Psalm 119:9
Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to your word.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
BETH.

(9) Wherewithal.—There can be little question that the right rendering of this verse is By what means can a young man purify his way, so as to keep it according to Thy word? but from Joshua 6:18 we might render keep himself. The English rendering, which follows the LXX. and Vulg. is, of course, possible, but the other is more natural and more in accordance with the general drift of the psalm. The answer is supposed, or rather left to be inferred, from the whole tenor of the psalm, which is that men, and especially-young men, whose passions and temptations are strong in proportion to their inexperience, can do nothing of themselves, but are dependent on the grace of God. The omission of a direct answer rather strengthens than impairs the impression on the reader.

We must not, from the mention of youth, conclude that this psalm was written in that period of life. Perhaps, on the contrary, it is one who, like Browning’s Rabbi ben Ezra, while seeking how best to spend old age, looks back on youth, not with remonstrance at its follies, but with the satisfaction that even then he aimed at the best he knew.

Psalms

A CLEANSED WAY

Psalm 119:9
.

There are many questions about the future with which it is natural for you young people to occupy yourselves; but I am afraid that the most of you ask more anxiously ‘How shall I make my way?’ than ‘How shall I cleanse it?’ It is needful carefully to ponder the questions: ‘How shall I get on in the world-be happy, fortunate?’ and the like, and I suppose that that is the consideration which presses with special force upon a great many of you. Now I want you to think of another question: ‘How shall I cleanse my way?’ For purity is the best thing; and to be good is a wiser as well as a nobler object of ambition than any other. So my object is just to try and urge upon my dear young friends before me the serious consideration for a while of this grave question of my text, and the answers which are given to it.

If I can get you once to be smitten with a passion for purity, all but everything is gained. But I shall not be content if even that is the issue of my pleading with you now, for I want to have you all Christians. And that is why I have asked you to listen to what I have to say to you on this occasion.

I. So, first, we have here the great practical problem for life: ‘Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way?’ Or, in other words, ‘How may I live a pure and a noble life?’ It is a question, of course, for everybody: it is the question for everybody, but it is more especially one for you young people. And I wish to urge it upon you for two or three reasons, which I very briefly specify.

First, I desire to press upon you this question, because, as I have said, you are under special temptations not to ask it. There are so many other points in your future unresolved, that you are only too apt to put aside the consideration of this one in favour of those which seem to be of more pressing and immediate importance. And you have the other temptation, common to us all, but especially attending you as young people, of living without any plan of life at all. The sin and the misery of half the world are that they live from hand to mouth, knowing why they do each single action at the moment, but never looking a dozen inches beyond their noses to see where all the actions taken together tend; and so being just like weathercocks, whirled round by every wind of temptation that comes to them. If they are good or pure they are so by accident, by impulse, or because they have never been tempted. They have no definite plan or theory of life which they could put into words if anybody asked them on what principles, and for what end, and towards what objects they were living. And as everybody is tempted into such an unreflecting way of life, so you especially are tempted to it, because at your age judgment and experience are not so strong as inclination and passion; and everything has got the fresh gloss of novelty upon it, and it seems to be sometimes sufficient delight to live and get hold of the new joys that are flooding in upon you. And therefore I want you to stop and for a moment think whether you have any plan of life that bears being put into words, whether you can tell God and your own consciences what you are living for.

And I urge this question upon you for another reason-because it is worth while for you to ask it. For you have still the prerogative that some of us have lost, of determining the shape that your life’s course is to take. The path that you are going to tread lies all unmarked out across the plain of life. You may be pretty nearly what you like. Life is before you, with great blessed possibilities; it is behind some of us. All the long years which you may probably have are all plastic in your hands yet; they are moulded into a rigid shape for men like me. We have made our beds, and we must lie on them. You have your life in your own hands; therefore, I beseech you, while you have not to ask this question with the bitter meaning with which old men that have made their paths, and made them filthy, have to ask it-’How shall an old man cleanse his way, and get rid of the filth?’-consider how you may secure that your way in the untrodden future shall be clean, and do not rest till you get an answer.

