A young man cleanse his way - ארח orach, which we translate way here, signifies a track, a rut, such as is made by the wheel of a cart or chariot. A young sinner has no broad beaten path; he has his private ways of offense, his secret pollutions: and how shall he be cleansed from these? how can he be saved from what will destroy mind, body, and soul? Let him hear what follows; the description is from God.
1. He is to consider that his way is impure; and how abominable this must make him appear in the sight of God.
2. He must examine it according to God's word, and carefully hear what God has said concerning him and it.
3. He must take heed to it, לשמר lishmor, to keep guard, and preserve his way - his general course of life, from all defilement.
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.
The senses will be guarded. The soul that has Jesus abiding in it will develop into true greatness. The intelligent soul who has respect unto all of God's commandments, through the grace of Christ, will say to the passions of the heart as he points to God's great moral standard of righteousness, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed,” and the grace of Christ shall be as a wall of fire round about the soul. MM 143.1
There are those who will say, “Oh, you need not be so particular. A little harmless flirtation will do no injury.” And the carnal heart urges on to temptation, and to the practical sanctioning of indulgences which end in sin. This is a low cast of morality, not meeting the high standard of the law of God. MM 143.2
The vileness of the human heart is not understood. There are always individuals connected with our institutions whose characters are cast in an inferior mold, and they need but a word of encouragement from those in higher positions to take liberty to gratify the unholy heart. There are those at the sanitarium that are not open sinners; they hide their sins from human eyes; they have a fair outward morality; but the Lord's eye sees them. They find means to gratify the low sensual propensities; their lives are tarnished, and they are tarnishing others by their example.... MM 143.3Read in context »
There were some who sought His society, feeling at peace in His presence; but many avoided Him, because they were rebuked by His stainless life. Young companions urged Him to do as they did. He was bright and cheerful; they enjoyed His presence, and welcomed His ready suggestions; but they were impatient at His scruples, and pronounced Him narrow and strait-laced. Jesus answered, It is written, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:9, 11. DA 89.1
Often He was asked, Why are you bent on being so singular, so different from us all? It is written, He said, “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that keep His testimonies, and that seek Him with the whole heart. They also do no iniquity; they walk in His ways.” Psalm 119:1-3. DA 89.2
When questioned why He did not join in the frolics of the youth of Nazareth, He said, It is written, “I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate in Thy precepts, and have respect unto Thy ways. I will delight myself in Thy statutes; I will not forget Thy word.” Psalm 119:14-16. DA 89.3Read in context »
That which in the counsels of heaven the Father and the Son deemed essential for man's salvation is clearly presented in the Holy Scriptures. The infinite truths of salvation are stated so plainly that finite beings who desire to know the truth cannot fail to understand. Divine revelations have been made for their instruction in righteousness, that they may glorify God and help their fellow men. CT 438.1
These truths are found in the word of God—the standard by which we are to judge between right and wrong. Obedience to this word is the best shield for the youth against the temptations to which they are exposed while acquiring an education. From this word they learn how to honor God and how to be faithful to humanity, cheerfully performing the duties and meeting the trials that each day brings, and courageously bearing its burdens. CT 438.2Read in context »
“Keep thy heart with all diligence,” is the counsel of the wise man; “for out of it are the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23. As man “thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7. The heart must be renewed by divine grace, or it will be in vain to seek for purity of life. He who attempts to build up a noble, virtuous character independent of the grace of Christ is building his house upon the shifting sand. In the fierce storms of temptation it will surely be overthrown. David's prayer should be the petition of every soul: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10. And having become partakers of the heavenly gift, we are to go on unto perfection, being “kept by the power of God through faith.” 1 Peter 1:5. PP 460.1
Yet we have a work to do to resist temptation. Those who would not fall a prey to Satan's devices must guard well the avenues of the soul; they must avoid reading, seeing, or hearing that which will suggest impure thoughts. The mind should not be left to wander at random upon every subject that the adversary of souls may suggest. “Girding up the loins of your mind,” says the apostle Peter, “Be sober, ... not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in ... your ignorance: but like as He which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living.” 1 Peter 1:13-15, R.V. Says Paul, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8. This will require earnest prayer and unceasing watchfulness. We must be aided by the abiding influence of the Holy Spirit, which will attract the mind upward, and habituate it to dwell on pure and holy things. And we must give diligent study to the word of God. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to Thy word.” “Thy word,” says the psalmist, “have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” Psalm 119:9, 11. PP 460.2
Israel's sin at Beth-peor brought the judgments of God upon the nation, and though the same sins may not now be punished as speedily, they will as surely meet retribution. “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy.” 1 Corinthians 3:17. Nature has affixed terrible penalties to these crimes—penalties which, sooner or later, will be inflicted upon every transgressor. It is these sins more than any other that have caused the fearful degeneracy of our race, and the weight of disease and misery with which the world is cursed. Men may succeed in concealing their transgression from their fellow men, but they will no less surely reap the result, in suffering, disease, imbecility, or death. And beyond this life stands the tribunal of the judgment, with its award of eternal penalties. “They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God,” but with Satan and evil angels shall have their part in that “lake of fire” which “is the second death.” Galatians 5:21; Revelation 20:14. PP 461.1Read in context »