Question: "How can a young man cleanse his way (Psalm 119:9)?"
Answer: The overarching message of Psalm 119 is that great blessings belong to those who love, honor, and obey the Word of God. In the second stanza, the psalmist turns his focus to the purifying power of God’s Word, asking and answering this question: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word” (Psalm 119:9, NKJV).
The New Living Translation renders this verse like so: “How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.” Personal holiness is apprehended by living according to the commands and precepts found in Scripture. The passage goes on to affirm, “I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:10–11). Outward obedience flows from an inward heart that seeks after God.
When we delight in God’s law and have it hidden deep in our hearts like a priceless treasure, our steps will not falter (Romans 7:22; Psalm 37:31). We will take pleasure in doing God’s will (Psalm 40:8). Our ways will be clean because God’s Word is a lamp to light our path (Psalm 119:105).
God’s Word has a purifying effect (John 17:17). The apostle Paul taught that Jesus Christ sanctifies the church “to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word” (Ephesians 5:26). The apostle Peter attested to a purification or soul-cleansing that comes through obedience to the truth—“the living abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:22–23). When Jesus spoke about being the true Vine, He told His disciples, “You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you” (John 15:3, NLT).
The Lord’s message is His truth, His teachings, and His commands in Scripture. He reveals His Word to us that we may live by it entirely, wisely, securely, and well. The Word of God is a purifying force for both young and old. Paul instructed the Colossians to “let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts” (Colossians 3:16, CSB).
A young man can cleanse his way by making the pursuit of God’s Word a way of life. Scripture promises that those who are directed on the path of God from an early age will never depart from it (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4; Deuteronomy 11:19). Paul told his protégé, Timothy, “You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15, NLT).
God’s Word must become our counselor (Psalm 119:24), healer (Psalm 107:20), encourager (Acts 20:32), and provider of hope, faith, truth, and life (Romans 15:4; Colossians 1:5–6). Peter said, “For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God” (1 Peter 1:23, NLT).
The writer of Hebrews describes the powerful and purifying influence of God’s Word in our lives: “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
Scripture overflows with practical wisdom for young men who wish to stay pure. The first cleansing step in our faith journey is repentance and confession of sin, not just once but whenever we fall into sin (1 John 1:9; James 5:16). The Bible instructs us to flee temptation (James 1:14; 1 Corinthians 10:13) and every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), renew our minds (Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8), treat young women as sisters with all purity (1 Timothy 5:2), and surround ourselves with godly mentors and influencers who will hold us accountable (Galatians 6:1–5; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Hebrews 10:25). These are just a handful of biblical guidelines for keeping our way pure.
How can a young man cleanse his way? By the same means all believers do—by accepting God’s Word and letting it continue to do its work in us (1 Thessalonians 2:13). If we delight in God’s Word, study it, reflect on it, and meditate on it day and night, we will keep our lives pure through obedience (2 Timothy 2:15; Psalm 1:2; 119:15, 97).