And I press it upon you for another reason, because you have special temptations to make your ways unclean. It is a fearful ordeal that every young man and woman has to face, as he or she steps across the dividing boundary between childhood and youth, when parental authority is weakened, and the leading-strings are loosened, and the young swimmer is as it were cut away from the buoys, and has to battle with the waves alone. There are hundreds of young men in Manchester, there are many of them here now, who have come up into this great city from quiet country homes where they were shielded by the safeguards of a father’s and a mother’s love and care, and have been flung into this place, with its every street swarming with temptation, and companions on the benches of the university, at the desks, in the warehouses, and the workshops, leading them away into evil and teaching them the devil’s alphabet-young men with their evenings vacant and with no home. Am I speaking to any such standing in slippery places? Oh, my young friend! there is nothing in all these temptations, the fascinations of which you are beginning to find out, there is nothing in them all worth soiling your fingers for; there is nothing in them all that will pay you for the loss of your innocence. There is nothing in them all except a fair outside with poison at the core. You see the ‘primrose path’; you do not see, to use Shakespeare’s solemn words, ‘the everlasting burnings’ to which it leads. And so I plead with you all, young men and women, to lay this question to heart; and I beseech you to credit me when I say to you that you have not yet touched the gravest and the most pressing problem of life unless you have asked yourselves in a serious mood of deep reflection, ‘Wherewithal shall I cleanse my way?’

II. So much for the first point to which I ask your attention. Now, secondly, look at this answer, which tells us that we can only make our way clean on condition of constant watchfulness. ‘By taking heed thereto.’

That seems a very plain, simple, common-sense answer. The best made road wants looking after if it is to be kept in repair. What would become of a railway that had no surfacemen and platelayers going along the line and noticing whether anything was amiss? I remember once seeing a bit of an old Roman road; the lava blocks were there, but for want of care, here a young sapling had grown up between two of them and had driven them apart; there they were split by the frost, here was a great ugly gap full of mud; and the whole thing ended in a jungle. How shall a man keep his road in repair? ‘By taking heed thereto.’ Things that are left to go anyhow in this world have a strange knack of going one how. You do not need anything else than negligence to ensure that things will come to grief.

And so, at first sight, my text simply seems to preach the plain truth: if you want to keep your road right, look after it. But if you look at your Bibles, you will see that the word ‘thereto’ is a supplement, and that all that the Psalmist really says is ‘by taking heed.’ And perhaps it is to himself rather than to his ‘way’ that a man is exhorted to ‘take heed.’ ‘Take heed to thyself’ is the only condition of a pure and noble life.

That such a condition is necessary, will appear very plain from two considerations. First, it is clear that there must be constant watchfulness, if we consider what sort of a world this is that we have got into And it is also plain, if we consider what sort of creatures we are that have got into it.

First, it is plain if we consider what sort of a world this is that we have got into. It is a world a great deal fuller of inducements to do wrong than of inducements to do right; a world in which there are a great many bad things that have a deceptive appearance of pleasure; a great many circumstances in which it seems far easier to follow the worse than to follow the better course. And so, unless a man has learned the great art of saying ‘No!’ ‘So did not I because of the fear of the Lord’; he will come to rack and ruin without a doubt. There are more things round about you that will tempt you downwards than will draw you upwards, and your only security is constant watchfulness. As George Herbert says:-

‘Who keeps no guard upon himself is slack,

And rots to nothing at the next great thaw.’

And that is what will happen to you, as sure as you are living, in spite of all your good resolutions, unless you back up those resolutions with perpetual jealous watchfulness over yourselves. ‘Keep thy heart with all diligence.’

And the same lesson is pealed out to us if we consider what sort of creatures we are that have got into this world all full of wickedness. We are creatures evidently made for self-government. Our whole nature is like a monarchy. There are things in each of us that are never meant to rule, but to be kept well down under control, such as strong passions, desires rooted in the flesh which are not meant to get the mastery of a man, and there are parts of our nature which are as obviously intended to be supreme and sovereign: the reason, the conscience, the will.

There is a deal of pestilent talk which one sometimes hears, amongst young men especially, about ‘following nature.’ Yes! I say, ‘Follow nature!’ and nature says, ‘Let the man govern the animal!’ and ‘Do not set beggars on horseback,’ nor allow your passions to guide you, but keep a tight hand on them, suppress them, scourge them, rule them by your reason, by your conscience, and by your will.

