means himself, and that he was a young man when he wrote this psalm; and which they think is confirmed by Psalm 119:100; but neither of them seem conclusive; rather any young man is meant, and who is particularly mentioned, because young men are liable to sins and snares, to carnal lusts and sensual pleasures, which are of a defiling nature. Some are of opinion that a young man, or babe in Christ, is intended, that needs direction in his way, and instruction about the manner of cleansing it. But the former sense seems best, and expresses the concern of the psalmist for the education and right information of youth; which is a matter of great moment and advantage to families, neighbourhoods, and commonwealths. The question supposes the young man to be impure, as every man is by birth, being conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity; is a transgressor from the womb, and his heart, ways, and actions, evil from his youth: and the difficulty is, how he shall be cleansed; how one so impure in his nature, heart, and ways, can be just with God, or become undefiled in the way, as in Psalm 119:1; to which some reference may be had: or how he can have his heart made pure, or a clean one be created in him; or how his way, life, and conversation, may be corrected, reformed, and amended. The answer is,
by taking heed thereto according to thy word; that is, to his way and course of life, and steering it according to the direction of the word of God. But I think the words may be better rendered and supplied thus, "by observing what is according to thy word" (p); which shows how a sinner is to be cleansed from his sins by the blood of Christ, and justified by his righteousness, and be clean through his word; and also how and by whom the work of sanctification is wrought in the heart, even by the Spirit of God, by means of the word; and what is the rule of a man's walk and conversation: he will find the word of God to be profitable, to inform in the doctrines of justification and pardon, to acquaint him with the nature of regeneration and sanctification; and for the correction and amendment of his life and manners, and for his instruction in every branch of righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16.
(p) "observando secundum verbum tuum", Cocceius.
The Treasury of David
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.
"Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?" How shall he become and remain practically holy? He is but a young man, full of hot passions, and poor in knowledge and experience; how shall he get right, and keep right? Never was there a more important question for any man; never was there a fitter time for asking it than at the commencement of life. It is by no means an easy task which the prudent man sets before him. He wishes to choose a clean way, to be himself clean in it, to cleanse it of any foulness which may arise in the future, and to end by showing a clear course from the first step to the last; but, alas, his way is already unclean by actual sin which he has already committed, and he himself has within his nature a tendency towards that which defileth. Here, then, is the difficulty, first of beginning aright, next of being always able to know and choose the right, and of continuing in the right till perfection is ultimately reached' this is hard for any man, how shall a youth accomplish it? The way, or life, of the man has to be cleansed from the sins of his youth behind him, and kept clear of the sins which temptation will place before him: this is the work, this is the difficulty.
No nobler ambition can lie before a youth, none to which he is called by so sure a calling; but none in which greater difficulties can be found. Let him not, however, shrink from the glorious enterprise of living a pure and gracious life; rather let him enquire the way by which all obstacles may be overcome. Let him not think that he knows the road to easy victory, nor dream that he can keep himself by his own wisdom; he will do well to follow the Psalmist, and become an earnest enquirer asking how he may cleanse his way. Let him become a practical disciple of the holy God, who alone can teach him how to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, that trinity of defilers by whom many a hopeful life has been spoiled. He is young and unaccustomed to the road, let him not be ashamed often to enquire his way of him who is so ready and so able to instruct him in it.
Our "way" is a subject which concerns us deeply, and it is far better to enquire about it than to speculate upon mysterious themes which rather puzzle than enlighten the mind. Among all the questions which a young man asks, and they are many, let this be the first and chief' "Wherewithal shall I cleanse my way?" This is a question suggested by common sense, and pressed home by daily occurrences; but it is not to be answered by unaided reason, nor, when answered, can the directions be carried out by unsupported human power. It is ours to ask the question, it is God's to give the answer and enable us to carry it out.
"By taking heed thereto according to thy word." Young man, the Bible must be your chart, and you must exercise great watchfulness that your way may be according to its directions. You must take heed to your daily life, as well as study your Bible, and you must study your Bible that you may take heed to your daily life. With the greatest care a man will go astray if his map misleads him; but with the most accurate map he will still lose his road if he does not take heed to it. The narrow way was never hit upon by chance, neither did any heedless man ever lead a holy life. We can sin without thought, we have only to neglect the great salvation and ruin our souls; but to obey the Lord and walk uprightly will need all our heart and soul and mind. Let the careless remember this.
Yet the "word" is absolutely necessary; for, otherwise, care will darken into morbid anxiety, and conscientiousness may become superstition. A captain may watch from his deck all night; but if he knows nothing of the coast, and has no pilot on board, he may be carefully hastening on to shipwreck. It is not enough to desire to be right; for ignorance may make us think that we are doing God service when we are provoking him, and the fact of our ignorance will not reverse the character of our action, however much it may mitigate its criminality. Should a man carefully measure out what he believes to be a dose of useful medicine, he will die if it should turn out that he has taken up the wrong vial, and has poured out a deadly poison' the fact that he did it ignorantly will not alter the result. Even so, a young man may surround himself with ten thousand ills, by carefully using an unenlightened judgment, and refusing to receive instruction from the word of God. Wilful ignorance is in itself wilful sin, and the evil which comes of it is without excuse. Let each man, whether young or old, who desires to be holy have a holy watchfulness in his heart, and keep his Holy Bible before his open eye. There he will find every turn of the road marked down, every slough and miry place pointed out, with the way to go through unsoiled; and there, too, he will find light for his darkness, comfort for his weariness, and company for his loneliness, so that by its help he shall reach the benediction of Psalm 119:1 of the Psalm, which suggested the Psalmist's enquiry, and awakened his desires.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
BETH. (Ps 119:9-16).
9. The whole verse may be read as a question; for,
by taking heed—is better, "for" taking heed, that is, so as to do it. The answer is implied, and inferable from Ps 119:5, 10, 18, &c., that is, by God's grace.
Psalm 119:9 Parallel Commentaries
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