Psalm 119:9-16 (The Message) "How can a young person live a clean life? By carefully reading the map of your Word. I'm single-minded in pursuit of you; don't let me miss the road signs you've posted. I've banked your promises in the vault of my heart so I won't sin myself bankrupt. Be blessed, God; train me in your ways of wise living. I'll transfer to my lips all the counsel that comes from your mouth, I delight far more in what you tell me about living than in gathering a pile of riches. I ponder every morsel of wisdom from you, I attentively watch how you've done it. I relish everything you've told me of life, I won't forget a word of it."
There is perhaps no greater reward for a child of God than to really have an understanding of the promises of God, the warnings that stand as "sign posts" of pitfalls to avoid, or the life lessons learned by those of the faith that have walked before us. David opens this section with the question, "How does a young person live a clean life?" The pursuit of right living is perhaps one of the most sought after goals of the Christian. We want to truly "know" that we are on-course, what attitudes or heart responses stand in the way of truly enjoying everyday living, and the subtle compromises that creep into our lives unnoticed that take us into territories we often would have been better off not exploring in the first place.
There are several "keys" to upright living listed by David in this passage. Let's think of them as a group of keys on a key chain that open up areas of our life to new possibilities, or lock other areas so that they are not easily accessed by just anything that comes along.
Careful study of the Word is set out as the first key that we will add to our "right living key chain". David is clear that it is not just a casual acquaintance with the Word that is considered here - it is deliberate, mindful, purposeful studying of the Word. Since the Word serves as the "road map" of David's life, he is purposeful in considering what is contained within. To be careful in the study of the Word carries the meaning of making every effort to avoid error or omission - being attentive to the detail contained within. Learning some of the basic truths contained within the Word, and then ignoring the rest, limits our understanding of God. We need the fullness of the Word to enjoy the fullness of God.
David introduces the idea of being single-minded in his pursuit of God as the second key on our chain. This speaks of a sincerity of heart that keeps "paying attention on purpose". That purpose of heart overrides everything else that comes along to act as distractions in life. We have a tendency to get caught up in the fads of daily life - the latest and greatest that is put out their to tantalize our interests, reeling us in and taking us captive. I wish I could offer you hope that a single-minded pursuit of God is a one-time decision and then it is smooth sailing from there, but it is not. I have come to realize that this single-mindedness that David is speaking of is a moment-by-moment determination of our spirit. We choose to pursue right living over some other enticement in life one moment at a time. It is an active, on purpose, choice. We cannot live haphazardly in our pursuit of God and expect to see all the "road signs" God carefully places in our life to help us avoid pitfalls, wrong turns, or detours that will cost us valuable time, talent or treasure. David cries out before God, "Don't let me miss the road signs you've posted!" He makes it quite clear that it is sometimes quite easy to zoom on past one or two of those without even noticing. The key is to pursue God's best like nothing else counts in life. God rewards that kind of pursuit by sending his Holy Spirit into our lives to act as our spiritual GPS - keeping us on course.
The next key is that of "banking" God's promises. In other translations of the Word, we find this verse challenging us to "hide up" God's Word in our hearts. In other words, memorizing it so it acts as a "bank account" that we can draw on in times when we need direction, encouragement, or wisdom to pass on to other travelers along this path. I am not good with memorization of Scripture. I have tried the little index card thing taped to the mirror in the bathroom, plastered to the dashboard of the car, or scrolling across the desktop of my computer screen as a screen-saver. It all helps me get it in my brain, but I am not sure this is what David had in mind when he penned these words. As we take time to become involved in the study of the Word - not just casual reading - the Word gets into us in ways that "add deposits" to our spiritual bank account. Those times of intimate study (even if it is just one verse at a time) are invaluable to our growth. I am amazed at how much of the Word I can recall when I really need it (although I may not be able to tell you the exact chapter or verse). I used to stress about the fact that I could not recount the exact "street address" of every verse I could quote, thinking I was not doing my best to learn the Word. Have you ever considered how many places you go to in a week that you have absolutely no idea of the address of that location, but you know perfectly well that you will find that grocery store, the haircut salon, or the post office in just that specific location each and every time? The Word is that way - get into it and let it get into you and you will find yourself going there over and over again. Knowing the address is beneficial when you want to show someone how to get there, but knowing what is located at that address is the most beneficial of all.
Key number four is being trained of God. I have a military background, so when I think of training, my mind naturally takes me to my days of Basic Training in Fort Jackson, SC. Endless hours of sweat, tired muscles, being stretched beyond what we believed to be humanly possible, living without sleep, and polishing everything in sight! This is not the picture God wants us to have of "training" or being trained by God. In fact, it is just the opposite. Training is part of growth. As we grow in our physical age, we are trained in things that are naturally part of our physical age advancement - such as moving from wearing diapers to actually using the enamel throne, or learning how to tie our shoes on our own instead of going through our 80 plus years of life asking someone else to tie them for us. Webster defines training as an orderly movement from one point to another. I like the earlier definition Webster gave of training: to direct the growth of by bending, pruning and tying. This is really what the Word and the Holy Spirit do in our lives. They work together to bend us where we are not growing straight, to prune away deadwood in our lives that just sucks nourishing life from us, and to "bind us up", giving us a firmness of anchor so we aren't moved by every wind that blows across our path.
Key five is a little like number three - David puts the Word of God into his heart so he can recall it as he needs it - but he also recalls the Word, speaking it aloud. There is something magnificent in hearing the Word of God. We are given more than one or two senses to experience life with - we have our sight to behold the beauty of God, our sense of smell to take in the fragrances of life, the sense of taste to enjoy the nourishment we partake of, the sense of touch to trigger awareness of our environment, and the sense of hearing to enlarge our understanding. Don't be afraid to read the Word aloud, to speak it often, to recall the things you have learned therein. There is great power in both "unlocking and locking" contained in the speaking of the Word of God.
Our sixth key is that of pondering. I am a "ponderer" by heart. I don't rush into giving an answer, don't make a lot of rash decisions, and take time where others might rush in. I am not laid back by any means - anyone who really knows me understands that I am a type A personality all the way. I have learned the value of "pondering". It came the hard way to me - learning by doing is one of the hardest ways of learning, isn't it? To ponder means that we weigh something in our mind, reviewing mentally what is before us, then acting on what is "reasoned" as best. As it applies to using God's Word, if we have "banked" it away, when we need the wisdom contained within it, we have it to ponder when considering the response we want to give in a particular situation. For example, when we want to respond with a curt or hurtful reply, the "banked" reminder from the Word to "not return evil for evil" comes to mind, gets turned over in our thoughts, and instead of lashing out in a mean or curt reply, we "temper" our words under the leading of the Holy Spirit to be kinder, softer, more reflective of God himself. In our pondering, we are attentive to watching what God reveals, how he reveals his truths, and we become aware of how he moves, the ways he speaks to us, what he uses to move us. Pondering cannot be under-valued in our daily walk - take time to "meditate" upon the Word, truly allowing it to turn over-and-over in your mind until you grasp the truths contained within.
Last, but certainly not least, David invites to add the key of truly relishing every Word we have been given. To relish something is to find deep and enjoyable satisfaction in it, so that it adds zest to your life. David is encouraging us to allow the Word of God to "zest" our life - giving it a unique "flavor" and "savor" that is noticed by those around us. As we fall in love with the Word of God, allowing it to affect our lives in ways we cannot fully comprehend, we are changed within. That change gives a "savor" to our lives that emanates the grace and love of God to those we share life with.
Here's hoping that you have a fully-complimented spiritual key chain! As you add one key to the other, your life is sure to "jingle for Jesus"!!!