Suppose a man were to say about a steamship, ‘The structure of this vessel shows that it is meant that we should get a roaring fire up in the furnaces, and set the engines going at full speed, and let her go as she will.’ Would he not have left out of account that there was a steering apparatus, which was as plainly meant to guide as are the engines to drive? What are the rudder and the wheel for?-do they not imply a pilot? and is not the make of our souls as plainly suggestive of subordination and control? Doth not nature itself teach you that you do not follow, but outrage, nature, when you let your passions rule, and that you only then follow nature when you bow the whole man under the dominion of the conscience, and when conscience stands waiting for the voice of God?

‘Unless above himself he can erect

Himself, how mean a thing is man!’

You are called upon by the very world that you have come into, and by the very sort of person that you yourself are, to exercise that perpetual watchfulness which is the only condition of cleansing your way. There must be a strong guard on the frontier, which shall examine all the thoughts and purposes and desires that would pass out, and all the temptations and seductions that would pass in; and take care that none shall pass which cannot bring the King’s warrant, ‘Keep thy heart with diligence.’ ‘Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto.’

III. This constant watchfulness, to be of any use, must be regulated by God’s Word. ‘Taking heed thereto, according to Thy word.’

The guard on the frontier who is to keep the path must have instructions from headquarters, and not choose and decide according to their own phantasy, but according to the King’s orders. Or to use another metaphor, it is no use having a guard unless the guard has a lantern, and the lantern and light is the Word of God.

That brings me to say, and only in a word or two, how inadequate for the task of regulating our own lives our own watchfulness is. Conscience is the captain of the guard, and there is only one judgment in which conscience is always and infallibly right, and that is when it says, ‘It is right to do right; and it is wrong to do wrong.’ But when you begin to ask conscience, ‘And, pray, what is right and what is wrong?’ it is by no means invariably to be trusted; for you can educate conscience up or down to almost anything; and you can warp conscience, and you can bribe conscience, and you can stifle conscience. And so it is not enough that we should exercise the most watchful care over our course, and decide upon the right and the wrong of it by our own judgments; we may be fearfully wrong notwithstanding it all. It is not enough for a man to have a good watch in his pocket unless now and then he can get Greenwich time by which he can set it, and unless that has been secured by taking an observation of the sun. And so you cannot trust to anything in yourselves for the guidance of your own way or for the determination of your duty, but you must look to that higher Wisdom that has condescended to speak to us, and give us in this Book the revelation of its will. Men rebel against the moral law of the Bible, and speak of it as if it were a restraint and a sharp taskmaster. Ah, no! It is one of the greatest tokens of God’s infinite love to us that He has not left us to grope our way amidst the illusions of our own judgments, and the questionable shapes of human conceptions of right and wrong, but that He has declared to us His own character for the standard of all perfection, and given us in the human life of the Son of His love the all-sufficient pattern for every life.

So I need not dwell at any length upon the thought that in that word of God, in its whole sweep, and eminently and especially in Christ, who is the Incarnate Word, we have an all-sufficient Guide. A guide of conduct must be plain-and whatever doubts and difficulties there may be about the doctrines of Christianity there is none about its morality. A guide of conduct must be decisive-and there is no faltering in the utterance of the Book as to right and wrong. A guide of conduct must be capable of application to the wide diversities of character, age, circumstance-and the morality of the New Testament especially, and of the Old in a measure, secures that, because it does not trouble itself about minute details, but deals with large principles. The morality of the Gospel, if I may so say, is a morality of centres, not of circumferences; of germinal principles, not of special prescriptions. A guide for morals must be far in advance of the followers, and it has taken generations and centuries to work into men’s consciences, and to work out in men’s practice, a portion of the morality of that Book. People tell us that Christianity is worn out. Ah! it will not be worn out until all its moral teaching has become part of the practice of the world, and that will not be for a year or two! The men that care least about Christian doctrines are foremost to admit that the Sermon on the Mount is the noblest code of morality that has ever been promulgated. If the world kept the commandments of the New Testament, the world would be in the Millennium; and all the sin and crime, and ninety-nine-hundredths of all the sorrow, of earth would have vanished like an ugly dream. Here is the guide for you, and if you take it you will not err.

My dear young friend! did you ever try to measure one day’s actions by the standard of this Book? Let me press upon you this: Cultivate the habit-the habit of bringing all that you do side by side with this light; as a scholar in some school of art will take his feeble copy, and hold it by the side of the masterpiece, and compare line for line, and tint for tint. Take your life, and put it by the side of the Great Life, and you will begin to find out how ‘according to Thy word’ is the only standard by which to set your lives.

IV. And now I have one last thing to say. All this can only be done effectually if you are a Christian. My psalm does not go to the bottom; it goes as far as the measure of revelation granted to its author admitted; but if a person had no more to say than that, it would be a weary business. It is no use to tell a man, ‘Guard yourself, guard yourself,’ nor even to tell him, ‘Guard yourself according to God’s word,’ if God’s word is only a law.

The fatal defect of all attempts at keeping my heart by my own watchfulness is that keeper and kept are one and the same, and so there may be mutiny in the garrison, and the very forces that ought to subdue the rebellion may have gone over to the rebels. You want a power outside of you to steady you. The only way to haul a boat up the rapids is to have some fixed point on the shore to which a man may fasten a rope and pull at that. You get that eternal guard and fixed point by which to hold in Jesus Christ, the dear Son of God’s love, who has died for you.

You want another motive to be brought to bear upon your conduct, and upon your convictions and your will mightier than any that now influence them; and you get that if you will yield yourself to the love that has come down from heaven to save you, and says to you, ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments.’ You want for keeping yourself and cleansing your way reinforcements to your own inward vigour, and you will get these if you will trust to Jesus Christ, who will breathe into you the Spirit of His own life, which will make you ‘free from the law of sin and death.’

You want, if your path is to be cleansed-the youngest of you, the most tenderly nurtured, the purest, the most innocent wants-forgiveness for a past path, which is in some measure stained and foul, as well as strength for the future, to deliver you from the dreadful influence of the habit of evil. And you get all these, dear friends! in the blood of Jesus Christ that cleanses from all sin.

So, standing as you do in the place where two ways meet, and with your choice yet in your power, I beseech you, turn away from the broad, easy road that slopes pleasantly downwards, and choose the narrow, steep path that climbs. Better rocks than mud, better the painful life of self-restraint and self-denial than the life of pleasing self.

Oh! choose the better portion, choose Christ for your Leader, your Law, your Lord! Trust yourselves to that great sacrifice which He made on the Cross, that all the past for you may be cleansed, and the future may be swept clear; and, so trusting, be sure He will be with you, to keep you and to guide you into the path which His own hand has raised above the filth of the world; the path of holiness, along which you may walk with feet and garments unstained till you come to Zion, ‘with songs and everlasting joy upon your heads,’ and bless Him there for all the way by which He led you home.BETH.

Psalm 119:9. Wherewith shall a young man — Or, any man. But he names the young man, because such are commonly void of wisdom and experience, and exposed to many and great temptations. Cleanse his way — Reform his life, or purge himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit. By taking heed thereto — By diligently and circumspectly watching over himself, and examining and regulating all his dispositions and actions by the rule of thy word. 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.Wherewithal - This begins the second portion of the psalm, extending to Psalm 119:16, in which all the verses begin with the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet (ב b), indicated in our translation by the word Beth. These names of the letters, inserted for convenience, are no part of the psalm, as it is not so marked in the original. This mode of indicating the divisions of the psalm is special to our version. It is not in the Septuagint, the Latin Vulgate, or the German versions. The word wherewithal means "by what" (Hebrew); that is, What means shall a young man adopt by which he may "cleanse his way?" it indicates a state of inquiry. The case supposed is that of a young man pondering the question how he may be saved from the corruptions of his own heart, and escape the temptations to which he is exposed in early years, and lead a pure and upright life. There can be no more important inquiry for one just entering on the journey of life; there can be found nowhere a more just and comprehensive answer than is contained in this single verse. All the precepts of ancient and modern wisdom, all the teachings of pagan morality and religion, and all the results of the experience of mankind, could furnish nothing in addition to what is here suggested. The world has no higher wisdom than this by which to guide a young man, so that he may lead a holy life.

Shall a young man - The remark here might be applied also to those who are in middle life, or even to those who are in more advanced years, but it is applied here especially to the young, because it may be supposed that in the other cases the matter may be regarded as settled by experience; because to the young, as they commence life, the inquiry is so momentous; and because it is a question which it may be supposed will come up before the mind of every young man who has any right aspirations, and any proper conception of the dangers which encompass his path.

Cleanse his way? - Make his course of life pure and upright. The language does not necessarily imply that there had been any previous impurity or vice, but it has particular reference to the future: not how he might cleanse himself from past offences, but how he might make the future pure. The inquiry is, how he might conduct himself - what principles he could adopt - under what influence he could bring himself - so that his future course would be honest, honorable, upright.

By taking heed thereto ... - The word "thereto" is not in the original. The Hebrew is, "To keep according to thy word;" or, "in keeping according to thy word." Prof. Alexander supposes that this means "to keep it (his way) according to thy word;" and that the whole is a question - "How may a young man so cleanse his way as to keep it according to thy word?" - and that the answer to the question is to be found in the general strain of the psalm, or in the general principles laid down in the psalm. But it is clear that the answer to the question must be found in the verse, or not found at all; and the most natural construction is that in our translation. So DeWette renders it: "How can a young man walk guiltless? If (or, when) he holds (or, keeps) himself according to thy word." The meaning clearly is If he governs himself according to the law of God - if he makes that law the rule of his life and conduct, he would be enabled to do it. All other things might fail; this rule would never fail, in making and keeping a man pure. The more principles of common honesty, the principles of honor, the considerations of self-interest, the desire of reputation - valuable as they may be - would not constitute a security in regard to his conduct; the law of God would, for that is wholly pure.

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.

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.

Psalm 119:9

"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.

continued...

BETH

Young man; or, any man. But he names the

young man, because such are commonly void of wisdom and experience, heady and wilful, and impatient of admonition, full of violent passions and strong lusts, and exposed to many and great temptations.

Cleanse his way; reform his life, or purge himself from all filthiness of flesh and spirit.

By taking heed thereto according to thy word; by a diligent and circumspect watch over himself, and the examination and regulation of all his actions by the rules of thy word. 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.

BETH. Wherewithal shall a {a} young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.

(a) Because youth is most given to licentiousness, he chiefly warns them to frame their lives after God's word.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
9. Derek, ‘way,’ LXX ὁδός, denotes the course of conduct marked out by God’s law. Cp. Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 9:12, &c.

9. a young man] Who most needs help to keep himself pure from sin (Psalm 25:7). Cp. Psalm 34:11 ff.; and the constant address of the teacher to his disciple in the Book of Proverbs, ‘My son.’

by taking heed &c.] The answer to the question of the previous line. The object of the verb is not expressed, and the exact meaning is doubtful. It may be ‘by taking heed to himself according to the rule of Thy word’; cp. P.B.V., ‘even by ruling himself after thy word’: or more probably, ‘by observing thy statutes (Psalm 119:4; Psalm 119:6) according to thy commandment.’ The LXX and Jerome seem to represent a different reading, ‘by observing thy words.’

9–16. Beth. Love for God’s law the safeguard and the joy of life.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. The eightfold Aleph. Blessed are those who act according to the word of God; the poet wishes to be one of these. The alphabetical Psalm on the largest scale begins appropriately, not merely with a simple (Psalm 112:1), but with a twofold ashr. It refers principally to those integri viae (vitae). In Psalm 119:3 the description of those who are accounted blessed is carried further. Perfects,a s denoting that which is habitual, alternate with futures used as presents. In Psalm 119:4 לשׁמר expresses the purpose of the enjoining, as in Psalm 119:5 the goal of the directing. אחלי (whence אחלי, 2 Kings 5:3) is compounded of אח (vid., supra, p. 273) and לי (לוי), and consequently signifies o si. On יכּנוּ cf. Proverbs 4:26 (lxx κατευθυνθείησαν). The retrospective אז is expanded anew in Psalm 119:6: then, when I namely. "Judgment of Thy righteousness" are the decisions concerning right and wrong which give expression to and put in execution the righteousness of God.

(Note: The word "judgments" of our English authorized version is retained in the text as being the most convenient word; it must, however, be borne in mind that in this Psalm it belongs to the "chain of synonyms," and does not mean God's acts of judgment, its more usual meaning in the Old Testament Scriptures, but is used as defined above, and is the equivalent here of the German Rechte, not Gerichte. - Tr.)

בּלמדי refers to Scripture in comparison with history.

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